Okay, paleo people—who’s planning to kick off the New Year by committing to a January Whole30®? This post is packed with tips and tricks on how to prepare for a successful Whole30!
To some degree, we’re all suffering the aftereffects of falling into a monthlong series of deliciously dangerous food traps. After all that eggnog-guzzling and cookie-chomping, it’s no wonder we’re waking up with some bloating, achiness, splotchy skin, and just a teeeeeny bit of extra padding. I think it’s about time to gear up again and get mindful about the foods we’re putting in our bodies. Wanna join me?
Preparing for #JanuaryWhole30
Once again, starting January 1, I’ll be posting new Whole30-friendly paleo recipes and tips right here on Nom Nom Paleo! Yes, I’ve done versions of this in years past, so if you’re too impatient to wait for this year’s edition, go check out my previous collections of Whole30 support and recipes.
Stick with me this January, and I’ll stuff your brain with all sorts of hacks for surviving a Whole30, and keep you on track as you figure out how different foods affect your health and well-being. In January, you won’t ever be left wondering what to cook or eat next.
Here’s the twist: this year, I’m going to make sure all the January recipes I share with you are CHEAP, FAST, and/or EASY. (I mean, they won’t be as cheap, fast, or easy as, say, picking up a greasy bag of fast food from the local drive-thru, but that would defeat the whole point of a healthy January reset, right?)
And as always, before jumping into a January Whole30, we’re going to do a little prep. Only this time, in keeping with our theme, I’m going to keep our prep as simple as possible. Ready?
What’s a Whole30?
Let’s start with the basics. The Whole30 is a tried-and-true 30-day dietary reset that eliminates all the foods that may keep you from your true superhero potential. Specifically, for a whole month, you commit to cutting out the bad-for-you stuff: the foods that are most commonly problematic, like sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, and junk foods—including those made with “healthy” ingredients. Instead, you commit to eating whole, nutrient-dense foods for 30 days. For more information about the Whole30, go check out the program rules over here.
How Does Whole30 Differ From Paleo?
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t the Whole30 the same as eating paleo? Well, yes…and no. Both ways of eating are similar, in that they’re about prioritizing whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich, nourishing foods. I pretty much eat according to the Whole30 rules most of the time, which is why the vast majority of the recipes on my Paleo Recipe Index are entirely Whole30-friendly.
But the Whole30 is stricter than regular old paleo. Some people think of Whole30 as paleo without the treats, but the primary distinction is that the Whole30 has specific nonnegotiable rules and guidelines that you must follow for 30 days to complete it successfully. When you’re on a Whole30, certain foods that may be seen as “Paleo-friendly” are out, so don’t even think about making “paleo” Bacon Pancake Sandwiches even if the individual ingredients are technically compliant. Unfortunately, that also means that my super-yummy Paleo Pot Stickers are out until at least February 1st. Good thing you can still make my Potsticker Stir-Fry in January! (See? I got options!)
I know—it can be difficult to stick to specific food rules for 30 days. And yes, depending on what you’ve been eating up ’til now, it may take you a couple of weeks to adjust. But believe me: you will. And you’ll feel great. By Day 30, you’ll feel like a brand new person—and you’ll have a much better understanding of how different foods affect your personal wellness. After the Whole30, you’ll be able to systematically reintroduce foods back into your diet to see how each of them makes you feel, which’ll help you develop your own nutritional blueprint. Remember: you’re a special snowflake (just like everyone else!), so it’s important to learn what foods make you feel like the best version of you.
Prep For Success
Is the Whole30 really hard? For some, yes: Sticking 100% to the Whole30’s program rules for 30 consecutive days can be a struggle. Frankly, for many folks, sticking to ANYTHING for an entire month is super-tough. But listen to Melissa Hartwig, the headmistress of Whole30:
Your only job during the Whole30 is to focus on making good food choices. You don’t need to weigh or measure, you don’t need to count calories, you don’t need to purchase everything organic, grass-fed, pastured, or local. Just figure out how to stick to the Whole30 rules in any setting, around every special circumstance, under any amount of stress… for 30 straight days. Your only job? Eat. Good. Food.
You can do that, right? Besides, it’s a Whole30, not a Whole365 or a WholeForeverAndEverAndEver. It’s just 30 days, and I’ll be helping you along each step of the way!
To be perfectly honest, the biggest challenge you’ll face during a Whole30 is bland, boring food. If you try to tackle a Whole30 by eating nothing but boiled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, by Week 2, you’ll be waging a full-on assault on a donut shop. That would violate the Whole30’s program rules (not to mention numerous laws), so instead, follow along with me this January, and I’ll keep your palates tickled with dozens of easy, flavor-forward, and super satisfying recipes!
Wanna learn more about the Whole30? Start by devouring everything on the Whole30 website. Craving even more details? Get your hands on a copy of The Whole30—the bestselling tome that lays out the science behind this awesome dietary reset.
If you’re a completist and avid reader, you should also pick up the other Whole30 books, too: The Whole30 Cookbook, The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook (which includes recipes by a number of contributors—including me!), The Whole30 Slow Cooker, and the brand-new The Whole30 Friends and Family. These recipe books are crammed with tasty, clean eats.
