10 Whole30 Holiday Recipes

Delicious Whole30 Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes.

As the holidays approach, you’re probably already thinking about what to serve for dinner. Maybe you’re not hosting, but you’ve been asked to contribute a dish. Good food is a huge part of celebrating the holidays for me, but I also know that I feel so much better when I avoid certain foods. So this year I’m trying to find a balance of traditional and Whole30 holiday recipes for the holidays.

There are so many delicious Whole30 recipes to choose from. If you’re not familiar with the Whole30, you can read more about my experience here and here. Keep in mind that many of these recipes also fit Paleo guidelines, either as is or with some minor substitutions.

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Breakfast

We typically skip lunch and eat an earlier dinner on major holidays. A delicious and filling breakfast is essential to hold us off until appetizers are ready. I assure you this breakfast casserole is super yummy! Do some of the prep the night before to save time in the morning.

Breakfast Casserole

Sweet Potato Hash

Appetizers

It’s always good to have something to nibble on while dinner is cooking, especially if you have guests. Here are some tasty snack options on the healthier side.

Baked Zucchini Cups

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Healthy Carrot Fries with Curry Dipping Sauce

Main Dishes

Roasted Turkey 

Rosemary & Garlic Roast Beef (Substitute ghee for butter to stick to Whole30 rules.)

Sides

I love holiday side dishes almost more than the main event sometimes. Potatoes are my jam, you guys, but often it’s the carb-heavy sides that get the attention this time of year. I want to be sure to have some tasty vegetable options as well.

Crispy Roasted Broccoli

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (If you’re doing the W30, be sure to use sugar-free bacon.)

Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots & Almonds

Desserts

If you’re following a strict Whole30, you already know the bad news. Whole30-friendly desserts do not conform to the spirit of the program. Eating pie is eating pie, even if it’s made using substitutions that technically adhere to Whole30 rules. If you’re going to stay compliant over a major holiday, first of all, I’m super impressed. That takes some serious discipline and dedication. If you don’t want to feel left out during dessert, try some fresh fruit with a dollop of coconut cream.

If you’re more about eating the Whole30 way in general and not sticking to the program 100%, here are a few Paleo dessert options.

Classic Paleo Pumpkin Pie via Paleo Running Momma

Paleo Pumpkin Cake with Maple Frosting via Paleo Gluten Free Eats

Toasted Marshmallow S’more Tart via Against All Grain

Paleo Apple Pie via Bakerita

You can also find all these Whole30 holiday recipes on my Thanksgiving Recipe board here!

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The Whole30 Review

An honest review of the Whole30 including the ups, downs and why thirty days might not be long enough.

In May I finished my first full round of the Whole30! My first attempt last October was rudely interrupted by the stomach flu at day 21, so I jumped at the chance to join a friend that I knew would keep me accountable.

Self-discipline isn’t exactly my strong point so I knew it would help me to be in this with someone that wouldn’t give up the first time she was forced to pass on the bread basket at dinner.

Why the Whole30?

Did your mom ever use the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” when you were growing up? Turns out, she was right. When you fill your body with junk that has little to no nutritive value, your body doesn’t look or feel the way it could/should/used to. Note: this effect seems to increase exponentially if you’re over 30.

Sometimes it’s not necessarily that you’re eating junk, but that you’re eating food that doesn’t jive well with your body. The Whole30 operates on the assumption that if you never eliminate these potential problem foods from your diet, you won’t know if they’re having a negative effect.

Not having a life-threatening allergy to a particular food doesn’t mean that it’s not causing any issues for you. After eliminating specific food categories from your diet for thirty days, you gradually add them back in and watch for negative effects.

Successes & Challenges

You can check out the post I wrote last fall about my first two weeks of the Whole30 here since my experience this time around was similar. One thing I did differently was to continue drinking coffee.

Instead of giving up coffee cold turkey like I did last time and feeling miserable for the first week, I tinkered with a combination of coconut/almond milk and coconut cream to replace my artificial sugary creamer.

While it wasn’t my favorite, it at least allowed me to hang onto my morning coffee. Take my advice and don’t give up caffeine cold turkey.

Making Family Meals Work for Everyone

One of my biggest challenges with the Whole30 was dinner time. Preparing a meal that’s both compliant and appealing to my whole family is no simple task.

My husband is pretty easy to please. The kids are much tougher critics. While my daughter (9) is getting more adventurous as she gets older, both kids have a tendency to reject the unfamiliar.

