I learned something new this week: after January (of course), September is the most popular month to take on Whole30, the eating program designed by Melissa Hartwig to reset your nutrition program over just 30 days. But once I thought about it, the timing made perfect sense: summer is pretty much over, and many people are craving a reset after days spent indulging in patio margs and fried chicken picnics. Schedule the program for right after Labor Day, and you get the perfect recipe for committing to the Whole30 challenge for the first time.
Outside of a post-summer reset, most people decide to do Whole30 to break unhealthy eating patterns, to learn how to listen to their bodies, or to simply to gain insight into what foods or ingredients make them feel good versus what affects them poorly.
“I always knew certain foods or combinations of foods made me feel just overall not great,” explained Britta Katt, Marketing Brand Manager at Kitchfix (which features a whole menu of Whole30-compliant meals and is approved by Hartwig herself) . “I think I basically wanted something… that gave me REAL motivation to change my habits, and this reset offered exactly that.”
Trainers, in particular, often decide to try Whole30 to gain firsthand experience and understand more about how it may affect their clients.
“I decided to do the Whole 30 as a little bit of an experiment, and to see if I could actually do it,” shared Lauren Clare, a personal trainer and health coach at Authentic Wellness, Inc. “I also wanted to see if this was something I could recommend to my clients that was a Whole Foods based approach to eating.”
As you probably know, everything is better with friends — and if you’re taking on Whole30 for the first time, we’re not about to let you go it alone. We reached out to nutrition experts, trainers, and regular people who have done (and survived) Whole30 for their best tips, tricks, hacks, and everything they wished they know when doing Whole30 for the first time. Learn from the pros and you’ll not only survive Whole30 — you’ll thrive.
Accept this: Eating out might not happen
By and large, most people said the hardest part of Whole30 was eating out.
Confides Eva Lindpaintner, Kitchfix operations manager. “I felt like I missed out on social events because I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough willpower and that I would ‘cheat.'”
Clare agrees, adding “I don’t eat out very much at all, and in this particular 30 days I only went out to eat once for a friend’s birthday. I looked at the menu beforehand and there were only one or two things I could actually have.”
Cooking for yourself, our panel agreed, is the easiest way to stay compliant (and not tempted) during your Whole30.
Know that it might not *actually* be as hard as you think
Let’s face it, Whole30 is known for all the “no-nos” you expect to miss (like dairy, gluten, alcohol, and legumes — aka peanut butter).
But many people were surprised by just how much they DIDN’T miss when it was eliminated.
“The easiest part was eliminating dairy and bread,” recalled Lindpaintner. “I was shocked that I didn’t miss them, and ever since Whole30, I have rarely purchased them.”
Similarly, Sanjana Das of Chicago found herself pleasantly freed from her peanut butter addiction.
“I LOVE peanut butter anything,” she emphasizes, “but almond and cashew butter, oh my! There are so many alternative nut butters/products now!”
Get comfortable with labels
Here’s something that might surprise you: by the end of your Whole30, you’re going to be a PRO at reading nutrition labels.
Says Das, “[Whole30] was a great way for me to realize how much added sugar was in foods. Even things like smoked salmon and bacon can be doused with sugar, so gaining that awareness has been very helpful.”
Emily Newman, marketing content manager at Kitchfix, seconded Das, saying that “even well after my Whole30, I now am trained to look for added sugars or chemical sounding additives! It really helped me turn to cleaner options.”
Katt points out that Whole30 retrained her to look at the back of a food package, rather than the front: “I never paid that much attention to what brands say on the front of their package (healthy! great for you! the most quality ingredients!) and then compared how they do not follow through with ingredients on the back. There are so many hidden sugars, wheat and other bad-for-you ingredients even in ‘healthy’ foods, and the Whole30 taught me how to read labels carefully and what to look for.”
Prepare to meal prep (a LOT)
Meal prep is a MAJOR key to Whole30 success. “I did a lot of roasting different veggies and prepping salads for the week so I always had things I could go to even when I was really busy,” says Clare.
