At the beginning of this year, I formed a Moms group with a few (hehe 20) of my friends from church. We made a chat room and use it to share advice, invite each other to hang outs, vent our Mommy stresses and encourage one another. It's an amazing group of women.
Early in June, three of the Moms invited us to join them on a Whole 30 challenge that would begin the last week of June, go through the 4th of July (holiday alert), and end on July 24th. I decided to join in, mostly for the comraderie and the challenge of willpower and discipline alongside my friends. It's incredible what you can do when you have friends to check in with daily.
As a back story, I completed Whole 30 twice before. Once in 2016, and November of 2017. Each time I learned a lot, lost 7lbs and gained a vast amount of nutrition knowledge.
This post is most of my food from the last three weeks. I took pictures regularly to share on IG and in my Mom group. Plus, what's more inspiring than making a pretty plate of food for your friends to see? ha ha.
Tayah was 10 months old when I started this food challenge. I also have 4.5 year old and 3 year old daughters.
This first lunch was a jar salad. I took it to my Mom's house on a weekday, sprinkled on some crunchy almonds and poured over the balsamic dressing. It was full of flavor, but I did get hungry by 2pm. It's crucial to have healthy snacks on hand. Actually, if you have a truly filling meal, you shoudn't NEED to snack, but I like the format of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and have adapted to it well for my regular lifestyle (before and after this challnege).
A common breakfast my first week was a cup of hot green tea and Aidell's chicken apple sausage hash (sweet potato, onion, red bell pepper, mushrooms, olive oil and oregano). I made a huge batch of this to last the entire week. It's an easy dish that I can chop up and bake on 2 sheet pans in the oven for 40 min. And I don't get too tired of it.
I should probably pause here and remind you of the Whole 30 rules:
1. No dairy 2. No grains 3. No sugar (natural sugar from fruit is ok) 4. No carbs (bread, rice, noodles) 5. No grains (including corn).
For my first week of meal prep I made two soups: red Thai curry veggie soup and Zuppa Toscana. The batches of soup were huge so I ate it for about 4 meals then got sick of it and froze the rest for the last week of July. I could only repeat meals about 3 times before dreading eating it again. And we should not dread eating.
Both soups below were made with no dairy, but using coconut milk instead. I use A LOT of full fat canned coconut milk and a lot of unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Thank goodness for these dairy alternatives!
The Zuppa Toscana was one of my favorite meals. My husband ate it too - he opted to NOT do Whole 30 along with me due to his work lunches, BUT did join me and went sugar free the last 10 days of my challenge.
I felt like the Thai soup needed to be buffed up a bit, so I added in one spiraled zucchini and it was yummy. I quickly saute the zucchini in a pan with olive oil and salt and pepper and the texture comes out just right. I used this spiralizer from Amazon. Easey to use and easy to clean.
I also tried drinking La Croix (fizzy carbonated water) but need to get the orange flavor, because that one is best. Usually, I'm fine just drinking water and I don't miss any other cold drinks.
One easy snack to make is date balls with 3 ingredients: pitted dates, unsweetened coconut flakes and unsalted cashews. They blend to make a sticky consistency that I like to roll into balls and leave in my fridge. They make for a nice late night dessert, but my fav use of them is crumbled in my almond milk fruit "cereal" or on top of my smoothie bowl.
On this particular morning, I had a smoothie (frozen spinach, frozen pineapple, almond milk, banana, frozen berries) at 7am and a scrambled egg and avo at 10am. Instead of ketchup I use Frank's hot sauce or cholula (both compliant hot sauces).
Here's a common lazy lunch - pre made hash as a salad, Primal Kitchen ranch dressing and some cucumbers.
Another Primal Kitchen item I used was avocado mayo to make chicken curry lettuce wraps. But I think I had a weird reaction to the mayo because I had a stomach ache after eating this meal 2x. It also could have been my body adjusting to not eating dairy or sugar for the first 5 days. Either way, it was a bummer to feel yucky the first week.
