Happy new year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I’m still working on my resolutions for 2014, so you’ll have to stay tuned for those. I’ve had several friends recently ask me about doing a Whole30 in the month of January. I’ve only done one, so I’m not an expert by any means, but I thought I could share some tips, lessons, and recipes/formulas that helped me the first time around. I highly encourage people to do a Whole30 not because I think it should become your way of life (or to lose weight for that matter), but because I think doing one helps you to get better in touch with how your body responds to certain types of foods. It is a great reset for your body, especially after the holiday splurges.
First off, I think we learned a few important things from our first Whole30:
- We use whole grains as a filler when a third or fourth veggie side would be a better choice.
- I feel so much better off sugar. We don’t eat a ton of sugar to begin with, but it’s so much easier to resist after about ten days off of it altogether. I liked the Whole30 because it recommends that you even take out honey and maple syrup, which was really good for my cravings. Once the Whole30 was over, I added raw local honey and local maple syrup back, but I did notice that even those better sweeteners triggered my sweet tooth.
- We eat a lot of beans and legumes (especially in the soupy winter months). When I added them back into my diet after the Whole30, I didn’t notice much of a difference in terms of how my body reacts to beans and legumes, but it was still a good lesson to be reassured that I tolerate those things well (and a good reminder to prep them properly).
- We generally eat fairly Whole30-compliant by eating seasonal, whole foods. It was nice to give ourselves a little pat on the back afterwards (and then go eat some raw honey!).
- We still eat whole, organic grains – just not nearly as much as we used to. We try to think of them more as a treat than a standard part of our diet. I think much of the paleo stuff makes sense, but really eating like our ancestors is nearly impossible (or undesirable) these days. Our earliest paleolithic ancestors ate wild plants that just aren’t available to us anymore. When they ate animals and animal products, the ones they ate were wild and probably hardly recognizeable to our twenty-first century eyes. I’m sure our paleolithic ancestors ate bugs and worms and things that I, frankly, just don’t want to eat unless I’m forced to. In Cooked, Pollan hypothesizes that cooking and agriculture literally gave us bigger brains:
According to the “cooking hypothesis,” the advent of cooked food altered the course of human evolution. By providing our forebears with a more energy-dense and easy-to-digest diet, it allowed our brains to grow bigger (brains being notorious energy guzzlers) and our guts to shrink. It seems that raw food takes much more time and energy to chew and digest, which is why other primates our size carry around substantially larger digestive tracts and spend many more of their waking hours chewing— as much as six hours a day.
Cooking, in effect, took part of the work of chewing and digestion and performed it for us outside of the body, using outside sources of energy. Also, since cooking detoxifies many potential sources of food, the new technology cracked open a treasure trove of calories unavailable to other animals. Freed from the necessity of spending our days gathering large quantities of raw food and then chewing (and chewing) it, humans could now devote their time, and their metabolic resources, to other purposes, like creating a culture.
So now for some tips!
- Buy lots of greens. At this time of year, there are tons of tasty greens (kales, chards, spinach, etc.) at the farmer’s markets, so stock up. I have quite a bit still frozen from last spring and fall in our freezer, so I’m still using those up. We used greens in place of bread/pasta/rice for stuff like spaghetti, hamburgers, tacos, etc.
- Buy lots of local, pastured eggs from happy chickens. You’ll be eating lots of eggs if you’re anything like us. As in, I think we went through three dozen a week (granted, this did include an egg-obsessed three-year-old). I would recommend hard-boiling a few for some easy snacks.
- Make some ghee with some butter from grass-fed cows. I used this easy tutorial. I buy butter from a local farmer, but also buy the KerryGold butter at Costco when I’m running low on the local stuff.
- Buy some sweet potatoes. Shred them (in your food processor if you have one). Freeze them in two-cup portions. When you’re ready to eat, fry them up in some ghee or lard. We used these “hashbrowns” as an easy side to lots of meals or as a base for frittatas.
- Chop up a whole bunch of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots in similarly-sized pieces (I would also include parsnips, turnips, and beets if you like those). Using this easy method, roast several pans of the veggies of your choice (preferably what you can get at the farmer’s market!). I would use ghee, coconut oil, or lard instead of the EVOO used in that original post. Keep those on hand in the fridge for an easy side dish, addition to a salad, or a snack if you’re hungry. Doing the prep work ahead of time means you’re less likely to get stumped when hunger strikes. This is one of my favorite tricks that I learned from Tamar Adler that has become a weekly tradition at house.
- We ate a ton of guacamole on our Whole30. Obviously, avocados are a place where we cheat when it comes to eating seasonally. We typically try to save them for special treats, but I bet I made a batch of guacamole every few days on our Whole30. It makes a delicious salad dressing or dip for veggies.
- Prep some cauliflower rice for sides and “bases” where you might otherwise use grains or potatoes.
- Plan out some meals ahead of time to get you started. The first ten days are the hardest, I think.
Here are some easy recipes/formulas that I would recommend for either prepping ahead of time or to start off with:
- Paleo meatballs. I use this basic recipe. I add an extra egg, leave out the Parmesan, and sub out almond (just pulse a handful of almonds in your food processor for several minutes) or coconut flour instead of the breadcrumbs. Meatballs are easy but a little time consuming. I make a triple or quadruple batch when I do make them, then scoop them out onto a baking sheet in their little meatball shapes, then pop the baking sheet in the freezer. Once they’re frozen through, I separate them out into separate containers, putting about 15-20 meatballs in each container. That way, I can just pan fry them up for a quick 20-minute meal on a busy night. Make some sauce, and serve them over a bed of sauteed kale or spinach right now – or shredded zucchini in the summer (sooo delicious). If you like spaghetti squash, it would make a great base for your meatballs and sauce too, but it’s the one thing Grant won’t eat. If you like those meatballs, try some other variations: Asian, Mexican, pesto, just to name a few ideas.
- While you’re roasting those veggies, make a HUGE pot of roasted vegetable soup for an easy addition to your meal or as an easy lunch for packing.
- Roast a chicken. Use the chicken for some meals. Make some stock with the carcass for your soups.
- We ate a lot of taco salads in place of taco night on the Whole30. I basically use the sauce from this post for my taco sauce (just leave out the honey). Top off your salad with some winter pico de gallo, guacamole, or use up some of your canned salsa verde if you still have any left.
- I ate lots of tuna and salmon salad using this recipe with homemade mayo (tutorial coming next week) or just leaving out the mayo and use extra avocado.
- Make a few big batches of salad dressing. And make some pesto to spice up salads, grilled/roasted meats and veggies.
- Check out the veggie, protein, and fruit/nuts sections of my 50+ healthy snack idea list for ideas.
- Be adventurous and try some new things! After the first ten days or so, you’ll get the hang of it. Take advantage and branch out to try some things you wouldn’t normally. My favorite resources for ideas were nonnompaleo.com, Elena’s Pantry, and the Whole30 forum. Check out the Whole30 resources page for further reading.
Cheers to a healthy 2014!