13 Things I Learned From It's All About Food & the Whole30 Program


Today after lunch, will officially conclude 30 days of Whole food for Kelsey and I. I've kicked the sugar cravings, we spent 50% more than our budget called for, but we did it! I have a decent bit more of sustained energy throughout the day, and my mental clarity and focus has been improving over the last few weeks.

I lost more weight than I care to admit, and have been seeking ways to gain this back (Anyone know of a good ice cream diet for weight gain?). Just kidding... kind of... it is my birthday on Thursday, so I will indulge!

Aside from the feelings and physical attributes of the Whole30, I really have learned a lot about food over these past few months. Preparing for the Whole30 was almost as much work as doing it.

In case anyone out there has been wondering about the program, or thinking of taking this on yourselves, I thought I would compile a list of things I've learned both from the book "It Starts With Food," and from doing our own Whole30.

1. Premise: The food we eat either makes us more healthy or less healthy.

At the basic level and without getting into all the scientific proof offered in the book, this makes sense, right? I think the issue with this is that having not been educated properly I've not really known what was healthy before reading the book.

Low fat, no fat, no sugar, all natural, organic, free range, grass fed, etc... what does it all mean? Basically... most of the terms are simple marketing tactics to get you to buy. It has nothing to do with how healthy the food is for your body.

Over the past few years, we've made vast improvements in our diet, but continued to eat pretty much what we wanted. I wanted to do this experiment to see how what I ate affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

2. Experimenting to Find the Issues

I wanted to do the Whole30 to see if my diet could/would improve that feeling of being bloated after eating a big meal. I also just wanted a good cleanse from all processed food, additives, and sugars I've consumed over the years.

It's given me peace of mind that it's not impossible to do for 30 days and that we do in fact eat pretty healthy 50-75% of the time. I'm basing this conclusion on the fact that I haven't felt super-duper amazing like many of the success stories I read in the book.

3. Cooking Whole Foods is Easy

Seriously, when all you have is protein, veggies, fats, and fruit to work with, cooking becomes simple. I often made breakfast for the whole family in one pan.

We kept a few basic spices on the counter that I used to keep things from tasting too bland (salt, pepper, basil, minced garlic). Other than that I was often searching: "whole 30 recipes" and finding interesting things to try.

For the most part though, we kept a lot of veggies on hand and just focused on preparing the protein for meals and then added in our variety of veggies to each meal. We typically ate raw veggies, or would cook them in the microwave (frozen asparagus).

4. I've done enough dishes

Ugh, this is just annoying. Coming from a family that eats out a handful of times each week, to 30 days of cooking/cleaning at home, I am ready for a break. First world problem, I know, but nonetheless, I'm tired of doing dishes.

5. Mealtime with the family

One big rule on the Whole30 is that you sit and spend at least 15 minutes eating each meal. While this adds time to our morning, and evening routine, it's created a healthy habit for our family.


I've thoroughly enjoyed sitting down at the table with my wife and daughter, talking about our day, and slowing down to enjoy a meal. It's something I've taken for granted over the years of microwaving leftovers, or eating out.

Rooney has had a hard time sitting through every meal (she's 3), and would do some drive-by grazing from time to time. This was OK because as she kept herself busy, it gave Kelsey and I time to catch up and talk through the adult things going on in our lives. Something of a rare commodity typically.

6. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal

I've always been a big fan of breakfast. I'm usually really hungry in the morning anyway and honestly, can't quite function without it. But, one thing I've really noticed is that by eating a well balanced breakfast, I'm not as hungry before lunchtime.

This is helpful as it sets my day off on the right foot. It also keeps me from overeating (making up for) meals later in the day. I still eat a good sized supper, but this way I'm not over-eating at supper and feeling like I'm ready to explode until bedtime.

7. Counting Calories

I've never been a fan of this, but figured out a few weeks in that I was probably not getting enough calories. I was eating the recommended portions of protein, veggies, and fats, but it left my body to eat away what little fat I had stored up. (mostly around my mid-section)

Hear me on this... because I know a lot of people want to lose weight, but I didn't. That's not the intention of the program anyway. It's about resetting your system to know what makes you healthier.

But, if you're in a position where you're working out heavily, don't need to lose weight, or perhaps pregnant (like my wife), I think the links below in #12 might be very helpful. They were for us.

8. Grilling During Iowa Winter

This mental barrier has been torn down! I grilled the best meal of our Whole30 in sub 20 degree weather, and while it's a little uncomfortable, it's totally worth it! I tried getting by with the George Foreman in the kitchen, but it's not even close to the outdoor grill.

I'm resolving to grill more during the winter months from now on!

9. Smashburgers

One of our favorite restaurants in town is SmashBurger. And after about 20 days of eating the same old things, I decided to see if I could recreate the deliciousness. I found a youtube video, gave it a shot, and it was a family favorite. (these were done on our pancake skillet)


I rounded out the meal with some baked sweet potato fries. YUM!

10. Google "Whole30 All The Things

Shopping was a challenge, when I wasn't prepared. Something as small as trying to pick up a can of black olives and wondering what in the world Ferrous Gluconate was? And was it Whole30 compliant?

Google was my friend in these situations and helped verify if it was something I could buy or not.

11. Why Eating Healthy is So Expensive

It's sad, but true. Our culture thrives on "quick and easy" everything. And as a culture, we've voted with our dollars to say that we would rather have quick and easy on the cheap than whole, nutritious food.

Which makes it really hard to eat on a budget that doesn't break the bank. It stinks. We're still sifting through what this month will look like after our Whole30 and how we'll be able to amend our previous eating habits toward a healthier lifestyle.

12. Helpful Whole30 Resources

13. Kelsey's Experience With the Whole30

I think I'll post a few of my favorite recipes later this week as well.