All About Whole30—Recipes, Tips, and Guidelines

April 2, 2018
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
All About Whole30—Recipes, Tips, and Guidelines

Can you change your eating habits in 30 days? That’s what the Whole30 program wants to help you do! It was created in 2009 by certified sports nutritionists (and husband and wife duo) Melissa and Dallas Hartwig to act as one big reset button for the body and mind. There are loads of potential benefits like improving energy levels, getting better sleep, and reducing inflammation. And yes, weight loss may be a natural byproduct for some, but it’s not the focus. Intrigued? Here’s the lowdown.

What Is the Whole30 Diet?

For 30 days, you eliminate processed foods, sugars, grains, legumes, and dairy, and increase high-quality proteins, healthy fats, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and loads of veggies. And it’s a lot more than a diet—Whole30 is a journey. It’s important to stay curious as you learn what makes your body feel good!

You’ll get the most out of the program when you focus on what you can eat (we’ve got lots of suggestions below, plus ready-made kits) as well as uncovering the root causes of your cravings. After the 30 days is up, how you move forward is completely up to you. Some people stick with it long-term and others use the program as a jumpstart once or twice during the year. As you add eliminated foods back into your diet slowly, you can see how your body reacts and make a decision from there.

Whole30 Rules

Now, there are two parts to any Whole30 experience—rules and recommendations. Rules are the same for everyone and definitely a must for sticking with the program. Recommendations are a bit looser and can vary depending on your unique situation. Here are all the Whole30 guidelines:

The five commandments:

  • No alcohol
  • No grains
  • No legumes
  • No dairy
  • No added sugar or artificial sweeteners

Say no to recreating favorite baked goods and treats

It’s tempting to stick with your weekend waffle routine, by subbing Whole30-compliant ingredients into your favorite recipes but this is missing the point. You’re looking at psychological health as well as physical, and foods like pancakes, bread, tortillas, muffins, cookies, brownies, cereal, potato chips, and French fries (just to name a few), won’t help you shift a habit or eliminate cravings. If you’re unsure about an ingredient, follow the Whole30 mantra: “When in doubt, leave it out.”

Hide the scale

Sure, you might lose a few pounds along the way, but Whole30 isn’t about weight. Weigh yourself before and after to see the difference, but don’t spend a lot of energy worrying about it during the 30 days. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling and what you’re learning along the way.

Whole30 Recommendations

The rules might be set in stone, but here are a few areas where you can loosen up and make adjustments as needed.

Avoid snacking

Three meals a day with minimal snacking is ideal because it helps foster mindful eating. However, listening to your body is the most important thing! If you’re used to six small meals, work to transition to three larger meals over a longer period of time. If you work long hours, you might need three meals and a snack. And if you’re pregnant, snack away (leaving about 3 hours in-between, if you can). Basically, you do you.

Stick with two servings of fruit

Whole30 recommends two servings of fruit per day, eaten with meals rather than as a snack or as a dessert replacement. Again, listen to your body here! For example, if it’s summer and fresh fruit abounds, it makes sense to enjoy a bit more. But if the extra sugar feeds into deep-rooted cravings, take a look at this more closely and adjust as needed.

Ban bars

Instead of treating fruit and nut bars like snacks, move them into the emergency food category. They’re perfect for afternoon hikes, travel, or an extra-long work day, but don’t rely on them. As long as the ingredients are compliant, you’re good to go!

Buy organic

When possible, choose organic or non-GMO ingredients to help avoid pesticides, and the same goes for grass-fed meats versus conventional options.

Make it from scratch

These days it’s easier than ever to find Whole30-compliant ingredients like salad dressing and mayonnaise. Stock your pantry at will when you find the right products, but don’t be shy about making them yourself, too! Homemade condiments like savory bone broth and ketchup are easy to prepare and will make your recipes even more flavorful.

Whole30 Exceptions

We know there are lots of rules to follow, but we have some good news! Study this list for a few ways to bend the rules (the Whole30 way, of course).

  • Ghee or clarified butter: Stock up on the only source of dairy allowed during the program. Since ghee is free of some of the milk proteins found in regular ‘ol butter, it won’t impact your results!
  • Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas: While technically legumes (which are nixed), their pod structures make them an exception to the rule so add these vibrant green ingredients to your basket!
  • Fruit juice: If a recipe uses fruit juice (like apple or orange juice) as a stand-alone ingredient in lieu of an artificial sweetener, it’s A-OK.
  • Vinegar: Most vinegars are gluten-free, so enjoy all the different varieties like balsamic, apple cider, and rice during the program. Just avoid malt vinegar, which usually isn’t GF.
  • Coconut aminos: This is a great soy sauce alternative that’s naturally fermented and gluten-free—perfect for adding depth of flavor to stir fries and dressings.

Whole30 Shopping List

Since having the right ingredients on hand is half the battle, we always rely on founder Melissa Hartwig’s go-to pantry staples. Last time she stopped by Thrive HQ, we got the rundown of what to shop for. Check out even more Whole30 picks on ThriveMarket.com!