I think the easiest savory breakfast is an egg scramble. BUT I do not like eggs that much, so I had to TRY to eat savory breakfasts. I will say, I do like egg cups or muffins, but only with feta cheese, so again I had to TRY to enjoy this veggie scramble.
One thing that made eggs THAT much better was fresh salsa! It was my first time making it in my vitamix and it was watery, but THE BOMB. I just used de-seeded tomatoes on the vine, one jalepeno, onion, cilantro, salt, cumin, garlic and lime.
It was time for my first weekend and it was it's own challenge. I had to think ahead one, or two meals and TAKE MY OWN FOOD with me. Now, I do have a Whole 30 friend who wings it and finds things to eat, but I've not had that luck, so rather than live off of apples, I carry my lunch bag with me to odd places.
First up, I picked up my girls from a sleepover at my bro's house on Saturday. I offered to bring them lunch and swooped up two pizza's - boy did that smell good. I had my food in hand and although it wasn't pizza, it filled me up. I'm glad I didn't compromise.
Next to tackle - a weekend kids party! We have one or two every weekend of summer. For this party, I took chicken, roasted cauliflower and salsa. The food at the party was pizza and Filipino food, but I was quite happy with my meal. I ate at the same time everyone ate, but no one really minded that I brought my own food. And that's the thing - a few folks might ask, but otherwise, no one cares.
This is a pretty summer salad. Hard boiled eggs are a good go-to protein for a meal or snack.
On July 3rd I made a dessert for my family for the 4th of July party we were attending. It was a dark chocolate Nutella pizzokie. I didn't taste it, but everyone said it was the bomb. My dessert was banana slices topped with almond butter, coconut shavings and pecans. I like this dessert best frozen!
The thing about temptation during whole 30 is that YES it's hard, but the decision to not eat sugar is already made for me, so I just go with it. The truly hard part comes on day 31 when you have to learn food freedom and management, and how to eat in moderation.
Wow, I really was on a salad kick that first week. I love the freshness of lettuce (I use butter lettuce). My friend Elisa said she found butter lettuce at the 99c store (it costs $2.99 at Albertsons).
This dinner was pork chops. I used coconut aminos to make it sort of Asian flavored and cooked my carrots with sesame oil. I also bought rainer cherries as a treat. I HIGHLY recommend having coconut aminos on hand (soy sauce replacement) as it can make any meal Asian if you cook with ginger and garlic.
During my 30 days of eating super clean, my husband and kids ate "regular" food. And by that I mean, they ate out, ate convenient items and didn't meal plan. It was fine, it would have been too much mentally for me to handle to also feed them this strict, BUT I will say I have room to improve on the foods my kids eat. I'm working on that.
Here's a yummy breakfast!
Four days of the week I eat this for breakfast: almond milk, strawberries, blueberries, almonds, pecans and a banana. SO yummy. And this day I made coffee with nut pods (picked it up at Ralphs). It was OK - not terrible, not sweet by any means. I actually like my coffee better with coconut cream mixed in. (I scoop the thick cream off the top of a chilled can of full fat coconut milk). And I only have coffee once a week. I prefer to have black tea with almond milk, or green tea.
This breakfast was on the 4th of July - I remember clearly because I was HUNGRY and we were heading out the door to Mission Viejo (an hour away). I sliced up my sweet potato, toasted it a few rounds, topped it with almond butter and blueberries. If the sweet potato is toasted enough, it is a nice "toast."
My last post was our pics from 4th of July, but here is my lunch I took (in a cooler). It was hamburger meat that I failed to make into patties, so it was a crumble - with Annie's mustard, Frank's hot sauce and onions that I pickled in apple cider vinegar.
A note on the onions: they were a bit sour - kind of too vinegar-y. I didn't love them. But I had a nice lunch while my kids ate french fries at the lake fair.
This was a sausage scramble. Having eggs with Italian sausage was my favorite flavor combo. The bowl on the right has ketchup - it was my hubbys.
Here is a berry smoothie, my Saturday go to (unsweetened vanilla almond milk, banana, spinach, pineapple and frozen berries) Tayah loved it too!
