Tips, Recipes & Advice for the Whole 30

I did my first official Whole 30 in March 2014. I heard about it at CrossFit (and it was also a thing in blog-land) and after reading the book “It Starts With Food” I decided to give it a go. If you’re not familiar with the Whole 30, it is a 30-day program that eliminates the most common food allergens (grains, dairy, refined sugars, alcohol and legumes) from your diet. The focus is on eating good, real food and seeing how certain kinds of foods effects you and your body. The goal is to eat foods that promote a healthy psychological response; a healthy hormonal response; support a healthy gut; support immune function and minimize inflammation.

Seems pretty legit right? For me, it was. The Whole 30 had a really positive effect on my diet, body and overall views on nutrition. I learned a lot from the experience and what foods work and don’t work so well for me. The timing was pretty great as I headed back to school for nutrition around then too. It is most certainly not a “fad diet” or “bandwagon diet.” I think it is another way of getting started with eating real food and listening to your body.

For the full outline of the Whole 30 program, click here.  

My nutrition philosophy is pretty simple: eat real food that nourishes your body and makes you feel good. But that is sometimes easier said than done and taking on the Whole 30 has it’s challenges. I know a lot of people have started the Whole 30 in January so this post is a little late for that but hopefully it can help you embark on a successful Whole 30 if you’ve already started or in the near future!

Whole 30 Tips & Tricks

1. Plan & prepare.

I always think food prep is essential, but for the Whole 30 it is really a must. Set aside a few hours every week and focus on preparing individual ingredients and one or two “big batch meals”. Keep everything in separate containers and then assemble meals as needed the night before. You can’t “wing it” as easily because some food is “off limits” – so plan ahead. Before I go grocery shopping I always figure out what I have on hand first, next I make a “flexible” meal plan, then I shop, finally I prepare.

I know it sounds like a lot but once you get into a routine, it’s a breeze.

Whole 30 Week 1 Prep

2. Budget.

Yes, McDonald’s is cheaper than buying grass-fed meat and organic produce. There’s no way around that and if you choose to prioritize your health and nutrition, your grocery bill will likely increase but there are plenty of budget friendly and money saving ways to combat this. Budget and balance your life – figure out what you need, want and can’t live without. That might mean making some sacrifices and not buying those gorgeous Michael Kors booties right away.

I realized that buying properly raised fish was too expensive on a regular basis so I resulted to canned wild fish instead. I also only buy organic chicken breasts when on sale. It is also a good idea to go to the grocery store with a flexible meal plan and adjust your menu based on what is on sale.

Whole 30 Grocery List

Whole 30 Week 1 Groceries

3. Do it together.

The Whole 30 is a much easier endeavor to tackle with someone else: a friend, significant other or family member. It is certainly veryyyy possible to do on your own (hello, I did) but, as with many things in life, working together makes things easier. You are able to save time and energy by splitting up the grocery shopping and food prep. You are able to get more creative because you can inspire each other. You can have more variety because you have more than one mouth to feed. You will also offer each other necessary support as you take on the 30 days of change.

Kids holding hands

[Image source]

4. Stay positive.

On that note, if you can’t convince someone to join you then it is really important to do your best to surround yourself with positivity. Many people will turn up their noses in judgement, which is fine – that is their choice. But it is super important to turn off the negativity, which is hard at first. Remember that this is your choice for you and your health. Turn off the negativity. There will be people who are supportive of what you are doing. You will be surprised that you may even inspire someone and they may even want to try it out for themselves too.

Instead of imposing thoughts and beliefs, lead by example. If someone asks, tell. If they don’t… well sometimes you just gotta shut-up and let the ones you love live their lives.

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5. Relax. 

When people see/hear “rules” – we tend to freak out. Relax. There are no Whole 30 police. Yes do your very best to follow the Whole 30 as precisely as possible (that is the best way you will see results) but sometimes stuff happens. If you snack a little more than the rules say, figure out what you need to do to make the adjustments.

In the third week of my Whole 30 I went out with friends and wanted a drink, so I had one. The next day I felt like crap, drank lots of water but didn’t let it derail the rest of my time. Breathe. Move on. It’s just food, it will be okay.

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Do I have to eat meat to do the Whole 30?

Nope! You can totally be a vegetarian to embark on the Whole 30. Here’s the shopping list to get you started.

So what am I supposed to eat?!

“Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.” via Whole 30 website.

Each meal should be based around a good protein source, vegetables, occasional serving of fruit and fat.

How much are you supposed to eat? 

There is no weighing or measuring on the Whole 30 – just focusing on eating real, nutrient-dense food. You are supposed to eat three meals (plus a pre-workout and post-workout snack as necessary). The idea is to eat enough at meals to avoid snacking. Click here for help with portion sizes and planning your meals.

What benefits did you see from the Whole 30? 

Everyone is different but I was lucky enough to benefit from clearer skin, much better digestion and overall feel better about my food choices and how the effect my life and athletic performance. My biggest challenge was snacking.

