About a month ago, I completed my first successful Whole 30 round. (AH! It still feels good to say that!) At the beginning, I never thought Day 31 would come. (For real… there’s no way to really make January feel never-ending than giving up your favorite ooey-gooey comfort foods). I’m happy to say that I not only survived but I feel much better for having stuck with it.
January had a lot of ups and downs to navigate through and definitely a LOT of dishes to wash. Weeks one and two weren’t so terrible. The novelty of the program had not yet worn off and I enjoyed trying out new recipes and meal planning. I also chatted with my OB to make sure that the dietary restrictions of the Whole 30 would be ok to follow. I even kept a log of what I was eating to show her and I got the go-ahead to continue.
By the third week (the week when most people feel pretty fantastic), I was over it. I had been very much looking forward to having more energy and feeling all sunny and positive. Instead, I felt kind of bummed out by winter, tired of grocery shopping and cooking constantly. Not to mention that following the rules of the Whole 30 means not giving yourself the option to turn to your favorite foods for comfort when you’re feeling bored, anxious, bummed, pregnant and hormonal, etc. There’s no snacking after dinner which was initially hard for me, because sometimes I desperately looked forward to being able to treat myself when the kids went to bed. Nope, no eating your feelings (unless your feelings are broccoli I guess).
However, by the 4th week, I finally started feeling really good. My energy increased and my moods stabilized. I also realized my skin did not break out at all for 30 days (for someone who has had acne since age 10, that’s kind of a big deal). One night after the girls went to bed, instead of sitting and scrolling on my phone, I read a few chapters out of a book, did the dishes, put away 3 baskets of laundry, and organized my entire dresser. No snacks needed to sustain energy or to motivate me. I was also amazed at how full I felt between meals, even though I had read about how this would happen. (Could also have been that baby growing and giving my stomach less room too…) I added in occasional mini meals so that I knew I would be getting enough calories for the baby, especially if I was having an active day, but I didn’t have an urge to just graze constantly like I normally do.
We didn’t restrict anything from our girls, but they did a fantastic job of eating all of the Whole 30 dinners I made. Cece has become a salmon fiend and Rosie consumes hardboiled eggs with a passion. For the first time ever, they didn’t need cheese on their scrambled eggs. They thought our homemade applesauce was a delicious treat. I loved seeing how well they ate and I hope we can move forward with lots of these healthy habits.
During that 4th week, I also got to hunkering down on potty training Rosie (still a work in progress, but she’s really made a lot of progress!), got our taxes done, got a trip planned to Wisconsin Dells, did some organizing and donated items to Goodwill, and also hosted a small Superbowl get-together. Once the Whole 30 ended, we were in Wisconsin Dells. Since the condo we stayed in had a kitchen, we actually didn’t go out to eat once but just cooked all of our meals. Although my reintroduction of the eliminated foods wasn’t perfect, it was still slow enough to not feel sick and to identify a couple of sensitivities. (I’m pretty sure sugar and dairy are the cause of any skin issues I have. Otherwise, I don’t feel like I have major sensitivities to the other eliminated foods… I just need to not go overboard with them now that I’m back to civilian life.)
A lot of good came out of this experience. At first I feared my life would fall apart without cheese to hold it together. I was pleasantly surprised to see that life actually did not unravel in anyway from cutting out certain food groups. I even considered doing another strict round during March, but I decided that since my eating habits have definitely improved, I’ll allow myself to not hyperfocus on food, and instead work on getting ready for baby, spending time with my family, relaxing a little bit, etc. I’ve enjoyed feeling energetic and have been able to make it to the gym on average 3 times per week for the past couple months, doing things like yoga, Zumba, and some light cardio. My doctor was happy with baby’s growth and heart rate at my last doctor’s appointment, even though I did lose about 6 lbs during the Whole 30. Also, I passed the glucose test for gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, I had to take the 3 hour test to prove it, but I’m still glad for the end result.
