After hearing about this Whole30 thing from a couple of friends who have done it (thanks Carrie and Rachel!), Paul and I jumped on the bandwagon and are now on Day 9. Whole30 is basically a "nutritional reset" (not a cleanse or even a diet - you don't restrict caloric intake or avoid fats) but it is more of a Paleo approach with some variations like you can't have any form of sugar (like honey) or treats during your Whole30. It's 30 days of just meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts but no dairy, grains, legumes, or sugar (in any form except what you get in fruit).
Honestly, I laughed when I first thought of ever even attempting it. Because seriously how can a person live without bread or milk or cheese or chocolate chip cookies?! You would have to be crazy to even want to do that! Which apparently we are, because after some thought and with Paul expressing interest in it, I started doing some planning and realized that it wouldn't (or theoretically shouldn't) be all that hard to follow the Whole30 rules for 30 days.
One of the concepts behind the program is to eliminate the biggest food troublemakers and figure out how different food groups affect your body. Like dairy causes stomach trouble for some people and there is some background of this in Paul's family. But it takes a while of being completely off dairy to understand how it truly affects you (just a few days of no dairy isn't enough apparently). So going 30 days with no milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, sour cream, etc. gives your body a chance to reset. Then afterwards, you are supposed to reintroduce the food groups that have been eliminated in a systematic approach to see how it affects your system. Whole30 doesn't say dairy or grains or legumes are bad - just that they affect people differently and this is a chance to see how it affects you and helps you determine whether eating less (or none) of a particular food improves overall health.
Another big reason Paul and I are doing Whole30 is because of the sugar thing, as well as general eating habits thing (like snacking out of boredom or habit or stress - I totally self-soothe with food which is bad, bad, bad). We are seriously, embarrassingly so terrible about this. Whole30 doesn't allow for any cheats or any exceptions. If you "mess up", then you "reset" your 30 days and start over. And you can't do fake versions of things like pancakes made with eggs and bananas or brownies made with beans and applesauce and whatever to make "healthy" versions of favorite treats. Whole30 approaches it like a mindset that if you take your 30 days just thinking about the foods are missing and trying to replicate them that you won't change your habits and go back to the same stuff afterwards. And it sees like a valid point to me and makes a lot of sense based on my past experiences.
Anyway, I planned the heck out of this thing and prepared a calendar with a start and end date with 30 days filled in of breakfast, lunches, and dinners, cross-referenced to the recipes I planned to use (there are so many resources for compliant recipes available online that finding recipes or meal ideas wasn't a problem at all but if you are ever thinking of doing a Whole30 yourself you are welcome to email me and I can send you our plan and recipes). Then I made a shopping list and stocked up on what we would need. Another thing about Whole30 is that you can't use any products that have any non-compliant ingredients, which has made me VERY aware of how basically EVERYTHING has sugar in it unless you make it yourself. So I have made homemade bbq sauce (only so-so - I will just buy the real stuff that has some sweetness after Whole30), mayo (actually quite delicious and I might keep making it for the occasions when I use mayo after Whole30), and ranch dressing (with added cilantro and balancing the garlic ratio this is a work in progress).
Things that are compliant (but sometimes not as easy to find) were mustard, bacon (Costco low-sodium bacon works and so does a brand I found at Sprouts that was not carried at Whole Foods or Trader Joes), dill pickles (at Trader Joes or Whole Foods), sausages (Aidells makes a Chicken & Apple Sausage and a Roasted Red Pepper one that are compliant), hot dogs (Applegate Farms brand), almond milk (none of the major brands are compliant but Sprouts carries its own brand that is compliant), salsa, guacamole (wholly guacamole at Costco - its easy enough to make it at home but I love Wholly Guacamole and was already buying it before Whole30), plaintain chips (Trader Joe's), and some Lara Bars (pecan pie is my favorite so far and Paul likes the apple pie one - they aren't amazing but are nice to have in my purse in case I get stuck out and about and am starving and forgot to bring anything else).
Anyway, here are some pictures and recipes for just some of the meals we have made so far.
Taco Salad - amazing. I might even have liked it better than the regular taco salad I used to make with Thousand Island dressing and Nacho Cheese Doritos. It is just mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, chopped green onions, guacamole, salsa, taco meat, and homemade cilantro ranch dressing.
Here is the recipe for the taco meat (I may never go back to the McCormick taco seasoning again):
2 lbs. ground beef
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Drain excess fat. Add tomato paste, water and spices and stir to mix them in. Simmer for 5-10 minutes then use for tacos, nachos, or taco salad. This can also be made in a slow cooker by adding the beef, tomato paste and spices to the slow cooker and using a spoon to mix up the ingredients and break up the meat. Cook on low for 4 hours. Break up the meat some more. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the slow cooker and serve! Adapted very slightly from a recipe found here.
Easily my other favorite meal that we have made was grilled salmon steaks with crispy smashed red potatoes and steamed broccoli. The potatoes are from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook and the leftovers make great country potatoes for breakfast. The salmon steaks were seasoned with coarse sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and about 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala each, then grilled about 3-4 minutes on each side until mostly opaque and just barely pink in the middle. They were AMAZING. Seriously.
