hiiiiiiiiii. HOW ARE YOU. What's up? how's your day? I'm still reeling from a pretty awful dairy reintro day (which we'll talk about next week!). but I'm surviving knowing that hopefully tomorrow will be better… it has to get better right?
SO. I've had a ton a of you asking questions about the whole30 or telling me that you want to do one now, and I'm sure there are many more of you lurking out there with questions that you're too shy to ask. WELL GUESS WHAT. I'm anticipating them. (or trying to, so if I miss something that you're interested in then hit me up down in the comments! I'll get back to you I swear)
I'm putting together what I'm calling my whole30 survival kit. A collection of tips & tricks and things I wish I had known before or figured out early on in my whole30. Let's get into the nitty gritty! (oh and yes, there's a giveaway… a pretty sweet one… scroll to the bottom!)
this is a must. a must, must. Frankie didn't do it and I'm sure he's kicking himself because he's now down TWENTY-TWO POUNDS but he doesn't have a full body shot to show the real before/after. It's awkward, I look terrible in mine. you're tired and cranky and scared that first day, but when you wake up on Day 1 before you do ANYTHING ELSE take a picture in the mirror (front and side) and then step on the scale – take a picture of that if you don't want to write it down. and then set it away. don't worry about it, you've got 30 days to make a difference, that scale is in the rear-view mirror now.
dolla dolla billz $$
be prepared to spend that moolah. AMP. IT. UP. in your head. be like “HECK YEAH IM ABOUT TO DROP SOME CASH ON PRODUCE”… because you'll be dishing out at the grocery store this month. I promise. I also promise that it will be okay. you know that I kept track of the cost during my whole30. but oh. my. god. that first trip to the store. one second I'm putting lettuce in my cart and the next thing I know the girl is asking me for TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS. um excuse me, is this lettuce made of gold? I think not.
when you're shopping it won't FEEL like it's expensive because its all PRODUCE. until you hit up that $7 paleo bacon a few times… just know it's okay to freak out a little when you shell up the cash those first couple times. it drove me to try and figure out ways to cut corners, save, and be CREATIVE. but it will be scary and it will hurt a little bit to hand over your money. just breathe.
and I seriously recommend keeping track of how much you spend so you can look back at the end and realize you spend X per meal and then you can compare it to your other spending habits (i.e. whole30 [all your meals for a month] costs less than eating out 8 times. <- it'll make you feel good, I promise
Supplies – Suppl-who's? Do I really need this?
Maybe you don't NEED all these things. I don't know. I do know I LOVED having them around and they made my experience a lot smoother/easier. you're already shelling out for the food though, so if you're gawking at me like “you want me to BUY MORE STUFF?” its fine, I'm sure you have things that could replace some of these or workarounds if you don't want to make a further investment. however, I found my life to be a lot easier with them, so I'm sharing them with you!
Since we're already giving our money away. invest in a lunch box. I bought mine from zulily (great place to find random ish at discounts btw) and I gotta tell you, it beats taking my lunch to go in a plastic or paper bag. makes me feel more put together and organized.
if you remember correctly, I broke my mini food processor and wasn't going to buy a new one because you know, I didn't NEED it because I have the mini insert in my ninja. Well… I decided I NEEDED an immersion blender. and I happened to find this one with the food processor attachment and I think it was only like $5-10 more than the other ones I was looking at. I bit the bullet and I LOVE IT. for all of it's purposes. although I haven't figured out how to use the whisk option yet. still working on that one.
Tupperware. A LOT OF IT. I have a ton so I was lucky – but this is a MUST. I recommend getting a matching set like mine (which has lasted me for THREE YEARS), especially for the purpose of keeping your fridge organized. oh and mason jars also saved my life. just sayin. (UPDATE 2018: I no longer use plastic tupperware! i recommend pyrex – these are the sets i have/use daily: some snapping ones, normal lids, and meal prep ones to take lunches to work! it's an investment, but i think it's ABSOLUTELY worth it.)