In addition, Melissa penned the Whole30 Day by Day, a daily handbook to keep you engaged, motivated, and accountable during your month of mindful eating. And finally, Food Freedom Forever will help you develop a personal dietary template that’ll last you well beyond your Whole30.
If you’re starved for inspiration, chin up! It’s your lucky day: I’m a walking, talking Whole30 recipe generator.
Check out my Whole30 recipes!
Sign up for my weekly email newsletter!
While you’re at it, you can subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter to stay up-to-date on new Whole30 and Paleo friendly recipes. I send out a weekly meal planning newsletter and a new missive whenever I post a new recipe on the blog and app!
Lots of Whole30 Inspo on Social Media!
Get my cookbooks!
Next, go pick up my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans and Ready or Not! 150+ Nomtastic Make-Ahead, Make-Over and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo. The vast majority of the recipes in my books are entirely Whole30-friendly and 100% delicious. My latest book, Ready or Not! even includes four weeks of Whole30-friendly dinner plans!
And our Webby Award-Winning Nom Nom Paleo iOS app!
(Note: If you already own the app but recently updated your device or iOS, the app may act up or show only a few recipes—but there’s an easy solution: Completely delete the app off your device, and re-download it for free from the App Store. If you continue to have any problems, shoot me an email so I can help you troubleshoot, ’cause I want to make sure you can get cooking!)
Other Fab Whole30 recipe resources!
I’m by no means the only source for Whole30 recipe inspiration. Follow Whole30Recipes on Instagram, and check out all the wonderful Paleo recipe developers (including Teri Turner, Michelle Smith, Jenn Bumb, Alex Snodgrass, Melissa Joulwan, and Ronny Joseph) who contribute to that feed!
Buddy System FTW!
In my experience, it’s infinitely better to do a Whole30 with others than to go it alone. Get your family, friends, and co-workers to join you on a monthlong challenge of healthy and adventuresome cooking and eating—and you can all help each other through it. You can coach and support your pals through the many ups and occasional downs, and best of all, you’ll never get bored with your food if everyone shares their Whole30 eats. Accountability works wonders!
And if no one in your immediate circle is willing to accompany you on your January Whole30, visit the Whole30 Forum, where you’ll find free support from others who are on the same journey.
Stock your Whole30 pantry!
Let’s start filling your kitchen with healthy food! I gave a talk at Lawrence Livermore National Labs with lots of tips on how to paleo-ize your pantry and fridge, and you can watch me do my thing over here:
Also, click here for my epic post on how to stock your paleo kitchen and pantry like a boss.
Stock your kitchen with tools!
My cookbooks discuss the gadgets and tools I keep in my kitchen to make super-nomtastic grub, but if you want an up-to-date list of my favorite ones, head to my Amazon shopping page. These aren’t arbitrary items I’m recommending— I’ve bought every item on the page myself after reading extensive reviews on trusted sites.
Get in the Kitchen!
Most importantly: Cook! Trust me: It’s really, really hard to try to do a Whole30 without getting acquainted with your kitchen. The point of doing a Whole30 is to learn about how different foods affect you—and how can you possibly do that if you don’t know exactly what’s going into your mouth? As I said in Ready or Not!:
Knowing how to prep meals from scratch doesn’t just make you a more rounded individual or hearty survivalist—it makes you more mindful of the ingredients you’re putting in your body. By cooking at home, I know exactly what goes into my food. I never have to guess whether my dishes were cooked with ingredients that don’t sit well with me.
Nom Nom Paleo Meal Plans
Also, before I forget: Do you aspire to be a meal prepping maven? I have four weeks of meal plans and shopping lists in our new cookbook, Ready or Not!
If you want ultimate flexibility and customizability, subscribe to Real Plans—the most amazing meal planning program around! Seriously. It’s the bee’s knees. There are even add-on recipe modules by yours truly, Nom Nom Paleo, as well as the Whole30, too! Check it out here!
Leftover Makeovers FTW!
“Leftovers” is not a dirty word—especially if you know how to transform your extras into exciting new meals (a.k.a. leftover makeovers). My latest cookbook, Ready or Not!, includes a big section on leftover makeovers, so definitely grab a copy and bookmark the “Kinda Ready” chapter. Prefer to simply reheat the awesome dishes you couldn’t finish last night? That works, too, and is a fantastic way to stay sane on your Whole30 without feeling like you’re spending the entire month in the kitchen. So remember: don’t be afraid to make extra!
Okay, enough chit-chat. It’s time to gear up for an awesome January! As I’ve said before, keep your kitchen adventures fun and your taste buds excited, and you’ll cruise through the Whole30. Aren’t you excited to see which foods make you feel amazing?
Ready to go? I’m all about hand-holding, encouragement, and most importantly, PEER PRESSURE—so find a buddy to take the plunge with you, and let’s do this thing!
P.S. Got questions for me or tips for your fellow Whole30 participants? Please post ’em in the comments!
[Originally posted on December 29, 2018. Updated on December 27, 2019.]
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!75