For the month of May, I committed to the #Whole30 Whole Foods meal plan. Some may call it a detox or a diet; I see it as a nutritional challenge and meal-planning strategy.
For 30 days, I omitted
gluten, grains, whole wheat
refined sugar (including honey, agave, maple syrup)
dairy (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, but excluding eggs)
caffeine (coffee, tea)
Some would also omit soy and corn-based products due to the genetically modified nature of these products. I decided to keep them in my mealplan, seeking out organic variations.
Cutting foods may seem taxing on the body at first
In reality, it is not that difficult to accommodate for the #Whole30 but there is a LOT of meal prepping and cooking involved beforehand. Which also leads to conscientious grocery shopping trips and budgeting for the month.
Before starting the #Whole30, clean out your pantry
Remove anything that may contain any of the following:
canned goods with excess sugar
dry pasta made of gluten
granola bars made from corn syrup, oats, whole grains
candy made from glucose and corn syrup
cereal with excess sugar
The list can be continuous, but you catch my drift. The same goes for the fridge - don't keep any snacks or treats lying around to attract temptation when hunger hits.
I tend to cook with a lot of fresh and dry herbs and fresh citrus fruit, so avoiding processed sauces saturated in sugars and preservatives was an easy avoidance on the grocery list.
For those whom have attempted the Whole30 plan, many have described the first week as being the hardest due to sugar and caffeine cravings being on an all-time high.
I tended to grocery shop A LOT and that ended up in me making a lot of my own snacks in bulk to ensure I wasn't adding any additional sugars or refined syrups that would spike my blood sugar levels.
nuts (cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts)
seeds (pepita seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds)
canned fish (sardines, herring, tuna, salmon)
dried fruit (mango, papaya, banana, apple slices) ; Beware that no additional sugar is added
applesauce with no additional sugars or additives
cacao (100% and no additional sugar)
sliced raw veggies (carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber) with tahini
What has been the most difficult for me?
What have I learned?
1. Boosting my energy levels in the morning
In the past, I used to drink at least 1-2 cups of matcha green tea in the morning with breakfast to start my day. As my work days this month have started even earlier due to a new job, I am up hours earlier trying to process new information, thus I have opted for other brain stimulants such as Maca Powder and Chaga Tea.
What is Maca?
Maca powder, derived from the Peruvian root, is ground down and is either consumed in gel capsules with water or can be mixed in smoothies, soups, and juices. It has an earthy and nutty taste and is easy to blend. Maca helps to boost energy, increase stamina and endurance, and improve mental cognition and memory.
A small amount (1/2 - 1 teaspoon) can be taken throughout the day to boost your energy levels when you are feeling fatigue.
What is Chaga?
Chaga is a dry mushroom that can be taken either as an extract or as bark, is boiled down into tea with water. As an extract, it can be applied on the tongue, or added to any hot liquids and easily dissolves. As bark, small pieces can be boiled down in a pot of water to create Chaga tea, which can be served hot or chilled. Chaga also tastes quite earthy and bitter, but can be diluted with more water, cinnamon, or a splash of citrus.
I have been boiling 1 cup of water with a small piece of chaga and cinnamon bark, placing it in a glass container and keeping it chilled in the fridge for a naturally-sweetened ice-tea option in the morning.
2. Curbing late-night snacking
I used to work late evenings where I would eat my last meal around 7-8pm, finish work, then opt for a cookie or a carb-heavy indulgence around 9-10pm before rolling into bed. I woke up feeling bloated, low-energy, and with a new pimple to match, smack-dab on my chin or other highly visible area on the face.
If I crave any desserts or sweet treats, I opt for nuts such as pistachios, dry roasted almonds, cashews, or coconut chips. Fruit warmed up in the oven like apples or pears with almond butter is also a great alternative to satisfy that sweet tooth without the sugary overload.
3. Shopping on a budget and buying in bulk
Purchasing superfoods like chaga, maca, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, chia seeds can all add up if you are buying them in pre-packaged containers and bags from health food boutiques. I have opted for buying foods in bulk from Costco Wholesale or Bulk Barn and using coupons and purchasing on discount days to optimize the most on what I am getting.
Choose to buy nuts and seeds that are dry roasted and unsalted, which you can later add seasoning and salt too to control your intake.
I also try to buy herbs and spices in bulk - commonly used ones like
They are great staples to have that are cheaper in bulk and can be used widely to flavour any hot or cool dish, meats, marinades, soups, and broths. Fresh herbs can also be purchased and stored in the fridge for 7 days in a dry storage container or left to dry and stored in the pantry before wilting and losing flavour.
Meats and fish can be quite tricky to get right. They can be purchased at the butcher or fish monger at deluxe prices for high quality cuts, or can be purchased in bulk but may contain hormones and preservatives to add longer shelf life for travel and storage if purchased at wholesale from places like Costco. This will definitely be to your discretion - as I have noticed a huge increase in spending in terms purchasing meat in bulk from the butcher's.
What is the most deceiving about eating trends
(i.e. whole30, paleo, keto, gluten-free, etc.)
Our bodies are all made and adapt so differently - sometimes we are deficient in iron, some of us may suffer from hyperthyroidism, some of us go through heavy bloating and constipation before ever re-considering a certain ingredient in their meals.
Omitting many things all at once IS DOABLE - however too, look at the side effects of only eating a limited range of food (i.e. too many nuts can also contribute to weight gain and too much fibre.) Not all 'healthy' foods contain the same ratio of macro nutrients. Just because you are craving salty junk food and have opted to munch on popcorn does it warrant you to eat large container full of popcorn to your face.
Choosing products carefully and making informed purchasing decisions (i.e. where your food is coming from, what sugars and preservatives are added to increase the product's shelf life, what by-products and additives are not necessary for your diet)
Organic products are not necessarily the most healthy and of the most value - even the most reputable brands may have products that are not worth the long-term investment for storage
Buying a variety of vegetables, fruits, meat proteins, carb alternatives will make meal-prepping less monotonous and compartmentalized. You can still have all the foods you love (i.e. pasta with tomato sauce, dairy-based curry, pizza) but in more nutrient-rich alternatives (black-rice pasta with tomato salsa, coconut-based curry, cauliflower or gluten-free crust pizza with nutritional yeast instead of cheese). There are PLENTY of alternatives - you can be SUPER CREATIVE, but spending the extra hour to meal prep is KEY.
Sometimes we find areas to create structure and discipline in our lives, sometimes are looking for excuses to binge and remove toxins and other undesired by-products from our negligent behaviours.