I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting out on a food challenge known as Whole30. A quick recap–it’s an elimination diet that excludes most inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, sugar and most starches. It’s very Paleo-like.
The whole point of this (for me) was to overcome some tummy upset I had developed after a necessary round of meds, lose that bloated feeling and hopefully improve a few areas like energy, PMS and skin health.
So how did it go?
Overall, I was really happy with the program and results for me. I had two major improvements. First, the tummy issues went away rather quickly. I had been dealing with the fallout of antibiotics and my belly was grumbling at everything. So taking out foods like gluten and sugar and uncultured dairy for a time, while enjoying my probiotic rich coconut milk kefir, did wonders for digestion.
Second, I had a ton more energy. Which was especially helpful since we were in that time of year when you’re trying to wrap up school, there are a thousand performances to attend, and there’s a ton to do outside.
But to give you the nitty gritty of my humble opinion, I thought I’d do a little pro and con list for you.
The Pros of Whole30
If I had to pick the biggest perk of this eating plan, it would have to be the veggies. If you’re doing it right (and not having bacon as the center piece of every meal) then the bulk of what you’re eating involves vegetables. I had veggie fritters and salads and slaw. I ate seared cauliflower and sauteed zucchini with pasta sauce and grilled peppers and onions. I made sweet potato hash and butternut squash fries.
I ate a LOAD more veggies than what might normally cross my plate. Lots of vegetables that deliver a ton of benefits. More vitamins and minerals from real food sources. More fiber. Less bloating bulk. And I begin to think that some of the results that I (and others) have on this diet aren’t so much from the things you don’t eat, but from all the new things you are eating.
I also believe that the uptake in energy had a lot to do with the increase in vegetables. Usually, if I go without my beloved multi vitamin for more than a few days, I feel a significant decrease in my energy. But while I was on this eating plan, I frequently forgot, with no loss at all.
Other positive things I noticed:
- The skin on my face cleared up
- I slept a good bit better
- My moods were more even, probably because the meals kept me fuller, longer and evened out my blood sugar.
- My sugar cravings went significantly down.
- I lost a few pounds (and I didn’t really have the time to exercise much)
- Some PMS symptoms were a little better (though I’m figuring you’d have to do a whole lot more than a month to see long term changes there)
- I was a lot more mindful about what I was eating. No mindless noshing on whatever is closest, whether I’m hungry or not.
But to be completely honest, there were a few drawbacks for me.
- Having to plan, plan and plan some more. It became a little mentally draining to have to think that hard about what I ate constantly. I suppose for folks who eat this way all the time, it become second nature.
- Making separate food for me. The entire family was not eating this way. And although I tried to plan dinners that were easy for me to adapt, I was still doing an extra step a lot of the time.
- The detox period. You have to weather the first few days when your body is crying out for sugar or wheat or whatever. I had a non-stop splitting headache for about four days. Now, I think a detox is good for all of us every now and then. None of us need to be addicted to certain foods. But you should just be aware that it can be rough at first.
- Not baking! I LOVE to bake, and the Whole30 program discourages you from baking even Paleo versions of your favorite baked goods. The idea is to have you stop associating a certain treat with the way you feel. So even if it’s a brownie sweetened with honey and made with almond flour, it’s still out for a time. Fortunately, I was still baking for customers who ordered bread and for my kiddos. Cause yes, I have a NEED to bake. (And no, I didn’t sample.)
- The price tag. I know there are people out there who say that healthy diets don’t have to cost more. But in reality, they usually do. Coconut milk costs more than regular dairy. Meat costs more than beans and rice. And a cart full of veggies (even in season ones) will usually run more than pasta or sacks of flour. I did a number on my grocery budget that month, and it was only one of us eating this way. Yes, your health and quality food is worth the investment. But the bottom line is the bottom line. And if you only have so much in the bank, then that’s what you’ve got to work with. (To that end, I’m putting together a little post of the biggest bang for your buck veggies.)
So, was it worth it? I’d say, yes. Yes it was. It was very good to break the sugar cycle, remind myself to eat mindfully and to increase my veggie intake. And everyone loves it when their jeans are a little roomier.
What I’ll keep in my back pocket are lots more meals of grilled veggies (after all, grilling season is in full swing!), salads from the garden and saving the sweets for special occasions. (Unfortunately, getting the kids in bed does NOT constitute a special occasion.)
What about you?
Ever done an elimination diet? What was your verdict on the experience?
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*I’m not associated with the Whole30 program, nor am I a health profession. Just someone sharing my story. Please consult a doctor/use care when starting any eating program.
Last week, I started an eating program/elimination diet called Whole30®. You may have heard of it. Loads of folks took up the challenge after the New Year, in hopes of hitting the dietary “reset” button after a season of holiday treats.
