What I Learned During the Reintroduction Phase of My Whole30

After my first Whole30 in October 2016, I attempted to do the Slow Roll introduction and I didn’t really learn that much about what does and does not agree with my body. This time, I planned to follow the Fast Track reintroduction and make a point to evaluate how each food group made me feel before deciding if I would add that food back to my diet and how often I would do so. I did really well on day one, but then life happened and I fell off the reintroduction wagon…

Day 1 – Legumes

  • What I ate: For breakfast, I had a banana with peanut butter and raisins. I had cauliflower fried rice with ground beef and veggies (made with soy sauce) and some strawberries and a homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cup (made with a recipe I found on Pinch of Yum). I had a blueberry Larabar as a snack around 3:30, and then had baked salmon marinated in a soy sauce based marinade and steamed broccoli.

Days 2 and 3 were supposed to be back to Whole30 eating while I evaluated how legumes worked in my diet, and I did well with that during breakfast and lunch, but when I got home Jeff wanted to go out for sushi, and it sounded wonderful, so that’s what we did even though that was off the plan. I still feel really good about the choices I made when we went and I didn’t overeat, which is a major improvement for me.

The same thing happened on Saturday (what should have been day 3 of my reintro and another Whole30 day). I did pretty good with eating Whole30 for most of the day, then my mom called and invited me to go to the Mexican Kitchen, which is my favorite Mexican place in Columbus, MS, and I drove over there to meet her for dinner. I learned last time I did the Whole30 that corn in any form is not the best for me (it makes me so bloated), but I decided it was worth it to be a little bloated for some Mexican Kitchen tacos.

One thing I have already noticed is that something I reintroduced has made my skin break out. Because I did not follow the reintro plan correctly, I have no way to pinpoint what food group caused my skin to react that way. This is why you should follow the rules, I guess.

While I have not followed the reintroduction plan correctly, I am still trying to make good choices and be mindful about what and how much I am eating. I think February is going to be all about finding a good balance and figuring out what works best for me. I’m planning to eat mostly Whole30 meals during the week and then give myself a little more freedom on the weekends. I’ll see how that goes and report back at the end of the month.

 

My Whole30 Reintroduction Meal Plan

The end of this month’s Whole30 is drawing near, and that means it’s time to begin planning for the reintroduction phase! With my first Whole30, I tried what is called the “Slow Roll” introduction, where you keep eating a mostly Whole30 diet and add foods back as they seem “worth it” to you. For example, you continue with clean eating, but when you go over to your mom’s house and she has your favorite chocolate cake, you indulge, then you go back to eating mostly Whole30. I didn’t do very well with that type of reintroduction, so this time I am going to do the “Fast Track” reintroduction. In this reintroduction, you reintroduce a different food group that was eliminated during the Whole30 for one day, then go back to Whole30 eating for two days while you evaluate how the new food group affects you and decide if you want to add that food group back to your diet and how often you want to do so.

Reintroduction is kind of scary. You don’t want to wreck all the progress you made during your Whole30, after all. But it is a vitally important part of the Whole30 program because it is what helps you learn most about your body, your relationship with food, and achieve your Food Freedom (I am currently reading Melissa Hartwig’s book, Food Freedom Forever, and will have a review up soon!).

Here’s my Whole30 Reintroduction Meal Plan, which I will begin on February 1st:

  • Day 1 – Reintroduce legumes (peanut butter, beans, soy sauce, edamame, peas)
    • Breakfast: 1 small banana topped with peanut butter and chopped nuts, 1 chicken and apple sausage link, coffee or water
    • Lunch: Chalupas with mixed greens, carrots, bell pepper, cucumbers, and onion
    • Dinner: Grilled salmon (with marinade made with soy sauce) and roasted broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, onion, carrots, and edamame with soy sauce
  • Days 2 and 3 – Back to eating Whole30 while evaluating the effects of legumes on my body.
  • Day 4 – Reintroduce gluten-free grains (oats, quinoa, corn, popcorn, rice)
    • Breakfast: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oats topped with a sliced banana, chopped pecans, and cinnamon
    • Lunch: Turkey lettuce wrap with popcorn on the side
    • Dinner: Fried rice with chicken and veggies (including corn), made with coconut aminos instead of soy sauce (because I want to see how only the rice and corn affect me – not the soy sauce)
  • Days 5 and 6 – Back to eating Whole30 while evaluating the effects of gluten-free grains on my body.
  • Day 7 – Reintroduce dairy (milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, frozen yogurt, coffee creamer)
    • Breakfast: Greek yogurt mixed with almond butter as a dip for sliced apples, 2 slices bacon
    • Lunch: Loaded baked potato with butter, chopped grilled chicken, green onions, and buttermilk ranch dressing
    • Dinner: Chicken and broccoli casserole (made with sour cream and cauliflower rice)
  • Days 8 and 9 – Back to eating Whole30 while evaluating the effects of dairy on my body.
  • Day 10 – Reintroduce grains containing gluten (bread, bagels, pasta, pretzels, crackers, muffins)
    • Breakfast: Blueberry muffin with 1 ground sausage patty and fruit salad
    • Lunch: Turkey and avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread with carrots, cucumber slices, and bell pepper slices on the side
    • Dinner: Spaghetti with pesto sauce and grilled chicken
  • Days 11 and 12 – Back to eating Whole30 while evaluating the effects of gluten grains on my body.
  • Day 13 – Begin my personalized Food Freedom plan.