Often I tried to find meals that we already eat regularly and adapted them to my own needs. For example, the kids would eat tacos, and I would eat taco salad or have a cauliflower “rice” bowl. The kids could eat spaghetti and I would have zucchini noodles.

It’s a little extra work, but easy enough to swap out. Mostly I learned that this just takes planning ahead so I have the time to do the extra work.

Like I said, I decided to do the Whole30 with a friend for the accountability and moral support. I jumped in pretty much on a whim. Without really checking the calendar, I didn’t realize how much would be going on during the thirty days.

I’m proud to say that I stuck to it through Mother’s Day, two birthday parties, a graduation party, and a giant family campout with my husband’s daddy/daughter camping group. The campout was by far the biggest challenge because meals are cooked for the entire group. I packed some extra foods in a cooler and did my best to adapt the meals to stay compliant.

Timing is important

It’s probably going to be difficult to find thirty days with zero social occasions. Sometimes you’ll have to make the choice to stick to your plan despite the temptations around you.

But, if you have a major event planned like a trip, your own birthday, or a girl’s weekend, that’s not the time to schedule your Whole30.

It’s not that hard to skip drinks during happy hour with friends because you know there’ll be other happy hours. A trip to New York is a whole different ball game!

An honest Whole30 review: read about my experience with the popular elimination program. I share some challenges and why thirty days isn't enough for me.

What I learned from my Whole30

1 | The mid-afternoon slump is not necessary. After two weeks, I no longer felt like I needed a nap around 3:00 every day. Unless I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I had plenty of energy to get through the day.

2 | Grains don’t do me any favors. I didn’t pin-point whether this is a gluten issue or a grains issue, so that needs more research. After the first week, my waist was smaller and my belly was flatter. I didn’t have that uncomfortable fullness after meals. One of the first effects I noticed once I was regularly eating grains again was a lack of energy.

3 | Sugar is a problem for me. I love sweet foods and drinks. I always have. Even when I wasn’t able to eat dessert or put sugar in my coffee, I still found ways to get that sugary fix. Instead of eating dessert while watching tv at night, I would have apples and almond butter. Certainly it’s a great substitute, but I didn’t address the issue of why I crave that food when I don’t need it.

4 | Thirty days is not long enough for me. I really need a Whole60 or maybe even a Whole90 if I want to see a long term change in my habits. At the end of 30 days, I was feeling good, and I was ready to indulge a little. The problem is that it wasn’t long until I was overloading my coffee with sweetness and eating grains constantly. My transition from Whole30 to my typical diet was slow, but not slow enough to avoid bad habits creeping up again.

The Whole30 was a good way for me to figure out some problem foods. It’s often described as hitting the reset button on your health. I’ve definitely realized that one of the most important elements for me is how to best transition back to life after Whole30.

If you want to see more details of my Whole30 experience, you can find me on Instagram @sweeterstill.

An honest review of the Whole30 including the ups, downs and why thirty days might not be long enough.
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4 Simple Whole30 Meals

On Tuesday, I shared about my first two weeks doing the Whole30. You can read about it here. Today I thought I’d throw out a few of the simple but delicious meals that I’ve been eating these past 17 DAYS!!

Four simple Whole30-compliant meals that you can whip up in no time.My goal was to keep it simple and to make sure I could quickly prepare foods that I would actually enjoy. There are a ton of great blogs with Whole30 approved recipes, but sometimes it’s nice to just have some go-to meals that you can count on in a pinch.

An easy & delicious Whole30 compliant meal.

GRILLED HAMBURGERS WHOLE30 STYLE

Thank heavens that sweet potatoes are allowed during the Whole30! I’m just sayin’. A quick lettuce-wrapped burger makes life easy, especially because the rest of my family can eat the same meal with buns instead of lettuce and it’s not a ton of extra work. I topped my burger with avocado and pickled red onion and it was delish!

An easy & delicious Whole30 compliant chicken salad.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH HOMEMADE MAYO

Whole30 approved chicken salad is not hard at all, but the trick is to either find Whole30 compliant mayo or make your own! Mel Joulwan, author of the blog and cookbook Well Fed, has a very simple recipe, which I used. There’s a very similar recipe in the Whole30 book itself. Some leftover diced chicken, diced carrots and celery mixed with your mayo of choice and you’re in business.

An easy & delicious Whole30 compliant chili.

SLOW COOKER CHILI

I just made this fantastic chili in the slow cooker this past week and it was a hit with the whole family! The recipe comes from Emily Eats Real Food and uses diced sweet potato instead of beans to make it Whole30 compliant. I used ground turkey instead of beef, and although I was a little sad not to top my bowl with sour cream, the avocado worked great.

