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The Only 5 Main Ingredients You Need to Make It Through Whole 30 Successfully

March 31, 2020

Doing Whole 30 during coronavirus-induced quarantine is quite the divisive topic.

Some say it’s the best time to do it because you’re locked away in your home with no outside distractions or temptations, and nothing to do except cook. Others say you’re bored out of your mind and all you want to do is drink, while sitting on the couch, eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, watching Tiger King. Another big issue of discussion is obtaining the necessary ingredients to cook appropriate meals for the program. With grocery stores scarcely stocked, it can potentially be a big issue.

(via Brooke Lark / Unsplash)

But as someone who completed the program (for the fourth time!) all of this March, I can tell you it’s completely doable. Not only did the clearheadedness brought on by the experience help me get through this first month of isolation, but because I cooked almost every meal from scratch, I really got acquainted with my most commonly used foods, what’s most versatile, most flavorful, most immune-boosting and what can last you the longest.

Sure, there are plenty of fun ingredients to have around that you don’t necessarily need. For example, I had a several cans of pumpkin puree lingering from fall. I hopped on to Pinterest (as I did with pretty much all my ingredients) and found out ways to make use of what I had. Suddenly it was a springtime Thanksgiving in my kitchen. But ultimately, there were only a handful of staples I felt it necessary to have on hand at all times.

With the exception of spices (you must carry an array of spices—they’re a game-changer), below are the only five main ingredients you need to make it through Whole 30 successfully.

1. Cauliflower

This versatile veggie is the ultimate breakout star of Whole 30. I went from attempting mashed potatoes cauliflower my first time doing the program, to making cauliflower smoothies and mastering the art of cauliflower rice during this fourth go. The best thing you can do for yourself (mid-Whole 30 or otherwise) is stock up on bags of pre-diced cauliflower. Trader Joe’s has aplenty. I recommend non-frozen if you want to make rice or mashed cauliflower. And then purchase a bag of frozen if you want it for your smoothie. This veggie blends with everything seamlessly, so your smoothie won’t smell like anything but berries!

2. Broth

This brings me to my next ingredient… if you hop on the cauliflower bandwagon, you’ll need broth of some sort by your side at (almost) all times. I personally opted for chicken broth, but really any full-flavored broth will do. This ingredient is crucial to mastering cauliflower rice. I posted a lot about this on Instagram Story, as it’s a very underrated, overlooked necessity. In the past, like many others shared with me, I depended on olive oil to cook my tiny cauliflower pieces, but it was never enough to cook all the way through, and always left the pieces burnt. Additionally, broth can make a fantastic addition to a homemade sauce or sauté recipe, a soup, a mash, you name it. If you have plenty left over, just pop it into Pinterest and see what you can strum up with what you’ve got.

3. A Protein or Mixed Veggies

This is a given, but important to note anyway. Having a meat of some sort or mixed veggies will make up the crop of your heavier meals. These are great to soak up the sauces you make, to slather with spices, to place atop coconut rice or mix in with zucchini noodles. It’s important to remember that soy products aren’t allowed, so if you don’t eat meat, grab on to the most versatile, flavorful veggies (mushrooms, onions and bell peppers were my go-tos this time around). Also, you can use any meat, so take advantage of that freedom (though some are encouraged more than others and you still need to read the labels for nitrates, sugars and other unapproved ingredients). I didn’t touch beef or pork, but I ate a lot of chicken and turkey bacon.

4. Eggs

Much like No. 3, it’s probably a given that eggs are key to this plan. But you’re forbidden from (most) baking, so it’s not like you need eggs for your favorite paleo banana bread loaf. Eggs, during this eating regimen, are like an old reliable friend you can call on either when you’ve got nowhere to turn, or you want to spice up the party. I had my standard moments of whipping up a turkey bacon, mushroom, onion omelette; whereas, other times, eggs were great to place atop cauliflower rice and stir-fried veggies. I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to sit here and explain all of eggs’ uses—just be sure to keep ’em handy!

5. Full Fat Canned Coconut Milk

Much like cauliflower, canned coconut milk isn’t necessarily something we actively seek out at the grocery store unless a specific recipe calls for it. Well, take on a month of Whole 30, and this coveted item will be at the top of your list. If you’re making any rendition of a cream sauce, this is your go-to. But I also found that even an unnoticeable drop here and there was called for in so many recipes.

It’s important to note the difference between Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk—they’re indeed similar, but will alter your recipe if you get the wrong one. If you can’t get both for whatever reason, always go for the milk because sometimes the top layers of the can will have the creamy consistency you can use if a recipe calls for the cream. Also, emphasis on canned and full fat. Full fat cans of these consistencies are what’s required for the majority of these recipes, so make sure you stick to them because they differ immensely from what you typically add to your coffee.

Food Featured

I Completed Whole 30 (and Lived to Tell About It)—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

November 7, 2018

(via Pixabay)

Much like our home electronics, sometimes our body is in need of pressing the reset button.

This was the first year in the last six that I didn’t do “Sober March,” my annual designated month of sobriety. By completing “SM,” I’m not only abstaining from alcohol, but am therefore way more mindful of my eating habits, too. It’s a nice way to break things up during the year. Despite not following through with my usual plan, I had no intentions of doing a replacement month. But by the time July rolled around, I noticed my overindulgence across the board was getting the best of me.