Other things you might want to reintroduce include: Alcohol (day 12 or 13), different added sugars (honey, cane sugar, maple syrup, etc), food group combinations (like gluten grains and dairy together).

This is just a sample meal plan based on what I am planning to do for my Whole30 Reintroduction. You can find out more about the reintroduction process in the Whole30 book or on the Whole30 website.

You can find this great Whole30 reintroduction calendar on @melissasfoodfreedom Instagram page (get the calendar here).

My Whole 30

Losing weight and getting healthy is a pretty common resolution for the new year, and there are millions of different programs and diet plans to help people reach those goals. I’ve tried lots of them. I’ve done Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, the 21 Day Sugar Detox, Atkins, the South Beach Diet, and all kinds of other fad diets. My weight is something that I have constantly struggled with since I was a little kid. I got to my biggest and unhealthiest point when I was 25. I finally decided that I had to do something, and I cut down my portions and stopped drinking Cokes and lost a lot of weight. It just so happened that I caught mono in the same year, and lost a good 25 pounds from that, which left me at the smallest weight and size I have ever been in my adult life.

I have spent so much time running away from that girl on the left and trying to get back to the size of the one on the right. I was making some good progress before I got pregnant with Jack. I did my first round of Whole 30 in October of 2016. By the end of the month, I was looking and feeling so much better. I had lost weight, but that was just one of the benefits of the program. My skin was clear, I was sleeping better, I was in a better overall mood most of the time. Basically, the Whole 30 showed me just how great I could feel if I fueled my body the right way.

I snapped that selfie at the end of my first Whole 30. I was feeling awesome and was only about 10 pounds from my ultimate goal weight. Then, two weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant (Did you know that sometimes the Whole 30 can actually help with fertility problems? That’s not a reason that I was trying it, but I found that fact pretty interesting.) I think that doing a Whole 30 right before I found out I was pregnant helped me maintain a healthy pregnancy. I didn’t continue to eat like I do on the Whole 30 plan while I was pregnant (because, hello, cravings!), but I did make better choices than I think I would have if I hadn’t done the program prior to my pregnancy.

My pregnancy was great. Other than morning sickness (which should really just be called sickness, because it happens ALL THE TIME and not just in the mornings), it was a perfect pregnancy. I gained about 30 pounds, which was exactly what my doctor wanted me to gain, and I felt pretty good. My doctor still encouraged me to eat healthy and avoid any drinks with sugar, but I did indulge in a Chick-fil-A sandwich and sweet tea at least once a week.

After Jack was born, Jeff and I attempted a Whole 30 in September of last year, which turned into a Whole 14 (if we even made it that far…I can’t remember). We were sleep deprived, trying to figure out how to keep this tiny human we’d made alive, and very ill-prepared for a the challenge of eating clean for 30 days.

This January reset is coming at a good time for us. Jeff’s not doing the Whole 30 with me this month, but he’s very supportive and usually just eats whatever I’m eating for dinner and he’s very good to not bring anything home to tempt me. Now that Jack is (almost always) sleeping through the night and we have gotten the hang of this parenting thing (as much as one can ever get the hang of it, anyway), I’m in a much better frame of mind to complete this challenge. While I do still have some pregnancy weight to lose, the Whole 30 is NOT about losing weight. Losing weight is a happy side-effect of the Whole 30, but that is not its true purpose. The real purpose of the Whole 30 is to reset your system and kill your cravings for sugar and junk so that you are in charge of your choices instead of letting your cravings rule your food decision making (which sounds a lot like how that girl in the first picture used to live her life). It’s about learning what foods make you feel good and what foods you need to avoid to be your best you.

That’s why I’m doing the January Whole 30 reset. That’s why I chose this program over all the weight loss fads out there. That’s why I am Whole 30.

On paper, the Whole 30 is really simple. Eat lean proteins, vegetables, some fruit and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and added sugar in any form. It sounds easy, but putting those rules into practice is hard. By day two of this round, I was already dealing with some serious cravings for sugar and feeling pretty grumpy, but I stuck with it. This program is hard, but it is worth it, and I have to keep reminding myself of that fact when I’m tempted.