Primal Kitchen Mayo

Here’s a mayo that’s made with avocado oil, not canola oil. Organic eggs, a touch of vinegar, and rosemary extract make it the creamiest spread. Give the chipotle lime flavor a try if you’re feeling fiery.

The New Primal Marinades

These sauces are an easy way to build flavor in your meals and work with meat, seafood, and veggies.

NutPods Creamer

Need a little help to get your morning going? Melissa says you can go from “Whole30 ho-hum to Whole30 overjoyed” with one splash of this creamer in your cup. Each flavor (try hazelnut!) is dairy-free and made with almonds, coconuts, and purified water.

Yai’s Thai Curry

Flavor-packed curries are a go-to for quick meals. You can use whatever veggies and protein you have, plus cauliflower rice to serve alongside. Super simple!

Safe Catch Tuna

Thanks to Safe Catch’s rigorous testing methods, its tuna has the lowest mercury levels of any brand on the market. We’re always up for adding a dollop of mayo (see above!), but tuna salad can soar to new flavor heights with flavors like tandoori spice and habanero mint.

Here are even more foods to grab!

  • High-quality animal protein: Head to the Thrive Market meat counter for chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. You can also pick up eggs and even tasty Whole30 bacon at your local supermarket.
  • All the veggies: Shop seasonally for all your favorite vegetables. They’ll add color, nutrients, and flavor to every meal throughout the month.
  • Some fruity options: Try and stick to the two-fruits-per-day rule and choose your favorites to enjoy!
  • Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, olives, nuts, and seeds are all Whole30 go-to’s.

Whole30 Breakfast Recipes

There are lots of Whole30 ways to start your day, like a filling scramble, green smoothie, or perfect hard-boiled eggs.

Italian Breakfast Scramble

When you’re whisking eggs, don’t miss an opportunity to add extra flavor. This scramble gets a Mediterranean spin with zucchini, EVOO, and cherry tomatoes. Just be sure to swap the butter for Whole30-approved ghee and you’re good to go.

Tropical Green Popsicles

Popsicles for breakfast? Yes, please! With a blend of avocado, banana, mango, spinach, and coconut water, it’s basically a frozen vegan smoothie.

Hard Boiled Eggs With Apple Cider Vinegar

This Whole30 breakfast standby is made with a splash of ACV. It adds gut-friendly bacteria and makes the shells easier to peel, too!

Whole30 Lunch Recipes

Easy lunches don’t have to be boring, even when you’re rocking Whole30! From Indian-spiced tuna salad to citrus-marinated poke, there’s plenty to choose from.

Tandoori Tuna Salad

Rev up your taste buds and turn basic tuna into something crave worthy. Safe Catch adds Indian spices like coriander and cumin so you can give global flavors to your next salad.

Grilled Chicken-Stuffed Lettuce Boats

Big romaine lettuce leaves are stuffed to the brim with grilled chicken that’s topped with chopped bell peppers and onions. This is a great make-ahead dish, too! Mix up the filling and save it in the fridge for a day or two.

Ahi Grapefruit Poke

Head to Hawaii with this citrusy poke bowl! Sushi-grade fish is tossed with lots of flavor enhancers like coconut aminos, sesame oil, and ground ginger.

Mason Jar Tom Yum Soup

Lunch to-go! Prep a few jars ahead of the workweek, then add hot water when you’re ready to eat. The zucchini noodles and thinly sliced veggies cook fast, and fish sauce, coconut aminos, lemongrass, and jalapeño create a flavorful broth with both savory and sour notes. A delicious Whole30 soup!

Whole30 Dinner Recipes

When dinner calls, be ready by prepping as much as you can in advance (like mixing up meatballs). Then you can break out your sheet pan or heat up your favorite pan, and dinner will be ready in no time.

Sheet Pan Shrimp With Spicy Broccoli

This recipe comes straight from the Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook, and it couldn’t be simpler. All you need is a single sheet pan plus shrimp, broccoli, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes for an easy dinner that’s big on flavor.

Turkey-Sage Meatballs With Spaghetti Squash

Missing pasta? Swap in spaghetti squash. It serves as a base for juicy turkey-sage meatballs mixed with pine nuts, dried cranberries, and plenty of garlic powder.

Pan-Roasted Broccolini

Here’s a Whole30 side ready in 15 minutes! Garlic-roasted broccoli gets a punch from pungent anchovies and briny capers.

Halibut and Mushrooms With Pepper-Ginger Broth

What happens when a flaky fish meets a deeply-flavored broth? A savory and satisfying soup made in just 30 minutes. To keep it Whole30-approved, choose coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.

Bacon-Laced Chicken Cups With Spicy Marinade

Your muffin tin probably isn’t getting a lot of love during your Whole30 month but we’ve got a great way to put it to use! It’s the perfect for baking these savory little cups. An approved marinade from The New Primal helps flavor chicken cups that are wrapped in bacon. Each portion delivers about 3 ounces of protein so you can stay full and on track.

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