Rarely in my life have I had a significantly positive relationship with food, and here I was finding myself back in the place of dread. Come early August, I knew I needed to change things. I knew I needed a break from eating crap, consuming alcohol and going out a lot. Not only that, but with fall approaching, I really wanted a clear head. I wanted to feel good, and I knew I wasn’t doing things to get me to that place.

So there it was. I decided I was going to embark on Whole 30—and there was no way I was cheating. I’m funny like that. Pretty extreme. Like I’m either all in or all out. In addition to no alcohol for 30 days, Whole 30 also requires the elimination of dairy, gluten, soy, chickpeas, peanut products, artificial sugar, added sugar, baking and more. We’re required to read every single label. Like you can’t even have a dash of soy sauce.

Believe it or not, I found every single part of the process enjoyable. In fact, I’m getting a little sentimental writing this. While it was nice to finally be a little more social again, the feeling I had on the program was unlike any other, and I look forward to taking on the experience again.

Are you considering the program? Or are you simply just curious about my experience? Keep reading for eight things you need to know about Whole 30—from someone who completed it and lived to tell. And for a bunch of the recipes I made on the plan, check out my Whole 30 Pinterest board!

1. It’s a Lot of Commitment

While posting all of my recipes on Insta Story, I had several friends become inspired and eager to give the program a try. Well, none of the ones I talked to made it past a week. And quite frankly, I get it. I made it through because I’d been mentally preparing myself for a month leading up to it. It’s not something you decide to do on a whim. It also requires cooking most of your meals from scratch. For people who have around-the-clock jobs and/or kids or roommates/partners, it’s not ideal. I’m single, I live alone and I am gratefully done with work once I leave the office. Therefore, I had time to mosey on over to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods after work and get down and dirty in the kitchen each night. It was a lot of fun for me, but I can see it being too time-consuming and restricting for the average person.

2. It’s Not Cheap

While you’re definitely saving money by not drinking and going out to eat, being on the plan requires you to cook most of your meals from scratch, and with not just any old ingredients. So I was definitely grocery shopping more frequently and buying the cleanest of items. While you can get a lot of Whole 30 staples at Trader Joe’s (coconut products, cauliflower and chicken were my main go-tos), there’s some stuff that can only be purchased at Whole Foods ($$$).

3. If You Follow the Plan Correctly, You’ll Have Skyrocket Energy

No joke, every single day of Whole 30, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. It was wild how my body was up and at ’em. I couldn’t fall back asleep if I tried. I usually did a full face of makeup and felt pretty good about my outfit choices before heading off to work. My level of confidence and excitement while on the program was unlike any other. My head was so clear. The glass was consistently half full. It felt really good. And it lasted all throughout the day. I do miss that empowering feeling around the clock.

via Pixabay

4. The Second You End the Plan, Your Energy Dissipates

It’s pretty crazy that as quickly as your body suddenly develops energy on the plan is as quickly as it can fade. Even just one day off the program (I think I ate a light dressing that had a dash of sweetener in it), I was back to wanting to sleep in.

5. Moving on to Paleo Is the Most Sensible Post-Program Transition

You don’t plan on doing Whole 30 longer than 30 days, and you don’t want to dive right back in to bad habits, so what do you do? Paleo (at least for as long as you can maintain it) is the most sensible option. It was crazy because I was invited to a tasting at Harriet’s in West Hollywood a couple days after I finished the program. While I knew I couldn’t dive back into eating and drinking anything in sight, I did think that a sip here and a nibble there would be ok. Whoa, I was wrong. The food was absolutely delicious (no complaints there!), but my body wasn’t used to eating the dairy, sugar and wheat that I was served, and I could definitely feel it. Since that day, I’ve stuck primarily to a Paleo plan.

6. Whole 30 Isn’t Made to Be Sustainable Longer Than 30 Days

I totally thought I’d maintain Whole 30 longer than 30 days, but really, with how strict it is, the creator of the program does not expect people to extend that time. As I mentioned, it requires reading literally every single label, and for the most part, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you can’t have the product. While I absolutely plan to do Whole 30 again, right now Paleo feels right.

7. You Learn So Much About Food and Cooking

I’ve never cooked so much/eaten so healthy in my entire life. Getting my hands dirty in the kitchen and playing with spices and detailed recipes was so much fun for me. Obviously I love food, so getting a chance to put together delicious dishes that were actually good for me was so rewarding. Like you’d seriously be surprised with how creative you can get. It was so cool. Pinterest was my best friend. I kept all of my recipes and I still plan to make them. Obviously some things turned out better than others, but overall, I was proud of my concoctions.

8. Weight Doesn’t Just Melt Off

Like most people, I thought I’d be like three dress sizes lighter once I completed the plan. Welp, not so! I mean, granted I looked a lot less bloated, which makes sense considering I wasn’t drinking or eating bloat-inducing food. But I’d be lying if I said my clothes fit me a lot differently. I probably lost 5-7 pounds overall. I also didn’t work out as much as I could have (I know, I know), so I think I could have had a different outcome had I done so. That said, I felt really good in my skin during the experience, so a ton of weight loss or not, I was in my most confident state.