With a full time job, weekend gig, three cats and a boyfriend, I don’t find myself with much free time so forgive me for taking four months to write this post… ☺ Hopefully, it’s worth the wait!
It was Refinery29 that convinced me to do this challenge in August! It sounded like an awesome way to kick my health goals into gear and clean up my diet, literally. And it’s relevant now since I’m doing it AGAIN in January! I had to have a least one cliche New Year’s Resolution, you know.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the diet, Whole30 is a really strict form of the Paleo diet for the duration of 30 days to cleanse your body of processed junk and leave you feeling amazing. There’s no cheating allowed or you have to start from Day 1. After the 30 days, you can start to reintroduce these elements into your diet and monitor how your body feels to identify the types of foods you should be staying away from. So the basic “no-no’s” of Whole30 are:
• NO added sugar of any kind, real or artificial.
• NO alcohol in any form, not even for cooking.
• NO grains.
• NO legumes, peanuts or soy.
• NO dairy with the exception of clarified butter or ghee.
• NO carrageenan, MSG or sulfites.
• NO “healthy versions” of baked goods, junk foods, or treats* with “approved” ingredients.
Since I cook 90% of my meals, I knew that cooking at home and following these rules wouldn’t be hard for me but the 10% of time when I eat out would be difficult.
The first 15 days or so were a breeze for me and the second half was a little more difficult but I was seriously impressed with my willpower. The fact that you can’t cheat or you have to start over was a really amazing rule for me to follow. Overall, I lost 5 lbs and 2% body fat for the month and at least ½ – 1 inch everywhere I measured. I loved how amazing I felt with zero bloat and everyone could see a difference too!
With this new set of dietary restrictions, I got creative in the kitchen! Here’s some meal ideas to carry you through your Whole30:
DINNER: Chicken and Pork
• Baked Mediterranean Chicken
This was SO good and SO easy. I took 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts and lined those babies up on a pan greased with coconut oil. I seasoned them with TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute and garlic powder. I then added what I had leftover in my fridge, sliced half of an onion, half of a can of artichoke hearts, several kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes, and half of a bag of frozen spinach. Slice up a lemon and squeeze few wedges over everything. Then add a circular slice of lemon on each breast and bake everything for 20-25 min at 350.
• Pork Chops / Crucipherous Crunch
These were boneless but I've made this same recipe with bone-in too, which I think is even better! I marinated the chops in apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute over night. My boyfriend grilled them to a nice medium temperature and I served them with garlic green beans and sautéed crucipherous crunch (my new favorite!). It’s a delicious blend of broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, and cabbage all shredded like a slaw. I sautéed the bag in two batches for about 4-5 minutes per batch with a spritz of olive oil, a generous dash of apple cider vinegar (keep tasting as you go, you don't want it to overpower), and a few cloves of minced garlic. My boyfriend said it was one of the best meals he had ever had. So I made it again the next week. And to think he said “Well, what am I going to eat?” when I initially told him about the Whole30. Haha!
• Artichoke Garlic Chicken
This is the original recipe. Mine didn’t turn out as pretty, but it still tasted amazing! I’ve made this twice now and I just cut the thick chicken breasts in half lengthwise, and omitted parsley in the food processor recipe (so just spinach, garlic, artichoke hearts and olive oil). I decided to bake the chicken as well and just spread the mixture on top. They are just as tasty and I find this modification a little easier and less messy!
• Spicy Turkey Burgers
I’ll admit, I missed the cheese and normal Heinz ketchup on this, but this recipe is hands down one of the best turkey burgers with the most flavor I’ve made yet! I mixed 1 lb. ground turkey (do yourself a favor and use dark ground turkey if you can find some – try Whole Foods, it’s AMAZING and has so much flavor), 1 egg, handful of sundried tomatoes, TJ’s 21 seasoning salute, 1 (or 2) diced jalapenos, spinach (use frozen and thawed if possible), 3 cloves of minced garlic and diced red onion. Pop these on to your grill, George Foreman or sauté pan (if they feel fragile) and wrap them in lettuce with some mustard and Paleo ketchup (there are recipes on Pinterest but I wasn’t impressed OR find vegetarian ketchup at Whole Foods which isn’t amazing either but does the trick when mixed with yellow mustard). I had mine with a few TJ’s Plaintain chips and sometimes with homemade baked sweet potato fries!
