Completing a Whole30 isn’t an easy task. When you take everything you know about eating and throw it out the window you might be left with a grumbling stomach and a list of things that are no longer okay to eat. After completing three rounds I’ve come up with some tips for surviving Whole30 that have become necessities for my own success. I hope you can apply some or all of these tips to your own Whole30.
25 Tips for Surviving Whole30
Boil eggs a dozen at a time
Hard boiled eggs are a super versatile source of protein. Use them in egg salad, deviled eggs or just peel and eat them for a quick option when you are on go.
Make Paleo mayo
Homemade mayo is incredibly easy to make with a stick blender and surprisingly superior to anything I’ve ever had from a jar. It can bind salads, be used as a base for other sauces and serve as a condiment on it’s own. With so much versatility mayo is a must have during Whole30 for me. This is my go-to paleo mayo recipe: Foolproof Homemade Paleo Mayo.
Chicken is another super versatile protein to have on hand. Whether it’s for chicken salads, other recipes or just to eat on it’s own it’s nice to have pre-cooked chicken available. Poaching couldn’t be more easy either, just follow these instructions from The Kitchn on how to poach chicken breasts.
Cashews have been a real surprise all-star during Whole30 for me. When soaked a few hours to overnight they can be blended into a variety of sauces and can even be made into a very passable faux sour cream. On their own they provide a nice source of fat to balance out meals or snacks too.
Remove temptations, including gum and sodas
Silly me – it’s day one of a past Whole30 and I find myself chewing a piece of gum. Whoops. I had totally forgotten that gum was verboten and I had reached into my purse out of habit and grabbed a piece. Now I know better. Remove all of the temptations and you won’t make the same mindless mistake.
Make salad dressing
Salad dressing can be used on everything from salad to chicken and veggies. It can be very tricky to locate bottled compliant salad dressings that are also delicious. I’ve found recipes like Dump Ranch and Paleo Creamy Italian Dressing are better than nearly any bottled dressing I’ve ever tried.
Make meatballs or meatloaf
Cooking in bulk has really been a savior when doing past Whole30s. A big batch of meatballs or meatloaf can provide several days worth of protein and can easily be frozen to use throughout your Whole30. I use tapioca flour and egg to keep my meatballs light.
Prep greens for salad
The more items you have ready to eat the easier it will be to stay on track. Prep a few days worth of greens by rinsing, drying and storing them with paper towel. Alternately you could try assembling mason jar salads so that you have ready to eat meals available, veggies, protein and all.
Stock up on spices, raw garlic, onions
The right spices can make or break a dish. Use Whole30 as a time to stock and even expand your spice collection. Garlic and onion powders, sea salt and different types of peppercorn are my staple spices, but bay leaves, ginger, cinnamon, a good curry powder (my favorite one is from World Market), and a nice Italian blend are also used quite frequently in my kitchen. Additionally, I keep several pounds of onions and a few heads a garlic on hand. Make sure that none of your spices contain any additives that are on the no-no list.
Make or buy compliant stock or bone broth
Stock/broth is another pantry-type ingredient you should have on hand to use as a base or flavoring agent in other dishes. Make a huge batch of chicken stock by boiling a couple onions, celery, carrots, a whole chicken, water and your preferred spices. You can strain and freeze the stock in small portions to use throughout your entire Whole30 or use the stock as a base for another soup or stew.
Stock up on nuts – cashews and almonds especially
Cashews are my go-to, but other nuts also have their place. Almonds can be pulsed with fresh garlic and other spices to make a ricotta-like filling. A sprinkle of walnuts can be a great complement to bananas or apples. Keep in mind that while nuts are compliant, they are also very calorie dense and you don’t want to eat tons of them.
Prep veggies for raw snacks or cooking
Whether it’s chopping onions, slicing peppers or just prepping carrot and celery sticks you’ll be happy you took the effort to pre-plan some veggies options when you are hungry or short on time. I find I can usually get 3-4 days of storage out of cut produce before it starts to go wilty, so I am careful not to over-prep.
Never leave yourself without some precooked protein
My biggest frustration with the program was getting overly hungry and then having to take the time to cook something. This created a lot of unneeded stress and angst. Now I make sure I have stuff (chicken, eggs, meatballs, etc.) either fresh or frozen that can be eaten cold or popped into the microwave for a minute or two. That way if I am running short on time I know that I’ll still be getting a compliant, healthy meal.
Keep at least a couple of compliant “snacks” on hand
I know snacking is discouraged on Whole30, but we are only human. There are times when you are going to be extra hungry or on the go without time for a real meal. In these cases I’ve found Larabars, Epic Bars, homemade jerky or a snack pack of nuts to be real saviors. Always ensure you double check the ingredients in anything you buy. There are many Larabars that are not compliant and I haven’t run into any store-bought jerky that was okay either.