The most important thing to do to ensure success on the Whole 30 is to create a plan. I always make sure to plan regular meals and to plan for emergencies (like if I don’t feel good and want to skip cooking one night or get stuck at work late). I have made sure to cook extra food to have leftovers and I’ve always got some kind of emergency snack with me just in case.

I shared my meal plan on the blog before I started my program (you can find that here). Here are some of the meals I’ve had so far this month:

Hamburger Hash with spinach, avocado, and fruit

Chopped salad with kale and brussel sprouts, grilled chicken, bacon, and berries

Grilled pork chops with apple and walnut hash and green beans

Leftover pork chop with a chopped salad and berries

Mason jar chopped salad for an easy lunch at work

Spicy pulled pork with kale and broccoli salad and veggies

Pulled pork stuffed baked potato (I also had steamed broccoli with this, but forgot to get a picture)

Meal Planning 101 (a how-to series) – Part 1

I’m going to begin this post with a confession…tonight (THURSDAY) is the first night this week that I have actually cooked a real meal. It has just been one of those weeks. I forgot to lay out some meat to thaw on Monday and Jeff ended up running by the grocery store to get some pre-made chicken fingers because I could cook them in a hurry. On Tuesday, by the time I got home from the gym, I just didn’t feel like cooking and we ended up eating hot dogs. Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house and stayed late so my brother could see Jack when he got off work, so I picked up take-out on the way home. It has been a long, crazy week, and even though I love to cook, it has been tough to get in the kitchen and create healthy meals this week.

I think this is a pretty common problem. All of us are busy. We run around from one place to the other, we get home late, and we just want something to eat that tastes good and makes our families happy. So how are we supposed to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table in the midst of our busy lives? It is possible, and the key is planning ahead.

I know that meal planning is hard. It takes organization. It takes time, which is something that is in short supply for most of us. And sometimes, no matter how well we plan, life still gets crazy and we pick up fast food or scarf down junk food because it’s fast, easy, and we’re stressed (or maybe I’m the only stress eater out there…but I doubt that).

Meal planning can feel like a hassle, but it is worth it, and here’s why: if you have a plan and have invested time and money into it, you are more likely to follow through with it. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to cook healthy meals every night this week.” It’s a totally different thing to plan out those meals, shop for the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals, and prep those ingredients so that putting the meal together when you get home is quick and easy. When you know that you can toss a good, healthy meal together in 15 minutes because you have prepared for your crazy busy life, then you might not give in to the temptation to swing by the drive-thru on your way home.

I haven’t been doing a lot of meal planning while I’ve been out on maternity leave, but I go back to work next week and I know that our lives are about to get even crazier because of that. I’m starting my meal planning for next week today, and I will complete small tasks between now and then to help my week get off to a good start.

Do you need help planning your meals for the week? Follow along with me as I create my meal plan and learn how to create a meal plan without spending hours and hours worrying about what’s going to be on your plate (because we’re trying to SAVE time here, not add a major thing to our to-do list).


I’m breaking down meal planning into four easy steps, When you think about each one, they are probably things that you already do each week. The key is doing these things with purpose:

  1. Inventory your kitchen.
  2. Find recipes and create your plan.
  3. Shop for and prepare your ingredients.
  4. Make use of your leftovers.

Tonight, I’m going over Step One: Inventory your kitchen.

This is always the first thing I do when I begin to meal plan. I try to be a smart shopper and stock up on items when they are on sale, so instead of heading straight to the store I always check my pantry and freezer first to see what ingredients I have on hand already.

I have been stocking up on meat as it has been on sale, so my freezer is pretty full. My pantry is looking a little lean because we were on a Whole 30 last month (which pretty much eliminates all processed foods) and we’ve been buying lots of perishable things like fruits and veggies.

Here’s what I already have in my fridge this week:

  • One package of chicken thighs
  • One bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One chuck roast
  • 2 one pound packages of ground chuck
  • One pork roast
  • One pack of boneless pork chops
  • 2 packs of bacon
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 bag of frozen rolls

I know that is a lot of meat to have on hand, but I have been trying to only buy meat when it is on sale and keep it in the freezer instead of being at the mercy of the grocery store because I NEED a certain protein when it isn’t on sale (because meat is expensive, y’all).

