Top 10 Whole30 Tips

Because Whole30 alumni never stop talking about Whole30, friends and family are bound to get curious about this thing that you just can’t shut up about. Wasn’t that just a New Year’s Resolution? It’s March now, why are we still talking about this so much?

We had such a good experience with Whole30 that we want to keep living Whole30-ish. (Welcome back legumes, corn and rice! RIP dairy and most grains. Cheers to a little wine.) And now, it seems like some people around us are getting inspired to try it too. And I want to be helpful and share some of what I learned in the process, so here are my Top 10 Whole30 Tips! There are some links and recipe ideas throughout.

1. Buy the Book & Get Social

The Whole 30 book lays out all the rules, has shopping lists and meal plans, and lots of recipes. It’s such a helpful guide, and I wouldn’t recommend trying the program without it. At least a few days before your start date, study the rules, familiarize yourself with what is and isn’t compliant (your new favorite word), mark some pages for reference, and pick a few recipes that you want to try. My copy is full of post-its with notes and recipe tweaks, and I referred to it literally every day for 30 days. I checked in on the Timeline every day to see what to expect at each stage  – and I found it so helpful to know that feeling extra cranky or tired some days was just part of the program, and not just me. You will likely hate everyone and everything on Day 4, so try to plan accordingly!

There are also some great resources online, and I recommend bookmarking the Whole30 “Can I Have” list in your phone so that you can refer to it while grocery shopping or dining out. Also check out their official Instagram pages (@whole30recipes & @whole30). I follow a lot of food people (duh) and found that it helped when I unfollowed some of the more unhealthy food pages, you know, the ones that are filled with donuts and ice cream and pretty cupcakes every day. So I followed a few new Whole30/clean eating/healthy living accounts, and now that you can follow hashtags I also followed #whole30, #januarywhole30 and #iamwhole30 for some daily inspiration. The hashtags were a great way for me to find fellow Whole30 newbies as well as experts.

It really helps if you have a friend, partner, or coworker committed to doing the program along with you. Teamwork makes the dream work! Keep in mind that the first week is hard, and you’ll be tired. Support and camaraderie is nice. But once you get through that, you’ll start feeling better and better.

2. Purge & Restock

Purging your kitchen of the stuff that you’re eliminating for the next 30 days is a great way to get in the right mindset for your mission ahead. I ceremoniously trashed the sugar I used to put in my coffee every day (habit fully broken, by the way!), the bread, the cheese, the milk, the butter, and the tortilla chips while listening to Beyonce singing “Boy, Bye!” but the soundtrack is optional (encouraged, but optional!).

Check the labels on everything in your fridge and pantry. Sorry friends, but Sriracha has sugar in it. So do many mayos, mustards, salsas, and tomato sauces, and definitely ketchup. This is good practice for all the label reading you’ll be doing in grocery store aisles over the next month and probably for the rest of your life.

If you don’t want to trash some unopened stuff, at least hide it in the back of the cabinet. Then start replacing these things with compliant items, ideally the day before your start date so you’re prepped and ready for Day 1. I’ve heard that Whole Foods has an entire Whole30 section, so be on the lookout!

Some key staples always on my shopping list are:  eggs, chicken or salmon, sweet potatoes, avocados, broccoli (and all other favorite veggies), onion, garlic, baby spinach, coconut milk (canned 100%), coconut oil, canned diced tomatoes, bananas, green apples, almond butter, raw almonds, dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice), compliant hot sauce (ideally one that’s just peppers, vinegar, and salt), vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, and red wine are all allowed), and a range of spices (curry, chili, paprika, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric – you still need to check the labels on spices! Some contain corn starch or wheat).

3. Put an Egg on it

You’re going to wake up on Day 1 and be like ok what do I do now… and the answer is EAT, so it’s a good thing that you stocked your kitchen with compliant items! If you have time to wake up a little bit early and make yourself an easy easy egg breakfast, do it. You can even pre-chop some veggies like a red onion and a bell pepper the night before to make a morning scramble come together super quickly. If you know that you will absolutely not be cooking for yourself in the morning before work, prepare something the night before, like this frittata or just some hard boiled eggs that you can bring along with you (don’t forget the salt and hot sauce!).

