With social distancing and sheltering-in-place, more people cooking at home. This is a great time to work on your cooking skills or try new recipes. If you have the time, this may be a good time to practice your knife skills or learn to use your food processor.
The goal of this article is to make it easy to plan and make healthy meals, not just Whole30 meals. If you are doing a Whole30, continuing to plan meals around the Whole30 meal template after your Whole30 is a great way to start your food freedom.
Whole30 Meals Made Easy
The Whole30 program can seem overwhelming at first, and you may be wondering where to even start. The good news is that your meals don’t have to be complicated or require lots of time and ingredients to prepare. Instead, all you need to focus on is the Whole30 meal template. While it isn’t a Whole30 rule, the meal template is a useful guide for creating your Whole30 meals. Of course, every meal won’t match the meal template perfectly, but using it makes creating healthy meals easy. You don’t need to buy any special foods for your Whole30. You’ll be eating real, whole, nutritious foods.
It is suggested that you eat 3 meals a day starting with breakfast. Then, spread the other 2 meals throughout the day, with your last meal a few hours before bed. You’ll likely need snacks the first week or so of your Whole30 as you figure out serving sizes that work for you. You’ll be eating meals designed to satisfy you until the next meal. You won’t be hungry on the Whole30 unless it’s been several hours since you ate. So if you’re truly hungry, eat. Snacking is allowed but not encouraged; no snacking is just a guideline (like using the meal template), and not an official Whole30 rule. Note that there are many exceptions to the recommendation to eat 3 meals per day without snacks, such as being pregnant, nursing, or having certain medical conditions. Work with your health care provider to determine what is best for you.
Why use the Whole30 meal template?
- The combination of foods in the meal template will help you feel more satisfied and keep you feeling full longer.
- Meals that follow the template provide a balanced variety of nutrition.
- You’ll have enough energy for your activity level.
The 3 Steps to Using the Meal Template
- Choose a Protein
Start your meal with a serving of protein in the form of meat, seafood or eggs. A serving is about 1 to 2 palm-sized portions. Keep this simple – there’s no need to measure. Just eye-ball it. Estimate the amount within the range based on your body (and palm) size and activity level, then adjust your serving size for your next meal so that you don’t need snacks between meals. It’s recommended that you don’t go below the minimum of 1 palm-sized portion. Another option is to start with 1 palm-sized portion, then if you’re still hungry a few minutes after finishing that, you can eat more. Keep in mind that there’s a delay between when you eat and when the brain is signaled that you’ve eaten enough.
Options for protein include chicken, pork, beef, lamb, turkey, fish, seafood, and eggs. Meats and seafood can be prepared in a wide variety of ways such as grilled, baked, broiled, or made in a crock pot, air fryer or instant pot. If you’re new to cooking, start out simple, then as your skills improve try more advanced methods. See Meat & Seafood Labeling for more information on terms to look for when buying protein sources.
Our bodies require protein in order to:
- Feel full longer. Eating protein sends signals to your brain to stop eating because you’re full and well-nourished.
- Help stabilize blood sugar levels
- Promote the growth and repair of skin, hair, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and more
- Help with recovery from activity and exercise
- Produce hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.
2. Fill the Rest of Your Plate with Vegetables.
Include plenty of veggies in your meals. Ideally you’ll eat a couple of different vegetables with each meal, but that’s not a requirement. Avoid a rut by trying a new vegetable each time you shop. Look for what’s in-season, local, or on sale. Commit to trying a new vegetable each week.
Farmers markets are a great place to find local in-season produce. Even when the markets aren’t open, you can contact famers to see if you can place an order for delivery or pickup. If there isn’t a local farmers market, look for farmers or coops in your area. Or, try a produce delivery service if one delivers in your area.
Fruits: Occasionally add fruit to your meal, but don’t let them crowd out your veggies. Fruit is optional on the Whole30. Like veggies, fruits are nutrient dense with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Choose local and in-seasonal for the freshest fruit. Be aware that fruit may trigger your sugar dragon so eat fruit with a meal. If you have fruit for a snack, eat it with protein and/or a healthy fat to keep you full longer and to help reduce sweet cravings.
A final note on fruit: It is recommended that you should eat fruit, instead of drinking compliant fruit juice. However, like snacking, this is a guideline, not an official Whole30 rule.
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables by eating produce from all the colors of the rainbow.
Reasons we need vegetables include:
- Provide nutrient-dense carbohydrates with active compounds
- Increase activity levels
- Support brain function
- Anti-inflammatory because they are rich sources of antioxidants.
- Reduce the risk for lifestyle-related disorders such as stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
3. Add a Healthy Fat
Yes, there are healthy fats. You may also hear them called “plated” fats in the Whole30 world. This is to emphasize that they actually are on your plate. Much of the fats used for cooking end up staying in the pan so cooking fats aren’t counted as the fat in the meal template. As always, use your judgement here. If most of the cooking oil makes it to your plate, it’s reasonable to consider that at least part of your healthy fat.
Healthy fats are important to your overall health, and should be included with every meal. They make your meals satisfying and keep you full longer. This component is an important one, and it’s the part of Whole30 meals that seem to get the most resistance. Our bodies need fat.
Some ways our bodies use fat:
- To store energy
- As insulation
- To protect vital organs
- To help proteins do their job
- To start chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other metabolic functions
There are 4 main types of fats found in foods (see below). It is recommended that you avoid trans fats even when you’re not on a Whole30. They’re not found anywhere in nature.
Suggested serving sizes for healthy fats are as follows. Try not to go below the lower amount.
- Oils, cooking fats, ghee, coconut butter, nut butters, etc: 1 to 2 thumb-sized portions
- Coconut, and olives: 1 to 2 open (heaping) handfuls
- Nuts and Seeds: up to 1 closed handful
- Avocado: ½ to 1
- Coconut milk or other nut milk: ¼ to ½ of a 14-ounce can (about ½ to ⅔ cup)
Tips for Making Meals with the Whole30 Meal Template and Meal Matrix
- Experiment with different methods of preparing your foods.
- Use herbs and spices to switch up the flavors.
- Sauces, dips and salad dressings can add flavor and count as the healthy fat for your meal.
- Get creative and try different food combinations.
- Even if you have favorite meals and don’t mind eating the same foods over and over, eat a variety of foods to get a wider range of nutrients.
- Frozen foods are usually less expensive and last longer than fresh. Canned foods are another option, but read the ingredient list carefully. They commonly have off-limit additives.
- Eat foods that spoil the fastest first, before those that last longer. Typically this means eating fresh foods first, followed by frozen, then canned.
The Whole30 meal template is not limited to your Whole30 reset. It’s also useful for reintroduction and life beyond Whole30, aka food freedom. During food freedom, use the meal template as a basis for your meals, then add in foods that don’t have a negative impact.
There you have it – try to include protein, vegetables and healthy fat with each meal. Occasionally add a serving of fruit to your meal. Adjust portion sizes until you don’t need snacks between meals, yet still eat at least 3 meals each day.
- Whole30 Meal Template
- Whole30 Seasonal Produce Guide
- Whole30 Good Meat Guide
- Guide to Sneaky Sugars I use this list when I’m shopping and reading labels.
- Common Additives Cheat Sheet I keep this list handy when shopping. Watch for carrageenan in deli meat or MSG in canned tuna and broth as both are off-limits.