Treat Yo’ Self

So this is the “treat yo’ self” edition of the blog, as I’m sure you’d quickly be able to see if you just looked at the pictures. While these meals are NOT indicative of my typical food choices, these are some the “treat” meals I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks, with most of my other meals outside of these being paleo/Whole30 compliant. I obviously don’t believe that things like this should be eaten frequently if you’re looking to better your health, so you have to decide what’s worth it for YOU. For me it’s usually not, but sometimes, IT JUST IS. 

My kids love donuts. No surprise there... are there any kids that don’t like donuts? Unfortunately, donuts are heavy on the gluten (typically), so I’m usually not able to partake in donut-eating. But there’s this cute little place here in OKC called Holey Rollers that makes all of my gluten-free donut dreams come true! They started as a food truck/trailer, but opened a permanent storefront last year. ALL of their donuts are vegan, and they always have a few flavors that are also available gluten free, so they have lots of choices that are great for many different allergies/sensitivities. Zak and I got a GF vanilla lavender and a GF chocolate sprinkle to split. While both were delicious, the vanilla lavender ROCKED MY WORLD. It’s seriously so good. They also have an array of coffee choices, which is nice, because coffee. I got a cold brew (my tried and true) with coconut milk. 

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But is there a greater meal than brunch? I would argue that there’s not. Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? That’s the beauty of it. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PICK. I went to bruch with a friend the other day to another local spot called The Jones Assembly. It’s a relatively new place that does brunch, lunch, and dinner, as well as late night drinks. It also turns into a concert venue a few times a month. While their menu doesn’t specify any gluten into, they were very knowldeable and accommodating to my questions and need for things to be gluten free. I started with the fluffer nutter latte (a latte made with peanut butter and toasted marshmallow syrup... yeah, this actually exists). It’s usually made with graham cracker milk, but they told me that part was not GF so they made it with regular milk for me instead. Still phenomenal. Then I got their J Burger with a gluten free bun. Let me tell y’all, I’ve had a lot of gluten free buns at this point, and pretty much all of them are very “OK” and nothing to write home about. They serve their purpose of being a vehicle to get a patty of meat and various toppings to your mouth in a somewhat organized fashion, but outside of that they’re very unmemorable. This one was different. It was actually really good. I would have taken this one by itself, slathered some ghee on it, and happily eaten it that way. Can’t say that about many others. The burger doesn’t generally come with the egg, but I said “its brunch. PUT AN EGG ON IT”... and then I said “please,” because I’m polite like that. It also comes standard with “crispy shallots,” but they let me know that those were not gluten free and left them off. They were also quick to let me know that the fries were gluten free, as well. And that glorious little desert concoction is their flourless chocolate cake. It comes with a butterscotch sauce and a rye whipped cream. This cake is everything I’ve missed in a fudgy brownie since I stopped eating gluten. It was SO. GOOD. So dense and fudgy and life-changing. And the whipped cream was a little bit salty which I loved, because I’m a major sucker for a sweet-and-salty combo. If you don’t like mixing sweet and salty flavors then you should probably rethink your other life decisions, too. And this place just has really cool vibes, so it was a great experience in pretty much all aspects!

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In my family, we are also big fans of hot dogs. We are Americans, after all. We went to Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs for dinner one night to enjoy some dogs and fries. Again, Zak and I got two different ones to split, because clearly we are super indecisive people that just want to try everything. The one on the bottom of the picture is “the hickory dog”, a bacon-wrapped dog with BBQ sauce, fried onions, and cheddar jack cheese. I had them hold the fried onions and do grilled onions instead. The one on the top right is “the pitbull,” a beef dog with cilantro-lime aioli, pepper jack cheese, and their “pitbull peppers” (grilled onions, jalapeños, habanero, poblano, and serrano peppers). We ordered both of these on gluten free buns, and they were both delicious! Their fries are also gluten free, which I’m sure most of you are asking yourself “aren’t all fries gluten free?” And the answer is a resounding NO. It’s not uncommon for places to coat fries in flour prior to frying to get a better crunch on the outside, or to use a seasoning that has a gluten component in it, so it’s always a good idea to ask. 

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So that concludes this edition of “treat yo’ self,” but Zak and I are headed to Denver in a few weeks to see my family, and based on my plans and research, apparently all I plan on doing there is eating. Gluten free, of course. I might try to get outside a little bit too, because I guess it’s pretty there or whatever. 

Post Whole30 Life

Sickness has been plaguing our house for the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been a little MIA since my Whole30 ended... but y’all, MY WHOLE30 ENDED! Completing a round always makes me feel a huge sense of accomplishment and willpower, and that 30 day reset is the best way that I’ve found for me to re-establish and reinforce good eating habits and a healthy relationship with food. Before I did my first Whole30, I’d had a several longstanding poor relationships with food (on both ends of the spectrum). Food was the problem, so I didn’t eat it. Food was the solution, so I ate ALL of it. Neither of these mentalities was healthy or accurate, so I’m thankful that I’ve been able to develop a new relationship with food that falls in the middle. Food is food, and if I’m eating properly, what I eat is both fuel and medicine. That’s not to say I don’t ever splurge on something I want, but I see those as “treats” that I have here and there, I enjoy them, and I move on. I don’t dwell on it and let it consume me, or feel bad about it, or allow myself to spiral into a mentality that I’ve already “screwed up” so why stop there? THIS is something that I never had in the past. And this is why I continue to do Whole30s and why I hope you might try it, too. If you’ve finished a Whole30 and are having trouble figuring out where to go next or how to incorporate what you’ve learned into everyday life, Melissa Hartwig (Co-creator of the Whole30) wrote a book called “Food Freedom Forever” for exactly that purpose, so check it out.   