As someone that doesn’t eat a lot of meat, eggs are a very easy protein source for me to keep around and throw on top of anything, breakfast or not. I do a lot of roasted vegetable medleys topped with a fried egg — that can be any meal of the day! An avocado and compliant hot sauce always pairs well with any of these egg dishes. When in doubt, just make some eggs.

A favorite discovery was this sweet potato egg dish: Just scoop out a baked sweet potato, mash it in a bowl with a little coconut oil and sea salt, and top with one or two over medium eggs and hot sauce. SO good.

4. Keep it Simple & Make Big Batches

You don’t get extra credit for making 30 new recipes during your 30 days. You’ll burn yourself out if you try to do too much, so my advice is to keep it simple. Find a few key compliant things that you enjoy making and eating, and stick with what’s working for you. Focus on some favorite proteins (for me that’s salmon or chicken), find an easy preparation method (I like to roast everything), pair proteins with fresh salads or roasted vegetables, and top with rotating dressings or sauces (see #5).

Top bite sized broccoli and cauliflower pieces with olive oil, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Roast at 400°F for 25 minutes. Repeat. Not pictured: line your pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Be sure to make everything in double batches. If you’re roasting a head of broccoli you might as well add cauliflower too and have leftovers the next day. It’s just as easy to roast a few big sweet potatoes as it is to prep one. Double your sauce recipes then keep leftovers in jars in the fridge. Make sure you have a tall stockpot for soups and chili, so that you can always max out the portions and have lots of leftovers.

My method for baking big sweet potatoes: quarter them, microwave for 5 minutes, then wrap in foil and bake in a 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes. Keep them in the fridge for a few days for easy meal additions!

If you’re getting bored or feeling motivated to try something new, seek inspiration from the recipes in the Whole30 book or their Instagram feeds and put something fresh in your rotation. Just try to make everything as easy as possible for yourself!

5. Get Saucy

A great way to mix up your meals is to get some staple compliant sauces going. One fantastic sauce to keep around is Tahini. Tahini paste is just sesame seeds, therefore compliant. To make it into a yummy sauce you add salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley or cilantro. No cooking required, just some mashing and mixing.

Get the full sauce recipe here, then use it to top chicken, salmon, roasted veggies, or as a dip for raw veggies like tomato and cucumber. Tahini is the new hummus (sorry, chickpeas are legumes).

Coconut Curry Sauce is another one of my favorites that  goes well with almost everything. It’s easy to make too. Check out my post with the recipe here.

There’s a recipe for Romesco Sauce in the Whole30 book that I also love. It has a nice texture with the nuts, and a really great zing to it with the spices and vinegar. Pair it with zoodles and shrimp like in the link, or try it on chicken and eggplant. There’s a whole sauce section in the book, which includes buffalo, ranch, and pesto, so pick out some faves!

7. You Can Whole30 That

You don’t have to stop eating everything you’re familiar with, but you may have to modify your old stand-bys. My first big Whole30 swap was my morning coffee, which I have always enjoyed with a lot of cream and sugar. The book has a good point on this subject, which is are you sure you actually like coffee? Valid, Melissa Hartwig, valid. I initially thought that I would give up coffee in the process because I probably wouldn’t really like it if I couldn’t have cream and sugar. Instead, I swapped in coconut milk and boosted the spices (turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon).

It took me a couple days to adjust to the different texture of it and to get used to the absence of sugar, but I have started to really enjoy it. I’ve always liked all the coffee drinks that end in “spice” and this combo of spices is a home run for me. And newsflash: coconut milk is delicious! Nut milks are also allowed as long as they don’t have any sweeteners in them.