*Smoothies are generally discouraged on Whole 30 but since I use complaint ingredients I dont mind having one a few times a week.
This dinner on the left was leftover pork chops and brussel sprouts. I LOVE how they taste roasted (olive oil, s/p and balsamic).
And I used the same 1lb of sausage I cooked up (kept in a Tupperware in the fridge) to make pasta. I used one zucchini for the zoodles, and just added store bought jar marinara sauce (Classico brand) to the meat mixture and viola...dinner in 10 min. BOMB.
Oh this night was my Dad's birthday. Every July 5th we have peach pie from Marie Calendars for his bday treat and I decided to make my own version. I cooked up two peaches on the stove top in a pan, drizzled coconut cream on top and added cinnamon and walnuts. PERFECT.
Friday mornings I take Eden to gymnastics class, so I made sure to eat breakfast when I woke up and then took my snack along with me. Lara bars are great - my fav flavors are cashew coookie, carrot cake and lemon.
This was my second week of Whole 30 and I discovered a delicious and quick 5 min meal. I would toss in some veggies into a pan with ghee (clarified butter) and let them cook up. I would then toss in cooked sweet potato (I microwave mine in a damp paper towel), cooked sausage and a few compliant craisins and golden raisins. Oh, and cauliflower rice. It all cooked up and tasted like stuffing. SO GOOD. (P.S. didn't love the craisins - too tart. LOVE the golden raisins touch). I probably had this meal 5 times in a row it was so good and filling.
Friday nights we lead our young adult group at church (ages 18-30). I took my snack along, but then we decided to go to In N Out with our group at 10pm! I google'd the whole 30 approved burger and got it. (Not 100% sure the pickles are compliant but I went with it.) It tasted yummy! We always take the girls home to get right to bed, but this night we just let them stay up and it was enjoyable.
Protein style burger (or double patty if you want), no sauce, mustard grilled, tomato, grilled onions and pickles.
Another Sat morning smoothie and I made my own bbq sauce! I used a date for sweetener and it tasted delicious and thick. I used it for bbq chicken and for ribs.
Same sausage, diff day - same 1lb of sausage.
This Saturday I had a bridal shower to attend and a grad party. I took my own banana and jar of almond butter to the shower and ate lunch before hand of course. I didn't want to chance it that I couldn't eat any of the food. They did have fruit there which was nice. A few ladies I were sitting with asked about my snack and we had a great convo about Whole 30 and mindful eating.
By 5pm I was at my family grad party and busted out my pork chile verde. This was an easy recipe - dump into a crockpot: thin pork loins, chopped white onion and a jar of chili verde salsa sauce. I let it cook for a few hours and chop up the pork and voila, and easy and flavorful dinner that travels well. Everyone had taco man, but my dinner was satisfying.
I had a cashew ball for dessert.
I finally made a trip to Target, a place I often avoid because I buy too much there- and found compliant bacon. This is really important - read labels, because some are still cured IN sugar. I ate it the next day but it was VERY salty for my taste buds.
Sunday at church we set up a table at the lobby of the main sanctuary and were able to invite the congregation to The Bridge (or if they knew someone that was within the age range).
I stocked up on my cauliflower rice to make for my siblings and parents (they enjoyed it). I cook it in a pan with olive oil for just a few minutes.
A few more pics of my cereal and iced coffee. I found that the coffee was much better chilled in the fridge for a few hours rather than put over ice.
This Monday morning we had a play group come over for a few hours to play in the water. It was 80 degrees by 10am!
This was a bomb lunch and a nice change of pace. I made teriyaki turkey meatballs and used them for a whole week in different ways.
This night my girls had rice balls and udon noodles from the Japanese market. Quick and easy.
My dinner was bbq chicken with mashed sweet potatos.
This was a mid morning sausage breakfast and my cherries as an afternoon snack. Are you getting tired of my food pics yet? Almost the end, promise.
BBQ chicken salad with jicima was delish but I sure was missing the corn and black beans!
And then another helping of pork chile verde.
