I recently did 10 days of the Whole 30 Diet. Even though I didn’t do the full 30 days, I’m so glad I did a Whole 10.
I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to slip into bad habits. As the pandemic of 2020 wore on, I found myself eating lots of chocolate, nursing my social withdrawal with beer and martinis, and horrors of horrors, even regularly eating cheese! (Not an excuse, but it’s hard to abstain when it’s always on the premises).
So when a friend told me she was going to do the Whole 30 diet, I signed on for the alcohol and dairy fast and for a general reset of my eating habits.
Essentially the Whole 30 Diet is an elimination diet that removes any problem foods from your diet for 30 days and then slowly adds the foods back in to help you isolate the foods your body doesn’t like.
But 30 days is a long time and I only committed to 10 days to the Whole 30 regime (although I did a full 2 week alcohol, dairy and chocolate fast).
As my readers know I’m a fan of 10 day diets, since I wrote a book on one: The 10 Day Reset Diet.
The other reason I didn’t go the full distance is the Whole 30 Diet itself. If you are not familiar with it, it is not plant based friendly at all as it eliminates all grains and legumes (including all soy) along with dairy, sugar, and yes, alcohol.
At first glance, it seems to force you to add a lot of animal protein to your diet. I’m flexi (I sometimes eat fish, chicken and eggs), but I wasn’t willing to ramp up the animal protein to the amount the diet required.
The vegetarian page on the Whole 30 website states:
“If your primary reason for becoming vegetarian or vegan was for health. we invite you to reconsider your approach for the next thirty days. We believe the inclusion of some animal protein (not dairy) in your daily diet is necessary for optimal health, and we’ve provided well-reasoned, well-sourced arguments in “It Starts With Food” to back up our position.“
While I’m in agreement that good nutrition is easier with some animal protein in your diet (eg. most vegans should supplement with B-12), I wasn’t sold on having meat in every single meal to replace grains and legumes. There have been many studies showing the deleterious effect of too much animal protein in the diet. Whole 30 seemed to be the classic low carb diet.
The page then moves on to address ethical vegans (people who don’t eat meat for animal welfare reasons), saying it is possible to obtain humane and sustainable meat. All I got to say to that is, that Hope Bohanec who wrote “The Ultimate Betrayal, Is there Happy Meat?” would beg to differ.
It then goes to references pages in the “It Starts With Food” book that will explain how to modify the diet for vegans and vegetarians if you are so determined to keep to a plant based diet.
So basically you have to buy and read the book (It Starts With Food) to get more details on why Melissa Urban (the author) developed such a restricted diet and to learn more about how to modify it.
Actually if you are really serious about the Whole 30 Diet you have to buy the book anyway to find out how to put foods back in your diet once you do the 30 days. I must say, the website is a masterful work of creating interest (giving you just enough information) and moving you towards buying into the program and book.
I wasn’t that committed.
It was a dilemma, I wanted to support my friend and I was ready for a eating reset. But ugh, low carb.
After spending some time on the forum seeing how vegans coped with the diet, I decided to keep tempeh in my diet as well as organic corn masa. The latter was initially an oversight, since I missed that corn was on the list. I’m not sure what is wrong with corn, as long as you stay away from the highly processed forms.
If you eat a forbidden food, you have to start the diet all over again. When I learned corn was forbidden, I decided corn masa was my second modification and decided I would not add other forms of corn. Yes, I know, kinda cheating. But corn is not a common allergen, and my farmer’s markets has some really yummy organic vegan tamales.
Here’s what I learned by doing a Whole 10
- Thank god for potatoes. Fortunately potatoes are allowed, I discovered that small potatoes microwaved for 4-5 minutes and covered with tahini not only were tasty and filling but also an effective way to keep the “keto flu” low carb headaches at bay. I ate a LOT of potatoes. Previously, I had been putting butter on them (because I was too lazy to make a decent vegan condiment), and I was glad to discover tahini was a great stand in.
- My vegan protein powder has Stevia in it. It’s not just sugar that is completely forbidden, no sugar substitutes are allowed either. My original plan was to have a fruit and greens smoothie in the morning, until I discovered the Stevia in my vegan protein powder ingredient list. Bummer. Nut butter is recommended as a substitute which I did try but didn’t really adopt. In any case the Whole 30 philosophy steers you away from smoothies, they want you to eat, not drink your food.
- My serious sweet tooth faded over time. What to do with sweet cravings? These Whole10 cherry date lara bars completely saved me and got me to kick my chocolate habit which was out of control (yes, I know dark chocolate is good for you, but still…). I’m still not eating very much chocolate even a month after finishing my Whole 10 and I don’t even crave my date lara bars as much any more.
- I was reminded that “fat adapted” is not for me. There seems to be a keto undercurrent to the Whole 30 Diet, warning you to expect headaches while you become “fat adapted”. I knew from experience that high fat meals make me feel sick. For example, I do eat sardines and like them. But I felt quite queasy after eating a sardine and avocado salad (with olive oil to boot) as both the sardines and the avocado was too much for me. I’ve sworn off sardines for a while. I’ve read that that some people do better on a high fat diet while others thrive with more carbs. Sign me up for more carbs.
- Your taste buds change. One of reasons I signed up for the diet is try out new recipes that would shake me out of my food rut. So I made Whoel 30 compliant zucchini cakes for my breakfasts. Not only were they a pain to make but my initial reaction was “meh”. But by the time I got to the end of batch I made, they tasted amazing. Of course salt, avocado and Cholula sauce really helped. Also by the end of the 10 days, after not eating any sugar, fruit tasted so sweet.
- I like fried eggs. For years and years, the only way I would eat eggs was in omelets or scrambled and only on the weekends. Most people on the Whole 30 Diet eat an ungodly number of eggs, (the program says you can eat however many you can hold in one hand in a single day). Although I definitely ramped my egg consumption for the diet, I kept to a 7 egg weekly limit. (This self imposed limit is based on a study done that found up to 7 eggs a week does not worsen your cholesterol). For the diet I frequently had 1 fried egg for breakfast with fruit and often a potato. I loved how filling it was and a nice change from the fruit and cereal or muesli I normally eat. I found a 1 egg pan that was perfect for quickly frying one up.
So even though Whole 30 is not plant based friendly it worked out perfectly for me for an eating habit reset. Although less of my meals were vegan than normal (especially breakfast), I did not feel I went way outside of my normal flexitarian diet. I developed a new appreciation for the humble potato and I was able to kick some unhealthy eating habits (I’m looking at you: cheese and flour tortillas).
Have you tried the Whole 30 Diet?