Have some regular recipes or cooking methods you use that call for lots of butter? Just swap in ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil instead. If you want to make a soup (or curry, or anything) creamy, use coconut milk. Leave out the sweeteners and opt for herbs, spices, or a squeeze of fresh citrus instead. If you’re used to having grains as a side, try cauliflower rice, or make a potato-based dish instead. Try making a sauce you normally buy premade yourself so you get all the flavor and none of the junk. You’ll become a recipe and ingredient scanning pro, and be able to tell right away whether you can easily Whole30 it or not.

8. Snacking is Better than Failing

Snacks are discouraged on Whole30. Personally, I have always been a big grazer so I knew this would be tough. My goals for the program weren’t as much about breaking bad food habits as they were about evaluating the elimination of certain food groups, so I didn’t feel like having a snack would derail me as long as the snack components were compliant. This will be different for everyone, but in my opinion, snacking is better than failing. To be clear, I’m not talking about potato chips, paleo sweets, or pre-packaged snacks, which are clearly prohibited on Whole30.

Especially during Week 1, I felt like I needed more snacks while my body was adjusting to new fuel sources. It’s also important to always have something compliant with you, whether you’re on a road trip, at work, at the beach, on a plane, or at the movies. Sometimes, you just gotta snack! And better to have something compliant in your purse than break protocol in a moment of desperation and have to start over. My go-to compliant snacks are trail mixes of nuts and dried fruit, usually raw almonds with unsweetened dried apricots or apple juice-sweetened cranberries.

Now I’m going to tell you a little secret. Almond butter stirred with a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkle of sea salt is magical. Top a sliced banana or green apple with this stuff and you’ll feel like Whole30 hasn’t denied you anything. Don’t go overboard, because this could fall into the category of “food with no brakes”. But really, you’re welcome.

If you’re looking for something more savory, try hot sauce on raw almonds. Seriously, it’s like healthy hot cheetos. Or avocado sprinkled with hot sauce and sea salt. (Yes, my hot sauce consumption went way up during those 30 days!) Or cucumber and carrots dipped in Tahini.

9. Use Everything

I already mentioned that leftovers are precious. Think your leftovers all the way through. For example, if you roast a whole chicken at the beginning of the week, that one lil chicken can get you through the whole week with a little creativity!

Try this roasted chicken recipe with olive oil instead of butter. Slice some of the breast meat and put it on top of a fresh spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and balsamic for lunch. Have another portion of the chicken for dinner, with a side of baked sweet potato and roasted broccoli.

The next day you can shred some of the chicken to use in a salad with compliant mayo and other mix-ins of your choosing (try grapes, cilantro, and chopped nuts). When you’ve used all the chicken meat, save all the bones and start a batch of bone broth. Incorporate your home made broth into this big batch of chili. Refrigerate half the leftovers and freeze the other half. You’ll get a few days out of the chili, and have some frozen on hand in the future when you’re in a pinch.

When you start thinking like this, meal prep comes a lot more easily.

10. It Gets Easier

Week 1 is hard. Shoot, it will already feel hard on Day 3. You’ll be tired and cranky and want to eat all the non-compliant foods you can think of and go drink wine with your friends and throw your Whole30 book in the trash. It gets better and it gets easier. When you understand the reasons behind how you’re feeling, it’s easier to push through.

In the first week, your body is switching fuel sources. You’re used to running on sugar and carbs, and your body is used to burning those for energy. But when you deprive your body of the sugar and carbs it’s used to, it’s forced to find a new source of energy — fat. You want your body to burn fat, but you have to give it a chance to switch gears. In the meantime, you’ll feel tired and crave carbs. When you feel tired, sleep if you can. When you have cravings, eat something compliant instead. Then, your body will start using its new fuel. Suddenly, you’ll start to feel better, and then you’ll start to feel amazing. A fog lifts from your brain, you feel fully awake and switched on, and you have what feels like unlimited energy. Whole30 calls this Tiger Blood. It can come in a surge of motivation to check things off your to-do list, start a new activity, go for a run, or do jumping jacks in the middle of your office.