This Tues night was memorable because we had our church group over from 7-11pm and I ordered Dominos to feed them. I wanted a slice SO badly. Instead I had celery with almond butter. Not exactly the same. But I'm glad I didn't cave in.
This day I bought salsa and it wasn't as good as my home made batch! I also tried an odd combo - tuna with balsamic and strawberries in an avocado. It was sweet and savory - good but not my fav.
This was a nice plate - meatballs, bacon, broccoli, avo, brussel sprouts, arugula, apple, balsamic. On this day, my college roomie Veronica was in town from TX with her sons and they ate Rascals, while I made this good dish. I wish I made it for Veronica - next time.
Thursday night my hubby and I went to Albertsons at 7:30pm. A word about grocery shopping on Whole 30 - it is frequent! Mostly because I need fresh ingredients or different items every few days. It's exhausting. Prior to Whole 30, I do my shopping on Sunday afternoons for the first half of the week and then on Thurs morning for the weekend. I also eat a lot of free food at my Moms house. Oh you don't do that as a 36 year old? You should.
But during this challenge I went grocery shopping 3-4 times a week, for a big batch or a quick run of a few items. Maybe I could have planned better but it's hard to have lots of protein on hand ready to cook. Phew. It tired me out. I'd often sneak away solo to the market which I prefer but it was pretty cute having all three girls with us that night.
Here are the ribs I made - I needed to boil them much longer to make them more tender. Another recipe I made that week was cashew chicken and it was a big hit with my siblings and parents. I tripled the recipe to feed those peeps. Both of my brothers actually said the dish was good.
This was a yummy cauliflower rice bowl I made using random items in my fridge.
These items are made on my 3rd weekend - Sat morning smoothie bowls and chicken with roasted veggies for lunch at the park. We had Harley's 1st birthday and to avoid more pizza, I brought my lunch bag filled with a yummy lunch.
Harley is one month older than Tayah and it's been so fun to have gone through my entire pregnancy with my friend Cinthia, and now raise our girls together.
Do I look like I'm standing more with Arlen or Ant in this picture? Haha.
For dinner I made bacon pasta with zoodles. And for dessert I stuffed dates with almond butter and coconut shavings. I store those in the freezer.
We went to a baby shower late Sat night (around 8pm) and I had some watermelon there as my snack.
Sunday after church, we had yet another party - Ollie's first birthday at the park. It was a breezy day and the food at the party was from El Pollo Inka and I sooo wanted to eat some. But, I had my ribs just before we went and took an apple and nectarine along with me.
Straight after the park we went to the mall to meet up with Ant's parents for dinner - for his Mom's birthday. They chose DIN TAI FUNG, only the best soup dumpling place around. But I was mentally prepared, and food prepared - I had brought one last serving of bacon zoodles with me to eat in the car (I was hungry at 4pm).
They enjoyed their dinner and I was full, so didn't mind the temptations. I did have a coconut chocolate RX bar as my dessert. I never thought I'd be possible to pass up on Din Tai Fung, but I proved it can be done.
I can't end this post without commenting on the power of accountability. When you have friends who are counting on you to stick with the program, you do it. It makes it fun. Our chat room is so fun and is filled with our food pics, our hacks and our struggles. The ladies make me laugh and motivate me to keep going strong.
And here are my last pics from day 23. I have one more week to go!
And a mid afternoon snack during the kids swim class.
In closing of this LONG post, I am excited to be done next week. Because of bread. I miss eating bread. I will say, it has been a fantastic journey so far and I feel thinner (I lost 4 lbs so far), I have good energy and I'm getting creative with my meals. I haven't worked out as I feel this takes up too much of my energy and I am looking forward to getting back into weight lifting and bbg workouts. I plan on keeping some healthy habits like smoothies, zoodles, reaching for fruit and raw veggies as a snack. But I will most definitely return to peanut butter toast, frosted mini wheats, avocado sourdough toast, and pizza. It's all about moderation and lots of small GOOD choices that make all the difference. I like having choices and enjoying food. I'll post when I'm done!