All that being said, my goal is to continue eating Whole 30-ish for the rest of this pregnancy. So far, it’s been quite doable. My grocery trips still include a lot of Whole 30 ingredients (meat, seafood, good fats, and lots produce… and I actually haven’t bought a loaf of bread in two months. I can’t believe I haven’t had sandwiches or toast for that long.) I still do a big meal prep on Sundays and I start all my mornings with eggs and veggies no matter what. It sets a good tone for the day and keeps me motivated to follow the Whole 30 meal template for the following meals. Still, in the past month, we’ve had a few out-to-eat experiences, and some post-dinner snacks. However, none of those things sent me spiraling into a snacking bender where I wake up covered in Dorito dust and girl scout cookie crumbs wondering what happened. #SUCCESSS
I’m still figuring out my ideal way of eating. I’m not sure what it totally looks like yet, but I do know that I want to be the healthiest and most energetic version of myself as I’m going to have three kiddos to be taking care of very soon!
If you’ve thought about trying The Whole 30, I highly encourage you to do it. (Please, ask me any questions about it too!) Truth be told, it does take effort, but there are so many things I like about this program. There aren’t any special pre-packaged foods to buy or strict meal schedules. There’s no calorie counting or restricting the amount of food you’re eating. And it becomes easy to shop for compliant ingredients. (Basically, stay to the perimeter of the grocery store!) Also, the meals can also be as simple or as elaborate as you want, it just needs to be real whole food! So, honestly, I think it can work for anyone, no matter what your level of cooking is.
Below I’m sharing a few of my favorite meals I made during my recent Whole 30.
Sweet potato salmon cakes were one of my favorite meals. They could be made ahead of time and heated up for a super quick lunch. I liked having mine with greens and some oil and vinegar over everything. I also used fresh salmon and steamed sweet potatoes instead of using the canned versions of these items.
One-pan shrimp fajitas were delicious and I could easily see this as being a great dish in the summer by putting the veggies and shrimp on the grill. The only modification I made from the linked recipe was serving with as a lettuce wrap instead of in a tortilla. Adding fresh salsa and guacamole made these a such a filling and satisfying meal.
Buffalo chicken casserole for the win! This recipe is worth every bit of hype it’s gotten. First, it’s veggie-packed. There’s carrots, celery, onion, and spaghetti squash in it. I also made mine with shredded chicken breasts that I prepared in the slow-cooker (aka, the chicken took no effort to make). Secondly, it’s so flavorful, you won’t even realize there aren’t things like cheese in there. If there’s one recipe you try from this post, I HIGHLY suggest this one. It yields servings for days and reheats like a dream.
Roasted chicken thighs with cranberries and winter veggies was probably the prettiest and heartiest dish I made. (And at 30 years old, this was also my first time in my life eating brussels sprouts!) I got this recipe off the Whole 30 Recipes Instagram page. I couldn’t find a direct link to the recipe so I just pasted it below. The author of this recipe is Amanda from The Kitcheneer.
6 Chicken Thighs (you can substitute with chicken breasts here too)
2 tbs ghee or your choice of cooking fat
7 sage leaves
1 package of brussels sprouts, halved
1 sweet potato
1 delicata or acorn squash
½ a bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, no need to thaw!)
Preheat oven to 415. Prep the veggies: Slice the squash in thin slices and discard any seeds. Place sliced squash on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Peel the sweet potato and cut into ½” cubes. Cut the ends off the brussels sprouts and slice in half. In a small sauce pan, heat ghee on medium high heat. Once heated (1 minute) add the sage leaves. Remove from heat.
Place all the prepped veggies on the baking sheet and add the chicken thighs on top. Drizzle the sage infused ghee over top. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
Roast the pan in oven for roughly 30-35 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 F/74C.
It’s always a treat to realize that there were some meals that we already made that were Whole 30 compliant. Basically, so long as your beef broth has no sugar or gluten in it, it is a piece of cake to make a Whole 30 compliant beef stew. We make ours in our Crock Pot, so prep takes me about 10 minutes. And it feeds our family for at least a couple nights, so we made this several times during our Whole 30 round.
Ingredients: 1.5 lbs beef roast, 3 carrots, peeled and chopped, 2-3 russet potatoes chopped, 2 stalks celery chopped, 2 cloves garlic chopped, 1 onion chopped, 1 package washed mushrooms, 2 cups beef broth (or water), 2 bay leaves, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme, salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Add all ingredients to slow cooker, cover with water/broth. Leave roast to cook for 6-8 hours on low. Discard bay leaves before serving.
There are a lot of other delicious dishes we made, these are just the only ones I took photos of. I’m hoping to do another Whole 30 in the summer after baby is born, At some point, I’d love to post more of my favorite Whole 30 compliant recipes, so stay tuned if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you for reading!!