Anyway, now that my Whole30 is over I wanted to share some products that I incorporate into my diet sometimes that aren’t necessarily Whole30 compliant, but that are mostly paleo and are better options than their commercial counterparts. Again, these are not things that I eat all the time, since I still eat Whole30 compliant foods like 80-90% of the time and am trying to eat mostly “real” foods, but these are items that I feel ok incorporating in here and there because YOLO. I buy all of these products in various supermarkets where I am, but I’m posting the link for the products webpages in case you want to know more or buy online.

First, Siete chips and tortillas. These have been a gift from Heaven for me. I’m from Texas, so chips and salsa and tacos are like life-blood for me. So when I learned that corn and I don’t get along so much, I wasn’t sure how I’d move on with my life. Ok, so that was dramatic, but seriously. I would eat tacos all day, every day if it was acceptable. Their products are completely grain free, and made from almond, coconut, and/or cassava flours. Also, no added sugars. Also, THEY’RE DELICIOUS. So I can have my chips and eat ‘em too.  

 https://sietefoods.com/

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Let’s talk about bread. Finding out that gluten is causing you a lot of pain and trouble is nothing short of devastating. Carbs for life, am I right? Wrong. And there are a lot of “gluten free” bread products out there, but most of them aren’t paleo and still contain other grain flours (like rice) and have added sugar. Now, there are also several paleo bread products available, but most of them are not very good, and all of them are expensive. But these from Fox Hill Kitchens are the best I’ve found. They have large and small “bunz”, “bagels”, “rollz”, and “croutonz”. I used a small bun with a burger the other night and I was not mad about it AT ALL. All of their products are completely paleo and have no sugars. 

 http://foxhillkitchens.com/

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So, I almost didn’t even add this next one because his would definitely be a treat in every sense of the word, BUT it is made with paleo ingredients (sweetened with maple syrup) and is much better and cleaner than any other cookie dough out there. While natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey are considered acceptable on a paleo diet and are much better than refined sweeteners, they are still sugars and I treat them as such. But everyone needs cookie dough in their life at some point, and this one is downright tasty and not gritty like some other gluten free cookie dough I’ve tried. Insider tip: spread it out in a little mini cast iron skillet and bake it like a pizookie. But like I said, lots of sugar, so please share it. Or don’t. It’s your life.

 https://cappellos.com/

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These next two are arguably Whole30 compliant because all of the ingredients are (I’ve seen this debated before), but I know they’re not for me because I like them for their sweetness and their likeness to cereal. These are grainless granolas that are made with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit/dates. There are other paleo granolas out there that also have honey or maple syrup added, but like I’ve mentioned, these are still sugars, so I avoid them if possible. But these two are delicious and something I like to have on hand when I want “cereal”. Wildway also makes a few other flavors, all of which are good. 

 https://www.wildwayoflife.com/

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A couple of days a week I like to have a protein shake for breakfast or when I need a quick meal, and this one is my favorite. It’s sweetened with stevia and has a ton of real food and super food ingredients. I throw it in a blender with some unsweetened coconut milk, a frozen avocado (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.. you can’t taste it and it makes the shake super creamy while adding a ton of good fat), and like a quarter of a frozen banana. I also throw in a scoop of collagen peptides, some maca powder, and some MCT oil/Brain Octane just for kicks. I don’t use it super often, but their pre-workout is good too. Again, lots of real food and super food ingredients and sweetened with stevia.  

 https://www.rootznutrition.com/

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Who doesn’t love breakfast foods?! Eggs, good. Bacon, good. Pancakes, gooooood. I’m under the impression that breakfast for dinner is good for the soul. I found this paleo pancake mix that my family loves. When I make pancakes, my kids end up wanting these instead of the regular pancakes. Could you easily make a paleo pancake mix yourself? Sure. But some of the individual ingredients can get pricey, and if someone is going to do it for me and put it in a handy little zip pouch then I’m gonna let them. These are really good with some 4th and Heart Vanilla Bean Ghee and cashew butter, with a drizzle of date syrup or maple syrup if you’re feeling naughty.  

 https://birchbenders.com/

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This next one I was really skeptical about before I tried it, but I ended up really liking it and pretty much always have at least one flavor in my fridge. It’s cream cheese made from almonds. I know, sounds weird and gross. Or at least it did to me at first. But somehow it works, and is a great substitute if you’re avoiding or can’t have dairy. My favorite flavor right now is the jalapeño because I love all things spicy (insert all the praise hand emojis). Slather some of this on one of those Fox Hill everything “bagelz” mentioned above and I’m a happy camper.

 http://www.kite-hill.com/

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So this next one is another one that I have rarely, but when I’m going somewhere where there will be dessert that I either can’t have or don’t want to have, I might take one of these along. These Hail Merry tarts are sweetened with maple syrup, and have a crust made with almond flour. There are several flavors (dark chocolate, vanilla, lemon, lime, chocolate almond butter, etc) and they all have minimal ingredients and are going to be much better than pretty much any other dessert out there. 

 http://www.hailmerry.com/

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I only have one more for you, and it’s more breakfast food! My inner Leslie Knope loves waffles. I mean, they have little cubbies to hold whatever gooey, drippy topping you put on them. If waffles are wrong, I don’t want to be right. These are paleo waffles found in the freezer section, and these also have a small amount of maple syrup added, so something I use sparingly. And yes, I could just make waffles with the Birchbenders pancake and waffle mix I mentioned above. But I’m going to be honest with you. Sometimes, with two toddlers, I’m too lazy to even do that. So enter these already made waffles that you pop in a toaster/toaster oven and call it good. BOOM. You’re welcome. 

https://www.kitchfix.com/

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So that’s all I’ve got for you today. Just some post Whole30 goodies that make life a little sweeter without wrecking your progress. This weekend we are venturing out for some gluten free donuts and hot dogs, and I should have some more Whole30 compliant meals, so check back soon! 

