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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This year, I’ve been intentionally trying to plan at least two meatless meals every week. It helps us reign in the grocery budget and most of the time, a meatless meal plan has plenty of good for you veggies.
But I was getting a little bored with our usual choices, and I’ve been thinking about a recipe like this for a long time. My kids will eat just about anything in a patty shape, and we’re all a fan of Mexican inspired flavors.
This dish comes together easily and is a great make ahead option. I put the patties together earlier in the day, popped them in the frig, and then fried them up when we got home from my daughter’s music class. We served them alongside sautéed potatoes, cauliflower and zucchini, seasoned with chili powder, garlic and onion.
Mexican Spiced Black Bean Patties
Makes 10-12 patties
- 2 cans drained and rinsed black beans or 3-4 cups cooked dried beans
- 1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
- 1/4 medium onion, small dice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1-2 TB lime juice
- tsp cumin
- tsp chili powder
- couple shakes of crushed red pepper, optional
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- fat for frying
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet (cast iron works great), heat some fat over medium heat. For an extra layer of flavor, reserved bacon drippings are wonderful for this. Sautee the bell pepper, onion and garlic until it begins to soften and just starts to brown. (The browning brings extra flavor, too!) Remove from heat.
In a mixing bowl, mash the beans with a potato masher or fork until about half of the beans are broken down. You don’t want it all to be a paste. Leave some intact for texture. Stir in the pepper/onion mixture. Add in lime juice, spices, and a little salt and pepper, stir and taste it. If you’re using canned beans or seasoned breadcrumbs, you won’t need much extra salt.
Stir in the egg and then bread crumbs. Mix everything well. Heap some of the mixture onto a tablespoon and then form into patties. You can place them on something like a flexible mat for easier removal. If they start to stick to your hands too much, simply rinse your hands and leave them a little damp. The water helps. The patties will benefit with a little time in the frig to firm them up and make handling them easier. So I’d give them at least a 30 minute chill time.
When your ready to brown them up, heat your large pan, with about a tablespoon or two of fat (more drippings, olive oil, palm shortening, etc.) over medium to medium high heat. Use a spatula to get the patties off the mat and add them to the hot pan. I could only cook about 4 at a time without crowding them. Let them brown up without disturbing them for just a few minutes on one side and then flip. They’ll look remarkably like sausage patties and brown up nicely.
While you’re finishing the batch, you might want to keep the finished patties on a wire rack in a warm oven to keep their crispness. Serve with shredded cheese, or mix up some sour cream and hot sauce.