First off, my friend Jane helped me a ton and really got me started and motivated. Here is her post on her Whole30 experience (she is still going strong months and months later with I think a more than 30 pound weight loss!)
If you want to read about what the Whole30 is, this is the basic information you need to know. I really didn't read either of the books (first one, second one) until after I started and then had to return them mid-journey. I also read a book the Whole30 authors refer to a few times as they have based their program off of it, called The Paleo Solution by Roff Wolf and I really liked how this guy explained the paleo philosophy and also gave some weight training information as well. All books are very motivating and interesting.
There are a TON of recipes on the internet for Whole30 (and Paleo-which is not the same as Whole30 as Whole30 excludes some things basic Paleo plans do not.) BUT I did not want to overwhelm myself and wanted to start slow and simple.
I know enough about my lifestyle, my appetite and what will work for me especially the time I have for all of this. I love Whole30 and it worked for me because it is not restrictive on the amount of food you can eat. I know I hate being hungry, I hate not having food choices, I am very much an "all or nothing" person (called an abstainer instead of a moderator, thank you Gretchen Rubin). I kept a very simple "meal plan" for myself and kept up cooking normally for my family. I know my weakness is sugar and I must go all or nothing because it slowly creeps into my life and before I know it, it is my main food group. My older sister has been telling me for years to control my sugar cravings by eating more protein and finally I listened to her, and you know what, she was right.
Eating out I've just figured out what I could have. Parties-I eat before I go, and go saying to myself I will eat nothing the entire time. I feel good when I get home instead of gross like I used to.
Benefits of Whole30 for me:
I have never once been hungry on this plan. I am usually too full by dinner time to eat much dinner.
I've slept better, lost weight, tons more energy, no afternoon slump, no sugar cravings, no sore joints, clearer skin, better mood all the time, think about food less, and life more.
Just an important side note-there are times in life when we have more time for ourselves than others. If someone would have tried to get me to do this plan, as simple as it is, one or two or three years ago when Janey was a high needs baby and there were other stressors in my life, I might have said a bad word or two back to them in my head. I just didn't have the mental energy, the time to sit down and eat a nice meal some days, the extra space in my soul for motivation, the ability to deprive myself of some major stress relief chocolate eating. I was doing my best giving most (all?) of my energy caring for this gorgeous baby and five other children and a husband and keeping it all together. If this is you, you know that's okay right? I know that might not be the message we hear-(take time for yourself, go on date nights, exercise, look sexy after baby, fit back into those jeans, eat frequent small meals, make sure you get enough sleep blah blah blah shut up)-SOMETIMES IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. Like you don't have ONE second to go to the bathroom, how could you do any of this??? IF THIS IS YOU RIGHT NOW, JUST KEEP DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING IT IS GOD's WORK. Give it-it being mothering-your all. You will never regret it and will be rewarded for the rest of your life, and once this hard stage of mothering passes, or ebbs till the next baby, know one day you WILL be able to sit down and eat a healthier breakfast, and might have time to make a salad or even do a few leg lifts, lose a few pounds if so desired, and pay a little attention to yourself.
So here are my basics:
Every morning for breakfast I have the same thing. I take a small frying pan, put MILD olive oil in it, saute some spinach, tomato, and chopped peppers (maybe some mushrooms and onions) and once those are soft I add two or three scrambled eggs right on top. I turn heat on low and cover the pan, and it "souffles" into a nice little meal. I make normal breakfast for the kids while I am doing this whether it's eggs, waffles, pancakes, or cereal.
For lunch almost every day:
A big salad. Romaine, some broccoli slaw for crunch and color, tomatoes, onions, maybe a hard-boiled egg, or avocado cut up and grilled chicken. I cut up the chicken when I get home from the store and freeze some with the garlic in freezer bags, keeping what I will use that week in the fridge. I usually grill up a batch about every four days as needed. I also have made taco salad with ground beef, avocado, cilantro, etc. and used the Ranch dressing with cilantro added as a dressing.
I use these three dressings-your really have to make your own and honestly, homemade dressing makes a salad, so I didn't mind, although it does take more time. I would double the recipe so I'd have the dressing to use all week.
Ranch -scroll down when you get to this post. This is delicious and I use this for sweet potato fry dip and also in place of ketchup on burgers. (I thought I'd die without ketchup (and there are Whole30 ketchup recipes that you can make-but I haven't missed it at all and now it's gross to me.) I printed out this entire post and put it in my recipe binder, but have only used the Ranch so far.
My Greek dressing
A handful of cashews or almonds or walnuts and black berries or maybe grapes. I try to go easy on the fruit although it's part of the plan because I am afraid of awakening my sugar cravings. I have also used this snack a few times as a meal stand-in if for some reason I didn't have time for the salad or dinner.
I still plan my meals for the family weekly (very simple ones), but think about what I can eat too with each meal. For my spaghetti stand in, I made a batch of these meatballs and froze them, and either eat them with zoodles or broiled eggplant and added store-bought "pure" marinara to put on top of meatballs and eggplant. I would highly advise always having a back-up like this frozen as it makes it easy on those hectic nights.
Many times (especially the busy sports evenings) I make sweet potato fries and ate those alone. I have made burgers for everyone (ate mine with the fries, no bun, a big tomato and lettuce) or maybe I've made pork chops, didn't bread mine, had a baked apple on the side. Or we've grilled steak and I made asparagus (but didn't put parm on it like I usually do.) I made blackened cauliflower as a side a few times and then Jeff ate it all. :) Janey steels my sweet potato fries all the time.
A few times I've had leftover salad from lunch and have eaten that for dinner, maybe with some sweet potato chips for a little extra hot side dish.
Essentials for me that I make sure I am never without: Sweet potatoes, spaghetti sauce, eggs, (and hardboiled eggs for salads), tomatoes, Romaine lettuce (I use one "stalk" for every salad), broccoli slaw to add crunch and color to salad, avocado...
...zucchini for zoodles, MILD olive oil (so the taste doesn't overtake my food especially eggs), red wine vinegar and balsamic, and the water is because I have to be reminded to not wait before bed to be thirsty.
Mandoline slicer ($15) for sweet potato chips (another good irresistible side), my perfect sized salad bowl, plastic container to store coconut milk that I use for Ranch dressing, and glass jars for storing homemade dressings, and zoodler ($12).
Cocount milk essential for my favorite ranch dressing, see below.
I marinate my chicken in this-very simple.
I printed this out and hung this list on the fridge which helped me at first (it's SO basic-fruit, vegetables, some nuts, some fat, meat and eggs. No dairy, no processed foods, no flour, no sugar.)
That's it! I have some simple recipes I've saved on my Pinterest Whole 30 board that I may plan to try when I have time (I made a goal of trying one new recipe a week and have done pretty well at it) but the key for me is not being overwhelmed by it all.
Any questions, feel free to ask.