The Home Stretch

With only 4 days left of my Whole30 after today, I’m definitely in the home stretch! It’s hard not to think “26 is PLENTY, I can just stop now”. But 26 is not 30. 28 is not 30. 30 is 30. And anything worth doing is worth doing right. And after the 30 days, there’s the reintroduction phase. If you’re like I was during my first round, you might be a little bit nervous for this part, simply because you started to feel so great over the last 30 days and don’t want to do anything to screw that up. But this part is SO important and is really a big chunk of the “why” of the Whole30. You spend 30 days eliminating a lot of foods that are known to be inflammatory and cause a whole slew of physical, mental, and emotional issues, and creating better eating habits, and that part is wonderful and good all on its own. But THEN, you get to reintroduce these groups of food one by one, waiting a few days in between each one to see how your body reacts. This information is pivotal in moving forward with your eating habits and knowing specifically how YOU respond to certain foods. For me, I previously learned that gluten very directly and clearly causes a flare in my RA joint pain, that corn and dairy make my skin breakout, that sugar gives me anxiety and heart palpitations, and that eggs cause stomach pain and discomfort (I learned that after my third Whole30, not the first, because I did not eliminate them the first two times I did one). So please, I beg of you, don’t skip the reintroductions. Here’s a link to the Whole30 page that talk about reintroductions and how to approach them: https://whole30.com/step-two-finished/

Ive talked to a few people who told me they are starting Whole30s in February, so I wanted to include links to some shopping lists that other people have created for stores that most people have access to. I know I use and post about a lot of products that come from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and depending where you are you might not have any of that around you. I mean, most things are available on the internet these days anyway, but I get that a lot of people want to shop at a brick-and-mortar store. So don’t think that you can’t possibly do a Whole30 if you don’t have any specialty grocery stores nearby. That’s what we call an excuse. And we all know what those are like... Plus, there are many instagram accounts and websites dedicated to finding Whole30 compliant products at places like Walmart, Target, Aldi, etc. Now I haven’t looked at labels for every single product on these lists, but they come from reputable bloggers who have done one or several Whole30s, so they’re pretty trustworthy. But this also goes back to what I said about being your own biggest advocate and being responsible for your Whole30 and checking your labels. A product that might have been compliant when the post was written might not be anymore due to the manufacturer adding an ingredient like sugar, or a filler, or whatever it might be. Unfortunately they like to do that. So here’s a couple of links to Whole30 shopping lists from Walmart: https://littlebitsof.com/2017/10/whole30-walmart-must-haves/

http://www.stayfitmom.com/whole30-walmart-shopping-list/ 

And one from Target:  https://littlebitsof.com/2017/01/whole30-target-must-haves/ (she wrote one of the ones from Walmart as well, and has them for Sprouts, Aldi, TJs, WFs, Amazon, and a few others). 

And if you google search “Whole30 shopping list ___________”, and fill I the blank with whatever store you’re looking for, you’ll likely find several things that you can find at that particular store. Like I said, just make sure you READ. THOSE. LABELS. Ok, I promise I won’t say that to you again. Maybe. I make no guarantees. 

Anyway, I don’t have very many new food pics to show you, since we’ve reached a point where we are starting to repeat some of our favorites that I have already told you about, but we did try these chili lime chicken burgers from Trader Joe’s that are super easy to make (just toss in the fridge the day you’re going to make them so they can thaw and grill when you want to eat them). They’re in the frozen food section and come with 4 preformed patties in the box (I also included a pic of the box so you know what you’re looking for if you want to try these. You’re welcome to all of you visual people like me). We served them on butter lettuce buns with diced red onion and sliced avocado, as well as grilled onions and oven roasted cabbage wedges on the side. And yes, that’s a sauce drizzled over the cabbage. You should be sensing a trend here. I have a problem. There was also a chipotle burger sauce that I didn’t show because I didn’t want the pic to be too saucy. 

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I also wanted to include my favorite new sparkling water. I love plain old water and have no problem drinking more than enough of it, but I know that’s not the case for many of you or maybe sometimes you just want to drink something with a little pizazz. Obviously you’re limited when it comes to beverages on the Whole30 (no alcohol, no fruit juice, no milky/sugary coffee drinks...), so sparkling waters are a good way to change it up. I’ve always been a big fan of La Croix, especially their coconut and cherry-lime flavors, but I recently discovered Waterloo and their watermelon flavor. It’s like a fizzy summer in a can. WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT?! Especially this time of year when it is not at all hot outside, but maybe you’re dreaming of warmer days ahead. Their grapefruit flavor is also delicious. I like to drink these in a fun glass (because everything is better in a fun glass) with a few pieces of sliced fruit, like strawberries or cherries. 

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The next time I talk to you I’ll be a Whole30 graduate (again, times 4, no big deal...). I hope that some of you have been inspired to do one yourself, or maybe now feel like it might not be as hard as it seems. After my Whole30 is over, I’ll transition more into how I incorporate Whole30 eating in most of my everyday life, while also indulging here and there but keeping it gluten free! 

Plan For Success

Well, I’m on day 20 of this Whole30, and I intended to get this post out a couple of days ago, but I was a little busy feeling awesome so it took me longer than I planned. This is around the time that most people start to experience “tiger blood”, basically just the phase of the Whole30 where you feel like you have tons of energy, cravings are virtually gone, and most negative things that you might have been experiencing are gone or are fading, now that it’s been almost 3 weeks since you fed your body sugar and other nastiness. You generally just feel like you want to tackle the world. That’s right, not just that you CAN tackle the world, but that you WANT to. Even though I hate running and it’s one of the only forms of exercise that I don’t and won’t really do, I’m pretty convinced that I could run a marathon right now. Ok, that’s a lie, but you get the idea. I definitely see a difference in my workouts as far as strength and endurance goes. 

