Your Whole30 Survival Guide

There’s no doubt a Whole30 takes preparation. When mine began on October 2, I was out of town and had attended a wedding the night before. We got home, the fridge wasn’t stocked, and I hadn’t given much thought to the whole thing. The first few days weren’t very inspiring, but you gotta roll with what ya got.

Which leads us to:

  1. Stock up on good stuff.

    Be prepared, but not to the point of paralysis. It’s important to have raw materials on hand so you’re not tempted to give up, but don’t let that turn into an obstacle that becomes too big you can’t surmount it. The perfect becoming the enemy of the good, and all that. The faster you dispense with the idea that there’s an ideal way to Whole30, the better off you’ll be. Don’t aim for someone else’s idea of a Whole30, aim for yours.

  2. Know your weak spots. For me, it’s social occasions. Maybe for you, it’s the afternoon work slump or the after-dinner snack hour. If you can find ways to fill that gap while remaining on your Whole30, you’ll have learned an important skill to take with you when it’s over.
  3. About those social occasions…If you’re concerned about them, there are a few tactics you can try. A) Eat a big, satisfying meal before you go. You might be surprised how well this works. It allows you to actually focus on socializing rather than stuffing your face. You can grab a plate of carrot sticks and munch on them casually. B) Bring something to make a fun drink, especially if you’re bummed about missing out on the alcohol. Try a slice of ginger and a lime wedge muddled together in a glass, then pour soda water over. C) If it’s a potluck, then you’re in luck. Bring something you know you’ll enjoy eating and sharing. You can even bring a dessert so you can partake too.
  4. Challenge yourself. In Western cultures, we have a habit of pushing, pushing, pushing. We value efficiency and productivity. But don’t forget that softening can be just as useful and therapeutic. My yoga teacher describes this as Will & Surrender. Learn where you need to be more disciplined with yourself and learn where you need to back off. I, for one, have to challenge myself to soften and relax, as contradictory as that sounds. If you don’t believe me, come rub these knots in my shoulders.
  5. Try not to view your Whole30 as an aberration. I often laughed at myself because there are people who eat this way all the time and here I was moaning and groaning as though I were being punished. What a joke! Count your blessings that we get to choose this, it’s an honor and a privilege. Make the most of it every day. Other people will try to frame your Whole30 as punishment for you—don’t let them. Remind them that this is the way people used to eat not so long ago and that it’s actually fun most of the time.

Now here’s a list of specific tips that helped me out:

Variety, flavor, contrast, texture.

  • Versatility. Change it up. Maybe sausage with breakfast, sardines for lunch, and lamb for dinner. Try new things. Get some offal in there. Buy one bizarre ingredient every time you go to the store and research how to prepare and use it.
  • Stock up on ground meat. You can sauté it with whatever veggies you have on hand and it’s a meal. This was especially helpful for me at lunchtime when I needed something quick but filling. It also thaws quickly when you need it. Any kind is useful: beef, bison, pork, lamb, naturally-flavored sausages, I even tried ground goat. Lamb with olives and spinach, beef with tomatoes and mushrooms, pork with broccoli and five spice powder. Ground meat is versatile and can make all sorts of different dinners: meatloaf, burgers, meatballs, taco salad, lettuce-leaf wraps, frittatas. Keep it interesting.
  • Hone your hunting and gathering skills—go for flavor. My relationship with my grocery store became more intimate and more engaged. I prowled the produce department wondering, “What can I find to flavor my food today?” When you can’t rely on tamari or bottled sauces, you really start to respect elements like ginger, garlic, herbs, onions, mushrooms, citrus, olives, capers. I’m willing to bet you come out of your Whole30 a better cook.
  • Leftovers. They will save your life.
  • Beverage options. Water is great and life-giving, yadda yadda yadda. But sometimes it’s dullsville. I’ve been sucking down soda water with a simple wedge of lime or lemon in it. Teas are great options too. Something fruity flavored really tastes like a treat.
  • Get familiar with sauces. They can bring a boring meal to life. I really enjoyed making my own mayonnaise for salads and dipping sweet potato fries. You can make a simple pan sauce to drizzle over your meat (see here). Some other good ones are chimichurri, salsa, pesto (without the cheese), and relish. Get creative and see what you can come up with when you experiment with olive oil, herbs, and other flavors like garlic and ginger.
  • I didn’t know this, but cocoa powder and cocoa nibs are Whole30 approved. I would say that if you know yourself to have an issue with chocolate, don’t do it. But otherwise try mixing powder with dates and nuts or throw it in a blender with some almond butter, a banana, and some coconut milk.

Now that I’m out of it, I kind of miss it. I’m in this period right now of enjoying a few things I missed, but there’s a strong possibility that I’ll inch back in the direction of what I learned.

If you have any questions or need some support for your own Whole30, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks again to everyone for following along and keeping me strong.

EDIT 1/5/2013: I’m currently on day 11 of a new round of a Whole30+butter, and I have a few new tips that have been keeping me sane.

  • Stock up on US Wellness sugar-free, Whole9-approved bacon. They also have sugar-free breakfast sausage.
  • Herbal teas are saving my life. I’m in love with anything minty right now.
  • PureWraps are also Whole9-approved and are great options, especially for lunch. I love them with tuna salad. Try spreading guac, topping with fun stuff, and wrapping.

9 Responses to “Your Whole30 Survival Guide”

  1. Great guide and very informative ! Social occasions are my weak point , something i need to work on or to relax on … a social occasion can/does screw all my plans, or should i say, i let a social occasion screw all my plan. social integration is so much important to me, i want to feel normal and get some appreciation, and i find it hard, as i already told you, not to eat like everyone else to get these.
    Ground meat’s advice is a reall good one too !

  2. Great stuff! I’ll definitely be sharing this with a few friends that are considering starting their own Whole30’s.

  3. jen annan house Reply 11/04/2011 at 7:15 am

    Good morning! So well stated. Great job, you!

    I had my first restaurant experience last night post-Whole30. I chose Roasted Tomato Eggplant Puree soup, and a side Greek salad. There was a lot of food. The Greek salad had some kind of creamy dressing which I ate around, and what seemed to be a mountain of feta cheese…all put to the side. Next time, I will choose more carefully. Thankfully, no ill side effects. The restaurant is known for local, fresh, organic, and it didn’t disappoint. Still, I am wary of roaming too far from the new comfort level of the Whole30. How strange is that?!

    Do you know how I can upload a picture?

    Have a great day!

  4. Jen-
    I feel the same way! It’s my first day post-Whole30 and I’m so nervous that I’m going to make the wrong choice. I’m learning that life Whole30 style may be the way to go!

    • Good morning, Shellie! Yes, as each day passes, I am convinced this Whole30 is the way to go. Every single day I feel more energy, more focus, sleeping really well. Friends say I look great and what have I been doing? Eating well, that’s what I’ve been doing! Good luck to you!


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