Preparing for a Whole 30

Starting February 1, Amanda and I are doing a Whole 30. It is essentially a strict paleo diet: No grains, sugar, dairy, alcohol, starches, or legumes. Only some fruits. Lots of veggies, meats, fats, and nuts. We are joining a group of our friends in doing it for 30 days starting February 1. We are hoping to improve our energy levels, sleep, and waistlines.

We’ve both gone strict paleo before for a few weeks to a few months at a time and saw good results, so we are optimistic that this will be similar. Since we’ve basically cut out refined sugar and bread since January 1, we shouldn’t get the awful headaches and withdrawals we got the first time around. I don’t think we’ll experience the radical changes that participants who jump into this straight from a junk food diet see, but I think we’ll still get some energy improvements and weight loss.

We’ll miss our cheeses, occasional weekend cheats, and cocktails, but we’ll live. The two tough stretches this month will be Valentine’s Day and my birthday. For Valentine’s Day we usually shovel down our favorite pizza and beer while we binge a show on Netflix. For my birthday we usually go out for dinner and drinks and Amanda makes me a Milk Bar Birthday Cake. I’m going to miss that.

I’m making a slight exception to strict adherence: I’m still going to consume my daily glass of kefir. I cut out dairy completely for a month about 5 years ago and didn’t see any negative effects when I reintroduced it. I’m pretty dairy tolerant. I’m still going to abstain from cheese, sour cream, straight milk, etc, but the bacteria in kefir break down the lactose before I drink it and the probiotics in my homemade kefir have been incredibly beneficial for my gut, so I’m going to keep drinking it. I’m also going to continue weighing myself daily so I don’t have any gaps in my quantified self tracking. Call the Whole 30 police.

One addition I’m making for added benefits during the month is continuing my Circadian Rhythm Fast. I stop eating as close to sundown as I can manage with my schedule and then fast for the next 16 hours. That leaves me an 8 hour window to eat in each day. I’ve been doing this since January 3 and it works pretty well with my lifestyle, so I want to keep it up. (For those interested, I use the Zero app to track my fasting.)

Prepping for Success

As I wrote in On Meal Planning:

Don’t depend on your daily willpower to have healthy, inexpensive meals. Plan ahead.

I’m applying all of the principles I wrote about in that post. Give it a read if you haven’t already.

These are the specific implementation of those principles that I’m using for our Whole 30:

  • I haven’t replenished our stock of potatoes, chickpeas, beans, or lentils. Any that are still in the cabinet will be left there until next month. We used a bunch this past week leading up to the Whole 30, so there isn’t much to worry about. We already ate all of our legume-containing leftovers the past few days, so there won’t be any waste.
  • I’m making my own chicken and vegetable broth this week. Amanda had me check the labels on the store-bought ones we have, and to my dismay they all have sugar in them.
  • We have plenty of meat that I’ve pre-portioned, seasoned, and frozen. I have reminders set at 3pm for me to pull them out of the freezer and put them in the sous vide.
  • We stocked up on fresh veggies.
  • We have nuts, pickles (with no sugar added), avocados, and cured meat for snacks.
  • We stocked up on our favorite flavors of La Croix and teas to sip on when we’d prefer a cocktail. We already don’t drink soda, so this will be one of our few sources of flavor variety outside of water.

General Meal Plans

As I’ve written before, I don’t really plan our meals too far in advance. I do have general blueprints in mind, though:


  • 1 meat + 2 quickly prepared veggies for dinner (Primary)
  • Veggie soups (Secondary)
  • Whole 30 compliant meals that take longer to prepare. Things like cauliflower fried rice, spiral zucchini noodles with pesto and sausage, roasted chicken with pureed celeriac and parsnips (Once a week or so)


  • Leftovers from the dinners
  • Salads with lots of veggies, protein, and avocados


  • Smoothies made with Whole 30 ingredients plus a bag of cashews as a mid-morning snack for Amanda
  • I skip breakfast about half of the week due to my fasting. On those days I make lunch my first meal.
  • On days where I don’t skip breakfast, I’ll have Scotch eggs that we’ve made ahead of time or I’ll scramble a few eggs.
  • We already drink our coffee black, so no need to fret about losing dairy there.
  • On weekends we’ll have omelettes.

Backup Plans

It is important to have backup plans in case unexpected things come up. Our backup plans are:

  • We have a few Whole 30-compliant homemade soups frozen in our freezer. They take 20 inactive minutes to heat up and eat.
  • There is a lunch place down the block that always has grilled salmon, grilled chicken, and roasted veggies. They close at 4pm, so if I know by mid-afternoon that I won’t be able to made dinner, I’ll walk down and get two plates.
  • If all else fails, there is a Chipotle on Amanda’s way home from work. John Durant explains what to order at Chipotle to stay paleo.

If you aren’t as comfortable winging it as I am, here are some great Whole 30 meal ideas from Nom Nom Paleo and here are some PDF guides from Whole30.

Amanda and I ate the rest of our potatoes and butter tonight with some homemade corned beef and had one last drink from the barrel of Manhattans that I’m aging:


Here we go! Stay tuned. I’ll post some recipes and techniques I’m using to stay on track throughout the month. Check back in a week or so! (Or sign up for email updates in the sidebar →)