Warm chia pudding is an easy & satisfying Whole30 compliant breakfast.

WARM CHIA SEED PUDDING

One of my favorite quick morning meals is warm chia seed pudding with almond butter and sliced bananas. It’s so easy! Grab the recipe here and add whatever compliant toppings blow your skirt up. I’ve developed a deep love for almond butter during my Whole30 experience and the bananas go perfectly. You can jump on Instagram and check out #emilyschiaseeds for more ideas of great combinations.

These are just a few really easy meals that prove how uncomplicated it can be to embark on the Whole30. Even the homemade mayo isn’t as hard as it sounds!

 

{Linking to the Inspiration Gallery}

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The Whole30 – My First 15 Days

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had some pretty annoying digestive problems. My issues started to really ramp up in college where I would sometimes be afraid to eat in certain circumstances because I was afraid of having a digestive meltdown. I learned certain coping mechanisms, but never made an effort to pinpoint the source of all these problems.

the-whole-30-first2wksAlthough my issues seemed to have calmed down over time, recently, I started noticing that as much as I was trying to eat healthy, I was having more and more digestive problems again. A couple friends had posted on Facebook about the Whole30 and I started looking into it out of curiosity. After reading The Whole30 by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig, it felt like the right way to determine if a particular food group was the root of all these issues I’ve been struggling with, and at the very least it could help me kick some bad habits. So I jumped in headfirst and prayed the negative effects of dropping sugar and caffeine wouldn’t kill me!

I will not sugarcoat it for you. The first week kicked my ass. I had a severe headache for four days straight and my energy was non-existent. BUT, after the first week, things started to improve and I didn’t want to quit every other minute of the day. By day 10, I was starting to notice some positive effects, mainly increased energy and a complete lack of digestive problems! For me to go 15 days without any sort of episode of upset stomach is pretty incredible.

If you’ve never heard of the Whole30, you can check out the basics here, but essentially it’s a 30-day plan to hit the reset button on your diet and the way your body processes food. Like me, you’re probably thinking “I don’t have any food intolerances,” but unless you have a severe allergy, you might not even know that a certain food has been causing problems until you completely cut it out. Thirty days of no grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no added sugar, no legumes, no soy or MSG and no processed food is intense. By cutting these foods out and then gradually reintroducing them, you can see the effect on your body and how you feel. My experience in just 15 days has told me that clearly something I was eating was responsible for how crappy I was feeling, and now I have the chance to figure that out so I don’t have to go through life that way.

A note about coffee: you can breathe a sigh of relief because coffee IS allowed on the Whole 30. However, while I love a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I don’t really like coffee itself. What I like… is coffee creamer. But that daily cup of sweet, creamy bliss was causing issues that I could see even without the Whole30. For one, I wasn’t hungry for actual food until I had been awake for at least a few hours so my body was running solely on caffeine and sugar for most of the morning. Second, I was starting the day with a massive sugar intake, which set me up for sugar cravings (and crashes) throughout the day. I knew there was no way that almond or coconut milk was going to flavor my coffee enough so as much as I didn’t want to, I decided that giving up my coffee for the duration of the Whole30 would be the best choice.

TIPS FOR SURVIVING YOUR FIRST TWO WEEKS

Plan Ahead

Load up your kitchen with compliant food options ASAP or you’re done before day one is over. Having basics on hand like cut up veggies and fruits, eggs, chicken, and almond butter will help you avoid the foods you’re cutting out and make eating properly faster and easier. The book recommends clearing your kitchen of everything that you’re supposed to avoid, but if you’re the only person in your home doing the Whole30, that’s not a realistic option. My kids still need a lot of the foods that I’m not eating, so having the right supplies on hand makes it much easier to ignore that stuff.

whole 30 groceries

Keep It Simple

Even if you’re the most amazing chef in the world, the first few days are really about focusing on what to eat and what not to eat. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t want every meal to be a gourmet process. I kept foods like hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, and a lot of produce in my fridge to makes it easy to find something compliant in a pinch without having to cook a whole meal. A small sweet potato in the microwave with some shredded chicken over a salad makes a great lunch in less than 10 minutes. As you get familiar with the cans and can nots, you can have fun branching out with new recipes.

whole 30 simple meal

Seek Out Inspiration

My favorite platform during the Whole30 has been Instagram. Seeing recipes or meals that others create, watching their progress and triumphs, and learning new tips and tricks helps to keep me motivated. When I’m feeling like I just want to be able to grab something to eat without hyper-analyzing the label, I check in on someone who has been successful in the Whole30 or even someone who tends to share healthy foods or tips. Sometimes it’s just enough distraction to get past a tough moment where my resolve is tested. A few of my faves are @melissa_hartwig, @whole30recipes, @yogimami, @emilyeatsrealfood and @therealfoodrds.

