21 days ago I started my first Whole30. For those of you who have not heard of this program, the Whole30 is a dietary “reset” that is 30 days long. After the 30 days are over, you slowly reintroduce the foods you cut out during the program in order to determine how specific food groups affect your body. You can read more about the specifics on the Whole30 website, but essentially this diet plan involves removing refined sugar and sweeteners, dairy, all grains, all legumes, soy, and alcohol from your diet.
I had several reasons I wanted to give the Whole30 a try. First, I was hoping it would be able to help me control my eczema, which has flared up lately. I was also hoping I’d be able to reduce my sugar cravings, increase my energy levels, and finish the program with a clearer complexion.
So, what’s happened so far?
Well, first, I feel great! I went through a couple low energy days last week, but for the past few days I’ve been feeling very energetic, and I move through the day with the feeling that my body is functioning optimally. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any improvement in my eczema, but I’ll see how it goes in the next nine days. If nothing changes, I may have to try another dietary experiment next month. Despite my lack of success with improving my eczema, I have noticed a little improvement in my facial complexion. My skin seems slightly clearer and definitely less inflamed; however, this could be because I recently started using gentler and more natural skin care products, so I’m not sure how much of a contribution my diet is making. In addition, I’ve definitely been having fewer sugar cravings. Early on in my Whole30 the cravings were fairly intense, and I realized how dependent my body was on sugar prior to cutting it out. Fortunately, I’ve stopped thinking about cookies ALL THE TIME. Besides cutting sugar, I didn’t find the other dietary changes very challenging – I already do not eat dairy and gluten, so going a step further and cutting all grains as well as legumes wasn’t very difficult for me. One thing I did find early on is that it was difficult to stay full for a long time. It seemed like I’d eat a meal, and then an hour later my stomach would be rumbling again. But as the program progressed I became more aware of the amount of food I had to eat to get from one meal to the next.
What I eat in a day
If you’re starting the Whole30, especially if you’re coming to it from a Standard American Diet, it can be difficult to figure out what to eat. Before I started, I wrote out a rough plan for what I was going to eat over the four weeks of the program. This changed a little as I went, but my initial plan helped guide my weekly grocery list. Below is a sample of what I ate in a day earlier this week, along with my suggestions for food choices that will help you make it through the Whole30.
Egg and veggie scramble – 2 eggs, leftover roasted broccoli, onion, orange pepper, avocado.
Roasted potatoes – I tried out a new method of preparing these potatoes. I parboiled them first, then put them in the toaster oven to roast. Using this method, I was able to make crispy potatoes without using oil to roast them. Now, there’s nothing wrong with oil – when you choose a healthy variety like olive, avocado or coconut it’s a great source of healthy fats. But I was also having avocado with this meal, so I wanted to cut the oil to ensure I wasn’t having a giant portion of my daily fat intake at breakfast. Then, I added a little bit of salt and pepper before I ate them.
My favourite Whole30 breakfast options are apple and nut butter, baked sweet potato with poached eggs on top, and any kind of egg and veggie combination. Occasionally I’ll have some chicken or salmon and roasted veggies for breakfast. In the beginning, it was always difficult to decide what to eat for breakfast. My go-to breakfast was eggs, but occasionally I’d want to have hard-boiled eggs on the go for lunch, and then I’d have to think of another breakfast idea so I wasn’t eating a huge number of eggs every day. One of the mindset shifts that helped me with this dilemma is that I stopped thinking I had to have typical “breakfast foods” for my first meal of the day. When you just think of breakfast like any other meal, it opens up your options for what to eat.
Salad – chicken, boiled sweet potato, celery, cucumber, kale
I took this salad with me on the go for lunch on campus and enjoyed it with a dressing I made that combined tahini and apple cider vinegar. Salads are definitely a convenient option during the Whole30 – you can fit in a lot of greens, and top it with protein to stay full. Often I’ll add avocado to my salad for some extra healthy fats. As for other lunch options, I’ve been a big fan of smoothies lately. I’ll add some hemp seeds to my smoothie for protein and fat, and chia seeds for fibre. I have an awesome recipe for an ultra-creamy chocolate smoothie that I’ll share on the blog next week! Roasted veggies and some kind of protein option is another lunch favourite – usually it will be fish or chicken, with any combination of potatoes, carrots, broccoli or zucchini.
Fruit salad – half an apple, half a banana, grapes, part of an ataulfo mango, clementine
Usually for my afternoon snack I’ll have a piece of fruit, some chopped veggies, or a handful of nuts and dried fruit. If I’m fairly hungry, I’ll whip up something more substantial like fruit salad or some celery with almond butter and raisins (“ants on a log”).
Baked salmon with garlic-tahini sauce (recipe up on the blog soon!), boiled broccoli, roasted carrots and potato.
Fish and veggies is a fairly typical dinner for me during the Whole30. When I roast my veggies, I toss them in olive oil, pepper and garlic salt, and bake on a baking sheet at 400º. If I’m just using root veggies, I’ll mix them all together and roast them on one pan, since they all take about the same amount of time to cook. Other dinners I’ve made in the past few weeks include chicken taco bowls (which I plan to make again next week), and this Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce, which I enjoy on zucchini noodles.
Over the next nine days, I still have some things I want to work on as I finish up the Whole30. Mainly, I want to focus on moderation. Since I haven’t been eating refined sugar, I’ve been having A LOT more fruit. Of course fruit is amazing and very nutritious, but I need to make sure I’m not overdoing it and simply substituting one craving with another. Also, I want to be more cognisant of my intake of nuts and dried fruit. Because these foods provide the perfect combination of sweetness and crunch, I’m often tempted to overeat when I have them in the house. In addition, I want to make sure I’m sleeping a sufficient amount, and minimizing stress (which is a little difficult because exams are starting!). I know that lack of sleep and stress contribute to my eczema and cause my face to break out, so I don’t want that to interfere with seeing results from the Whole30.
Once the 30 days are over and I complete the re-introduction period I’m going to write another post on my results, so stay tuned for that!
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation that anyone should begin the Whole30, this is simply a dietary experiment I am doing to see how it affects my health. Make sure to complete your own research before beginning any new eating program, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.