We all know holiday eating can be a pitfall of rich, sweet, overabundant meals. But with the new year comes the opportunity to start fresh… with fresh food on the table! Why not start January with a Whole30 and give your body the nourishment and healing it needs?
I am a big advocate of the Hartwig’s Whole30 program and have followed it multiple times to relieve my gut and sinus issues. But I know that, for many first-time W30ers, the limitations can be hugely overwhelming. That’s why I wanted to share my checklist of 11 things to do before starting a Whole30 so that you’re invigorated and ready to go on Day 1!
1. Take Inventory of Your Kitchen
If you’re determined to start a Whole30, you’re probably familiar with the program’s list of non-compliant food. So before Day 1, you need to walk into your kitchen and take inventory of what is around you. What can stay and what has to go? Do yourself a favor now and don’t leave any temptations behind.
2. Eat What Non-Compliant Food You Can
Did you find mostly-empty cartons of ice cream in the freezer? What about those leftover rolls from the holidays? Figure out if there’s anything non-compliant in your kitchen that you can reasonably consume in the week leading up to the Whole30.
I’m not saying you should gorge yourself on junk, but try to plan your meals around removing the non-compliant food. You may feel crappy as you finish it off, and that might even be a good thing. Remember how bloated and terrible you feel from eating all that cheese. Let that be a reminder to you that you’re doing the Whole30 for a reason. It’ll make the next 30 days even more magical when you realize the difference in how you’re eating and feeling.
3. Donate, Trash, or Lock Away the Other Non-Compliant Food
Depending on how different the Whole30 guidelines are from the current state of your pantry, you may have more non-compliant food than can be consumed before Day 1. So here are your options: donate, trash, or lock away.
If you have cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup with wheat in the ingredients or boxes of unopened crackers, then consider gathering these items and donating them to a local food drive. For dry goods that are opened but store reasonably well, like rice or quinoa, you can lock them away in a safe place or pack them up in a storage box to be opened after the re-introduction period. With any other opened items that you can’t eat before January, I strongly urge you to throw them away. You might think you’ll want them in a month, but you may find after your Whole30 that you never want to use that canola oil again.
Performing this kind of cleanup can be emotionally difficult for some people, so if you find this particular step overwhelming, then try thinking of the empty spaces on the shelves as room for all of the new, nutritious foods you’ll be making in January!
4. Start Bookmarking Cookbooks and Food Blogs
This is the fun part! Researching all of the delicious and nutritious recipes out there can get you motivated to try new things. There’s a whole line of Whole30 cookbooks but you can also use or adapt most recipes from any paleo cookbook, and there are so many inspiring food blogs as well. My cookbooks are usually fringed with sticky notes by January 1st.
5. Make a Meal Plan for Week 1
I cannot emphasize enough how important meal planning is to the success of a Whole30. If you’re prepared, then you don’t have an excuse for giving into temptation. So sit down and look at all the awesome recipes you bookmarked – what do you want to make in Week 1? Think through breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and pick 4-5 meals you’d like to make. Then grab a pen and paper, because the next thing you’ll do is…
6. Write a Grocery List for Week 1
That’s right – you’ve found these great recipes and made a meal plan for your first Whole30 week, so it’s time to write a grocery list!
If the Whole30 plan is a drastic change to your diet, then you might also need to pick up some extra cooking supplies. I recommend stocking the following items if you don’t currently own them: olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, coconut aminos, and some cans of coconut milk. I also like stocking up on some of my favorite go-to items like Tessemae’s dressings and condiments, Justin’s Classic Almond Butter squeeze packs, and RXBAR protein bars (Chocolate Sea Salt!) that make life a little easier.
7. Plan Your Fallback Foods
Inevitably, there will be nights when you get home from work exhausted and you can’t fathom the thought of preparing yet another homemade meal from scratch. Or you still want to go to the gym after work but don’t want to eat dinner at 9:30PM.
I get it. This is when the Whole30 gets hard. You have a weak moment and want nothing more than to eat a frozen meal in front of the television.
To prevent this feeling, I always keep a number of easy meals in my freezer like chicken sausages and bags of frozen veggies. It’s not glamorous, but I know I can have a meal ready in 10 minutes. Plan a few quick meals like this, add them to your grocery list, and you’ll feel prepared for any weak moments in the upcoming month!
8. Do What Meal Prep You Can
With all of the meal planning and recipe hunting you’re doing, you can even take it a step further and start making food! I’ve made W30 compliant soups and marinara sauce in December and then froze them so that I had them on hand come January. Again, this is all about making the Whole30 easy on yourself so that you don’t feel like you’re spending hours in the kitchen every night.
9. Start a Food/Whole30 Journal
Another strategy I highly recommend is keeping a food journal during your Whole30 to track your meals and your symptoms throughout the 30 days. Buy a pretty leather journal you’ll be excited to use or set up a spreadsheet in advance so that you’re ready for Day 1. Or you can download my own Whole30 Food Journal Template to use!
10. Read Up on Whole30 Literature
You can do this before or during the Whole30, but I suggest reading some of the associated literature that explains the reasoning behind the program. I read It Starts With Food during my first Whole30 experience and it completely opened my eyes. And yeah, sometimes you need it in order to feel a little righteous – and that’s okay.
11. Tell a Friend or Family Member Why You’re Doing This
If you’re scared you can’t live up to your own expectations, then tell a trusted friend or family member about the Whole30 and why you can’t wait to complete the program. Sometimes you need a personal cheerleader who can congratulate you for staying strong and turning down that chocolate cupcake at the office party!
Whether you’re a first time Whole30er or a veteran of the program, there’s no such thing as too much preparation before your next Whole30. I hope these tips help and wish you the best of luck. Here’s to a healthier, happier you in the new year!
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