I LOVED my crockpot (<- that's the link for the actual crockpot I have & love.. SO PRETTY!) for easy dinners. I was all about that freeze and dump scenario. definitely made my life easier. (UPDATE 2018: I no longer have this crockpot! I switched over to an instant pot a year ago and absolutely recommend this over a normal crockpot – and it has a slow cooker function so its basically a crockpot/pressure cooker combo! Like i mentioned, i bought it a year ago and STILL use it weekly)
a splatter guard is CRUCIAL to keep your kitchen clean. I'm really glad I invested in one of those.
this might go without saying, but a well stocked pantry. I'm talking spices people. invest in them. my must haves: garlic powder (I buy the big container like a freak), onion powder, curry powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, Italian seasonings, kosher salt, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper. I can do a lot with those spices. but most notably, I can roast ANY vegetable.
UPDATE 2018: so i've done another whole30 since this post was originally written AND numerous whole5, whole7, and whole14s AND we eat a lot of whole30 compliant meals just regularly – so i have a coupleeeeeeee other recommendations:
an air fryer – does it sound not essential? YES. would i have bought it for myself? no. but my mom gifted ours to us and i seriously have used it every week since. honestly it's amazing for the crackling chicken, but its also stellar at QUICKLY roasting veggies, making compliant fries, and i even use it just to cook chicken with, like skinless chicken breasts, and it comes out SO juicy. i have no idea what it is with the air fryer but its amazing.
a cast iron skillet – im honestly shocked this one wasn't on this list already?! i use mine every day. it's not just a whole30 essential its a KITCHEN ESSENTIAL.
i also LOVE these color coded cutting boards – they let me know i'm not cross contaminating and with the amount of meat we go through on whole30 its super important.
FINALLY at least one really good knife, if not a set. i know knives are an investment. it's painful to buy them. but honestly they've changed my whole world in the kitchen. the knife set we use was a wedding gift but its SOOOOOO good. i bought this one myself as a “starter” knife, its a lot of money for a knife, but i'll use it forever.
plan. plan. plan. plan. plan.
can I say it a few more times? I learned this one the first week and it's CRUCIAL. it's so so so important to have a plan in place that gives you a sense of security. It helps remind you that you don't need to eat what everyone else eats, plus it gives you something else to say when you get asked to eat out “sorry I can't go to dinner tomorrow night, I'm going to be making buffalo bacon burgers for dinner and they're REALLY GOOD. would you like to join?” add the little would you like to join at the end so you don't sound like a jerk. and so if they say no you can instagram a pic of the burger the next night and rub it in their stupid faces.
in all seriousness though, you need to get in the habit of at least making sure you have enough food for the week and a general idea of what you're making. IT. JUST. HELPS. trust me. plus I go over my method of meal planning in this post, so if you want a play by play of how i planned read it there! (UPDATE 2018: I use this meal planning pad now!)
HELP ME, IT'S AN EMERGENCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
oh lawdddd, let me tell you.
I never, ever, EVER want to feel as defeated as I did that day Frankie asked to get burgers for something “quick” for dinner. NEVER EVER again. I learned that lesson the hard way and that's why I'm telling you. it. is. crucial. to have emergency meals. CRUCIAL. I'm talking something in your fridge that you can have ready to go in 20 minutes or less. don't be like me and wing it. I HIGHLY encourage you to do test runs in your first week. work through seemingly easy recipes that you know can be done quickly. I think about it like a fire drill. you THINK you know what you would do in the situation, but if you haven't run through it once you're going to end up on your knees in your kitchen crying because you can't figure out HOW to cut the stupid bone out of the chicken thigh and YOU JUST CAN'T GO ON WITHOUT FOOD AND YOU NEED HALLLLP. it's okay. I'm here. I'm helping you. these are my GO-TO quick, can pull them together in 20 minutes or less meals and I'm sharing them with you. but seriously, make at least one or two of them in your first week for practice. trust. me.