Find new recipes
Scour websites or buy/check out some cookbooks for inspiration. Cookbooks like Russ Crandell’s Paleo Takeout and Ancestral Table are some of my favorite resources. Additional places I find inspiration include Nom Nom Paleo, Stupid Easy Paleo, Plaid and Paleo and PaleOMG. Of course, not everything from these places is Whole30 compliant, but you can usually figure out substitutions to make things work. When it feels like limitations are holding you back it can be very refreshing to find totally new recipes that actually fit this style of eating.
Print the resources guides and shopping list
Check out the downloads section on the Whole30 website. There you will find really great resources you can print and keep handy. I keep a copy of the shopping list on the bulletin board at my desk so I can easily refer to it when searching recipes or making my own grocery list.
You may be saying to yourself “well duh!”. Seriously though, do the program at least one time through following every single little direction, even if you think something may be silly. The first time I did it I was incredibly careful, I read every label and I really applied every rule. The next two times I was still careful and compliant, but didn’t always pay attention to the teeny details. My first round remains my most successful and while it’s probably a little beginner’s gusto, it’s also more likely that this was when I was most into the program mentally too. Make your first time on Whole30 a good one and then make changes on your next round if you want to try something different.
Start over if you need to (or don’t)
Did you mess up? Did you cheat on purpose or accidentally? Was it a big boo-boo or a little one? Only you can decide if you need to start over, but remember that it’s totally okay if you do. The Whole30 is about improving you so if things veer off course start back at day one and use what you’ve learned to make things better the next time.
Remember why you started doing a Whole30
I won’t lie. I think Whole30 can be pretty darn hard. Why? It will probably shake up your whole relationship with food. Whether it’s cooking, eating out, going to parties or grocery shopping you are suddenly faced with being especially careful with what you are putting into your body. This is a good thing, but in some moments it can feeling like an annoying deprivation. You may start to ask yourself why you would even bother. Remember why you started. Was it to lose a few pounds? Sleep better? Break an addition to an unhealthy food? Your reason will be your motivation to keep going even when it gets tough.
Keep compliant drinks on hand
It can be especially hard to break the habit of what you drink everyday. With even diet sodas and other drinks being off limits you may have to get creative to quench your thirst. Club soda with a squeeze of citrus is my go-to when I need something jazzy or when I go out. Unsweetened tea (check those ingredients) is another option when you need some flavor. I was really surprised at how much I still enjoyed coffee and tea without any additional sweeteners and now I drink them this way even when I am not on Whole30. When I am feeling especially indulgent I’ll have a kombucha (I love GT’s) or a coconut water, but always check those labels!
Buy good oils
Coconut and olive oil are my go-to oils for cooking while on Whole30. I go for “light” or “light-tasting” olive oil which is nearly flavorless and perfect for making mayo or other dressings, but works just as well for sauteing and other cooking. I use coconut oil as an alternative for cooking. Since it’s solid at room temp and has a slight taste I have found it does not work well in mayo and similar recipes.
Ghee is another fat that is awesome for Whole30. Ghee is butter with the dairy proteins removed. Ghee is sometimes also referred to as clarified butter, but ghee actually goes one step further and takes on a fantastic almost toffee-like toasty flavor that clarified butter does not have. You can purchase ghee or make it at home. Wellness Mama’s How to Make Ghee article explains this easy process step by step.
Pinterest can be a treasure trove of great Whole30 recipes. Sure, you have to be careful that recipes are truly compliant, but you’ll still most likely end up with some gems if you go hunting. I recommend starting a Whole30 specific board so that you can collect what you find and then easily reference it later.
Don’t eat too many white potatoes
This is definitely personal experience talking so you can heed my warning or not. White potatoes are not the nutritionally devoid villain that some people make them out to be, but they aren’t exactly a health food either. Fries and the like are definitely out, but you may want to limit yourself to other potato dishes as well. White potatoes are calorie dense and it can be very easy to overeat them, especially since they can be associated with comfort food. My feeling is that if you have any sort of potato issue just cross them off your list.
Do it with a buddy
Whether it’s your partner, spouse, co-worker or friend, I highly recommend doing Whole30 with a buddy. Part of what can make a Whole30 so darn hard is when you are on your own no one else really understands the limitations (or the benefits!) of the program. A co-worker nudging you to eat a bite of cake, your spouse wanting to eat out all the time, the list goes on forever. You may have great willpower and determination, but even the best of us can get worn down. Having a buddy while on Whole30 provides support and encouragement and may make all the difference in whether your Whole30 is a success or not.
About the Author
Alicen Ronan is a Kansas City personal trainer, fitness coach and writer. She has been a certified personal trainer since 2009 when she decided that she wanted to help others make positive lifestyle changes. She is available for personal training and fitness coaching 7 days a week, both in the Kansas City metro and virtually.
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Disclaimer: This post chronicles my personal experience while working through the Whole30. This is not a recommendation or suggestion for you to do the same, nor is it an endorsement of the Whole30 program. Before you begin this or any diet or exercise program you should discuss it with your doctor or qualified health care provider to determine whether it is safe for you. This post is based on my personal situation and is for information purposes only. Anything contained herein should not be treated as guidance or advice.