@therealfoodrds

image from @therealfoodrds

I will not lie. The first two weeks of the Whole30 have been hard… but not impossible. It will challenge you and push you in ways that are not always comfortable. The point is not for it to be easy, but for the rewards to outweigh the difficulties. If you’re interested, I strongly recommend checking out the Whole30 site because you can gather a ton of information for free. It might be the best decision you’ve made in a long time.

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How to Get Out of a Rut and Into a Routine

Four ways to find balance and get out of a rut.

The past couple months have been busy for our family. Between Mother’s & Father’s Day, my daughter’s birthday, a camping trip, and end-of-school stuff, it’s been pretty crazy. I’ve been productive out of necessity, but it’s completely thrown me off my routine and I’ve been feeling beyond frazzled.

I know I’m not the only one who feels a little less than motivated by this time of year. Jen Hatmaker’s post “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” will literally validate everything you are thinking about the last month of school when we must do ALL THE THINGS. Field trips, plays, socials, projects. It is thanks only to Amazon Prime that my daughter even had a costume for the second grade play about bugs.

As much as I want to throw in the towel, we all know that’s not reality. We might have said adios to all of our school responsibilities, but we have now entered the all-inclusive entertainment package that is summer break. For a stay-at-home mom, summer break is similar to tax season for an accountant. It’s a whirlwind of activities, sunscreen and a never-ending stream of wet towels.

Thanks to some, umm, gentle prodding from my husband, I’ve had our kids signed up for a handful of day camps since March. In the summer, it doesn’t take long before my little ones are tired of spending every waking minute together. Then the good times stop rolling and the bickering starts. “Referee” is one of my least favorite mom roles so I’m doing everything I can to head this one off at the pass. The quickest way to kill summer break is a tired, cranky mama so I’m working on getting back into my own routine.

So what does that look like exactly? Here are four things I’m doing to take back my sanity.

Get an early start

I really see a difference in my day when I have some time to myself first thing in the morning. Now, if you have a baby who still wakes during the night, you are probably shooting the screen with lasers from your eyes right now at the very suggestion of sacrificing sleep. Before you stop reading, let me be clear that I never did this when my kids were babies. I was taking advantage of every minute of sleep that I could get (and sometimes I still do). My kids are now 5 and 8 which is a completely different season of life and makes this an actual possibility. Take a look at some of my tips for waking up early here.

Get plenty of rest

My habit for a long time was to take advantage of the time after my kids’ bedtime to get things done or have time to myself. Two problems result from this habit. First, it makes getting up early a lot harder and I’m more likely to be tired the next day. I’m not a morning person so waking up even 15 minutes before them means a few sips of coffee, some time to gather my thoughts, and a much happier mom to greet them. The second problem with burning the midnight oil is that it doesn’t leave much time to spend alone with my husband. We need that uninterrupted time to reconnect after a busy day. Whether it’s meaningful conversation or watching tv and quietly unwinding in each other’s presence, it’s important. 

Get moving

Admittedly, this is not my strong point, but getting regular exercise really does make a difference. It took a long time for me to recognize that I feel better overall when I’m getting even 30 minutes a day. Still, when there are a lot of other things competing for my attention, I tend to drop exercise first. I’m trying to get in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning because then there’s not as much risk of plans changing, but this is definitely a work in progress.

Get a break 

One thing that my husband and I have always done is make sure that each of us gets time to recharge. This looks different depending on the phase of life we’re in, but even a couple hours to relax, hang out with friends or just go to the bathroom without someone hammering on the door asking for a snack can be worth it. Too often, we feel guilty for needing time away from our family responsibilities, but raising kids is incredibly demanding. Taking time to do things on my own keeps me from burning out and actually makes me enjoy my kids more.

Whether it’s kids or a job keeping you busy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over your day. For me, doing even one of these things helps me feel less frazzled and more balanced. A combination of the four makes a huge impact, but trying out even one of these suggestions can help you get into a better routine. When you feel like you’re in charge of your time, it can make all the difference in your overall attitude.

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