Cheryl Malik is the mastermind and recipe developer behind 40 Aprons, a blog dedicated to healthy paleo and Whole30 recipes. As a mother of two and blogger, Malik knows a thing or two about managing a hectic schedule and maintaining a health and wellness balance.
Malik initially tried Whole30 to alleviate some of the struggles she was having one year after giving birth to her son: horrible sleep, jaw pain, and stubborn postpartum weight. She was shocked to find that all of the issues were resolved within a couple weeks—all because of this whole-food-focused elimination diet. Drawing on her personal experiences and extensive training, Malik is sharing her Whole30 knowledge with us so you can make your own 30-day challenge as successful as possible.
Tell us about your Whole30 journey. Why’d you start and what did you learn?
I’d been hearing about Whole30 for years, but after years of off-and-on vegetarianism, it didn’t seem logical to me: meat and no wine? What?! But I became interested when I was visiting some family members who were preparing to do a round. I was about a year postpartum and dealing with some weight loss resistance, TMJ, and poor sleep, so we decided to give it a try. I read the book, and the reasons why all started to make sense. And within a few days on our round, we felt better than we had in years! After the end of the round, we were absolutely convinced that it was life-changing—it had completely revolutionized our sleep, energy, pain, and health. Since then, we’ve been completely committed to eating a diet focused on whole foods because we’ve seen firsthand just how beneficial it is.
What are the benefits to having a Whole30 coach or health coach?
I’ll be honest: Doing a Whole30 can be challenging. So many of the foods we’re used to eating or wouldn’t suspect to cause issues turn out to be non-compliant. We have to troubleshoot our meal composition to make sure it’s optimal. And we need support to stick with it! Having a Whole30 or health coach can help you level up your Whole30 experience by giving you the support, knowledge, and guidance you need.
What are your top tips for Whole30 success?
Be prepared! Read the book, find loads of Whole30 compliant recipes that sound amazing to you, get connected to a support group, and stock your pantry. Make sure you have plenty of compliant food on hand. If you prepare well, you’re way more likely to stick to your plan than if you’re expecting to figure it out in the moment. Meal prepping is huge here. I have a helpful article on my blog about preparing for a Whole30 that you should read!
What does a day-in-the-life look like for you? How do you make conscious decisions about your health and wellness throughout the day?
We’re surprisingly flexible with our diet in my house. A paleo diet and approach is our baseline, but we consider it just that: a baseline, not a rule. By giving myself this flexibility, I’m able to stick to it for the long haul, rather than white-knuckling it for a short time.
When I’m not on a Whole30, I often start my day with soft scrambled organic eggs with herbed goat cheese and some grass-fed butter stirred in. I usually pair that with a side of seasonal fruit, like berries, and maybe a bit of sauerkraut or another fermented food. When I’m on a Whole30, I’m usually eating my hashbrown and sausage casserole (that creamy sauce!) or another breakfast meal prep. This is the only real way for me to stay compliant the entire month! If I had to whip up a new breakfast every single day, especially while getting the toddler ready for preschool, nursing the baby, and, you know, watching "Paw Patrol," it’d be just too tough. Preparing changes everything!
For lunch, it’s often leftovers or a “whatever” meal, which is composed of whatever in the world I can find around the house. On a Whole30, it’s usually a meal prep I’ve made ahead, like my Greek meal prep or buffalo chicken meal prep. We also love to make a big batch of chicken salad when we’re on a round and pair that with a roasted veggie, like green beans or broccoli, for an easy lunch.
For dinner, I’m often developing new recipes, so it’s always changing in our house! And when we’re on a Whole30, I cook six out of seven nights of the week. If we’re not on a round, I might incorporate some organic yogurt into a sauce or stir some raw cheddar shreds into a chili. We’re flexible with what a paleo diet means to us, and we’re thoughtful about the ingredients we choose to eat. And then again, we just might be ordering Indian takeout with naan and samosas, because we’re all about the long-term!
You develop both Whole30 and paleo recipes on 40 Aprons. What are the key differences, and what would make one a better fit for a reader over the other?
Many people think of the Whole30 as a stricter version of the paleo diet. On a strict paleo diet, you don’t eat dairy, grains, processed foods like flour or sugar, or legumes, though many people include variations of these ingredients in their versions. For instance, we eat goat products, sheep's cheese, and raw cow’s cheese in moderation, and we eat certain grains occasionally. On a Whole30 diet, there is no wiggle room: no grains, no dairy, no sugars in any form (including honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.), no legumes, no alcohol at all, and no paleo “treats.” The idea is to reset your body and your mind in those 30 days and use the reintroduction plan that follows to identify the foods that serve you best. The Whole30 is a short-term program for most people. Even if you complete multiple rounds, they are not typically continuous. The paleo diet, on the other hand, is designed for the longer-term.
I highly recommend everyone try a Whole30. Seriously, I tell everyone just how life-changing it can be! After that, you’ll be empowered to make your next move thoughtfully, equipped with real knowledge on which foods work for you and which don’t. You’ll have reset your mental and emotional relationship with food, and you’ll be back in control (rather than the cookies holding the power!).
What made you switch to online grocery shopping? How has Thrive Market changed the way you shop?
I’m all about “smarter, not harder,” and online grocery shopping is a perfect example. Of course, we hit up our local stores and markets for fresh produce, but when it comes to pantry staples, high-quality meat and seafood, or, hello, clean wine, doing my shopping online allows me to shop a better variety at better prices. Thrive Market is my soulmate here: products I trust at the most fabulous prices.
What is your #1 tip for shopping success on Thrive Market?
Find a blogger or author you love and trust, and check out their list of must-haves! My own list includes my favorite Whole30 products, and it’s an amazing starting place to discovering your own favorites.