I’ve had a few people ask me what I think are some of the most important tips to follow to get ready for and make it though a whole Whole30 successfully. So I thought I’d share them here:

1) PLAN. Plan plan plan plan. Plan everything that you possible can. There’s that quote that says something like “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. There’s your cliche quote of the day. You’re welcome. Is failing to plan a guarantee that you’ll fail? Of course not. But it makes it a lot less likely. BELIEVE ME. Plan your meals (each one if you can), and keep an updated grocery list to make sure you have everything you need to make all of these meals. For me, this means meal planning for the week the night before I go to my grocery stores. For me, this also means doing quite a bit of food prep every Sunday so that several meals throughout the week require virtually no work, and just a little reheating. Some people can successfully “wing it”, but if you bring your Whole30 compliant lunch to work and already know that’s what you’re going to have that day, you’re not going to be as tempted to accompany everyone to your favorite Mexican restaurant at lunch time. Trust me, it’s literally impossible to deny the endless chips and salsa. So take some time and plan things out.

2) Eliminate the temptations. Before you start your Whole30, get rid of everything in the house that you can that isn’t compliant and might be problematic for you. It goes without saying that if a temptation isn’t present, you can’t give in to it. If you don’t want to throw a bunch of stuff away, then ask a friend or family member to hang onto it for you until you’re done. Hopefully you might not want a lot of back by the time you finish anyway. Certainly, there will be things you can’t get rid of, especially if there are people in your house who aren’t doing the Whole30 with you. And some temptations will be unavoidable, like when Karen at your office has a stupid birthday and there’s a stupid cake. But if you PLAN ahead and have a Whole30 compliant snack on hand to eat while everyone has their cake, you’ll be less likely to give in. See what I did with my tip-overlapping there? My biggest teases usually come from my 3-year-old, who will shove a handful of popcorn in my face repeatedly, insisting that I “have to” try some, even though I keep telling him “no, thanks”. Lord have mercy, why must popcorn smell so good? I WILL NOT GIVE IN TO YOUR TESTING, CHILD. 

3) Find accountability. Ideally, you have someone doing a Whole30 with you. That makes it SO much better. But of course, most people probably won’t. So telling a friend or family member about what you’re doing and asking for some accountability can be super important. Ask them to check in with and encourage you, or show a little tough love when necessary if that’s what you need. Sometimes just knowing that there’s someone else that knows what you’re doing, and will therefore know if you slip up, can be a motivation to stay strong. 

Ultimately, doing a Whole30 is for you. It’s your decision to start one, for the betterment of your own health (physical, mental, emotional...), and it’s your responsibility to do what is necessary for you to complete it. But these are some of the ways that I found made it a little easier on me, especially the first time I did one, and I hope it might help one of you, too. 

Ok, I promise I’ll shut up in a minute, but first I just wanted to share a few meals from the week. The picture below was a dinner where we made Whole30 compliant chicken strips/fingers with a trio of dipping sauces (I like dipping and I like sauces), and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. Is there a food that isn’t made instantly better when you wrap it in a salty meat?? Spoiler: theres not. I legitimately love most veggies, but asparagus isn’t one of them, so I wrapped those puppies up in a little bit of prosciutto and roasted them in the oven until the asparagus was done. SO good. And here’s the link for the recipe I used for the chicken: https://www.jaysbakingmecrazy.com/2016/01/21/paleo-whole30-chicken-tenders/ For the sauces I just used Tessemaes ketchup, buffalo ranch (Tessemaes avocado ranch with some Franks Red Hot mixed in), and a mustard sauce that is just mayo, Dijon mustard, and whole grain mustard mixed together. 

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In the last post I mentioned that I was making a pork butt/shoulder and that I had a couple of things I wanted to use it for, so that’s what the next pictures are from. First, we did a sweet potato hash topped with the pork, two over-easy fried eggs, and a chipotle sauce (mayo mixed with chipotle paste that I find at Whole Food). Seriously, my love for sauces knows no bounds. I’ll sauce anything that’s saucable. For the potatoes, just cube them up and either roast in the oven or on the stove in a big skillet, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. And here’s the recipe for the pulled pork that I used and have been using for quite a while now because we love it: https://sarahfragoso.com/beyond-easy-pulled-pork/ I also add a little garlic powder and smoked paprika to the spice mix because I’m a rebel like that, but it’s certainly not necessary. Also,  roasted brussel sprouts, again, because they give me life. 

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The second thing we did with the pork was make “burrito bowls”. On the bottom there’s a big helping of broccoli and cauliflower “rice” (that you can’t really see because of all of the toppings, so I put a picture of just that down there, as well), and we topped it with the pork, diced red onions, crushed pineapple, guacamole, and more of that chipotle mayo sauce. Hi, I’m Alli, and I’m addicted to sauce. You can find riced veggies at most grocery stores now, and just sauté it up in a big skillet with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I also added some cilantro and lime juice to make it a little more Chipotle-ish. My husband will eat several different veggies, but he does NOT like broccoli, so sometimes I try to sneak it in where there are lots of flavors and I think he won’t care or mind so much. Basically like what you would do to a child.  

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Ok, that’s all I have for you today. I’m sure that was more than many of you wanted, but if you’re still reading this part then you’ve read the whole thing and it couldn’t have been that bad. I’ve loved hearing from many of you, either through messages or face to face, who are doing a Whole30 or are planning to start one soon! If you have a question or if there is anything you’re curious about and want me to talk about, PLEASE let me know, because I genuinely love helping people with their Whole30 experiences!  

What Have I Been Eating This Week?

I know you want to know. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, here’s an update of the meals we’ve made at my house (and a few we’ve had at restaurants) since my post from last week. 