buffalo bacon burgers. they're practically famous around these parts. mainly because Frankie talks them up like no other. I love them because not only can you whip them up in under 20, they were DESIGNED in under 20 minutes. which means you should be able to make them in 15 or less. the hardest part is going to be running to grab the ground beef. unless you've already got your fridge stocked like a good whole30er ;)
cracklin chicken. YES. this is SUCH an out of this world recipe. the hardest part of these is removing the bone. but that's why you're going to do a test run your first week! you'll be a pro in no-time (or if you're buying them from a meat counter you can ask nicely if they'll remove the bones – bonus tip: ask them to reserve them for you so you can make bone broth!). if you're scared of dark meat & “fatty skin”. DONT BE. whole foods. real foods. that's what you're eating. its probably better than everything you've eaten all week, and better for you too. yes, you COULD use skin on chicken breasts, but they'll likely be a little more dry and, for my sake, just trust me and give the thighs a chance!
the best turkey burger I've ever had. they're SO GOOD. and totally compliant. and TOTALLY freezable. I've tested it. and as long as you thaw them out the night before, you're good to go. which means a 10 minute dinner, and about 10 minutes of prep on one of your sunday meal prep days! Frankie loves these too. so it's not just me saying TURKEY. also, for the purposes of “emergencies” I've had success baking these straight frozen and then transferring them to a skillet to get a little crispy, but I prefer letting them defrost.
Brinner. breakfast is not my meal of choice. it never has been. I literally ate the same thing every day for breakfast on whole30. I make a batch of sausage and freeze it and then make a batch of breakfast potatoes to keep in my fridge all week long. you could easily make this a quick dinner. if you're into eggs totally scramble one up. easy peasy and definitely under 20 minutes.
6 ingredient garlic chicken. I hadn't made this one in SO long, but its so easy and fast and you can definitely get a LOT of flavor packed into 20 minutes of cooking. I promise.
buffalo chicken. make a batch using whole30 approved ingredients (tessemae's ranch! + ghee) and freeze it. you can quickly pull a batch out of the freezer in the morning and have it ready for dinner or in a pinch just throw it in the microwave for a few minutes to thaw it out and throw it on a baked potato or some steamed broccoli. done. (pro tip! freeze it in individual servings to make defrosting a breeze.
hot plates. this is more of a concept than a recipe but I HIGHLY recommend you check it out. I didn't buy well fed and read about this until the fourth week and I was KICKING myself. buy the book. it's worth it.
finally hot dogs and sausages! I keep these in my fridge at all times. they save my life when I JUST DONT FEEL LIKE ADULTING. I like the applegate brand organic beef ones. they rock my world. and the bilinksi's garlic spinach sausages are top notch too.
I know what you're thinking. do I have to make EVERYTHING I eat? and the answer is… not necessarily. you WILL be doing a lot of cooking, unless your okay with raw meat which… ew. but what about those days when you're RUNNING late and you NEED to get somewhere and you don't have the time to actually sit at the table and eat a full meal that you've prepped yourself. we all have those days and so I think its really important to have snacks on hand, things you KNOW you can grab if you need to. I generally keep a snack with me at all times just in case because I KNOW the day I don't bring one is the day I'm going to be starving at 3:47pm. so your next question is… what can I have?? and this is really up to you. I can tell you my favorites though:
Nuts! I hated most nuts before starting this, I don't know if you know that. at the beginning of the whole30 when I couldn't figure out exactly how much I should be eating I NEEDED a bag of nuts at the end of my very long work day. I usually put together little baggies with cashews and almonds. just make sure you read your labels or buy them from the bulk section of your store – you'd be surprised how often those nut companies put SUGAR in them. as a general rule of thumb I stick with lightly salted/dry roasted.. but read your labels.
Make nut bites! yes. YES. Frankie asks for them every week. I've even started using the almond pulp from my milk to make these and they come out SUPER soft that way. its perfect. they're perfect grab and go snacks – I love having one or two before a run.
