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How to Start Your First Whole30: Tips, Recipes, and Grocery Shopping

Updated on April 28, 2017
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NurseFlood is a registered nurse with a passion for whole foods and all things Paleo.

Healthy Whole30 Grocery Shopping

What Is the Whole 30?

Heard about the Whole30, but unsure if it's for you?

It's about changing the way you eat for 30 days. However, it runs deeper than that. It's about changing your relationship with food. You will be eating whole foods for 30 days. The Whole30 plan excludes vegetable oils, sugar of any type, dairy, legumes, grains, and paleo junk food. This is an elimination diet that can help determine if any foods are having a negative effect on your health. There is a strict reintroduction period following the 30 days to identify how these foods affect your body.

The Whole30 is not about calorie counting, measuring food, and weighing yourself on a scale for the entire thirty days. Meals follow a template of meat, veggies and healthy fats. Snacking, smoothies, and juices should be avoided.

You can get the whole scoop from reading the book It Starts with Food, by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.

Whole30 Benefits

After completing multiple whole 30s, I noticed a variety of positive outcomes.

  • GI symptoms that had plagued me for years vanished.
  • I experienced increased energy and deeper sleep.
  • For the first time, my diet was full of real food, veggies, and plenty of hydrating water.
  • I also got in touch with my inner chef, identified true hunger and satiety cues, and experimented with vegetables that I never had tried before (daikon radish or ground cherries, anyone?)
  • The biggest benefit occurs about 2/3 of the way in: Tiger Blood. It's this clear-headed, energetic feeling that you can do absolutely anything! I recommend trying it for that reason alone!

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries are in the family of tomatillos- just one of the many types of new produce that I tried on the whole30!
Ground cherries are in the family of tomatillos- just one of the many types of new produce that I tried on the whole30!

Staying Compliant at Panera

Get the Steak Power Bowl off the Hidden Menu with NO pesto.  Ask for an Olive Oil packet on the side.  Have a coffee with some cinnamon (I bring my own coconut milk!)
Get the Steak Power Bowl off the Hidden Menu with NO pesto. Ask for an Olive Oil packet on the side. Have a coffee with some cinnamon (I bring my own coconut milk!)

Whole30 Shopping List

To get started, take a look at the Whole30 suggested shopping list.

Here is my own personal list of chopped veggies, cooked proteins, and ready-to-go fats to have on hand (in the fridge and to bring with me to work) before starting the program:

  • A bag of baby carrots, chopped celery & cherry tomatoes
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Grassfed beef sticks
  • Individual serving size packages of guacamole
  • Justin's Classic Almond Butter packs

Quick options to keep in my fridge include:

Veggies

  • Lettuce greens with green onions & tomatoes
  • Chopped root vegetables (turnips, potatoes, beets)
  • Sauteed mushrooms & onions in compliant bacon fat

Protein

  • Cooked shrimp
  • Cooked chicken breast
  • Cooked steak
  • Cooked, grassfed beef with onions & peppers

Fats

  • Avocado
  • Jars of Olives

To understand all the different sugars in foods and how to avoid them, take a look at this Whole30 list of sneaky sugars.

Whole30 Compliant Meals

Fast breakfasts:

  • Bake ahead a pound of nitrite-free, sugar free bacon.
  • Boil a dozen eggs, put 3 in a container, and you have the protein for 4 breakfasts!

Quick lunches:

  • Last night's leftovers with Red Cabbage Apple Slaw
  • Whole 30 sandwiches: Leaf of lettuce or cabbage to wrap your meat and home made mayo. Back-up plan? Lengthwise sliced cucumbers.
  • Simple, Boring Salad: Toss your choice of meat, veggies, and fat: olives, nuts, avocado, and oil. Season with compliant seasonings and vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Tuna + Veg: Raw carrots, celery, snap peas with a can of tuna mixed with guacamole or olive oil.
  • Stuff deviled eggs with guacamole and serve with chopped crudites
  • Your choice of nuts or olives with hard boiled eggs, and your choice of veggies.
  • Celery and almond butter served with compliant shredded chicken with Paleo Mayonnaise wrapped with thinly sliced cucumber.

