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17 Recipes That Actually Got Me Through Whole30

From someone who can barely cook and likes to eat.

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The Whole30 program is an elimination diet that calls for avoiding grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar, and alcohol for 30 days — and last month, I did it.

Eliminating multiple food groups from my life wasn't something I had ever really wanted to do — because, well, I love way too many foods and didn't want to be susceptible to bingeing down the line, which can happen with super restrictive diets.

But when I started having some ~gastro issues~, my doctor suggested I temporarily remove certain food groups from my diet and then gradually reintroduce them in order to find out what was causing the trouble. We decided Whole30 would be a great way to do it, since the popularity of the diet meant there were a million recipes online, so I wouldn't be left to my own devices to come up with what to eat in order to nourish my flesh prison.

That said, Whole30 isn't for everybody, so make sure to check with your doctor before starting any meal plans.

Given that I'm a pretty shitty cook with limited patience for both complicated recipes and gross food, finding a few solid staple recipes was necessary for getting through Whole30.

Because of that, I can promise all of these recipes: are simple and easy to make

* don't use any fancy appliances because I have a tiny-ass kitchen and three roommates

* require no outlandish ingredients, except for a few Whole30-specific things that you'll probably be stocking up on anyway (like coconut aminos, which are actually worth it, btw)

* lend themselves well to meal-prepping and leftovers, since I only ever wanted to cook 1-2 times a week

* are tasty and filling enough that I rarely felt like I was being deprived of anything (except alcohol and dessert, RIP)

Here were my favorites:

1. Roasted garlic chicken salad in bell pepper cups

Little Bits Of / Anna Borges / BuzzFeed News

Listen, I don't mean to be dramatic, but discovering bell peppers as alternative receptacles for sandwich fillings was NOTHING SHORT OF LIFE-CHANGING. Using lettuce is fine and all but ultimately very messy without much payoff, whereas bell peppers are crunchy and delicious and also easy to assemble into yummy little chicken salad boats at work. YOU TOO WILL BE A CONVERT, I PROMISE.


2. Cauliflower fried "rice"

Jay's Baking Me Crazy / Via

This recipe scratched my take-out itch, because SHOCKINGLY, my Seamless habit was not sustainable while observing Whole30. Cauliflower rice, btw, is just cauliflower chopped or processed till it's the size of grains of rice. Or if you're lucky, you can get it frozen or pre-chopped at the grocery store.

3. Potato avocado "toast" with poached eggs

The Organic Kitchen / Via

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I understand the marketing of this dish as toast instead of loaded hashbrowns or something, but whatever, it made for a great brunch-y meal for me, Girl Who Really Missed Boozy Brunch and Eggs Benedict. You can find some useful tips for poaching here, but it's good with a fried egg too, if poaching is too intimidating for you.

5. Thai meatball and egg drop soup

A Saucy Kitchen / Via

Everyone needs a solid soup recipe and since I'm usually too lazy to make any that involve blending or pureeing AND had a small army of meatballs leftover from the last recipe to sub in, this one became My Soup.


6. Zoodles with turkey meatballs* in roasted red pepper sauce

A Dash of Megnut / Via

*Lol, you know I used the same chicken meatballs from recipe #3 instead, right??? And with the meatballs pre-prepped, this was a go-to throw-together meal when I was too busy to really cook. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can also shave the zucchini into ribbons using a peeler or cut it into long, thin strips with a knife. It won't look as much like pasta, but it also doesn't taste like pasta either, so who are we trying to kid here???

7. Fish taco bowls with mango salsa, chipotle aioli, and coconut-lime cauliflower rice

40 Aprons / Anna Borges / BuzzFeed News

FYI: The recipe calls for prepping and seasoning all of the parts separately, which makes for a nice picture but is really needlessly time-consuming. INSTEAD you can just toss the mango, cabbage, avocado, and red onions all together with some lime, salt, and cilantro. Slightly messier presentation, but same satisfyingly sweet-and-spicy bowl.

8. These snack ideas from Shutterbean

Shutterbean / Via

I LOVE SNACKING and there is nothing more demoralizing than having to put a lot of effort into preparing snacks — especially if you're used to just grabbing a bag of chips or a piece of string cheese like I was. Because of that, really simple snacks were pretty much vital to my success.

This roundup contains most of my go-tos from the month, some standouts being: salt and vinegar potato salad, avocado sushi bites, mango with chili powder and lime, and pickled cucumber salad.

9. Asian chicken chopped salad

Tasty Thin / Via

Since I meal prepped, I looked for salads that stayed crunchy and fresh-tasting even after chilling in my fridge for three days. This was a winner in that way, as long as I waited to toss in the dressing until day-of.


11. Pear and prosciutto wraps

Megoirs / Via

My roommate and I have weekly Wine and Cheese Thursdays, wherein we pretend to be decadent people, and since I could no longer have wine or cheese, this was a great ~fancy~ feeling snack. Paired with some LaCroix with fresh fruit and sprigs of rosemary tossed in, I almost didn't feel left out of the cheese plate fun.

12. Sun-dried tomato bacon mini frittatas and like a dozen more egg cup recipes

Paleo Running Momma / Via

In case you hadn't noticed by the lack of breakfast recipes on this list, I'm not a human who can muster the energy to make elaborate meals before noon. Since my usual breakfast pre-Whole30 was greek yogurt and some fruit, I had to change things up. And mini egg frittatas made in a muffin tin were simple to make AND grab in the morning without much thought, so they became my go-to.

13. Chicken lettuce wraps

One Lovely Life / Via

Instead of the dressing listed in the recipe, I decided I wanted some sort of peanut sauce — but since peanuts aren't Whole30-approved, I made do by blending together almond butter, garlic, ginger, lime juice, coconut aminos, and a date. And it was actually good!!

Instagram: @healthfest / Via, Instagram: @planksloveandguacamole / Via

Salads tend to be readily available if you have to grab-and-go, but most dressings have added sugar or unknown ingredient lists. SO, stocking up on homemade dressings, both at the office and at home (and one really embarrassing time when I actually brought my own to a restaurant), came in handy.

And voilà! After 30 days, you can celebrate by immediately ordering a cheese plate and drinking a bottle of wine*.

Anna Borges / BuzzFeed News

*Before remembering that you're supposed to SLOWLY REINTRODUCE FOOD GROUPS TO YOUR DIET and doing that instead.