Get a calendar going and cross off the days as part of your daily ritual. A visualization of the countdown really helped me! Just get through the first week and your Tigers Blood will be around the corner. Then focus that newfound energy on healthy activities, exercise, and meal prepping. And the 30 days will be up before you know it. Over time, your cravings will literally be turned off. You’ll find it’s easier to pass on the wine and the bread, and you may not even want dessert by the time you’re allowed to reintroduce it. It’s an empowering change, and it only takes a month to achieve it!

Bonus Tip: A Word on Socializing

You CAN eat out in restaurants during this month. But you will be kind of annoying when you do. Make sure you’re well educated on what you can and can’t eat before you go out. If possible, preview the menu online and figure out how to Whole30 it. Don’t make it the job of your server to tell you everything that’s Whole30 on the menu – that’s your responsibility. Keep your “Can I Have” guide handy, and Google is your friend when you come across something you don’t know on the menu. What’s in chimichurri again? A quick Google search for a recipe will tell you it’s compliant.

Usually ordering sauces and dressings on the side and swapping sides of grains or fries for veggies or salads is a pretty safe bet. If you wind up with a plain piece of meat or pile of vegetables, you can always ask for balsamic, an easy way to jazz it up that most restaurants should have on hand. You may also be able to get away with bringing a compliant sauce with you. Channel Beyoncé and have hot sauce in your bag (swag).

Also try different ideas for socializing other than dinners and happy hours to make avoiding alcohol easier. Suggest going for walks, bike rides, hitting the beach or pool, or something else around town you’ve been meaning to try. You may surprise yourself with all the new things you can accomplish in a month without alcohol and hangover days. I think you’ll find that good friends will be supportive, and you might end up re-evaluating some friendships if anyone isn’t. If you can’t hang out with someone sober…are you really friends?

Now pick your start date, commit, and start counting down to the Tiger Blood! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if I missed a topic you’re curious about. Also check out my previous Whole 30 posts for more thoughts on the subject:

Halfway to Whole30
Whole30 Squash-Stuffed Peppers
Whole30 Sweet Potato Chili
Whole30 Coconut Curry Sauce
Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata
The Whole30 (or 45)

You got this!

© Cook it Pretty 2018


Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata

When I first dove into the super supportive and informative Whole30 community on Instagram, I came across a video from one of the coaches saying “when it gets tough, clean your house and make a frittata.” I didn’t totally get it at the time, but from my new vantage point on Day 29, I definitely do!

First of all, my tiny kitchen is in a constant state of madness because of all the meals going through it, and because of my lack of a dishwasher. (Insert no-dishwasher pity party here.) So the first step for me accomplishing anything is to clean up so I have room to make something new. Secondly, making a frittata is helpful because it’s easy and you can throw in whatever you already have, it will last you through a couple days, it’s highly portable, and can be eaten for any meal of the day. It’s oddly comforting to know you have one in the fridge ready and waiting for you!

I like this particular frittata because it includes caramelized onions and a sweet potato crust. That may sound complicated but it’s really not, and just makes whatever else you put in it taste extra awesome. Caramelizing onions does take a while, but you can mostly leave them alone while you’re doing other stuff, and I think it’s worth it.

The “crust” is just thinly sliced sweet potato pieces arranged to mostly cover the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Bake it on its own first. Don’t worry too much about how it looks, it will be completely covered with other ingredients.

Then you add in your caramelized onions and whatever other veggies you have on hand, and top with whisked eggs.

Back in the oven, and done. I was concerned about it not tasting good the next day, but it keeps really well. And is extra yummy when topped with (compliant, of course) hot sauce. More detailed instructions below!


Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata

2 Tbs Ghee, Coconut Oil, or Olive Oil, divided
1 Sweet Potato, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
2 Small or 1 Large Onion, sliced thin* (yellow, white, or red)
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin*
1 Zucchini, sliced thin*
1 Handful Mushrooms, sliced thin*
1 Handful Baby Spinach
12 Eggs (approximate, may change based on the size of your dish and size of your eggs)
Whole30 Compliant Hot Sauce for serving

*If you have a food processor with a slicer attachment, it works great for a nice thin slice on your veggies. If not, just go small and thin so that they’ll easily cook through.