Chicken salad. For a guy who doesn’t really like mayo, my husband loves chicken salad. I just boil and cube/shred a few chicken breasts, add diced celery and chopped red onion, some red grapes that are sliced in half, and add enough mayo to combine everything and make it creamy. Make sure you’re using a compliant store-bought mayo or your own homemade mayo (recipe link in my product round-up post). Season everything with salt and dried tarragon. Then we just serve it scooped into butter/bibb lettuce cups (if you haven’t noticed, we use those a lot around here), along with some pan seared and seasoned green beans.

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The really ugly looking but delicious thing in the picture below is a buffalo chicken spaghetti squash boat. Like I’ve said before, we will use any excuse to give something “buffalo” flavor. Here’s a link to the recipe I used:  https://therealfoodrds.com/buffalo-chicken-stuffed-spaghetti-squash/

You can use the Frank’s Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce I mentioned before in place of the Tessemaes Buffalo Sauce mentioned in the recipe, as well as your favorite Whole30 ranch dressing drizzled on top! 

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This next one is as plain as it gets. Seasoned chicken and cauliflower that are roasted in the oven, and leftover green beans. Nothing special or phenomenal about this meal, so I try to change up the veggies and seasonings we use often so it SEEMS like we aren’t always eating the same thing. Does it work? I don’t know, ask my husband.  

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The next two pictures are from a lunch we had at a local restaurant called Provision Kitchen (local to OKC). I’ve been meaning to make it over there for lunch forever, and I’m so glad I finally did! They have several Whole30 compliant dishes on their hot bar, all labeled with “W30” to make it super easy. And also, IT WAS DELICIOUS. It’s always so nice to find these hidden gems that provide Whole30 compliant meals without having to be that high-maintenance orderer. Try to seek out any local restaurants that might have Whole30 offerings where you are. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else do the cooking for you and not have dishes to clean. CAN I GET AN AMEN?

 Baked mole chicken with peppers and onions, carrots, zucchini, and charred broccoli  

Baked mole chicken with peppers and onions, carrots, zucchini, and charred broccoli  

 Beef on top of a root veggie mash, zucchini, and grilled avocado

Beef on top of a root veggie mash, zucchini, and grilled avocado

This next one is a meal we had last weekend when we were in Dallas, and needed a compliant dinner before we headed back home. We stopped at Snap Kitchen and got the chicken pad thai on sweet potato noodles, and shrimp with cauliflower grits. Again, this pic is kind of ugly (no one is going to be knocking down my door trying to get their hands on my food pics), but they actually tasted pretty good and they have all of their Whole30 compliant dishes labeled, as well, so it takes all the guess work out of eating out. Check them out if you’re in the DFW area, they have several locations! I believe they’re also in Austin, and well as a few other metro areas. 

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Also this week, I found some compliant sausages (these were spinach and chicken) that were buy one get on free, so we grilled those along with some avocados and pan roasted brussel sprouts. You can find sausage at most places now that works for a Whole30, with popular brands being Aidell’s, Brat Hans, Pederson’s, and Trader Joe’s brand. But just like with everything else, check the ingredients on the label, because not every flavor from any of these brands will be compliant. 

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This last one is just a big ol’ salad that I made at a Jason’s Deli salad bar. We frequent JD’s when we are doing a Whole30 because it’s another place to easily get a compliant meal, as long as you stick to all of the fresh veggies and toppings. For dressing, you can use the olive oil and balsamic vinegar they have at the restaurant if you want, but I like to bring my own homemade balsamic vinaigrette, especially since some balsamic vinegars have caramel color added, and you probably won’t know if theirs does until you get there. To make mine, I just combine 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. I like to blend it all together to really get that sucker emulsified, but vigorous shaking in a jar should do the trick, too. 

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Ok, that’s all I have for you guys right now. Hopefully someone somewhere will get a little meal inspo here. And look out! I’m making pork butt/shoulder later this week and I’ve already got a couple of different things I want to do with it. So check back soon for more Whole30 meal ideas! 

Product Round-Up

I’ve had a few people ask me this week about products that I like and use that are Whole30 compliant, so I rounded up a list of several items that I pretty much always have at my house that I use all the time (even when I’m not doing a Whole30).  Hopefully, most of the things you’ll be buying and making will be fresh meat and veggies and fruit, but there’s nothing wrong with buying some pre-made items that make life a little easier. 

As with anything Whole30, YOU HAVE TO READ YOUR LABELS/INGREDIENT LISTS. You’ll become a label reading ninja. If there is an ingredient that you’re not sure is allowed on the program, google search “Whole30 ____________”, and fill in the blank with the ingredient in question. I assure you that someone, probably more like dozens of someone’s, has already asked that question and you’ll be able to find the answer on a Whole30 forum page. And just because a certain brand makes several Whole30 compliant items doesn’t mean everything they make will be acceptable, so CHECK THE INGREDIENTS. Are you annoyed by that yet? Good. 

First, we’ll start with some condiments, because what is life without condiments? I love Dijon mustard, but most brands add a wine and/or sugar, which are both no-no’s, but Annie’s makes one that is delicious without the added junk. At my house, we’re willing to turn anything into a “buffalo” flavor version, so we use a lot of Franks Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce. Just make sure you stick to the “original” flavor. Then there’s a brand called Tessemae’s, and they make several Whole30 approved condiments and salad dressings, including ketchup and BBQ sauce. They are sweetened only with dates, and are therefore ok to use. And last but not least, good ol’ French’s yellow mustard. All compliant ingredients and A-ok to use during your Whole30.

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Now, let’s talk nut butters. There are plenty of compliant nut butters out there, but there are also several that aren’t because they use sugar and/or a non-compliant oil. These are two of my favorites: mixed nut butter and sunflower seed butter (the unsweetened version), both from Trader Joe’s. Thankfully, you can find compliant nut butters at pretty much any grocery store now, just make sure you stay away from peanut butter, because in case no one has told you, peanuts are NOT nuts and are classified as legumes, which are not allowed on the Whole30. I can hear a collective sigh of disappointment. It’s ok, you’ll get over it.

