Call me crazy, but I’m ready for another round of Whole30!
Following the Whole30 program takes commitment, planning, and lots of good food. I’ve gathered my favorite tips and Whole30 essentials to make getting through a round of Whole30 a little easier.
The new year means a lot of us are jumping on the Whole30 bandwagon, and I for one couldn’t be more excited. This will be my third round of Whole30 in three years, and I love the way I feel with a good reset. See everything I ate on my first round here, here, here, and here.
I’ve learned some new tips and tricks with each round so I thought I’d gather some of my Whole30 thoughts all in one place.
My two biggest tips for Whole30 are to plan ahead, and keep it simple.
Following Whole30 is a lot of work. This is not the time to find a whole month’s worth of new recipes, and start cooking fancy dinners every night if you’re used to picking up food at the drive-thru.
Especially when you’re cooking for kids and your family, I find it’s best to stick with what you know and like- just with a Whole30 twist.
Whole30 is a lot of work already because you will have to cook almost everything from scratch. Meal prep and packing for the road will take up a good amount of time. Skip the extra stress, and don’t go crazy trying new things, at least at first.
For my first round, I cooked exclusively from the Whole30 book. It’s packed with all the details you need about the program plus simple, basic recipes that anyone can make. There’s a new Whole30 book out too that I hear is just as great.
Keeping your food simple doesn’t have to mean boring AT ALL! I actually find that I eat way more variety, and my food is prettier (check out my IG for proof!) and more flavorful on Whole30.
So what do you need to have a successful Whole30? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different answers. I’ve gathered up a list of my favorite essentials that you’ll always find in my kitchen during a Whole30.
We started following a real food lifestyle six years ago when my oldest was a baby. When she was diagnosed with food allergies a few years ago, I started cooking even more of our food from scratch.
I’ve tried just about every kitchen gadget out there, but there are only a few that made the cut during my KonMari craze a few years ago.
- Instant Pot My Instant Pot is used almost daily, but especially during a Whole30. It is excellent for meal prepping meat, making stock, hard boiled eggs, and soups, which I believe are a Whole30 staple. I also have a few favorite Instant Pot recipes that are great for busy weeknight meals.
- Immersion Blender This is one tool you might not already have, but I promise it is worth the investment. This is the secret ingredient for making homemade mayonnaise and ranch dressing- two sauces you will always find in my fridge during a Whole30. Sure, there are other ways to do it, but I promise, you need an immersion blender to get it right every.single.time.
- A good knife You’re going to do a lot of chopping during Whole30. Make sure you have at least one good chopping knife ready to work. I recently got a Cutco knife (from Costco for $99) and hope to build out my collection over time, but until then, this one knife does most of the heavy lifting in my kitchen.
- A countertop spiralizer: Spiralized veggies are here to stay. When you’re eating your 16th zucchini of the month, having it look a little different is pretty awesome. I use my spiralizer at least twice a week on Whole30. Mostly for these Crispy Swoodles with Bacon right here. You can thank me later.
- Glass storage containers Meal prep is a must for a successful Whole30. Eating leftovers is another necessity so that you’re not stuck in the kitchen all day, every day. We minimize plastic in our kitchen, so we have several sets of glass Snapware that I use for meal prepping or storing leftovers. One trick I learned is to store complete meals (protein and veggies) in a 3-cup Pyrex container. These can be refrigerated or even frozen for a quick “TV dinner” when you need it. Just add a plated fat and maybe a little fruit and you’re good to go.
- To-go containers Eating on the go is by far the toughest part of Whole30 for me. Once you start reading labels, it becomes quite clear how messed up our food system us because sugar is in everything. Packing my own food when I’m out and about is a must. I’ve had several sets of ECOlunchbox bento containers, and they are my favorite for packing lunches. I also love these little sauce cups with lids for packing dressing, dips and nut butter.
- Lunch box w/ice pack The last necessity is a good lunch bag or cooler bag with ice packs to keep your food cool on the go. I have a Pioneer Woman lunch tote that I love, but any standard lunch bag and ice packs will work. Just make sure it’s big enough- you’ll be packing more than you think!
Once you get the hang of what foods you can’t eat on Whole30, it’s best to focus on what you can eat. There are so many yummy and healthy foods out there that you can enjoy on Whole30!
Eating a wide variety of foods is one of the things I love about Whole30, but you will probably find there are some staple foods that make an appearance over and over again. I’m sure there are some variations on these based on taste preferences, but I would guess most people tend to include these foods in their meals on a regular basis during a Whole30.
- Eggs: A quick and easy protein source. Hard boil them for snacks or a pre-workout meal, fry them up in ghee and toss on a bed of arugula for a salad, or scramble them with leftover veggies for a balanced meal. I eat eggs at least once a day on Whole30, and it’s not uncommon to see them on my plate at more than one meal.
- Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is the bees knees. I can’t stand the flavor of coconut and went through my first Whole30 without ever using coconut milk. A little Googling for Whole30 recipes will reveal that this ingredient is like the KING of all ingredients. It gives that creamy goodness to recipes that we’re missing without butter, milk, and cheese. I prefer the texture and taste of canned Thai Kitchen Organic Full Fat Coconut Milk. You’ll find it in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores. I keep one can in the fridge and at least 10 cans in my pantry at all times. I need a separate post to explain all the things you can do with it!
- Sweet Potatoes: I don’t think I ever willingly ate a sweet potato until Whole30. I didn’t grow up eating them, and they’re not my jam. But Whole30 changes your taste buds. The hearty sweetness of this starchy vegetable is enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and curb carb cravings. One serving of sweet potatoes a day seems to keep me full and satisfied without cravings. People who aren’t trying to lose weight often eat sweet potatoes several times a day.