Das’s go-to? Breakfast egg bakes — “It takes maybe half an hour of prep time and you have breakfast for an entire week. I loved getting to work and making my coworkers jealous!”
And go ahead, make a little extra to help future you stay on track.
“Leftovers are LIFE,” declares Katie Doyle, a Chicago business owner and author. “I would double recipes so I could have them for lunch the next day and freeze for nights I really didn’t want to do anything besides Netflix.”
Keep Whole30 compliant foods on hand constantly.
For snacks, keep it simple: dried fruits, veggie slices with Whole30-approved sauces or dips, and nuts or hardboiled eggs are what most people rely on. Newman, for example, always had cooked veggies, baked potatoes, and bone broth at the ready.
Katt and her husband took it one step further and made a point to stock up on Kitchfix Whole30 meals during busy weeks. “Whole30 meal planning takes SO MUCH TIME and effort, planning, shopping and strategy for every single meal,” Katt laments. “With my husband and I both working full time and a toddler, it was such a relief to cut that workload down and enjoy delicious, creative Whole30 meals that took two minutes to heat up!”
When in doubt, get saucy.
Take it from Lindpaintner: “Whether store-bought or home-made, I found that having a delicious dressing or sauce made even simple meals exciting. I would make a jar of mayo every week, and then mix it with different spices and herbs for a nearly instant aioli. Super easy, but felt fancy!”
Stay motivated by how you’ll feel at the end of Whole30
How will you feel in a word? Good. In more words? Well-rested, energized, less bloated, proud, and accomplished.
“I mean this in every sense of the word when I say that I felt good,” says Doyle. “Mentally I felt accomplished and focused. Physically I wasn’t bloated and my workouts were going so well.”
How’s that for a little motivation to keep going?
We asked: What advice would you give to someone doing Whole30 for the first time?
“Read the book, make yourself a weekly meal plan and prep food for the week. Try to get a friend to join you so you have an accountability buddy.” – Clare
“The main takeaway for me was that there are so many healthy alternatives to satisfy cravings while fitting into our busy lifestyles. If you want something crunchy, have some jicama or carrots instead of chips. If you want something sweet, have a piece of seasonal fruit! If you’re in a rush, grab some Paleo granola or an Epic bar. While Whole30 can seem very radical, once you start doing it, you realize it isn’t above changing your entire life. It’s about changing your relationship with food.” – Das
“It’s really easy to look at Whole30 as restrictive, but it’s so empowering. Yes, there is a learning curve and yes, the ‘carb flu’ is real. But once you get past that, you feel really in control. You become much more aware of what you are putting in your body and how it makes you feel when you do. You realize there’s a relationship between things like insomnia and what you eat. Being more in tune with your body give you the ability to manage how you feel on a daily basis and there’s nothing quite like that.” – Doyle
“It’s very tempting to immediately dive back into old routines without properly reintroducing after the 30 days. I rushed this process and it made it super difficult to identify what was causing certain symptoms. So, be patient! It’s well worth it.” – Newman
“Write down some specific, daily goals that you can feel proud of achieving each day. Thirty days is a long time, so having smaller goals can help you feel accomplished along the way! For example, my goal was not to snack between work and dinner; every day that I stuck to it, I had tangible evidence that I was making a positive change — and I still haven’t gone back to my daily post-work treat 🙂 ” – Lindpaintner
“I think the best thing you can do is set yourself up for success by being prepared. You can not go into the Whole30 blind. Spend a few days reading as much as you can, clearing any temptations in your pantry and fridge, and creating your plan for handling every meal a week ahead of time. Find a Whole30 meal delivery service like Kitchfix to make this easier on you. This is not a challenge about how hard you can make it on yourself, it is about your relationship with food and making better choices for your body. So use the Whole30 approved products and services as much as you can!
Lastly, I would say do it with a spouse or friend. The common support (and shared difficulties:) ) make you feel like you’re in it together and you’re not alone.” – Katt
For a little extra help with your Whole30, check out Kitchfix’s menu of Whole30-approved meals here.