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On to salad dressings! While I usually make my own vinaigrettes, there are some pre-made dressings that I really like and keep on hand pretty much all of the time. TJ’s makes this green goddess dressing that tastes fresh and herby, so I sometimes use it on chicken too. Some of my favorite dressings come from Tessemae’s though, like this avocado ranch and their habanero ranch, if you can find it. They also make a good balsamic vinaigrette if you don’t want to make your own. Primal Kitchen also has some great options! I happened to have their Caesar in the fridge, but they also make a delicious ranch. It’s a little less thick and more herby than the Tessemae’s ranch dressings, but it’s so good.  

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For a lot of people, one of the hardest things to switch up is milk and dairy products. Again, thankfully, there are now many unsweetened non-dairy milks out there that are compliant. I happen to buy this coconut milk from So Delicious frequently, but there are several others (Califia Farms, Malk, Milk Barn, etc). Make sure you check the ingredients and steer clear of carageenan, an ingredient that a lot of brands like to add but it’s bad for your gut and not Whole30 compliant. And we can’t forget coffee creamer, because we can’t forget coffee. Califia Farms makes unsweetened almond and coconut milk creamers that come in original, vanilla, and hazelnut flavors, and they’re actually really good. They won’t add any sweetness (duh, that would defeat the whole purpose of the program), but if you like to cut your coffee with a little creaminess, then these will do the trick. Not pictured because I ran out: canned coconut milk (unsweetened, of course). It’s thick and super creamy, and makes amazing sauces (like curry... insert praise hands).

UPDATE: looks like the unsweetened hazelnut and vanilla creamers from Califia Farms now use monk fruit juice extract, making them uncompliant for a Whole30. This just goes to show that a company can and will suddenly change the ingredients of a product you’ve been buying for months, so checking labels is something you have to KEEP doing, even with things that were compliant in the past. As far as I know, the unsweetened original flavor is still fine (looks like the one in the picture, but is beige/brown instead of blue).

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On to coconut aminos. If you search Whole30 recipes for more than a few minutes, you’ll probably see this mentioned. This is going to be your soy sauce alternative. There’s a little bit of natural sweetness from the coconut sap, and it can be used to make lots of delicious sauces and add good flavor.  There are a few brand of these available now and can be found in most stores.

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And now, bone broth. One of my favorite things that I’ve discovered in the last couple of years. I call it liquid gold because it’s full of collagen and amino acids, which are good for your joints (and hair and skin and nails), as well as being really healing for your gut. You can use this in recipes that call for stock or broth, or you can do what I do and drink a cup of it in the morning with an added scoop of collagen (I’ll mention this again later), and some added turmeric and ginger for extra anti-inflammatory power. I prefer to make my own in my Instant Pot, but this requires a lot of time and animal bones, so most people prefer to let someone else do the work for them and just buy it. I like these from Bonafide Provisions (found in the freezer section), but there are other good ones out there from brands like Epic and Kettle and Fire.

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Since butter t isn’t allowed on the Whole30, there is this magical thing called ghee that you can use in its place. Ghee is basically just clarified butter, which is butter that’s been heated so that the milk solids/proteins can be removed. Therefore, it’s lactose free and perfectly acceptable to use . My favorite brand is 4th and Heart, and they make 5 different flavors of ghee that are all delicious, but my favorite is probably the Himalayan pink salt. Tin Star Foods also makes a brown butter ghee that is top shelf. Again, most stores now carry ghee, even if it’s not these brands, so you’ll just have to look for it. 

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So this next item is not something I use regularly, but something that I always try to keep a couple of available as “emergency food”. Example situation: this last Saturday we went to Dallas to see my family and go to my nephews birthday party. I knew we were planning on having lunch at Chick-fil-a, a place where there is pretty much nothing that’s Whole30 compliant. Ok FINE, I think the water is probably okay. Anyway, I ate a bigger than normal breakfast that day, and took one of these Epic brand meat bars (I know, terrible phrase, but I don’t know what else to call them) along with some roasted mixed nuts and an apple. Problem solved. They are basically just meat with some seasonings/spices. I’ll say it again, check the ingredients on things like this, because most of the flavors are Whole30 compliant, there are a few that are aren’t. Things like this shouldn’t be eaten all the time, but can save you from completely ruining your Whole30 because you were hangry and didn’t have anything compliant to eat. I speak from experience. 

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Ah, collagen peptides. Something I swear by and never let myself run out of. You’ve probably heard of them, since they have been gaining popularity lately. Like I said before, collagen is good for your joints (shout-out to all my other rheumatoid arthritis peeps! Just me? Ok cool), as well as your skin, hair, and nails, and it’s also great for gut healing, which can in turn help a number of different things. Vital Proteins is my favorite brand, they’re very reputable, but there are now many good options out there. They’re awesome because you can mix them into any liquid, hot or cold, and they’re flavorless. I add a scoop to my bone broth in the morning, and sometimes throw an extra scoop in my coffee, because YOLO. 

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Now to mayo. Yes, it’s another condiment, but I wanted to do it separately, because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want. I HIGHLY recommend making your own mayo, because it’s a lot easier than you think, and it’s way more cost effective. Here’s the recipe I always use:  https://whole30.com/2014/05/mayo/

I do usually sub 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice, just because I like ACV. You can do this in a food processor, or in a wide mouth mason jar with a stick/immersion blender. If you do want a pre-made mayo, my favorites are from Primal Kitchen. Both the original and chipotle lime flavors are delicious, but these little puppies will cost you $8-$10 a jar, depending on where you buy it (and spoiler: it’s not a very big jar). So don’t be intimidated to make it yourself! 

