For the past few years Matt and I followed a variation of the Whole30 program for the month of January. After the holidays, we really look forward to resetting with a little detox. We’ve also tried Faster Way to Fat Loss and while we did see results, I about lost my mind trying to keep up with macro counting. However, we did love the fasting part of that diet and have kept up with it on week days (weekends are the exception).
Whole30 Light Details
We call our diet “Whole30 Light” because we’ve adapted the program to better fit our lifestyle. If you know me in real life, you know I like to slightly bend the rules at times or color outside of the lines when I see a good reason to. I completely understand WHY the Whole30 rules are in place — I do! The true goal for Whole30 is to change your brain around how you approach food. And if you have the willpower not to slip off track or time to make broths or ranch or ketchup from scratch…you will thrive and see incredible results. I repeat — if you commit to the program, exactly as written, you will experience the benefits to the fullest potential.
However, my goal is to stop grabbing handfuls of candy when I open the pantry, to get better sleep, make more nutritious meals for my family and to shed some my holiday pounds. Our approach, while a little more laid back and much easier to stick to, previously gave us the results we had hoped for and allowed us form a lot of good habits — beyond 30 days!
Whole30 vs. Whole30 Light
Below I’m covering the biggest rules for Whole30 and how we slightly adapt the rules for our “Light” version. And yes, I am prepared for the Whole30 police to come after me.
- Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial.
- Light: Honey and agave nectar in moderation.
- Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking.
- Light: Alcohol reserved only for the weekends. We try to stick to vodka with soda & pure fruit juice cocktails instead of heavy beers and wines…but there aren’t any strict rules to avoid alcohol Friday – Sunday.
- Do not eat grains.
- No adaptions.
- Do not eat legumes.
- No adaptions.
- Do not eat dairy.
- Light: I switched to non-dairy, organic creamer for my coffee and use it in moderation. Otherwise, no dairy.
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites.
- No adaptions.
- Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients.
- Light: If I can find a way to make pizza out of compliant ingredients…I’m gonna. There are some awesome recipes out there for recipes that use 100% compliant ingredients to make, nachos with plantain chips, pancakes with squished bananas, muffins with eggs, etc.
- Light Snacks: Larabars (my favorite flavor!!!), almond butter, plantain chips — all of which contain compliant ingredients (but are not approved for W30) got us through our afternoon cravings.
- Do not step on the scale or take any body measurements for 30 days.
- Light: I like to check my scale progress weekly but overall can tell the biggest difference isn’t read by scale (sleep, energy, etc.).
- Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.”
- Light: This is the biggest difference in our version. We plan ahead for a cheat meal once a week — usually fish tacos, fries and beers at our favorite restaurant after church. Or if we know we have a dinner planned, a business lunch or something else that may take us off track — that becomes our cheat meal for the week. Allowing ourselves one meal per week is what gets us through the finish line and prevents us from throwing in the towel on week 2 when we’re dying for a slice of pizza.
- NEW! Intermittent fasting. As I mentioned, since FWTFL in 2018 Matt and I have been fasting every week day for 16 hours (overnight) and eat in an 8 hour eating window. We usually eat between 11 am-7 pm, then fast from 7 pm till 11 am (or longer sometimes). This is NOT part of the Whole30 program, but we’ve seen such great results from intermittent fasting that we incorporate it into our W30 Light version! Fasting has also really helped cut down on meal planning/prepping because I skip breakfast now (my first meal of the day is lunch, usually around 11 am).
A few of the frequently asked questions I’m usually asked…
How much time does it take to meal plan and grocery shop?
You can plan and shop weekly or if you’re really ambitious you can plan for your entire month at once. I prefer to tackle weekly because I tend to find new recipes throughout the month that I want to try. Meal planning and grocery shopping takes me a little more than an hour each Friday night (which I usually multi-task doing during Family Movie Night).
If this is your first time doing W30, meal planning may feel daunting and overwhelming. It was for me too, but I’ve gotten REALLY good at this NOW with a few tricks!
- Themes: I stick to “themes” for each day of the week (Soup Sunday, Monday Salads, Taco Tuesday, Crockpot Wednesdays, Takeout Friday, Steak Saturdays, etc.) so that helps a lot!
- Repeat Favorite Meals: I always start building our meal plan with 1-2 of our favorite recipes from over the past few years (see below).
- Double the Recipes: I almost always purchase enough meat and ingredients to double each recipe to ensure there are leftovers for lunches.
- eMeals App: Once I’ve got our favorites down, I turn to my eMeals app (referral link for 2 free weeks and $10 off) which offers “keto” and “low carb” categories and pick another 1-2 recipes that are easily adaptable for compliance. This reader recommended app was one of my favorite 2020 discoveries because eMeals syncs to a variety of grocery delivery services, one of which I am a big user of, which brings me to my final tip…
- Grocery Delivery: I discovered (and purchased on my own) Walmart’s grocery delivery membership around this time last year through a flier in my mailbox (and have since been thrilled to partner with W+ to promote this service!!!!!). My membership has truly saved me at least an hour each week since I no longer have to grocery shop in store…and money! After I’ve selected my recipes from eMeals, there’s a step where you pick which ingredients you need to add to your grocery list (you can choose your brands during this step too). Then I add in any remaining items I need for the week and schedule my groceries delivery for Sunday afternoon so everything is fresh for the week ahead.
How Long Does Meal Prepping Take?
In previous years, this use to take me about 3 hours on Sunday afternoons. I would make a ginormous breakfast casserole for the week, boil tons of eggs, bake tons of bacon, prep all the snacks, prepare a few lunches and chop up as many ingredients as possible for the week. However, this year I am not planning to meal prep on Sundays AT ALL. Intermittent fasting eliminates breakfast planning/prep as I break my fast with a large lunch (which should be leftovers from the previous night). For snacks between lunch and dinner, we stick to Larabars. And now that I’m working from home, I have more time to cook each night so I don’t have to do as much meal prep ahead of time.
What About the Kids?
The kids eat what we eat and are usually happy about it for the most part. Some recipes I have to hand pick every damn tomato out of for Caroline or every avocado out for Thomas so they’ll eat it. But overall, they really appreciate the break from frozen chicken nuggets and lunchables.
Last year, the challenge was traveling for work. It was really hard to stick to the program while traveling so I usually ended up packing a handful of Larabars for snacks and breakfasts and tried to find salads with balsamic vinegar for lunches and dinners. However, this year it’s DEFINITELY going to be NOT grabbing handfuls of animal crackers and chocolate covered raisins every time I pass through the kitchen.
We definitely have acquired some favorite W30 meals over the years. I try to double the recipes so we have lunches for the following day. And as a reminder, you can keep your meals simple too. There will be many nights we simply eat scrambled eggs or a serve a rotisserie with a roasted veggie.
- Korean Beef Bowls
- Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Ground Turkey Taco Bowls with Spanish Cauliflower Rice
- Breakfast Casserole
- Crockpot Pork Carnitas
- Greek Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries
For Family Movie Night on Fridays, we replace pizza with Chipotle. During W30, I seriously could not be more thankful for Chipotle’s Whole30 Salad Bowl. It is SO good and still feels like a “splurge” even thought it’s totally compliant!