So why am I doing it now? Several reasons, actually. I’ve got a serious (I mean SERIOUS) sweet tooth problem right now. You might have seen me, in one of my weaker moments, grabbing several bags of Easter candy in the Aldi check out lane. Then, you would have seen me (in several other weak moments) polishing off nearly two bags in a week’s time. (My husband, in an effort to be helpful, reminded me that he helped with the candy eating. But let’s be honest. It was mostly me.)
As for other reasons, my system is a mess after my recent fight with laryngitis/bronchitis and the antibiotic and prednisone that followed. Milk was bugging me (antibiotics are a major culprit in lactose intolerance). Nearly every time I ate I had stomach pain and bloating. And all the yogurt and probiotics weren’t touching it.
And there are a few other pesky problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few months. Skin stuff and hormone stuff (sorry fellas) and energy slumps.
Whole30® is one of those elimination programs (like GAPS or SCD) that’s designed to *hopefully* help with some of that. You remove inflammatory foods from your diet for 30 days to allow your body to do some healing, break the sugar or bread addiction and (when you reintroduce things) pinpoint foods that may be triggering your symptoms.
It’s not nearly as restrictive as GAPS or SCD, nor is it for as long. As far as my limited knowledge takes me, those programs are better suited to folks who have some MAJOR issues that require a much longer period of healing. (Like Crohns, ulcerative colitis, celiac or other serious autoimmune issues.)
What I’ll be eating
I’m still working through the material (you can find a quick guide pdf here), but the basic gist of this diet is Paleo based. (I’m not a subscriber to the philosophy behind Paleo…but that’s for another post.) The creators of Whole30® don’t push the caveman thing anyway–but focus on studies and client results.
(I do find all the science really interesting and plan on finishing the rest of their book, It Starts With Food.)
(Amazon affiliate link)
What that all means is that I’ll be eating plenty of unprocessed, real protein (hot dogs and most cold cuts are out), loads of veggies, some fruits and lots of real, nourishing fat.
What’s off limits? Grains, white potatoes (sweet potatoes and winter squashes are okay), starches, legumes, dairy (OUCH–I do love my cheese), and sweetener of any kind, natural or otherwise. These are actually the foods that most often make my tummy grumble, so I can’t argue with the list.
(Oh, and I do realize the great irony of me giving up bread for 30 days after I announced to my local Facebook friends that I’ll be selling loaves of sourdough. But at least I still get to bake!)
I’ve done enough research and experimenting (on myself) to know that these types of clean, easy to digest diets really do go a long way to reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the body. You’re doing more than putting a ban on certain foods. By taking them out of the equation, you’re also removing any processed, fake foods from your diet. Veggie (and therefore nutrient) intake goes up by default.
In the short term, I expect some impressive headaches (and perhaps some crankiness) as my body cries out for its daily sugar fix. Sad, when you think of it.
I seriously debated sharing my plan with anyone…cause then I’m accountable. Keep me on track, will ya? And over the next month I’ll give you updates here and there on how it’s going and what I’m eating, if you’re into that.
And now I’m curious?
Ever done an elimination diet? Was it helpful for you?
I’ve been making an effort to get in those extra veggies lately. And I think it’s made a difference. I’m definitely feeling a bit more energetic (the commodity all moms crave!)
Out of that came this recipe. Actually, it came about because the package of fish I was breading for dinner the other night was pitiful and I knew it wouldn’t really feed the five of us. So I made myself a little something.
I had a medium sized zucchini staring at me. I wanted something fried and savory. (What? You know you have the need for fried things too :)) And well, is there anything bacon doesn’t make better?
So was born my Veggie Bacon Fritters. Or I guess you could call them pancakes. The name isn’t all that important. The taste is. Crisp on the outside, moist inside studded with chewy bits of bacon. Great as a vegetable side dish or a light main course.
Veggie Bacon Fritters
For 4–6 fritters (depending on how large you make them) you’ll need…
- 3 cups of shredded veggies (I used 1 medium zucchini and one carrot. Could add some potato, winter or summer squash too.)
- 1/4 cup of finely diced onion (I liked red for this)
- about 4 slices of diced bacon
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 Tb almond flour (or wheat flour or rice flour)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- few grinds of black pepper
Now it’s time to squeeze excess moisture out of your veggies. Place them in a clean tea towel and squeeze as much as you can. This will help the fritters to fry up crisp instead of soggy. Put the veggies, bacon, onion, eggs, flour and pepper in a mixing bowl and stir until well blended.
Add a little extra fat to the pan if needed (you want it covering the entire bottom of the skillet). I like this for frying. Heat the fat over medium high heat. Form large spoonfuls (or however big you want them) into patties and place on the hot pan, with a little space between them. Depending how large your pan is, you might have to do a couple batches. Flip when browned on one side, just a few minutes.