Can I have _____________ on the Whole 30?

Read the book and the program – it outlines everything you can and cannot have. Otherwise, check out this page for the official “can I have…”

Click here for the official Whole 30 program rules.

Click here for the official Whole 30 FAQs page.


Keep it simple.

Whole 30 Recipes1

Apple Chicken Burgers / Chicken Bites / Chopped Liver / Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes

Whole 30 Recipes2

Veggies Noodles & Tomato, Meat Sauce / Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts / Easy Baked Salmon / Easy Baked Meatballs

Whole 30 Recipes3

Eggs in a Spiralized Nest / Spaghetti Squash Frittata / Shredded Chicken / Asparagus, Pepper & Kale Frittata


If you are interested in reading about my Whole 30 experience, check out the posts below:

Week 1 Recap: Groceries, Skin & Tupperware – My grocery bill was pretty expensive; I still snacked a lot as I was figuring out how big my meal portions should be; I ate a bit too much fruit that did not agree with my body; cauliflower also did not agree with my system; my skin began to clear up almost instantly; and I needed to plan and prep a bit more than I was used to.

Week 2 Recap: Budgeting – My groceries were outrageously expensive; I learned that I needed to buy organic chicken when on sale and that fish was a treat; I almost stopped snacking.

Week 3 Recap: Confession, Grocery Success, Eating More & Paleo – I had a “slip-up” and drank alcohol, which hurt my stomach the next day and made me break-out a bit; I overall stopped snacking; I perfected my grocery shopping with my budget.

Week 4 Recap: So Much Yum – I had an evening love affair with coconut butter and shared a collection of my favorite and delicious meals from the past 30 days.

Whole 30 “What I Ate Wednesday” – a full day of Whole 30 food on my plate.

Whole 30 Final Thoughts & What’s Next – how I moved forward from the Whole 30!



Questions of the day…

Have you done the Whole 30? Do you plan on doing it? What are your thoughts on the Whole 30 program?



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18 thoughts on “Tips, Recipes & Advice for the Whole 30

  1. I love number 5!! It was my struggle, I couldn’t relax, I always felt chased by all the rules. I had to stop after 21 days since it made me crazy. I love that you mention it that it is only food and no Whole30 police around, so important :-)

  2. Great post! I am doing the Whole30 with my husband but he didn’t read the book and only knows what I have told him (and I don’t think I have done a very good job explaining it) so I just sent him this post as a whole30 cheat sheet! I will definitely be saving it to check out some of the recipes you shared!
    I am not having too hard of a time with it since i was already eating mostly paleo, but the budgeting is tricky. We are spending more at the grocery store, but I guess we aren’t eating out at all so it probably evens out anyway!

  3. Interesting – I’m not sure I’d do all that well on a whole30, but I absolutely appreciate this as a resource!

  4. Great tips! I’ve read the book, but living on an island where fresh fruit and veg is a luxury, never mind organic anything, I haven’t been able to properly complete the Whole 30. However, it did inspire me to meal plan, food prep (thanks to the tips on your site), and eat much cleaner! ~Ree

  5. I haven’t done the Whole 30 but the Advo eating style is very similar and you can adjust it to be paleo and/or Whole 30. I love your point about turn off the negativity. SO TRUE. People are going to bash you for whatever you do (or don’t do) so it’s best to choose what you know is good for YOU and stick with it. On another note, I’ve seen about a bajillion posts about how clean eating can be bad for you since the new year and I roll my eyes at each one… I’m working on a post to totally challenge that way of thinking, LOL ;)

  6. Amazing and super helpful article! It’s day 12 on the challenge for me and I’m feeling great! The only thing I’m missing are my paleo pancakes. Once my 30 days are over I’m going to stick with the diet like 90%. The other 10% will be for my paleo pancakes! I’ll def be sharing this post on my fb page. Have a great night!!

  7. I’m on day 8 and feeling great! I’ll have a night this week when I’m out with friends and am going to try my hardest to stick to it but might have to indulge in a drink. It’s a girls night out in San Francisco to see Cirque de Soliel! Food should be fine but a glass of wine is calling to me :-)

  8. Crazy timing! I was going to start the Whole30 again this weekend. I’ll definitely be coming back to this post as a resource. I felt great when I did it the first time and lately my gut is unhappy and my hunger levels are so all over the place. Time for a reset.

  9. This is awesome! I’m not strictly doing a Whole 30 but it pretty much amounts to that right now. I’ve definitely discovered how much food prep and a bit of planning helps – especially when I’m out and about and tempted by pretty much everything! Drinking and sugar are usually the tricky ones for me, but remembering how it makes me feel usually helps me keep on track.

  10. Great post! Just started my Whole30 yesterday and it’s my first time doing it, so I’m a bit nervous about going strong for the whole 30 days, but these tips are definitely helpful!

  11. My friend talked to me about her life changing experience with the Whole 30 and all I can say is I’m on board, starting next week and these posts you have written are inspiring to me!

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