• Zucchini Pasta + Italian Sausage
I used my handy dandy Pampered Chef Spiral and Slice to create these zucchini ribbons. I then steamed them in the microwave in the Large Microcooker (I use this thing EVERY DAY) with a little water. Drain and add TJ’s Paleo-friendly jarred Putanesca sauce and browned TJ’s Italian Style Chicken Sausage. YUM! I recommend serving a side salad with this one.
• Grilled Chicken Salad
This is a super easy prep-ahead-of-time lunch or dinner meal. I threw in some cherry tomatoes, cucumber, diced onion, pine nuts, and beets from Trader Joes. Tossed with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
• Slow Cooker Carnitas
This recipe in a lettuce wrap paired with lots of homemade guac and pico de gallo with a few Trader Joes plaintain chips made for a satisfying meal! This made a lot so I used the rest in a breakfast bowl (see below).
• Grilled Chicken + Sweet Potatoes + Veggies
Marinate and grill your chicken. Peel and steam sweet potatoes. Then dice them and pan sauté them with a little coconut oil and your favorite seasonings. I used garlic powder, chile powder, cayenne, pepper and onion powder. You can prepare the veggies the same way or just with a little salt and pepper. Easy and delicious!
• Ahi Mango Salad
I love me a quick dinner and this is exactly what that is! Find ahi steaks at your local Trader Joes in either the fresh fish section or in the freezer. If you buy them frozen, let them defrost over night in a marinade of olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Prep a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cucumber. (Optional) On a plate, encrust your ahi steaks with sesame seeds. In a pan over medium heat, grill them with a little coconut oil for 2 minutes on each side. Then slice over your salad and top with a few cashews and your favorite Paleo Vinagarette. I love this one.
• Blackened Salmon + Asparagus
This meal was courtesy of my lovely mom who had me over for dinner and catered to my Whole30. She used my favorite blackening combo too! On this salad, she grilled up some salmon and asparagus and served it with a baked potato with homemade pico de gallo and fresh sliced tomatoes from our local farm.
• Blackened Cod Salad
This was also made by my Mom on another night. She marinated and grilled squash, zucchini spears and onion and put on a bed of mixed greens with fresh tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette and pinenuts.
• Rock Fish + Mango Avocado Salsa
I pan seared wild rock fish from Costco in a little avocado oil and topped it with a mango, avocado and tomato salsa. I roasted some fresh broccolini to go with it along with some leftover spaghetti squash.
• Blackened Salmon Grilled Veggie Salad
This was inspired by my Mom’s delicious Blackened Cod Salad! After I blackened the salmon, I assembled it on a bed of spinach with grilled zucchini, fresh avocado, cucumber, green onion, grape tomatoes and a drizzle of Tessarae’s Paleo lemon dressing.
This meatloaf was way tastier than it appears. I messed up on the key step – wait for it to cool after you take it out of the oven or it will not slice well, it will crumble! My boyfriend was a big fan of this one, so much that I’ve already made this recipe again! I followed her directions pretty closely except I substituted paleo ketchup instead of the BBQ sauce and didn’t add bacon since I could not find any without sugar on it for the life of me. For the mashed cauliflower, take apart the head and steam it. Then, add the cooked cauliflower to a food processer and blend until smooth. You’ll need to add a little water to the processer to help it out. Add a few cloves of minced garlic with salt and pepper and enjoy!