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I saved one of the best things for last... BACON. Only one of the greatest things on planet earth. There ARE a couple of Whole30 compliant bacons on the market, including this one from Pederson’s. They also have a Whole30 approved smoked kielbasa that is equally delicious. We do try to only have one of these once every two weeks or so, but just know that you don’t have to go a whole 30 days without your favorite breakfast meat.

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Ok, so if you’re still with me, bravo for sticking with me whilea ramble on. The last thing I’ll mention is Applegate Farms. I know this brand is more widely available, and hey just compiled a list of all of their products that are Whole30 compliant to make it easier for you while you’re out shopping (OR you could always just check the ingredients like I’ve been saying over and over again). Here’s the list:  

 http://applegate.com/whole30

So hopefully there is something on this list that you didn’t know about that might make life a little easier. Depending on where you live, some of these things will be easy to find, and several might not be available. Almost all brands have a “where to buy” tool on their websites, so utilize those if there’s something you really want. Also, this is 2018, so pretty much everything can be purchased online. I’ve got another post coming about what else I’ve been eating, including a few restaurant meals, so check back soon!

 

Killin’ It

Well, I’m 5 days into this Whole30, and I’m actually feeling pretty good so far! For most people, the first part of a Whole30 can be ROUGH... turns out your body can get downright hostile when you suddenly stop feeding it sugar and other junk. Days 4 to 5 are a little phase that they call the “kill all the things” phase, because you literally want to punch everyone you encounter in the face. I definitely had this going on during rounds 2 and 3, but for whatever reason I didn’t at all during round 1 and haven’t so far this time.I’m sure my husband is praying it stays that way (nobody likes an angry elf). Luckily though, this phase is usually very short-lived if it does occur.

So I just wanted to share with y’all some of the things I’ve made this week for lunches and dinners, so you can see that we keep it really simple (which, in my opinion, is a Whole30 key to success... don’t be a hero). Since we eat Whole30 meals most of the time, even when we aren’t doing a round, these are meals that we make often already.

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So the picture above is the lunch picture I posted earlier in the week, but I’m showing it again because this is how most of my lunches look. It’s just rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods (they are one of the only places I’ve found with a compliant rotisserie chicken. Most other stores use a non-compliant oil), steamed broccoli drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with salt, and a diced avocado with “everything but the bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s ($1.99 for a bottle). If you haven’t had this seasoning from TJ’s yet, you really need to because it’s the bomb and I put it on everything. EVERYTHING. Do it now.

This next picture was a dinner where we just roasted some seasoned chicken thighs and delicata squash, and made a side salad with some veggies on top and a homemade vinaigrette dressing. Again, if you haven’t had delicata squash, you have to try it. They’re SO good, and only $.99 each at Trader Joe’s. Shout out to my girl, Hayley, for telling me about them (virtual fist bump). Changed my life. 

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And then the next night for dinner we had burgers on butter lettuce “buns” with all of our favorite compliant burgers toppings (avocado, red onions, grilled onions, and a burger sauce I make out of homemade compliant mayo and yellow mustard), the little bit of leftover delicata squash from the night before, and pan roasted brussel sprouts (my favorite). Not pictured are the two other big lettuce leaves that I sandwiched on top of the burger and kind of cocooned it so that all of the goodness stayed inside. 

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I always save my extra burger patty for lunch the next day, because I’ll use any excuse to eat a burger for as many meals as I can. I usually cut the burger into strips, and use the leftover butter lettuce leaves and burger toppings to make “burger cups”, and then I also had the leftover brussel sprouts and grilled onions, and more steamed broccoli. 

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So those are just a few of the things we made this week, and we also went to Whole Foods last night for dinner. They usually have at least a few dishes on their hot bar that are Paleo/Whole30 compliant, but they’re doing a promotion with a Paleo blogger during the month of January, and they have some of her dishes on there, as well, so I had several things to choose from and I was in Heaven! I meant to take a picture for you guys before I ate it, but I pretty much just dove right in before I could remember to take one. Sorry not sorry. The salad bar is also a decent option at Whole Foods (and many other places that have salad bars), but be prepared to bring your own dressing or just use olive oil and a vinegar. 

I also wanted to share a page that I came across the other day from The Real Food Dieticians. They have a lot of awesome healthy Paleo and Whole30 recipes on their site, but the other day they posted a list of 30 Whole30 sheet pan dinners. I haven’t made any of these yet but I plan to in the coming weeks. I mean, who doesn’t want easier meal prep and less dishes to clean?! Here’s the link:

https://therealfoodrds.com/30-whole30-sheet-pan-recipes/

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Happy Whole30ing, y’all!  

All About That Whole30 Life

Ok, so let's talk Whole30! If you talk to me in person for more than about 20 minutes, I'll probably find a way to bring it up without even trying to (I’m sure it's highly obnoxious). That's because doing my first Whole30 quite literally changed my life. I came across this program at a time that I was in  a lot of pain, I was anxious and tired, and I was desperate for a solution that didn't require me to take prescription medications for the rest of my life. I know it wasn't a coincidence that a Whole30 book basically fell into my lap, and I'm so thankful that God guided me to this resource!

Today is the first day of my fourth Whole30 (yes, fourth... and no, I'm not crazy). I like to go through the program again at times that I feel I've gotten lax with my eating habits (I'm looking at you, Christmas break), just to reset my body and reinforce all of the good and positive habits that come from the Whole30. I think I've had more sugar in the last two weeks than I did the whole rest of the year combined. So, what is the Whole30? I'm so glad you asked! Or maybe you didn't, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

Like I briefly mentioned in my last post, the Whole30 is a 30 day period of elimination, where you abstain from several groups of foods that are known to be problematic and inflammatory, followed by a short reintroduction phase, where each of those food groups is added back one by one to see how your body reacts. There is a HUGE list off issues that people have seen improvement with during and after completing a Whole30, some of which include anxiety, depression, skin issues, poor sleep, lack of energy, digestive problems, high blood pressure, diabetes/blood sugar, joint pain... just to name a few. The list goes on and on and on and on.

