My sister Lisa (who is doing a rockstar job on her first whole30 challenge), recently reached out to me looking for some help with some not untypical mid-whole30 issues:
- I want to snack all the time! What is the whole30 version of popcorn???
- I’m getting sick of meat, what else can I eat?
- 1 & 2 notwithstanding, I really like this and want to keep going indefinitely after the 30 days are up. But I worry about how much I will miss some foods.
While I responded directly to her, I think anyone who has done a whole30 has gone through all of these. Here’s what I responded with…
On Snacking: One of the hardest parts is always going to be snacking. We snack often as much out of boredom as out of hunger. ESPECIALLY when we’re at home. I can’t tell how you how many times I find myself looking into the fridge or the pantry, for some reason expecting something that wasn’t there the last time that I looked an hour earlier. That being said, if you’re eating right and getting any exercise, you’re probably boosting your metabolism, which means you actually are hungry and should eat something! I am a huge advocate of the Whole Foods olive bar. I typically get almond stuffed olives and garlic stuffed olives. The ingredients are usually just the olive and whatever’s in it as well as oil and/or citric acid. They are a great source of fat (you need fat!), and only 1 or 2 or 3 satisfies that snack craving for me for at least a little while. I also always have deli slices and carrots ready to go (I love carrots! some friends swear by the method of chopping up a bunch of veggies so that they have crudité ready to go at any time, but I find carrots are just as satisfying for me and take a lot less effort (no peeling required, just wash them)). Cook a sweet potato in the oven the night before for an hour at 350 and throw it in the fridge; cut it in half and slice up that half for a nice sweetish snack. Kale chips are a great snack too, but make them yourself instead of spending $7 on bad ingredients. Costco (are you a member?) sells huge bags of ORGANIC frozen produce for very cheap. I get a big bag of frozen broccoli and one of frozen green beans there, as well as a big bag of frozen blueberries and a bag of antioxidant mix berries (raspberries, blueberries, cherries, pomegranate, strawberries all mixed together). Fill a coffee mug with the frozen berries and microwave for about a minute – this is a great dessert. The broccoli and green beans are just a great snack anytime (about 3:30 in the microwave)…add some coconut oil to them after they come out for some additional flavor and some more wonderful, beneficial fat!
To more directly answer your question though, there probably is no whole30 version of popcorn for one important reason – popcorn is usually a mindless, stuff-your-face-while-you’re-doing-something-else food. We usually eat popcorn while we’re watching TV. Why? Are we really that hungry? Or is it because it’s easy to eat it without thinking about what you’re eating? This brings up the question of why would we want to put something in our bodies without really thinking about it? It’s not because it’s THAT delicious. Try to think about your food when you’re eating. Some people recommend sitting down EVERY TIME you eat ANYTHING. I think that’s overkill, but it brings up an interesting point. When you concentrate on your body, what it wants, when it wants it, and what you’re putting in it, you look at things a lot differently. Life being what it is we have to eat on the run sometimes – that’s totally normal. But instead of just putting stuff in your mouth while you try to get other stuff done, try to think about your food as you’re eating it. I know this works for me. I usually eat every 2-3 hours but I try to be mindful of what I’m eating every time.
Sick of meat? I’m not sick of meat, which is slightly surprising considering I came at this straight out of vegetarianism, but I can see how that would be a concern. Make sure that you are varying your meats. Every week I eat ground beef, ground sausage, sausage links and chicken as well as other things mixed in. I also try to make sure that I have fish at least once a week. Speaking of, if you’re not eating much seafood now, try to mix that in for variety. Our Whole Foods sells awesome shrimp skewers which are just shrimp with some canola oil (compliant but not the best choice), garlic and parsley. You can easily make these on your own quickly if they don’t have them at your Whole Foods. Great source of Omega 3s and you can cook them in less than 10 minutes in a pan or on the grill.
Keep going!(?) I think that’s awesome that you’re thinking about making this a long term or even permanent eating approach! That being said, I think that it is important to have a cheat meal every once in a while after the challenge ends. The biggest benefit of this challenge is getting you to think about food and wellness in a different way. You’ll find that when you think about a cheat meal, and go forward with it, there’s a lot of planning behind it! You don’t want to “waste” this opportunity on just anything. You know you don’t want to eat pancakes three days in a row, because you know now how that will make you feel, so you seek out the best pancakes you can find for that one cheat meal. Maybe you are really missing pizza. Go find the best pizza recipe you can find, or go out for pizza and beers with your husband and enjoy the hell out of it. While you’re eating something you ate before, you are NOT going back. You’re eating pizza because you’re choosing to, not because it’s there or because it’s easy or because you just don’t care. You’ll find that you probably eat less of it, you’ll wonder what you were missing/craving all along, and you’ll have better memories of that occasion because it’s a choice that you made. You’re really empowering yourself as a result. You’ve changed the dynamic – you have the upper hand over what you eat instead of vice versa.
I think you can get paleo burn-out if you just make the whole30 an indefinite thing. So I recommend taking stock at the end of 30 days with some things like the following: stop and think about how you feel compared to how you feel 30 days ago; try on some clothes and see if they fit differently at all; take some pictures of yourself and compare them to pictures taken before you started; plan a celebration or cheat meal; plan your NEXT whole30 (i.e. maybe this is something you do once a quarter or once every other month); and, especially for you, WRITE about it! Get your thoughts down and tell other people how you feel! Share your experiences! The best way to make sure you run a marathon are to 1) sign up for it and 2) tell someone else you’re going to do it. That totally applies to this lifestyle as well.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to fall off the wagon. Believe me when I say you’ll think about a slice of pizza differently after that cheat meal than you did before this challenge. It’ll encourage you to be predominantly paleo, if that’s what you want to do. Maybe you’ll be 90% paleo when you’re off the whole30, maybe you’ll be 50%. (Note – I’m probably 75-90% when I’m not on a challenge, mostly because of the occasional drink and bad ingredients creeping their way in to certain meals. But I’m also learning more about myself every day.) It really is a lifestyle that you’re committing to, not a diet. Dieting is a bad word. Dieting doesn’t work. Lifestyles do! But either way, you will be different after this than you were before.