When both sides are browned, remove from pan and enjoy! I really like them with a dollop of sour cream. They also reheat well in the toaster oven the next day.
Got any tricks for getting extra veggies in your day?
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This might be my new favorite breakfast. Some mornings, I feed the kids their oatmeal, eggs or whatever and they run off to squeeze in some play time before school. Those few moments are MINE. And sometimes, I just want a me breakfast. Like my own personal little cafe seat by the window. So that’s what I did today.
This is a grain free, gluten free, egg free, dairy free (did I miss anything?) breakfast. So unless you’re allergic to almonds or coconut, you’re home free. (And I guess you could leave those out if you really wanted to.) If you’d like, though, granola would probably be a great topping as well. What it does have is fiber, vitamin C, plus some protein, fat and minerals from the nuts. Always a good way to start the day.
This dish eats like an apple or berry crisp, but with a lot less work and sugar.Serves 1 (easily doubles or quadruples) TB coconut oil or butter 1 or 2 apples (depending on the size), peeled and sliced or chopped 1/2 cup blueberries, rasberries, blackberries (whatever combo you have, fresh or frozen) 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I just sprinkle it in) small pinch salt 1-2 TB honey (more or less depending on how tart your apples are) 2 TB chopped, sliced or slivered almonds (toasted or roasted are best) 2 TB shredded coconut In a small pan, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add apples, cinnamon and salt and saute until they begin to brown just a bit. I usually add a quick glug of water from the teapot on the stove and cover for 2 or 3 minutes to get the apples to soften up faster. Next, uncover and add the honey and allow to bubble away for a minute to thicken up the honey and juices. I don’t add the berries to the skillet until last, so they don’t turn to complete mush. If they are frozen, you’ll have to heat them a bit longer. (No one wants to bite into a frosty berry in their hot apple breakfast :)) Remove from the heat into your serving dish (make it a pretty one!) and sprinkle with almonds and coconut. Grab a cup of coffee and find your own window cafe seat.
Please share your own favorite breakfast treats!
Sometimes I think they should rename Valentine’s Day as “Chocolate Day.”
I, for one, would not protest. But I also know that too many treats in the name of the latest holiday does not leave me feeling too well. (It took me weeks to recover from the Christmas cookie addiction.)
What I do love, though, are rich chocolatey goodies that satisfy my cravings without increasing the scales, or my guilt complex. And so, in honor of Chocolate, I mean, Valentine’s Day, I share some of my favorite guilt free chocolate treats with you. (Well, I probably won’t actually SHARE. You’ll have to make your own. Sorry.)
*For these first two recipes, just click on the name and it’ll take you right there!Grain Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins These little bites of chocolate goodness are gluten free, grain free and dairy free. They are made with one of my new favorite flours–coconut flour. Coconut flour gives you a cakey, filling muffin. They’re sweetened with honey and vanilla and studded with mini chocolate chips. Grain Free Almond Meal Brownies I did not come up with this recipe. But I made it recently and it’s got to be the most fudgey, rich “healthy” brownie I’ve ever had. And I’ve been searching a LONG time. If you don’t have almond flour, just grind up plain almonds as fine as you can in your food processor. I buy a big bag at Sam’s for that purpose. You’ll still have a little of the almond texture, but not too worry, they’re still delicious. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top for an extra chocolatey treat. A Healthier No Bake Cookie (gluten and dairy free) Who doesn’t love a chocolate no bake cookie? However, after I have one (or seven) I can almost hear my pancreas screaming for mercy. Those things are LOADED with refined sugar. I try to make most of our regular treats with honey or maple syrup, so I began searching and experimenting for that elusive healthy no-bake. *My youngest has an oat allergy, so I’ve never made these with oatmeal. If you give oatmeal a try, let me know how it turned out! 3 cups puffed rice cereal (I use Arrowhead Mills puffed brown rice) 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional) 3/4 cup honey 1/2 cup coconut oil 1/2 cup almond butter (or whatever nut butter you prefer) 1/4 cup cocoa powder 1 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp salt In a medium to large pot, melt coconut oil, add honey, cocoa and salt and bring to a rolling boil, over medium high heat–stirring frequently. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. After 3 minutes, remove from heat and stir in almond butter, vanilla and rice cereal and coconut. Scoop out by teaspoon full (a melon ball scoop works great) onto wax paper, parchment or plastic wrap. These won’t harden quite like regular no-bakes. But once they are hard enough to pick up, place them in a sealed container in the frig. I usually put plastic wrap between layers so they don’t clump all together. They will continue to harden in the frig. Their chewy, crispy consistency will be more like a cross between a no-bake, rice crispy treat, and a caramel.