• Grilled Steak & Veggie Salad
Marinate and grill some steaks (preferably a lean cut) and veggies on the BBQ! This salad had filet mignon, zucchini spears, bellpepper and onion along with fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, pinenuts and avocado in a Paleo balsamic vinaigrette.
• Filet + Mushrooms + Squash
Marinate and grill filet mignon and sautee some mushrooms (these were crimini) with garlic and olive or avocado oil. I found this blend of summer squash and zucchini at Costco and sautéed them with garlic, shallots and avocado oil.
• Spaghetti Squash + Meatballs
This was my very first Whole30 meal and it was delicious. Here’s the recipe for the meatballs and sauce. For the spaghetti squash, microwave it whole for about 2 minutes to soften it and make it easier to cut. Then cut it in half horizontally and seed it. Cover each half in cellophane and microwave separately for about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Uncover and let the squash cool, then “shred” it with a fork. Done!
These tacos were created on the fly and I just winged it. I used the grass-fed ground beef from Costco and sautéed it with diced onion, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and avocado oil. Serve this deliciousness in lettuce wraps with some fresh salsa, guacamole and diced onion and tomatoes.
• Urbane Café
This was a takeout staple. The Urbane Café Cobb Salad without cheese and substituting sautéed mushrooms (I don’t like raw) and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Not too bad on the modifications! If I took it home with me, I’d add extra cherry tomatoes, diced egg and pine nuts on top for a little extra crunch.
• The Habit
I may or may not have always placed this order online for pickup because I didn’t want the cashier to judge all of my modifications… ☺ Okay, I did do that! This is so darn good, though. I ordered the Chicken Club Sandwich, lettuce wrapped without mayonnaise and adding grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms and mustard. Then I served it with some pepperoncinis and a few plantain chips from Trader Joes.
These are the more elaborate breakfasts I whipped up for myself but on many days I had a more simple breakfast to eat at my desk – a few hardboiled eggs (the pre-done ones from Trader Joes), a link of Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage that I pre-browned or a few slices of prosciutto with some fruit and avocado. If I really hadn’t thought ahead at all, I would grab a LARA bar that I had on stock in my favorite flavors – Apple Pie or Cherry Pie.
• Truffle Potatoes & Eggs
Nuke some roasted potatoes from the night before and add a quick drizzle of truffle oil. Combine with two fried eggs made for an easy morning meal.
• Eggs + Sweet Potatoes + Apple Sausage
Also utilizing sweet potatoes from the night before, just whip up some eggs and grab a link of sausage for a satisfying healthy breakfast. This won’t leave you craving a snack before lunch time.
• Egg White Omelet Muffins with Spinach Pesto
Here’s the technical specs on how to make these bad boys (oven temperature, time, etc.) Wrap the muffins in foil in pairs and grab on the go for breakfast! Be prepared to have someone help you eat these over the course of a few days or just make a half batch.
I tried freezing half of these to enjoy later but I wouldn’t recommend it, once they were reheated it was rubbery and they ended up in the trash.
• Carnitas Breakfast Scramble
I used leftover Paleo Carnitas from the recipe above and mixed it in a big batch of egg whites with sautéed bell pepper, jalapeño, onion and potatoes. I made three breakfast bowls and added the carnitas on top with salsa and guacamole before serving. My colleagues were especially jealous of this breakfast!
• Sweet Potato & Apple Sausage Breakfast Hash
This was so good and definitely could have been split into two meals. I peeled and steamed sweet potatoes, then diced them after they cooled. Dice the Aidells Chicken Apple Sausage and sauté together with the sweet potatoes, diced onion and bellpepper, and a little coconut oil. Season the hash with a few dashes of cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and ground black pepper. Cook an egg or two in a separate pan and add on top when you’re ready to eat!
So would I do it again? Definitely! As I said, I’m currently doing the Whole30 again right now and working on more recipes to share with you!
Let me know if you have any questions about the diet or the recipes! Follow my board on Pinterest for great cooking ideas, updated consistently!