Helping Your Family Eat Well: A Mom’s Guide to the Whole30

Whole30 – what the heck is that?

The Whole30 Program, designed by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig in 2009, is a 30-day dietary reset of your eating habits. By removing inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol, this program helps to end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. The goal isn’t weight loss, but rather a healing and understanding of how foods affect your everyday life (even though most people do see weight loss as a result).

I had been in a fog since pregnancy – constantly tired, bloated, swollen, broken sleep, more break outs, wacky cycles, etc. I was also carrying around 15 pounds of baby weight that I just couldn’t shake. I decided to give it a go last fall. Not just me, but my husband and 14-month old, too.

After two rounds of Whole30, I learned a lot about my habits, my relationship with foods, and also celebrated non-scale victories (better sleep, better skin, less bloat) on the daily. But, I’m not here to preach about this program (even though it is seriously life changing), I’m here to talk about the nitty gritty of doing a program like the Whole30 with your family.

It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

If you’re anything like I was, you might be hesitant to commit. You know YOU can probably do this, but would your significant other be on board? And what about the kids? They’re not going to give up string cheese and Goldfish, amiright?

  • What do you make that’s kid friendly?

  • What about picky eaters?

  • What are the exceptions?

  • Is this something I can maintain with my busy schedule?

  • How do I adapt this to my family’s already established lifestyle?

Look no further! Here’s my mom’s guide to the Whole30:

1.  Meal plan and grocery shop with the family.

It’s daunting enough to meal plan for a family, let alone to do it yourself. By getting your kids involved in what they want to eat, there are no surprises and everyone is happy. Let’s say the kids want spaghetti. Noodles are out, but zoodles (zucchini noodles!) and spaghetti squash are great alternatives. Try not to dwell on the ‘can’t haves’ and focus on the ‘can haves’. Get them excited about trying a new twist on their favorites. Peruse recipes and the grocery aisles, and ask for feedback. Everyone wins!

2. Prep meals, snacks, and condiments.

In a pinch, a homemade granola bar, fruit bowl, or celery and almond butter are perfect options during the Whole30. By failing to prep, you’re prepping to fail. Rid the pantry of all condiments and processed/packaged snacks that aren’t compliant and make your own. It does take time to whip up homemade mayo, ranch dressing, almond butter, chia pudding, and kale chips, but I promise you it’s worth it. It not only ends up costing you less (which means less trips to the store), but it also lets you rest assured knowing everything your family grabs is a healthy and compliant option.

Pro tip: Buy frozen cubes of sweet potatoes and butternut squash as well as frozen veggies (including cauliflower rice). Who says fresh is superior? Flash frozen veggies work during a hurried weeknight meal and are equally as nutritious.

3. Make only one meal.

You heard that right. Don’t you dare make mac & cheese for little Susie because she doesn’t like what you made. Don’t do it! You not only have to work twice as hard cooking, cleaning up, and appeasing everyone, but you’ll likely be tempted to take a bite, ultimately allowing yourself to fail. Instead, give little Susie two options of fruits or vegetables – maybe instead of broccoli, she prefers sweet potato. Or instead of a salad, she wants fruit. By only allowing your kids two options, they don’t feel overwhelmed with choices and feel they still have a say in what they eat. Plus, most of your veggies/fruits are already chopped up (see #2) so everything is ready to go.

Side Note: The goal with this tip isn’t to morph into a foodie mom dictator, but rather to encourage your kids to eat what you make instead of them running the show. It’s less work for you and less fits from them at dinner. Although if you must make exceptions due to the kids’ extreme pickiness or dietary needs, then so be it. You can’t win them all!

4. Don’t make it seem dreadful.

This 30-day program isn’t a diet. Yes, it’s restrictive, but it’s far from the traditional low-carb, low-calorie, low-fat diets that we see around us. The goal isn’t weight loss and isn’t a quick fix. Don’t act like you are depriving yourself, or begrudgingly count down the days left. Have a positive attitude about it and your family will follow suit. By looking at is as a lifestyle change, your family will be encouraged, supportive, and hopefully excited to join you in trying new foods, new recipes, and cooking together. It’s also important to keep a positive body image. Since you’re not weighing yourself, there is no reason to be obsessed with how you look. Focus on how you feel and encourage your family with positive affirmations.

5. Keep a journal.

I kept a journal of what we ate, who liked what, and our non-scale victories as I went along. I bookmarked recipes we loved and made note of ingredients or meals that didn’t meet the mark. Keeping tabs on this info ensures this is a sustainable endeavor, while also giving you something to look back on as reference.

6. Keep it simple.

There are some pretty darn good recipes in the Whole30 cookbook, Pinterest, Instagram, and others sprinkled throughout the web. These serve as a great resource and inspiration for meals, but can be very daunting, especially with budget, picky kids or time constraints. My advice is to keep it simple. Don’t buy ingredients you’ll likely use once.

Remember: The slow cooker is your friend. It’s OK to have breakfast for dinner. Having the same lunch twice in a row is also completely acceptable. Frozen chicken is just as tasty as broasted. Don’t make it harder on yourself! Buy pre-cut veggies, make a casserole the night before, and embrace the leftovers!

7. Don’t reward yourself with food.

We’ve been conditioned since we were young to reward ourselves with treats. We worked out today, so we get a cookie. We ate a salad for lunch, so we can pig out at dinner. The kids were good, so we can go to McDonald’s. Turn that motivation into something non-food related. Maybe if the family eats healthy this week, you all go out bowling or for a nature walk. Or maybe little Susie was brave and ate all her cauliflower rice, so she gets an extra book at bedtime. Reinforce good habits without rewarding with food.

8. Give yourself a break.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, Whole30 is hard. It requires lots of prep, cooking, planning, willpower, and what seems like endless dishes. You may slip into old habits. You may crave that slice of greasy pizza, even on your 28th day. (Just speaking from experience here!) You may not experience the magic this program promises, but you know what? You took the plunge and planted the seed to live a healthier life. It takes commitment and persistence and for that, you should be proud. Give yourself a break and a pat on the back. You may fail, but get back on that horse and try again!

Helping Your Family Eat Well: A Mom's Guide to the Whole30

Confession: Although my husband did the Whole30 with me the full 30 days, my young toddler did not. I felt she still needed dairy and grains as part of her diet. While I didn’t exclude those from her diet, I did modify the kinds of foods I gave to her. For example, I switched her to organic dairy and whole, gluten-free grains and seeds like barley, quinoa and spelt. I also chose not to give her juice as it had added sugar. Instead we made our own juice with a juicer and watered it down. In addition, I ensured she had more healthy fats and less packaged snacks. It was a win in my book!

Although modifications aren’t generally allowed during the 30 days, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to mold the Whole30 guidelines to your family’s lifestyle, especially for breastfeeding or pregnant mothers and vegetarians. Every Whole30 experience looks different. Analyze and decide what foods you or your family cannot live without (trust me, you can actually live without bread and chocolate) or better yet, find better alternatives for them.

As long as you’re moving toward your family’s goal of being happier and fostering healthier relationships with food, that’s all that matters.

What are your tips for a mom-approved Whole30?

What modifications did you make?

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