- Spaghetti squash: After 30 days of no bread or pasta, I swear spaghetti squash starts tasting like the real deal. Especially when it’s in an awesome recipe like PaleOMG’s Spaghetti Pie or my Mediterranean Chicken Spaghetti Squash. Yummmm.
- Nuts: Whole30 discourages eating too many nuts, but they are great for a snack time mini-meal or as an addition to a meal to balance it out. I like to keep raw cashews, almonds, pecans, and walnuts on hand, as well as dry roasted almonds. Just watch the labels on nuts to make sure ingredients are compliant because they can be sneaky about oils and added sugar.
- Avocado: I feel blessed to live in Texas where the price of avocados is reasonable. We took a trip to New York City during my second round of Whole30, and I was shocked that avocados were $3 each. Avocado is an awesome quick way to add fat to a meal. It makes a great dip when smashed into guacamole and adds a creamy texture to sauces. I eat 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado with most meals.
- Ghee: Ghee is something I had never even heard of until Whole30. I didn’t bother with it during my first round, but I was missing out! Ghee is clarified butter- kind of like butter, but not. It doesn’t really taste like butter, but when you cook with it, it adds a really great flavor. You’ll see lots of Whole30 recipes use it, and there’s a reason. I’m not partial to one brand of ghee, but Carrington Farms is available at most stores and on Amazon.
- Olive oil: I don’t use much olive oil in my non-Whole30 life because it’s not a great choice for cooking with. But on Whole30, it has lots of great uses. It’s great for whipping up marinades, sauces, and salad dressings or to add a drizzle on top of a meal for your plated fat. I like to buy the big jug of organic olive oil at Costco.
- Light olive oil: Another ingredient I had never heard of until Whole30 and completely missed out on during my first round. Light olive oil has two distinct uses for Whole30- homemade mayonnaise and Dump Ranch. Nuff said.
- Coconut flour & Almond meal: Coconut flour and almond meal are staples of gluten-free cooking, but I never really loved using them until Whole30. These can both be a great substitute where you would normally use bread crumbs. Almond meal is a key ingredient to a few of my favorite Whole30 recipes like these awesome leek fritters or Whole30 salmon cakes. Both of them can be used to make delicious chicken tenders that rival any fast food joint.
- Tapioca starch/flour: Tapioca starch is another staple of gluten-free cooking, but you might not be familiar with it if you aren’t gluten free. Tapioca starch is great for coating meats before cooking or thickening sauces.
- Sparkling water: Ok so maybe water isn’t technically a staple food, but it is a must-have in my opinion. I am partial to Topo Chico, but I know there are many who love La Croix too.
Whole30 is all about changing your mindset with food. Cooking from scratch is a huge part of that. But I promise there will be a day where you just.cannot.cook.one.more.thing. That is the day where you need to have some convenience foods ready to go to keep you on track.
Chili lime burgers: These frozen burgers from Trader Joe’s are SO GOOD. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, I’m sorry. We only got one a couple years ago, and I live 40 minutes away, but it’s worth the drive just for these.
Frozen cauliflower rice: I must have been living under a rock because I didn’t know you could buy frozen cauliflower “rice” until recently. Genius! Stir fry is my go-to emergency meal when I have nothing prepped. It takes 3 minutes to sautéed the cauliflower, toss in whatever veggies I have leftover or in the freezer, season it, and top it with leftover meat or an egg.
Frozen veggies: No explanation here, just keep some veggies in the freezer. Don’t just stick to your typical broccoli and green beans. I like to get pre-chopped onions and pepper, okra, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and whatever else I can find.
Deli turkey: I’m not usually a fan of lunch meat, but it definitely has it’s place during a Whole30. There is only so much cooking you can do. Finding compliant lunch meat can be tricky because most of what you find at the store has some form of sugar or carrageenan in it. My favorite is in-house roasted turkey from the deli section. My grocery store has several varieties that are compliant with only turkey and seasonings listed as ingredients. I love this plain or on a salad for a simple lunch.
Chicken apple sausage: Chicken Apple Sausage is all the rage with Whole30-ers because it’s tough to find compliant sausage. Even though I’m not a sausage fan, I admit it’s pretty good. I like to slice it and toss it in the oven with some veggies for a super simple, no fuss meal. It also makes a great breakfast scrambled with eggs and veggies.
Canned salmon: This is another ingredient I never tried until Whole30, but it’s a family favorite now. Salmon cakes are a one-pot meal that I can throw together in 20 minutes without any prep. I buy wild caught Alaskan salmon in cans at Costco.
Spice it up
Healthy, clean, real food has so much flavor. But, without the sugar and unhealthy oils many of us are used to, food can start to taste a little blah. Whole30 will step up your seasoning game for sure.
You’ve got to add seasoning and spices to bring out the natural flavors in foods, and use marinades, sauces and dips to keep it interesting. Everyone has different tastes, but these are a few of my favorite ways to spice up a meal.
- Himalayan Pink salt
- Cholula Hot Sauce
- Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
- Harissa Paste: Harissa Paste is a blend of spicy peppers with herbs and spices. It has an Indian flair and is delish on meats or veggies.
- Whole grain mustard
- Coconut Aminos: Coconut Aminos are soy sauce alternative. It’s pricey, but you won’t use that much. Find it in Asian or gluten free aisle of the grocery store.
- Fermented veggies like sauerkraut, dilly carrots or real pickles
- Tessamae’s salad dressings: Most of Tessamae’s salad dressings and the no-sugar ketchup are Whole30 compliant (read the labels to make sure though!).
- Pico de Gallo
- Dump Ranch
- Sunshine Sauce
- Chimichurri Sauce
Did I miss one of your essentials? Let me know in a comment! Be sure to follow along with my January Whole30 on Instagram, and leave me a comment so I can follow your journey too.