Last year, I joined the bandwagon and did a round of Whole30 during the month of January while I was simultaneously training for a Spartan Race. It was hell. I was hungry, craved carbs and cheese like there was no tomorrow, every muscle in my body was sore, and I kept finding bruises from jumping over small walls and doing burpees in the parking lot. Despite all of that, I loved it. I got stronger, faster, leaner, and not too much meaner (unless I missed my afternoon pre-workout snack… and then I was definitely a bit hangry).
On my trip to Antarctica, one of our guides shared with us the concept of the Fun Scale. It’s a nice framework to approach Whole 30.
- Type I fun is fun the whole time. I think it’s pretty clear that Whole 30 is NOT Type I fun. There are a few moments of fun, like trying new recipes and playing with kitchen tools that I don’t usually use.
- Type II fun sucks while you’re doing it, and then amazing in retrospect. This is the
bread and butter… errrr veggies and healthy fats… of Whole30. There were plenty of awful moments, but afterwards I was happy that I committed to a goal and achieved it.
- Type III fun sucks while you’re doing it, and with reflection you realize it was never fun and you should never do anything like that ever again. This is like the time I ran out of water 10 miles into what was supposed to be a 6 mile hike and had no cell signal to call someone. Nowadays I plan my hiking routes better, carry a 3 liter water bladder, and have a satellite GPS communicator.
Going into my second round of Whole30 and second Spartan Race, I am determined to plan well and set myself up for a bit more Type 1.5 fun. There will definitely be a lot of Type II fun, and I’m hoping for a few more Type I fun moments.
Here are some of the things I learned last time that should help me this time.
- Plan, plan, plan! Plan your meals. Plan your workouts. Plan to celebrate your victories. Plan for how you’ll cope with the rough days.
- Be ready to be flexible. Sometimes your plan doesn’t suit what you need in that moment. Have options (and emergency snacks!) ready.
- Get to know other people who are going through this journey too. Find people to meal prep with, to share recipes, and to commiserate when you are dreaming about fondue.
I am now the breakfast frittata queen. Gimme 8-12 eggs, a crap-ton of veggies, maybe some ground meat or sugar-free bacon, and a 10 inch cast iron skillet. In my pre-Whole30 days, I thought frittatas required milk and cheese. They don’t.
Here are a few of my favorite frittatas. The basic recipe is to sauté the fillings (everything except eggs) in your cast iron pan. Then, whip up the eggs with salt & pepper, stir them into the filling, cook a few minutes longer on the stovetop until the eggs start to set. Finally, throw the cast iron under the broiler for a minute or two until everything is set. Once it’s cooked, I immediately cut it into 6 wedges and put them in gladware containers so that I have breakfast ready for the Sunday through Friday. (On Saturdays, I tend to make something else or eat leftovers.)
- 1 lb chorizo, 1 grated sweet potato, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 8 eggs, salt & pepper.
- 8 oz. sugar free bacon, 1 chopped head of broccoli, 1 chopped onion, herbs, 8 eggs, salt & pepper. The key to this one is to fry up the bacon first. It’s okay if you don’t get it crispy. Remove the bacon and sauté the veggies. After you add the eggs, crumble the bacon on top of everything. It gets delightfully crispy when you broil it to finish.
- Mediterranean Breakfast Frittata from Real Simple Good. It has spinach, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, basil and tomatoes.
- 1 bunch of spinach, 8 oz. of mushrooms, 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, 12 eggs, salt & pepper.
And for non-frittata fun, I strongly encourage you to try shakshuka. It’s an African/Middle Eastern tomato-y, red pepper stew with poached eggs on top. I like the NY Times Shakshuka recipe. For Whole30, I skip the feta. I usually serve it with some crispy, roast potato wedges.
Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks
Snacking is discouraged during Whole30, except on workout days. For pre-workouts, we are advised to eat ½ serving of protein, ½ serving of fat, and no fruit or carby veggies. I found that I did better when I would eat a piece of fruit some days. Here are some of the different snacks that carried me through.
- 1 sliced apple with cinnamon sprinkled on top
- 2 grilled Mediterranean chicken skewers and either some homemade ranch dressing or half an avocado.
- Chomps meat sticks from Trader Joe’s. I didn’t eat these often. Instead, I keep them in my purse for hangry emergencies.
I usually don’t end up eating a post-workout snack because I workout at night and eat dinner afterwards. So, I just eat a little more protein and carby veggies on workout days.
Lunches and Dinners
This is the real fun and time-consuming part of Whole30. I tend to cook something for dinner, and then eat it for lunch the next day. I tried to cook dishes that featured only 1-2 key flavors and were small enough to only last for 2-3 meals so that I wouldn’t get bored. Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Curried coconut carrot soup with lamb meatballs and grilled bok choy.
- Tomatillo pork chili verde with tostones and a salad.
- Zucchini noodles with beef meatballs and marinara. Make your own meatballs so that they are Whole30 compliant and make sure that you buy only sugar- and dairy-free marinara sauce.
- Thai curries with meat and veggies. I like to use either sliced chicken, pork or beef, and a mix of some of the following veggies: broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, purple sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and/or Thai basil. The Mae Ploy brand has sugar-free curry pastes. I use coconut aminos and sugar-free fish sauce to serve. I don’t really miss having rice with this, but if you do, you can serve it over cauliflower rice with lime.
- Crispy pan-seared salmon fillets with lemon, tomatoes and capers. I serve it with hasselback potatoes and asparagus.
- Whole30 shepherd’s pie. I got the recipe from the Whole30 Cookbook. It uses ground lamb or beef (your choice!), veggies, and mashed sweet potatoes made with coconut milk on top. This recipe alone is worth buying the cookbook.
Sprouts is my go-to for Whole30-friendly grocery shopping. They have great produce and a much larger selection of sugar-free sausages. I get Pederson’s sugar-free bacon and sausages. They also sell chorizo, which is generally sugar-free.