A Whole30 Coach Shares Her Top 12 Tips For Success On The Program
It’s easy to think of the Whole30 Program as a diet.
But that’s actually a misnomer. The Whole30 website defines the program as a “short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”
That doesn’t mean the program is easy. On the contrary, it comes with a list of non-negotiable rules like no alcohol, no added sugars in any form, no dairy, grains, or legumes, and no foods that have been processed in any way.
It can seem intimidating at first, which is why we spoke to Dolly Sengsavang, a Whole30 Coach and veteran who gave us her top tips for getting through the program. If you’re planning on taking part in Whole30 January and plan on using our Whole30 Approved meals, this is a great resource.
Keep it simple.
Sengsavang emphasizes this as her most crucial tip. She says that for many people, eating for Whole30 is a complete 180 from the way they used to be eating. Making this change is already a victory in and of itself, so don’t feel the need to overcomplicate things.
“Keep it simple in the kitchen,” Sengsavang says. “Your meals don’t need to be gourmet. They don’t have to be Instagram-worthy.”
Write down your why.
Sengsavang urges all of her clients to not just think of why they’re doing the program, but to write their reasoning down. That way, when on day 10 or 11 — typically the two hardest days of the program — you’re feeling like you want to give it all up for a piece of pizza, you can use your why to re-inspire and re-motivate you to stick with the program and see it through.
Be over-prepared rather than underprepared.
This tip can take many forms, but perhaps most importantly, it refers to making sure you’re always stocked with Whole30 compliant food. Because you won’t be able to munch on the average granola bar or grab a quick sandwich from the nearest deli, Sengsavang recommends keeping snacks you can eat (like EPIC Bars or Chomps) in places like your office desk drawer, your purse/briefcase, or the glove compartment of your car.
“I’d rather have you whip out an Epic Bar in the middle of a meeting or social gathering than sit there punishing yourself for not being prepared and being tempted to just call it quits because you didn’t pack that extra snack.”
Leftovers are your friend.
Part of what makes Whole30 tough for rookies and veterans alike is all the meal prepping and cooking that comes along with it. But Sengsavang makes the point that you can cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen by doubling your recipes and making more food than you need for just one meal.
When it comes to events and social outings, do your research ahead of time.
Sengsavang tells all of her clients to take a look at their schedule for the upcoming month before starting Whole30. If there are parties, dinners, weddings, etc, she says it’s completely acceptable to call the chef, caterer, or host a week or two in advance and ask what’s on the menu and how it’s made. Maybe there’ll be some veggies or fruit you can enjoy, or maybe you can request a special meal.
If not, consider eating before the event. After all, you’re most likely going to socialize as opposed to eat, so focus on that.
Be the one to suggest the restaurant.
While Sengsavang says it can be easy to turn into a hermit during Whole30, she says there’s no need to. There are plenty of restaurants that serve Whole30 compliant foods. If a friend asks you out to lunch or dinner, be the one to suggest where to go (and if you want, let them know why you’d like to be the one to choose). That way, you can go into the outing knowing there will be something for you to enjoy.
Let your friends and family know you’re doing Whole30.
To avoid having to repeat yourself multiple times throughout the program, let your co-workers, friends, and family know from the get-go what you’re up to. There’s no need to make it out to be more than it is, though.
“I’m very big on if you don’t make it a big deal, it won’t be a big deal,” Sengsavang says. Plus, she says nine times out of 10, your community will be supportive.
Keep some basic pantry staples on hand.
Sengsavang makes sure to always keep her three favorite spices on hand — her holy trinity as she calls it: kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Other than that, she uses coconut aminos as a replacement for soy sauce and fish sauce for added flavor.
She also recommends stocking a compliant flour: almond, coconut, cassava, and arrowroot all work. Pro tip: dust your protein in one of these before adding sauce — the sauce will stick to the protein much better.
Download the PDFs on the Whole30 website.
Before her clients start the program, Sengsavang urges them to download a number of PDFs that are available on the Whole30 website. These include everything from shopping lists, to the program rules to general tips and tricks. Sengsavang advises saving these on your phone for easy access no matter where you are.
When it comes to reintroduction, choose the fast track over the slow roll.
A crucial part of Whole30 — arguably more crucial than the elimination of certain food groups — is the reintroduction of those food groups, Sengsavang says. She says there are two options when it comes to bringing certain foods back into your diet after the 30 days: the slow roll and the fast track.
The fast track is a 10-day period where you reintroduce food groups one at a time. Sengsavang describes it as “the perfect opportunity to experiment with your body because you’re essentially a clean slate.” She says the fast track allows you to easily identify which foods cause your body distress.
Meal prep looks different for everyone.
While Sengsavang agrees that there’s no way to get out of meal prep when doing Whole30, she says that meal prep doesn’t have to mean spending all day in the kitchen on Sunday and then eating chicken breast, white rice, and broccoli every day for the next six days.
Instead, meal prep can be as simple as chopping your veggies the same day you buy them and sorting them into bags so when you’re ready to cook, they’re already prepped (one of Sengsavang’s favorite hacks).
Let good enough be good enough.
Sengsavang says that anyone who’s done the program at least once will tell you there’s no such thing as a perfect Whole30. There may be times when you go out to eat and you’re not exactly sure what cooking oil the chef is using — and that’s okay. Sengsavang says this is where a popular Whole30 mantra comes into play: “Let good enough be good enough.” In other words, don’t make the program any harder than it already is.