I did my first round of Whole30 back in June 2014. Not many people knew what it was when I told them I was doing it, and the resources available now definitely didn’t exist back then. I didn’t have the luxury of picking up compliant bacon at any ole grocery store, and definitely didn’t have a plethora of compliant recipes to pick and choose from. I love hearing stories from fellow Whole30 OGs that did a round when white potatoes weren’t allowed but store bought kale chips were allowed (note: white potatoes are now 100% allowed but store bought kale chips are no longer allowed) because we can all agree that the newbies doing a round now are certainly spoiled in the best way possible. Doing a round today vs a few years back is night and day. Even though there’s so much information out there, sometimes you need to hear it from people who actually experienced the program themselves. So I decided to compile a list of “what I wish I knew before my first Whole30.”
I asked my Instagram followers who have done a round to help make this list, and they gave some awesome advice! There were a lot of overlap so I condensed everything down. Whether this is your first Whole30, your X time retrying or you’re a Whole30 veteran, I hope these advice help you complete a successful round!
- Keep it simple – it can be pretty easy to over complicate things because you want the ‘perfect’ round. This is where giving yourself some grace comes in. Not every meal has to be a fancy, gourmet, Instagrammable dish. Throwing together a salad topped with a burger patty, half an avocado dressed with hot sauce or mustard and mayo is totally fine. You just want to make sure your meals are hitting the Whole30 meal template.
- Get creative – keeping it simple doesn’t mean you have to keep it boring. Pick one or two new recipes to try during the week or pick up ingredients you’ve never cooked with before to incorporate into your meals. I have lots of Whole30 compliant recipes on my blog or check out the Whole30 recipes Instagram page for more ideas.
- Over prepare – over preparing will leave no room for error or temptation to go off plan because your hanger kicked in. Buy emergency snacks, make more food than you think you’ll need, and always have a “what if” plan. Example: what if you’re stuck in a meeting during lunch? Go into your emergency snack drawer at work and eat that Epic Bar to hold you over until you can eat a proper meal. I always have one or two compliant protein bars in my purse, the glove compartment of my car and my gym bag. When I know I’ll be out and about, I will pack a mini meal that includes protein, fats and veggies. Future you will thank past you for preparing yourself for those unplanned situations.
- Meal prep – I knowwwww. Some of you might be moaning and groaning about meal prepping, but it is SO important for a successful Whole30. I hated meal prepping and didn’t do it my first round. HUGE mistake. I nearly quit because I was so burnt out. The idea of meal prepping overwhelmed me, and quite frankly, I was lazy. I slowly started meal prepping by chopping up all of my veggies so I didn’t have to when I was ready to use them. Once I got that down, I played around with different meal prepping methods to see what would work for me. Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean making 5 of the same breakfasts and 5 of the same lunches for the week. Meal prepping can mean batch cooking two or three different vegetables and two or three different proteins to mix and match throughout the week. Meal prepping can be doubling a dinner recipe like my one pan crispy Cajun chicken so you can have leftovers for breakfast or lunch. Find something the works for you to make life a bit easier in the kitchen.
- Eat enough food – this is so important! My first week I was so confused when I found myself hungry after eating what I thought was a “huge” meal. I quickly learned that I was under eating and not including enough fats into my meals. Your body is adjusting to its new form of fuel and energy. Since you’re no longer eating multiple small meals a day or snacking in between each meal, you’re going to need to eat more food. Trust me.
- Number your meals – I’m going to tell you right now, you’re going to get sick of eating eggs in the morning. I say eggs in particular because that’s the complaint I hear the most about when it comes to breakfast. Here’s my tip: lose the “you can only eat certain foods at certain times” mentality and just number your meals: meal 1, meal 2, and meal 3. It might take a bit of getting use to, but once you start doing it, it’ll totally become the norm. I’ve had my paleo chicken and artichoke spezzatino (stew) for breakfast so many times and I don’t think twice about it anymore. So don’t get caught up in eating what’s “suppose” to be breakfast, lunch or dinner foods. As long as your meals are meeting the Whole30 meal template, you’re good to go.
- Stay within your budget – you don’t need to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or whatever health specialty store in your city to complete a successful Whole30 round. You can find Whole30 compliant and approved products at your local grocery store, Target, Walmart, Aldi’s and etc. Your Whole30 doesn’t have to be fancy at all. Don’t feel like you need to buy every Whole30 approved product all at once. Buy them when you need them. Eventually your cabinets will be filled with Whole30 approved/compliant products, but it doesn’t have to be the day before day one. Also, don’t feel pressured to buy organic, grass-fed, straight from the farm produce and/or meats because you see your favorite food blogger cooking with it. Yes, it’s recommended, but it’s not a requirement. Do what works for you and your budget. If you’ve been following me, you know my goal is to show you that healthy eating can be affordable and accessible no matter what your budget looks like.
- Google it – I’m not kidding when I say, when in doubt, Google it. Til this day, you can find me at the grocery store staring at my phone because I’m Googling “Whole30 [insert ingredient]” to see if it’s compliant. Make Google and the Whole30 forum your best friend. Most likely your question will be answered. Plus, doing your own research will help you retain the information, and then you will turn into a Whole30 guru!
- Eating out is possible – don’t be afraid to eat out. You can make it work, but you just have to do a little planning. If your friends or family want to go out to eat, then you suggest a restaurant that will work in your favor whenever possible. Look up the restaurant’s menu ahead of time, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter questions and it’s okay to sneak in your homemade dressings and sauces. If you’re still not comfortable with eating out, then remember it’s okay to say no to an invitation. Change the plans and invite your friends and family over for dinner and cook them a delicious meal to show them all the amazing food you’re eating while Whole30-ing!
- Let good enough be good enough – probably the most important advice given by the headmistress herself, Melissa Hartwig. It’s okay if you’re eating Applegate hotdogs with French’s yellow mustard and a side of sweet potatoes. It’s okay if you’re eating tuna straight from the can while scooping a bite of avocado with it. It’s okay if you’re out eating at a restaurant and they used canola oil when the waiter said the chef would use olive oil. IT’S OKAY. Your Whole30 may not be perfect, but again, that’s okay. Give yourself some grace, and let good enough be good enough.
Well, there you have it friends! I hope you find these advice helpful. If you have other things you wished you knew before your Whole30, let me know in the comments. Happy Whole30-ing!