|Rawkstar Fuel, indeed. Please meet Dump Ranch|
If you're not familiar with Whole30, it's basically a super strict version of the paleo diet, which was developed first to be an elimination diet to self-test for food sensitivities and give your body a general reset. Full disclosure, and I am the first to admit that I poo-poo'd the plan for a long time. It seems a little crazy to eliminate so many food groups, it's concerning that it wouldn't be a sustainable eating plan for me long-term, so any weight loss or other gains I made during the month could be easily reversed, and I just have a general disdain for anything that smacks of elitism because I'm a reverse snob. Give me a big old truck and some jeans and I'll feel at home. Plop a diet coke in the cup holder? Homier.
A month without sugar (including maple syrup, honey, agave or stevia), legumes, dairy (no ice cream?!), chewing gum (sugar or sugar substitute), alcohol (suuuugar-boo hoo and adios vino), soy or grains. What can I even eat?! Turns out, quite a lot. And it's even good.
With four kids, I have a large-ish family, and with our already busy afterschool schedules I wasn't down for signing up for something that would add a lot more food prep or planning, but I do love to cook and make dinner pretty much every night as it is. I kept the food relatively simple because I was not making two dinners. My kids would eat what they normally did for breakfast and lunch, but would have Whole30 dinners. And no dessert. So, I figured they'd catch a little benefit from that by default. (Just to get a feel for our routine; Monday through Friday I prep dinner a bit and then grab the big kids from school. By 4:15, I have dinner pretty much ready to either stick in the oven, or instructions for reheating and I take H to swim. J feeds the other three and starts their bedtime routine so that by the time I get back with H at about 6, we eat with each other. I can't wait until H advances to the next level and has swim in the evening because I really don't like the split dinner hour.)
I had been following the Whole30 Recipes instagram account for some time, and the food they featured there every day all looked so good, and very accessible and I had read the timeline (aka what to expect) a number of times (spoiler alert: I never found the Tiger Blood).
I was not interested in adding a bunch of stores to my grocery shopping routine, or quadrupling my grocery budget. There were a few specialty items that I sourced on amazon, but other than that, everything I bought was at Safeway, which is my usual grocery store. I think part of what is intimidating sometimes about the idea of doing a whole30, is that you have to spend your whole paycheck on food. Now, I have a pretty well stocked freezer re: meat and a very full range of herbs and spices, so there were a lot of staples that I didn't have to purchase. I'd add a good $100 if you're going to be buying almond flour, coconut aminos, coconut oil, etc. I would also add some time to your first shopping trip if you're not used to reading labels, because unless you're buying a specific brand that's been listed as compliant, read; they sneak sugar into everything. Costco has a lot of compliant foods now as well, and at great prices. Their unsweeted vanilla almond milk is one of my staples, and their large bags of dried mangos, apricots, dates and figs were great staples to have one hand. (dates and figs are often used to lend sweetness where you'd otherwise be using honey or sugar in some recipes).
My husband agreed to take the plunge with me, after some convincing, and we chose the day after holiday break ended as day one. I spent the week or so before starting to cull through my cookbooks and pinterest, and realized that the genius thing about being so late to the party is that the interwebs have done all of the work for you. Honestly, enter 'whole30' followed by any recipe you're looking for in the google search bar or on pinterest and you're in business! I didn't do any big cook-up days, or spend any more time in the kitchen than I previously did. Now, if you are used to grabbing something to go more than a few times a month or eat a lot of convenience foods, then it might seem overwhelming at first until you find your rhythm. I would highly recommend that you have an immersion blender and wide mouthed jar for making mayo, dump ranch and other condiments, and that you prep condiments on an open time that is other than dinner prep. I learned that the hard way when I tried to make ketchup at the same time I was supposed to be basting drumsticks with bbq sauce that was supposed to have said ketchup in it.
Secondly, and this is my personal opinion, I think whole30 would be really really hard if you don't like eggs. We went through, no joke, about 12 dozen eggs. Jared did the 30 days with me, so with two adults eating hard boiled, egg salad, shakshuka, over medium, frittata, egg muffins, scrambled, you name it, we were the Forrest Gump of eggs. We also ate a lot of greens. From kale to iceberg and everything in between, this plan is heavy on the protein and greens, light on the fruit and healthy fats, even lighter on carbs (though it's not a low-carb diet). If you don't like to eat salads, this might also be a struggle at first.
I did not have any issues with headaches or other symptoms of 'withdrawl' from sugar, other than a general sense of resentment that I was so chubby I had to do this to get a jump start on my path to wellness. But that's for the emotions post. Overall, I just felt good. The first couple days I talked about food pretty much non-stop and my husband finally asked 'Is this going to be one of those things that we talk about food all the time, but don't actually eat any? If so, I'm out.' Okay, message received. From then on I just referred to the menu board when asked what was for dinner, ha ha.
I tried to rotate what I had available each week so I didn't get burned out on any one food. I tried Sweet Potato Toasts (pretty delicious), and making my own mayonnaise (I'll never buy it again, so simple and delicious), and the sweet baby angels at Whole Sisters created, and then shared, dump ranch. For which I will be forever greatful. Dump Ranch got me through the first week or so. I actually prefer it to traditional ranch and that is a huge deal. I kept a variety of precut veggies on hand, which made a lot of the roasted veg bases for dinner super simple.
Sheet Pan Dinner, which you'll see on the menu board a couple times, is just a couple packages of Aidell's (or I actually found the safeway brand to have a couple of compliant flavors) sausages cut into 1-2 inch pieces, and a jellyroll pan of veggies roasted. During the last ten minutes or so of roasting, add the sausages to the top to warm them through; et voila! Dinner is served.
Breakfast was often leftover roasted veg from the night before and a couple over medium eggs. I kept things really, really simple so that it would not feel overwhelming. Once you know what ingredients work, you can adapt regular recipes, but there are so many great resources for already whole30 compliant meals you don't need to.
RX bars were also something that I kept on-hand for mornings that were just crazy and I didn't want to skip breakfast. They have a whole30 compliant mixed case that was available on their website with a 20% off and free shipping deal so I snapped them up. They are fairly expensive purchased one at a time, but the bulk deal made them just over $1ea. My faves were blueberry and chocolate sea salt.
Without further ado, my meal plans. I only planned dinners, as lunch was either a salad or leftovers. One night I ended up having to scrap what I'd planned and make something faster, but I moved that to the following week's plan. All of the recipes turned out really well (except sweet potato fries, I've tried every trick and they just don't work out for me). Look below the plans and I've linked where applicable! On taco night, I simply had taco salad instead of a shell. Other than that I didn't add any starches to the kids' dinners. Caulirice can be found already riced in bags in the produce section.
Whole Sisters; dump ranch, zuchini bites, BBQ drumsticks, and dump ranch. Oh, did I say that twice?
NomNomPaleo; kahlua pig, mocha rubbed pot roast
WellFed: Fried Chicken Meatballs, KickAssKetchup, Burger Night (well fed Weeknights cookbook)
Rural Eating: Grilled Romaine Salad with Hot Tomato Vinaigrette
Food Faith Fitness: Jerk Shrimp Strew with Cauli Rice (SO GOOD)
Are you contemplating a Whole30? Any other questions I can answer? Stay tuned for my post in the next couple days on the feels. Because it turns out this was more about meal planning and keeping sugar out of my gob. There was some real work to be done!