Preheat oven to 400F. Add 1Tbs of the cooking oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced onions and stir to coat. Turn down to low heat and continue to stir occasionally for about 45 minutes, until caramelized. Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 Tbs of cooking oil to a baking dish, coating the bottom and sides. Arrange the sweet potato slices in the bottom and along the sides of the dish, overlapping slightly for more coverage. This is your “crust”. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, then set aside. Keep stirring those onions. Add remaining vegetables to the baking dish, and top with the onions when they’re ready. Whisk the eggs together with salt and pepper in a large bowl, then pour over the veggies in the baking dish. If the eggs don’t quite cover the whole dish, whisk together a couple more and add in until covered. Return to oven for 25-30 more minutes, until cooked through in the center and slightly browned on top. Serve with hot sauce and enjoy!

Note: This recipe is very flexible on the additional veggies you use. Feel free to use whatever you like best and have available. Only thing to keep in mind is the size of your slice, ensuring that they’ll cook through with the eggs.

© Cook it Pretty 2018

Halfway to Whole30

It’s January, so I’m sure all of you have a friend doing a new fitness class, a dry month, or a social media cleanse. I’m your friend doing a weird new food program thing, and the thing is Whole30. I have never been this friend before; this is new territory for me. In fact, I’ve always been pretty anti-diet and pro-balance, pro-everything in moderation, pro-winging it, and definitely pro-baked goods. Whole 30 — which is no sugar or sweeteners, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, and no alcohol for 30 days — is not really something I was ever interested in before, but here I am, halfway there, in the thick of it all, amongst all my dirty dishes and compliant ingredients and daily notes and meal plans. So…


Why are we doing it?

Recently my husband has had some weird reactions that we suspect are related to food sensitivities. We’ve been doing a lot of food and health research, and have definitely hopped on the “food is medicine” train. It just makes sense that what you put in your body has effects beyond making you heavier or skinnier or less hungry. There’s MUCH more to it than that. So we kind of tried gluten free and sort of tried cutting down on sugar and halfheartedly skipped drinking a few times. When we were good, we would see results. But, as is our way, we were kind of just winging it and broke the rules whenever it was the more convenient thing to do. Especially over the holidays. Because pie.

Enter Whole30, which is an elimination protocol (don’t call it a diet or the Whole30ers will come for you). Elimination is important in order to learn how certain types of foods are affecting your system, and Whole30 takes into account categories I hadn’t considered as possible culprits, like dairy and all grains. I felt that we needed something structured like this to really get to the bottom of things, and liked that it was only for 30 days, after which there’s a reintroduction phase. That just sounds more doable to me than “never eat sugar again!”

Then, on New Year’s Eve, I just happened to notice that my mother in law had the Whole30 book sitting on her shelf, and I asked if I could borrow it.  Then a good friend said she was doing it. Then my husband said he wanted to go aggressive on the no sugar thing after the holiday. So, pretty much the stars just aligned with a little New Year’s motivation and we committed. But…

What can we even eat?

I think it’s normal to focus on all the things you can’t have, and in the beginning it feels like what the hell am I supposed to eat then?! It was hard for me to let go of things that I’ve always considered “good for me” that I also really like, like yogurt (dairy), honey (sweetener), quinoa (grain, ancient or not), and chickpeas (legumes). The only way to get over that I think is just to commit and remind yourself that it’s only a month, and focus on what you might get out of just trying it.

So we focus on what we can eat, broadly: meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats. Specifically, you can still drink coffee, but you have to hold the sweetener and the cream (coconut milk is my friend). You can have eggs and meat and all the veggies you want (including potatoes!), but cook them in olive oil or coconut oil rather than butter. You can have avocados all day long, but you’ll have to hold the toast part. You can have sauces and dressings, but you’ll probably have to make them yourself to avoid all the sweeteners and weird additives out there.