Larabars! these aren't the optimal choice because you're not making them yourself, but sometimes you just don't have time for that. so I stock up. Frankie loves them (of course he does – they're semi expensive). but… READ YOUR LABELS. (are you a pro at this yet? I feel like I spend hours reading labels) you want to make sure you don't get one with peanuts or sugar or anything else you're not allowed to have. My favorites? I LOVE key lime pie, lemon, cherry pie, apple pie. Here's a list of all the compliant flavors (vetted by whole30 themselves): Apple Pie, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake, Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie, Chocolate Coconut Chew, Coconut Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bar, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie. (UPDATE 2018: i actually prefer RX bars now and whole30 prefers them too because they have protein from egg whites! justttttt make sure you're leaving any that have peanuts in them till after the 30 days are up 😉)
leftovers! um, okay I know this isn't an ideal option… but I've been known to just break out a container of roasted chicken and dig in if I have to run somewhere quick. no one likes this though because its not easily portable with no work from you. its definitely you're best option though, so don't discount the contents of your fridge just because you're tired.
bacon! stop looking at me like that. if you don't have two packages of bacon (one cooked and one ready to be cooked) at all times I don't know how we're friends. eating two pieces of bacon as a snack before a workout (such an oxymoron but I DONT CARE) saved me the other day. I can't make it up.
you'll have them. especially in the first couple weeks. they won't be fun. you'll feel like EVERYONE has things that are so much better than you. you want a munchkin too. or a twix. or fruit mentos. or PIZZA. it won't be the easiest thing in the world to get over those carb/sugar cravings. actually it'll be pretty damn hard. How I survived:
TEA! it sounds so weird. but any time I had a craving those first couple weeks I'd brew myself a cup of tea and it would fix it. especially a herbal tea. I LOVE starbucks passion tea and I always have a variety of those fruity flavors on me at all times. this is the best solution everrrr because you're hydrating, you're getting a different taste in your mouth, and the warmth gives you a different sensation. suddenly you're calmer. maybe a little more alert? and definitely not as desperate for a teaspoon of sugar.
SPARKLING WATER! when I wasn't in the mood for warm tea, I'd grab a la Croix or a different flavored sparkling water varietal. just make sure there's no sugar added. my experience is that most of the options you see in drug stores have a ton of chemicals etc. look for one that just says water, natural flavors, and sometimes they'll say carbonation or CO2 or something. if it says some other chemical move on to the next. I've had success with Polar water, Dasani, Hal's in New York, and some other local varieties. just read your label.
KOMBUCHA! I love this stuff because its got flavor (although it is an acquired taste, I think) AND so many health benefits. I look for varieties that are organic and as usual make sure there aren't any non-compliant ingredients (most don't have issues but its worth the glance).
ALMOND MILK! I craved coffee BAD the first week. not for the caffeine, I didn't have headaches or anything. I just love the taste and I feel like drinking a cup of coffee sets my day. the day can begin after I've finished it. unfortunately I'm not a black coffee drinker and most store bought almond milks are non-compliant (not compliant: sugar + carrageenan). I actually prefer making my own now. and Frankie refuses to take his coffee any other way. (UPDATE 2018: we actually use califia farms unsweetened almond milk now – it's whole30 approved. we also use nutpods for coffee when we're craving that silky (did this just get weird?) creamy (yepppp it's weird) taste.)
BACON + NUTs! I know I listed these above, but they were important to me for this purpose too. when I was ACTUALLY hungry (which is very different from just having a plain old craving – cravings go away in five minutes, hence why it's easy for me to curb my cravings with liquid – I wasn't actually hungry!) but wanting something specific – usually something sweet or salty like chips. nothing and I mean NOTHING killed the desire for chips like a slice of bacon. I'm not saying eat a pound of bacon, but one or two slices to avoid a “slip” is okay. Nuts were my on-the-go bacon substitute. same concept, different food.
since this category pretty much turned into me talking about drinks – if you're even CONSIDERING doing a whole30. it you're just a little bit intrigued. I want you to vow right this minute to not drink another soda. that's it. you're done. it'll be hard if you're an avid coke/mountain dew drinker like I was. rely on sparkling water and tea, that's how I got through it. Frankie and I both SWEAR up and down we think not drinking soda played a HUGE role in our lack of KILL all the things days.
