Although Whole30 is rooted in some familiar wellness concepts (e.g. mindful eating, anti-inflammatory foods, paleo), the repackaging of these ideas into a 30-day plan has taken the diet world by storm. Following the program for at least 30 days straight means avoiding entire categories of food, such as grains, both natural and artificial sweeteners, legumes, dairy, and alcohol, and while that may sound limiting, they also provide an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and change the way you think about food altogether.
While it’s tough to say whether the specific tenets of the program are all true, there are some undeniable benefits. Paying more attention to everything you put in your mouth is always a good idea, as are loading up on vegetables and avoiding processed foods. Another positive feature of the program doesn’t even have to do with what you can or cannot eat. You’re also not supposed to weigh or measure yourself during your 30 days. Numbers on a scale don’t always render a complete picture of your nutritional health. Becoming more in tune with your energy levels and mood swings means making connections between your diet and how you feel. This can then lead to lifelong changes in your eating habits, changes whose positive effects can extend far beyond the 30 days.
And as always, be sure to keep in mind tried-and-true nutritional advice if you decide to undertake the Whole30 challenge. Drink lots of water and make up for any nutrient-deficiencies with plenty of calcium-rich veggies like kale and fiber-filled nuts.
Before you think this plan is too strict for you, check out these delectable, wait-THIS-is-Whole30-approved?! recipes.
1. Pressure Cooker Homemade Ghee
An exception to the Whole30 rule about avoiding dairy is clarified butter aka ghee for cooking. To clarify butter, you heat it, then separate and remove the milk solids that contain most of the lactose. The remaining fat still has a rich and decadent flavor. Let your pressure cooker do all the work of melting and separating the butter. Keep this liquid gold in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a year and scoop out a spoonful here and there for delicious curries, stir-fries, and sautéed veggies.
2. Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Make use of a wide variety of herbs and spices while following the plan. Not only are they Whole30-approved, they also add a world of flavor without any additional fat or calories. This chimichurri is a tasty way to use up the odds and ends of your fresh herbs before they bite the dust. Aside from steak, this sauce is also great on grilled chicken or pork chops. Avoid throwing all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor as a shortcut though since you’re going for a chunkier texture as opposed to a smoother pesto.
3. Blistered Shishito Peppers with Lemon and Olive Oil
You’ve seen shishitos on trendy restaurant menus, but they’re a cinch to make at home. They’re much easier to find in supermarkets nowadays, but you can also pick some up at the farmers’ market. Only about 1 in 10 are super hot so proceed at your own risk. This recipe combines the grassy sweetness of these chiles with the refreshing tang of lemon in a dish that’s simple to whip up anytime. Serve as an appetizer for your next tapas soirėe or as a side dish with broiled salmon or shrimp.
4. Sweet Potato Hash
On the Whole 30, you have to eat a TON of veggies at every single meal, which can be challenging, especially at breakfast time. This recipe combines crisped up golden potatoes with sweet potatoes and amps up the flavor with thyme and tender, sweet leeks. A dash of cayenne brings the heat, but feel free to serve it with your favorite no-sugar-added hot sauce as well. Top the whole thing with Whole30-approved eggs fried in ghee for a decadent brunch.
5. Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup with Grilled Shrimp
Roasting veggies in olive oil before puréeing them is a cheffy but easy technique to boost the flavor of your soups. The high heat of the oven brings out all the natural sugars in the tomatoes and alliums, giving the finished dish depth and sweetness without any added sweeteners. No grill? Pat your shrimp dry and broil for 1-2 minutes a side until cooked through instead. For an extra fancy touch, try this soup topped with bay scallops seared in ghee instead of the shrimp.
6. Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice
Super simple to whip up at home, cauliflower rice is a fantastic grain alternative while following Whole30. Its popularity means you can even find fresh pre-riced cauliflower with no added ingredients in the produce section of most supermarkets. Keep a batch of raw cauliflower rice on hand in the fridge or freezer at all times to make convenient, Whole30-approved weeknight dinners anytime. This Mexican-inspired version is delicious paired with pan-seared halibut or tomato-braised chicken stew. Not a cilantro fan? Swap it out for fresh dill or basil.
8. Grilled Lamb Chops with Sumac
Lamb chops can seem like a pricey splurge, but they’re worth it, especially when grilled. If you find them on sale at the market, stock up and wrap them tightly in plastic in sets of 2-3 to freeze for later. The rich, but mild gaminess of lamb pairs beautifully with sumac, a Middle Eastern spice that lends a hint of earthy, lemony tang. Just before serving hit the chops with another sprinkle of sumac and serve with a side of cauliflower rice or roasted asparagus.
9. Sheet Pan Lemon-Garlic Salmon with Broccoli
Large sheet pans, or rimmed baking sheets, are the unsung superheroes of any well-equipped kitchen, so be sure to keep at least 2 on hand. Roasting your entire dinner on 1 pan gets it on the table in a flash on busy weeknights. Your protein and sides cook at the same time, making you look like a superstar home cook. If using wild salmon, be sure not to overcook it as the wild variety generally has less fat and can dry out more easily than farmed salmon.
10. Greek-Style Braised Green Beans
While green beans are technically part of the legume family (which are verboten in the Whole30 plan), they are allowed since they are more “green” than “bean.” Braising green beans until tender allows them to break open slightly and absorb more flavor. Make this dish your own and add a pop of freshness by finishing the dish with some finely chopped mint or cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. This recipe is still delicious made ahead and refrigerated up to 2 days. Just reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave and serve.