Side note: This part has been very educational, and if we get nothing else out of this experiment, we have learned a lot about reading labels. I was already somewhat into this, but my eyes have been even further opened to all the gross stuff that gets put into your food when you’re not making it yourself. In short, you’re probably being tricked into eating a LOT more added sugar than you think, and wheat, soy, and corn are in nearly everything that comes pre-packaged. There’s sugar in bacon and lunch meat and sausages and ketchup and mustard and mayonnaise…it’s not just desserts you need to be aware of.

What are we actually eating?

All of the eggs.
Poached, fried (in olive oil or coconut oil), over medium, scrambled, with veggies, with spinach, with (compliant) hot sauce, with avocado, repeat.

Veggie Stuffed Peppers
Find my post with the recipe here.

Roasted Chicken with Tahini Sauce
Tahini (made from sesame seeds) is compliant, so I found a simple tahini sauce recipe and made a big batch to put on everything! We’ve had it on the stuffed peppers, chicken, and salmon.

Sweet Potato Chili
Chili with no beans? Avocado makes everything work. Find my post with the recipe here.

Coconut Curry Salmon (and chicken)
Much like the Tahini sauce, this sauce makes everything taste special! Find my post with the recipe here.

Turmeric Ginger Butternut Squash Soup
Find the original recipe here – I swapped the type of squash for butternut and used fresh turmeric rather than powder.


In short, we’re eating a lot. I’m cooking a lot, buying a lot of groceries, and washing a lot of dishes. Because I enjoy cooking, the program has so far been a great inspiration in the kitchen. Finding ways to “Whole30 something” can be fun and creative. Documenting it all helps me stay into it. And feeling positive results and seeing them in my husband is super motivating.

At the halfway point, we are feeling good and not really missing much other than maybe the occasional wine and cheese night, or the ease of reaching for a pre-packaged crunchy snack. I’m seeing now how convenience tends to drive a lot of our food choices. But I feel lighter and more energetic, I’m sleeping better and I get out of bed more easily in the morning. I’m excited to see how the second half of the experiment goes.

Any other Whole30ers out there?

© Cook it Pretty 2018

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

In Dubai they sell eggs in containers of 6, 15 or 30. It’s weird to remove “a dozen eggs” from your grocery shopping vocabulary, but it’s really just as arbitrary. I had 15 of these brown freckled beauties and now that Easter has passed, I know you’re looking for ways to use up all those hard boiled eggs.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
I like the idea of sweet & spicy, and most any use of figs, so I updated this deviled egg recipe using fig preserves and curry powder. My curry powder happens to be Pakistani, but I think any type would do! I underestimated how long it takes to peel 15 hard boiled eggs, but after a while the repetition was almost therapeutic. I add salt to the boiling water and then transfer the eggs to ice water,  both things that are supposed to help make the eggs easier to peel. Does it actually do anything? I don’t know. I still ended up with a few tricky/ugly ones (aka tasters), but most of them were pretty smooth.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
When the man got home, he asked me two rapid fire questions: “Why did you make these?” *eats one whole* “Why are they so good?” I made them because I felt like it, and they’re so good because I had plenty of tasters and kept adding more flavor to them. They ended up savory, spicy, and a little bit sweet.

Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs | Cook it Pretty
Fig & Curry Deviled Eggs

12-15 Hard boiled eggs
1/2 c Mayo
2 Tbs Fig preserves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Stalks green onion, sliced into rounds
Handful Cilantro leaves for garnish
Sprinkle paprika for garnish

To boil the eggs, place them in the bottom of a large pot and cover with 1-2 inches of salted water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then turn off heat but leave the pot covered on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water ready and transfer eggs from the hot to cold water and chill for a few minutes.

Carefully peel the eggs and halve each one with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks and add them to a mixing bowl. Smush the yolks and then add remaining ingredients. Use the less-than-perfect whites to taste the mixture and add more spice, salt, or sweet as desired. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites (you can also transfer the mixture into a large ziplock bag and cut a corner off as your method for refilling the eggs). Garnish with cilantro and paprika. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016