So at this point I'm sure it all sounds good, but now you want to know what foods you have to eliminate. So here are the things you avoid completely:

  • added sugars (both real and artificial)
  • all grains
  • legumes
  • dairy
  • alcohol
  • harmful additives (these are listed in detail if you look up the program)
  • all processed "junk food"

I'm sure I've now lost several of you who might still be reading, but in my personal experience, the benefits of going through the 30 days without these foods far outweighs the difficulty of actually doing it. Does it seem overwhelming? Of course. But if I can do it, I'm highly positive that pretty much anyone can!

While my only hope was to see relief of my joint pain during my first round (which I did), there were several other changes and improvements that I never expected. My skin was so much clearer, the keratosis pilaris (aka "chicken skin") that had been on the backs of my arms for about 5 years started to fade (and eventually went away completely), I had so much more energy and I was sleeping better, and I had virtually no bloating after meals any more (can I get an amen). One of the most amazing changes that I experienced had to do with the pretty significant amount of postpartum anxiety I had that started after my second child was born, and became almost completely non-existant about halfway through that first 30 days (and it has yet to come back). And not to mention, I lost 13 pounds during that first round, which kickstarted a 55 pound weight loss of excess body fat that I had been carrying around after two relatively close pregnancies. But honestly, with all of the other improvements I had seen, that part was just an added bonus. 

Anyway, THAT is why I'm sop excited about the Whole30, even the fourth time around. The picture I posted above was from my lunch today. Is it glamorous? Absolutely not. But is it helping my  body instead of harming it? You betcha! And thats the whole point. I've learned first hand over the last couple of years that what we eat is highly connected to pretty much every function of the body, and that everything we eat is either leading us to health or to sickness (inflammation). This is what most of my meals look like, except with variations of the protein/veggie/fat sources. Over these next 30 days I'll periodically share how things are going, and how I get through when it gets tough. So happy new year, y'all! Here's to starting the year with good health!

Eating Healthy Is The Worst... And The Best

Hey. I’m Alli, and I get the pleasure of talking about food! It’s something I think about constantly, and if you could drop in on my conversations at any given time, there’s probably about an 80% chance I’m talking about food in some capacity. I’m one of those people who finishes a meal and immediately starts thinking about what I want for the next one. And other than people I actually know, all of the people I follow on social media are food bloggers or restaurants (ok, and some fashion bloggers, because clothes… am I right, ladies?).

 

A couple of years ago, I did have to kind of shift gears as far as what I ate and how I thought about food. To make a long story less long, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis after my second kiddo was born. I’d started having weird symptoms like lots of random fevers, CRAZY fatigue (like, ready for bed by mid afternoon everyday), and of course, pretty significant joint pain in my hands, feet, wrists, and ankles. Enough pain that my husband would come home to me crying most days because it hurt to pick up my kids, and with a newborn and another kid who was barely over a year and a half old, a lot of picking up was necessary. When the symptoms persisted, I went and saw my doctor, who ran some blood work to try to figure out what was going on. Most of my blood work was normal, except that I had some slightly elevated inflammatory markers and a positive ANA, which indicated that I might have an autoimmune disease (cue panic at the word “autoimmune”). So off to a specialist I went, where we did several more blood tests, all of which were inconclusive for a specific disease, so based on my symptoms we landed on rheumatoid arthritis, and that’s where I am today.

 

So at that point, I was started on a low dose anti-inflammatory medication, which made my joints feel a lot better, but it killed my stomach. So we switched to a different one, which had the same result. At this point I was obviously pretty desperate, and tired, and stressed about all of this and couldn’t possibly see a solution that was permanently sustainable. What does any of this have to do with food, you ask? Enter the Whole30. I’m sure some of you have heard of it before or have maybe done one yourself for whatever reason, and some of you are likely hearing about it for the first time. Basically, when you do a Whole30, you eliminate certain foods that are known to cause all kinds of problems (pain, anxiety, skin issues, diabetes… the list goes on and on and on), and after complete elimination for 30 days, you slowly reintroduce these foods back into your diet one by one to see how your body reacts. So while going through my first Whole30 almost two years ago and seeing pretty much complete improvement of my joint pain during that time (even though I wasn’t taking any meds), I learned during the reintro stage that gluten was heavily contributing to my joint pain and symptoms (talk about a major buzzkill… bye bye bread, pasta, beer… need I say more). There were many other unexpected improvements during that time, but I’ll save that for later.

 

So that began my conversion to becoming gluten free (something I used to mock because I only saw it as a trendy fad diet… insert several eye rolls at the mention of it). I do eat paleo a vast majority of the time, avoiding foods that are known to cause inflammation, but I also try to let loose with a couple of meals a week, because YOLO. This paleo-ish lifestyle has allowed me to stay off of prescription drugs for my RA symptoms, and has allowed me to see improvements in other areas of my life that NEVER occurred to me when I started.

 

With all that said, if you’re looking for a blog filled with carb-tastic pictures and recipes, you’re barking up the wrong tree. HOWEVER, I will try to include things that I eat on a regular basis, supplements I take and ones I stay away from, how I navigate eating out while trying to stay away from gluten, and how I sometimes splurge (hello, cheese!). I’m just a real-life mom trying to make the most of my real life and keep it healthy. If any of you crazy kids feel like starting off the new year in a SUPER crazy (and healthy) way, I’m doing my fourth Whole30 in January… come join me! Most of my posts for the first month will be all about my Whole30, why I’m doing it (again), and ways that I try to make it easier on myself. And no, I don't get paid by anything affiliated with the Whole30, but if someone wants to pay me, I'm ok with it. So let’s do this!

 

Here’s the official Whole30 website, if you want to check out the deets:

https://whole30.com