Dinners (if you double it, you get leftovers... that means lunches!):

  • Stew: (oil of choice, leftover meat, compliant broth, vegetables that you need to use up, spices on stovetop or simmering in your crockpot)
  • Bacon and eggs: Sauté turnips (or sweet potatoes) and onions as a healthy substitute for hash browns.
  • Spicy Taco Salad
  • Channel your inner grilmaster: Veggies and grilled meat are the ultimate in paleo, and they are stomach growlingly delicious!!! Add as much olive or coconut oil as necessary.
  • Chicken Zoodle-cine Alfredo: Use grilled chicken breast, zoodles (or make any veggie into a noodle) with delicious Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce.
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cauliflower Rice and Beef

That Sounds Expensive. Will I Go Broke?

We belong to a Community Shared Agriculture share program. We are able to get our local, pastured pork, grassfed beef, and free-range chicken and eggs for a fraction of the cost. We get a wide variety of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Other ways to receive high quality, local products include farmer's markets and contacing local farms directly. Finally, Trader Joe's does have grassfed beef in the freezer and refrigerator cases. However, it's not local. I prefer local, if at all possible!

Check out Local Harvest for a Community Shared Agriculture program, farm, or farmers market near you!

While conventional meat is not ideal, it is an option for those truly struggling with cost. If it's all you can do, it's better than eating the standard American diet!

Fats

Type of Fat
Portion size
Nut butters, ghee, oils or fats
1-2 thumbs
Coconut
1-2 open handfuls
Olives
1-2 open handfuls
Seeds
1 closed handful
Avocado
1/2- 1 avocado
Coconut milk
1/4- 1/2 of a can
Confused about fat? See this quick reference table.

Spicy Pepper Taco Salad

Spicy pepper taco salad: grassfed beef sauteed with mushrooms and onions, leaf lettuce with heirloom tomatoes, simply salsa guacamole, and salsa verde.
Spicy pepper taco salad: grassfed beef sauteed with mushrooms and onions, leaf lettuce with heirloom tomatoes, simply salsa guacamole, and salsa verde.

Whole30 and Weight Loss

Did you lose weight on your whole30?

See results

Meal Prep Sunday

Meal prep Sunday: Sausage, cabbage & onions; Sauteed eggplant and zucchini; Roasted butternut squash
Meal prep Sunday: Sausage, cabbage & onions; Sauteed eggplant and zucchini; Roasted butternut squash

Final Tips

  • Don't be afraid to fail (even if this is your fourth attempt)! Keep on, keeping on!
  • When in doubt? Eat more fat! Try olives, coconut, avocado in addition to your cooking oils (ghee, coconut oil and olive oil).
  • You can do anything for 30 days.
  • Prep days: Have a back up plan for your back up plan! Cook up several types of protein (chicken, beef, hard boiled eggs) at once and portion them out for the week. Chop up tons of veggies. Cook your potatoes and root veggies.
  • Garner support early: announce your start date and get your family and friends on board. It's important to have accountability and support.
  • Do NOT weigh yourself until day 31. Seriously, have a loved one hide the scale from you.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Follow the template. Three meals a day. 1-2 handfuls of protein, the rest of your plate filled with veggies, and 1-2 thumbs of fat (or 1-2 handfuls of olives, coconut, or one whole to one half an avocado) in addition to your cooking oils.
  • Read the book. Learn about SWYPO. Join the whole9life.com forums. Find a Facebook group.
  • If you get grumpy, understand it's part of the process. Practice yoga, exercise, or write in a journal until the feeling passes.

Fast Food Options

This plan focuses on eating whole foods and ensuring that there are no hidden sugars. That can be hard to do while eating out. I found two compliant restaurant meals while on the Whole30:

  • Panera: Steak power bowl on the Hidden Menu
  • Chipotle: Carnitas salad, no dressing with tomato salsa & guacamole. Skip the fajita veggies (they're cooked in rice bran oil!)

Chipotle Carnitas bowl with lots of guacamole (even though it costs extra!)
Chipotle Carnitas bowl with lots of guacamole (even though it costs extra!)

Need Help Transitioning After the Whole30?

Read this article abut the Paleo diet. It should provide you with tips and resources to eat a Paleo way of living. Many people enjoy how good they feel on the Whole 30 and want to continue to eat in a healthy, whole food way.

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    • amykennedy profile image

      Amy Kennedy 2 years ago from Northern Illinois

      I'm on day 15 of my Whole30 plan and loving the results so far. Thanks for posting.