For breakfast we have done a lot of egg scrambles but one thing I really loved was a bowl of "paleo cereal". I just toasted a handful of almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, then coarsely chopped them and threw them in a bowl with a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut flakes, half a sliced banana, a handful of blueberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some almond milk. And it was absolutely delicious. I'm planning on trying a version this week with pecans and diced apples.
This Chicken Avocado Lime Soup was PHENOMENAL. So full of flavor. So satisfying. Its another recipe that I will be making again post Whole30.
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green onions
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (leave seeds if you want soup spicy, omit if you don’t like the heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (14.5 oz.) cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
3-4 radishes, sliced into thin discs
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 medium avocados, peeled, cored and diced
Tortilla chips, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream for serving (omit for Whole30 and frankly, I didn't even miss them and probably wouldn't add them even if I wasn't doing Whole30)
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add green onions and jalapenos and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic during last 30 seconds of sautéing. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste and add chicken breasts. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Cover with lid and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken has cooked through (10-15 minutes). Reduce burner to warm heat, remove chicken from pan, and let rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before shredding the chicken and returning it to the soup. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Add avocados to the soup just before serving or just add about ½ a chopped avocado to each bowl and pour a serving of soup over it just prior to serving.
Original recipe found here.
Panang Curry Salmon - Paul says this is probably his favorite way I have ever prepared salmon. We love salmon and eat it a lot, even before Whole30. This recipe is on my tastebook page. So is a recipe for Cinnamon Salmon that I got from my friend Lisa that is also delicious and would be compliant if you use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce (supposedly they taste the same but soy and any soy products are off limits for Whole30). And that is cauliflower "rice" on the side, which was not bad at all. I already love cauliflower but Paul HATES it. Like almost as much as I hate cooked carrots. But he was totally down with the cauliflower rice and said he would have no trouble eating it again in the future.
Breakfast - delicious country potatoes, scrambled eggs, compliant bacon, and fresh fruit. The baked pear was an experiment and it turned out bland.
Hamburgers with garlic aioli and avocado. We just did them on really delicious butter lettuce but next time might try using portabello mushroom "buns". The roasted potato "fries" were delicious.
Roasted Potato Fries
1 large russet potato, cut into wedges or sticks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes in olive oil to coat, then sprinkle with spices and toss again. Spread evenly over a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, turning at least once during the process. We tripled the recipe and had enough leftovers for country potatoes for breakfast.
Lots of variations on breakfast scrambles or casseroles. This one had grated potato in it and was quite good. I like these because they are a good way to get in lots of vegetables and you can throw in pretty much whatever you want. Plus, if I make one with 10 or 12 eggs in a large 9x13 dish, I can have leftovers so I am not having to cook breakfast every morning and Paul can take it on the train to work. I made one with lots of mushrooms, diced onions, and homemade pizza sauce on top with lots of fresh basil in it and it was sort of pizza-ish. Not so much that it felt like pizza or would ever replace pizza but it was kind of a good change for breakfast.
Lots of hard boiled eggs, deli meat, and plaintain chips with salsa for lunch because it is easy and fast and I can take it with me on a picnic or to the zoo or whatever it is I am doing with the girls.
The smoker and the grill have been my friend during his because they add so much flavor. We did smoked bbq chicken thighs with grilled vegetables and watermelon. The grilled asparagus was to die for.
Eggs in a nest. Shredded sweet potato and apple cups with an egg baked inside and topped with chives and bacon. It wasn't like my favorite breakfast but it was cute and fun and with some tweaking I might like it better. The recipe said to cook the potatoes and apple in coconut oil but I didn't like the coconutty flavor with the other ingredients so next time I might use ghee and a russet potato in place of coconut oil and a sweet potato.
Potato salad. This was just randomly thrown together when I realized I had hard boiled eggs, homemade mayo, pickles, and leftover potatoes I wanted to use up. I should have added some bacon to it and maybe some green onions, but it would not be embarrassing at all to take this to a summer bbq.
Grilled steak salad with fajita vegetables.
Homemade sausage patties with a fried egg and fruit. These were another experiment and they only turned out so-so.
Smoked bbq pulled pork over a baked sweet potato with pineapple coleslaw. Honestly, I am not a fan of sweet potatoes. I haven't yet found a form of them that I like. But that doesn't mean I can't eat them every now and then. The smoked pulled pork was delicious but it took FOREVER on the smoker (it was our first time smoking a pork butt). Also, I like my bbq with a bit of sweetness and was missing the brown sugar that would have really made these wonderful. And that buttered and toasted bun to make it into a pulled pork sandwich instead of over a boring sweet potato. Oh well, for what we are trying to do with Whole30, this was a very satisfying meal.
I don't have a picture, but it turns out almond butter with bananas is delicious, which is saying something because I don't even like bananas OR almond butter. But the two together really work! Although Paul prefers it with apples.
Anyway, that's all I've got about Whole30 for now. We'll see how the next few weeks go but I'm not anticipating having any trouble with it. In fact, I think we are almost through the hardest days and we are both feeling really good. Paul has even had to navigate a couple of dining out experiences at restaurants in the city for work lunches and found out that the partner he was with at one of these lunches did a Whole30 in January, which was encouraging. It has been a fun challenge to undertake together.