8 Tips for Your First Whole30

I am obviously not a paleo blog in any way (see my recipe index as evidence of that). I'm an omnivore through and through. However, I've completed a couple Whole30s and have experienced a number of benefits because of it. While I've added some non-compliant foods back into my diet, I generally eat more healthfully than I did pre-Whole30, and I've learned a great deal about how different foods affect my own body. I'm better about reading ingredient labels, my intake of fruits and vegetables has increased and I'm making better food decisions for my family.

I know several people who are taking the Whole30 challenge this month, so throughout January, I'll be posting all things Whole30, including tips, products and recipes. But don't worry...if you're not doing a Whole30, there's plenty of good stuff for omnivores, too! 

(For more about the Whole30 program, click here!)

1. Clean out your pantry. Before you start Whole30, take the time to go through everything in your pantry (and fridge), and separate compliant foods from non-compliant foods. You may find that many items need to be tossed, but there will likely be things you'll want to keep (even though you won't be eating them for 30 days). Have a section dedicated to Whole30 foods. This way, when you need to make a meal, you don't need to do research and read labels every time. You'll already have a section of foods from which you can draw. 

2. Have a backup meal plan. Life happens, and sometimes there's just not time to cook a meal. I rarely eat out while on Whole30, but if you have to, Chipotle is a good option. Unfortunately, much of their food is cooked in soybean oil, which is not compliant. However, you can order the carnitas with guacamole, salsa (except the corn salsa) and lettuce. I know, it's not the five pound burrito many of us normally want, but when you're in a bind, it's good to have this as an alternative. 

The other backup option I keep on hand is Rx Bars. I try to use these only when absolutely necessary, but on hectic days, these are a huge help.

3. Wash and prep fresh foods for the week. When you need to throw something together, it makes life a lot easier if you already have vegetables washed, prepped and chopped. I usually keep a few large plastic containers or zip top bags in my fridge stocked with produce like celery sticks and carrot sticks. If I buy fruit like melons or pineapple, I'll peel and chop several days' worth and store the ready-to-eat fruit in the fridge.

4. Cook several days' worth of breakfast. If you're usually running out of the house with barely enough time for breakfast, think about preparing several days' worth of food at once. I sometimes make a big 9x13 egg casserole dish which lasts me quite a while. I'm usually not a fan of having the same meal a number of days in a row, but it's much better than skipping breakfast completely or giving in to cravings. I also like to make several jars of chia pudding for the mornings, which gave me an egg-free alternative. 

5. Freezer meals are your friend. Whenever you can, double recipes and freeze some of it for use later. Of course, not every recipe is great after it's been frozen, but I found quite a few that freeze really well. (Pulled pork, chocolate chili, eggplant sausage strata and curry chicken, to name a few.)

6. Plan for parties. Fortunately, if you're doing Whole30 this month, you've missed the holiday food craze. However, events always come up, and staying on your Whole30 game while going to parties or other functions can be a challenge. I typically do any or all of these three things: 1. I always offer to bring something, and whatever I bring, I make sure it's Whole30 compliant. That way, there's at least one thing I can eat. 2. I stash snacks (like almonds, raisins or an Rx Bar) in my bag. 3. I often eat beforehand so I'm not super hungry when I arrive at the function I'm attending. 

Obviously, if you're going to a dinner party or something intimate like that, you don't want to have a host prepare you an amazing meal, only to sit there and eat an Rx bar. In this case, I would be honest with the host in advance about what you're doing, but offer to provide a dish you know is compliant. I never wanted to submit a list of food demands if someone was having me over, but more often than not, I found that many people, especially close friends and family, were happy to come up with an alternative dish (or just grill a good steak!). The other thing we often did was have people over our house. That way I could do the cooking and make a compliant meal that even non-Whole30ers would enjoy. 

Just as a side note, my husband and I managed to remain Whole30 during a Baptist church potluck. Trust me, it can be done. 

7. Get support. When you have good Whole30 resources, it makes a huge difference. My sisters and I had a running text message string where we'd check in with each other about our eating, share recipes and resources and commiserate when it was really tough. This was huge for me. If you don't have friends and family participating with you, check out the Whole30 forum, sign up for Whole30 emails or connect with others through social media (I've found Instagram super helpful).

8. Think through your post-Whole30 eating habits. When you're done with Whole30, what do you want to have changed in your eating habits? How about your emotional eating habits? (This was huge for me!) While you were on Whole30, did you notice improvements you think are associated with certain foods? What foods do you plan to add back? What will your first couple meals be?

I highly suggest taking a look at the Whole30 reintroduction plan. Even if you don't follow it exactly, you'll get a lot more out of your Whole30 experience if you strategically think through what foods affect your body negatively and positively for the long run. For example, since my second Whole30, I've drastically cut down the amount of dairy I consume and feel much better because of it. But if you binge on deep dish pizza right away and then feel horrible, you won't necessarily know if that's because of the dairy or the gluten or whatever other ingredients. Think through how (or if at all) you're going to gradually add non-compliant foods back in your diet so you can learn what works best for your body.

Have you done a Whole30 before? What tips would you add?