The Most Important Thing I Learned During Whole30

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

In the weeks leading up to my first round of Whole30, I spent hours scouring Pinterest, blogs, and what felt like every corner of the internet searching for delicious-sounding compliant recipes to fill my upcoming meal plan. While I felt productive about planning ahead and lining up recipes, it was also extremely time-consuming. And to be honest, while I came away with a long list of recipe ideas, I felt just okay about them; they didn’t necessarily get me excited.

But a couple of weeks into the program I had a revelation about the way I choose recipes for my Whole30 meal plan, and it changed everything. Not only did I save time meal planning, but I also felt really excited about the recipes I added to my plan.

Start by Choosing Recipes You Want to Eat

What I realized is that I was going about building my meal plan all wrong. I started by strictly seeking out Whole30 recipes, then whittled them down by what I actually wanted to eat. My approach was totally backwards.

What I should have been doing all along (and what I started doing!) was choosing the type of food and recipes I wanted to eat, then adapting them to fit my Whole30 plan by swapping out non-compliant ingredients for ones that were within the guidelines.

Why This Approach Makes a Difference

Even if you haven’t tried Whole30 yet, I’m sure you know that there are a wide range of foods that are off the table. For some people, the restrictions are hard to get used to, and for some, not so much. But either way, I found that choosing meals based on the type of recipes I wanted to eat really eased the transition and made it easier to stick with the plan. Feeling satisfied by the meals I cooked made it easier to shift the focus away from restricted foods, and this approach also made meal planning faster and more efficient.

Common Whole30 Substitutions

Adapting my favorite my standard recipes to be Whole30-compliant sometimes meant making ingredient swaps, most often with condiments. Here are a few of the most common swaps.

  • Instead of butter, use ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
  • Instead of soy sauce or tamari, use coconut aminos.
  • Instead of rice of grains, use cauliflower rice.
  • Instead of cream or half-and-half for coffee, use ghee and coconut butter.
  • Instead of dairy milk, use unsweetened almond, cashew, or coconut milk.