and no, you can't promise to only have diet. I don't care that the can says SUGAR FREE! CALORIE FREE! HEALTHY! if you cant look on the back and only see water, co2, and natural flavors GET IT OUT. I mean it. it's for your own good.
dress up your food… with good stuff!
so you've committed to this thing and you're a few days in and you throw a little sriracha into a sauce out of habit only to find out ITS NOT COMPLIANT. you just broke the rules and now you have to start over. you're crushed. <- totally didn't happen to me (yes it did, on day 2… DAY 2).
this is why I can't STRESS planning enough. you'll be doing a lot of research. a lot of reading recipes. a lot of label reading. I'm going to break it down for you and make this part easy: ketchup is out. its nearly impossible to find one in your grocery store that is compliant. <- this is the one that was the hardest for Frankie to get over. here's the bad news: I'm going to ask you to just give up on reading any of the condiment labels in your fridge. Here's what you can keep: Frank's hot sauce (Frankie's new favorite) and French's mustard. everything else is out for the whole30. (except your vinegars – you can keep those too)
sounds pretty sad right? how am I going to ask you to do something like this without… salad dressing. or mayo. WHO DO I THINK I AM? alright, lets not get ahead of ourselves. you'll survive. You have two options: make it yourself or search high and low for a compliant version in your local organic/health food store.
I make my own mayo and find it super easy to whip up a quick dressing. I use the mayo recipe found in the whole30 cookbook. and I love altering it along with the versions they give in the book and in Well Fed. if you're not into the whole mayo scene, whip up a batch of Mexican green goddess dressing or alter it to be just a green goddess dressing. making non-mayo based dressings is SO EASY! vinegar + oil + seasoning. you're good.
if you'd rather just take it easy and coast through without having to worry about seasonings, marinades, or dressings – I fell in love with the whole30 pack from Tessemae's. (<- that link will take you to their special whole30 pack on amazon! if you want to just shop their dressings in general – this link will take you to their seller page where you can find the dressings separately. I highly HIGHLY recommend the whole30 pack, but they also sell other “packs” like a paleo pack!) it's worth it and I wish I had it for the entire whole30. I don't think I ordered mine until I was in reintroduction.
also, if you're really into Asian food – buy some coconut aminos, its a compliant soy sauce substitute. highly recommend this as well. I found mine at wholefoods for cheapter I think, but this is the one I have.
I think its really important to think about why you want to do this for yourself. Do you just want to feel better? are you lying to yourself like I was? face it head on. you're about to change your life, don't start it out without being honest with yourself. especially because this might be a driving force. maybe you'll be like Frankie and I where you don't have really awful days. I promise you there will still be a time when you think “why am I putting myself through this” – and that's when you need your reason on a deck to come up and save you.
I've decided the nice way to say what my reason was is: “I wanted to like myself again.”
plain and simple. it doesn't have to be profound. Write it down. put it on a post it next to the number from the scale or put it on display. it helps to keep yourself accountable. the only person you're doing this for is you. make it count.
relax, and have some fun!
finally… HAVE FREAKING FUN. it's a time for experimentation in the kitchen. GET IN THERE AND MAKE STUFF. it's scary at first, but you get the hang of it quick I promise. before you know it, it's over and you're wondering how fast it went.
p.s. when friends are drinking get a sparkling water with a splash of fresh juice (from a lime/lemon if you have to) you'll feel better than them tomorrow.
syllabus for the month. jk… sort of… not really.
OH KAY. okay.
I have given you guys a detailed look at every meal I ate for those 30 days in our weekly updates. (week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4) each one has a resources section at the bottom where you can find the recipes/sources I used throughout the month. here I'm going to talk about the resources I couldn't live without.
Pinterest. <- life saver. that link is to my whole30 board which I used in almost every meal plan I made. even if it's just perusing for stuff you can make, it'll spark ideas. trust me!
if there's something I missed, ASK ME!
I love answering your questions or even just chatting about whole30/food in general. let me know if there's anything at all you're wondering about!
and with that. I think you are ready for your first whole30.