In my pantry, I have the following staples that could be used for creating meals:

  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 2 cans of chicken broth
  • 1 can of beef broth
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • Rice (white Minute rice and flavored rice mixes)
  • Bow tie pasta
  • A couple bags of dried beans
  • Various spices
  • Cooking oils – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
  • Baking Basics – flour, sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal, almond flour, coconut flour
  • Russet potatoes and a few sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Fresh garlic
  • Lemons

Now that I know what I have on hand, I can start to plan my meals. I always start with the protein that I am going to be cooking with. This week, I have a good assortment of beef, chicken, and pork. I like to rotate my proteins (so we don’t have chicken every single night), and I have some really good options with waht I already have.

Now that I have taken inventory, I can begin Step Two: Find Recipes and Create a Plan.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing how I create my plan for the week and some great resources for finding easy, healthy recipes.

If you are new to meal planning, make sure to follow me through this series. If you follow each day’s step along with me on the blog, you will have a solid plan for your week next week! I’d love for you to follow along and let me know what you plan and how it goes for you!

Happy planning!

Christina

 

Baked Chicken Breasts with Zucchini Noodles in Spinach and Walnut Pesto

I made zucchini noodles today and now I am wondering why it took me so long to try them. They were amazing! I could replace spaghetti with zucchini noodles forever and not miss it one bit. Also, they were incredibly easy and cooked super fast. This meal came together so quickly that I barely felt like I had cooked, but it was really tasty and Jeff gave it his stamp of approval. That’s always a win. Check out the recipes below:

Simply the Best Baked Chicken

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this, but you could absolutely use bone-in chicken. You’d just need to adjust your cooking time. Usually bone-in chicken tends to take a little longer to cook. Just make sure that the juices are running clear when you puncture the chicken to be sure it is done.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 Tbsp avacado oil

Salt

Pepper

In a skillet, heat the avacado oil over medium high heat until warm. Make sure to swirl it around to coat the entire skillet. 

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place in the skillet seasoned side down. Season the other side with salt and pepper. 

Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until browned. Flip the chicken and cook on the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes. 

Transfer to a 400 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes. 

Browning the chicken in the skillet first makes such a huge difference in how flavorful this chicken is! Having that crispy, browned crust makes it so savory!

Spinach and Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 cups finely packed spinach

1/2 cup fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

Combine the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. Drizzle in olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. 

Put It All Together

Spiralize 3-4 large zucchini using a vegetable spirializer like this one. Sauté the noodles on medium high heat in avacado oil with a little salt and pepper for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add two tablespoons of pesto to the noodles and toss until coated.

Serve with sliced chicken breasts and toasted walnuts for garnish. 

Whole 30

Starting tomorrow, Jeff and I are going to be following the Whole 30 clean eating program for the next 30 days. I heard about this program from some other bloggers on Instagram, and lots of them have had great success using this program to improve their health. When I checked out the Whole 30 website, the program actually sounded doable, so Jeff and I decided to give it a shot.

I’m going to be sharing our experiences as we follow the program, and I’ll share recipes that are Whole 30 approved. We’re hoping this program will kind of “reset” us, help establish some healthy habits, and curb our cravings for carbs and sweets.

I read tons of things on the Whole 30 website this weekend and used their free printable shopping list to go to the grocery store this afternoon.

I had a budget of $100, and I only went over that by about $10, so I was pretty pleased (my biggest concern for this challenge was the expense of buying all clean foods). Here’s what I got for our first week of the challenge (I already had staples like chicken breasts and broccoli in my freezer):

  • Apples (golden delicious, Granny Smith, gala, and red delicious)
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Onions (white and red)
  • Green onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Russet potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Red potatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Eggs
  • Ground chuck
  • Lean stew beef

I’m totally horrible at diets, so I am currently cleaning out my kitchen of any foods that are not allowed (sugars, breads, processed food, soda). Am I the only one who eats those foods like crazy the day before something like this? I think I’ve had three handfuls of chocolate chips while I’ve been going through the fridge.


I’m doing meal planning tonight. I started by making a batch of Whole 30 approved taco seasoning from Emily Eats Real Food’s blog (click the link for the recipe).

I cooked a large batch of meat for tacos tonight and to use for taco salads for a few meals this week. This taco seasoning is SO good!

I also spent some time prepping my fruits and veggies for the week so I can cut down on meal prep time when it’s time to cook.

So far, the thing that has me the most baffled is what to eat for breakfast. This is easy for Jeff, because he loves eggs. I don’t. I normally eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast or grab a granola bar on my way out the door. Since all of those foods are no-nos, I’m really not sure what to eat. I’m going to try a fruit salad and some walnuts tomorrow and see if that’s filling enough. If not, I’ll have to figure out how to get some protein in there.

For lunch tomorrow, I made a salad with lettuce, spinach, avocado, red onion, bell pepper, and pineapple. I’m going to heat up some taco meat and toss that on top.

I’m planning to grill some chicken and make roasted veggies for dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll probably make a lot of extra so I can have leftovers for lunch throughout the week.