Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
I started seeing #Whole30 pop up in my Instagram feed a few years ago. I looked into it, but I’ll be honest, most of the friends who I saw taking on this challenge didn’t have kids, or seemed to be way more organized than me. Plus, we were already a family that tried to limit our processed food intake and cook at home more often than not! But last year, when my husband had to go on a very strict elimination diet, I did have to think about his limitations and cook a special way for six whole weeks. After that, I knew that the Whole30 program was doable. I was ready to try it.
I’d like to tell you I did a lot of research before jumping in, but I didn’t. There is a book, a website and lots of group resources, of course. I just looked up the “don’ts”—no sugar or sugar substitutes, no booze, no legumes, no dairy and no grains of any kind. The do’s are pretty simple—eat real food, with more veggies than protein. Try and limit your intake of fruits as they are natural sugars, and don’t try and recreate your “cheat” foods with approved ingredients. They also recommend no snacking and sticking to three good meals a day. Your goals are to examine your personal relationship with the foods you eat and try and create healthier eating patterns.
There are plenty of resources with support for how to do the Whole30. You can find a million different sites for tips, recipe ideas and pantry stocking suggestions. You certainly don’t need me for that.
What I am here to do is this: tell you how your kids will try and screw up the Whole30 for you constantly. While it’s true that some of theses struggles are universal, I believe having kids around adds new levels of temptation and your willpower better be rock solid. Without further ado, here’s a bit of what you can expect Whole30-ing as a parent.
Kid snack sabotage
Your kids will try to sabotage you with their snacks. Prior to attempting Whole30, I naively thought I didn’t eat too many of their snacks during the day. Ha! Our kids are in the raccoon phase of life. They forage snacks out of the pantry and leave a trail of evidence behind them all around the house. During the day, I would haphazardly pick up their leftovers and eat them. Peanut butter cracker here, handful of goldfish there, etc. I have also been known to polish off the last three bites of their yogurt. During the program, I’m sure I looked like a lunatic running away from my four-year-old son who really wanted me to try his sucker. It helps to have a bag of almonds on hand at all times. Clearly I broke the no snacking rule often.
Cooking for yourself isn’t secondhand
It will quickly become apparent that you have forgotten how to make a grown-up meal during the day. When did leftover Annie’s Mac & Cheese and a few slices of an apple become an acceptable lunch for a grown woman? I am not sure, but it happened. Don’t let the idea of needing to make yet another extra something for yourself deter you. None of my breakfasts or lunches were Instagram worthy, but trust me, it’s very satisfying to make yourself a salad mid-day. It’s also almost a guarantee that your kids won’t ask to eat half your plate when its piled high with kale.
Grocery store overload
One draw back to all of this “adulting” and making more real food meals is that you end up having to go to the grocery store more often. Yeah, not my favorite activity either, especially when I have the kids with me. Nothing will send you running to your pantry for grab-and-go crap food faster than the idea of having to go to Costco on a Saturday. But fear not! There is an upside. Since you are eating from the mostly perishable parts of the store, you can round the perimeter and get our faster than usual, avoiding all the aisles where the kids snacks hide. Whole30 also may be a good time to try out Instacart, or another curbside/delivery grocery service.
Their dinner will be better than yours
While I might not be great at making meals for myself during the day, dinner has always been a staple in our home. We are also a one-dinner family meaning whatever I cook for dinner is what everyone eats. That being said, in order to keep the peace at dinnertime, my dinner would be slightly different than theirs. I would get zucchini noodles and they got pasta. They would get rice, cheese and a tortilla with their chicken enchilada. I got, you know, chicken and enchilada sauce. Food envy over a child’s plate is new for me. I think there should be a law against having to blow on your kid’s spoonful of food that you are forbidden to taste. Especially if it is covered in melted cheese.
You may want to lick their faces
About midway through the Whole30, I picked up my twins from preschool one afternoon and they smelled wonderful. It took me a minute to place what smelled so darn good. Then it hit me: it was pizza. They smelled like pizza from Tuesday Pizza Day. I have no shame in telling you that I nuzzled in and took a deep whiff. Since your kids will keep on eating their regular stuff, you’ll have to stay extra strong. If they have pancakes on a weekend morning, I think it is perfectly fine to give them extra kisses and savor the sweet smell of sugar on their faces.
They make you cheat, even if you don’t intend to
I accidentally took a bite of my daughter’s mac and cheese out of habit to test the temperature one day. When I realized my “mistake,” I ran to the sink and spit it out. In this moment it became clear that not only was I totally committed to finishing the challenge, but it had also made me a little crazy. Gluten is not poison and this whole program is a choice. Legit a first world problem. I decided then and there that 99% compliance was good enough and I made a dinner with that bacon that says it was cured in sugar, but actually listed 0 grams of sugar on the ingredients list. We all need some indulgence. Plus, if I can’t transition some of these habits to the real world when the challenge is over, what was even the point?
Temptation is everywhere
There will never be a “good time” to try Whole30. Book club meetings, birthday parties and dinners with friends are all opportunities to drink wine, consume cheese and eat sugar. Even if you manage not to leave the house for 30 days, your children will bring the sugar to you. Our kids came home with bags of candy from school Valentine’s Day parties. Normally, I “help” them with this burden by eating at least 50 percent of their treats. Don’t get me started on our local sugar dealers, the Girl Scouts. I arranged most of my cookie deliveries to happen after I was done. Delayed gratification at its finest my friends.
You have to find new stress relievers
There’s a reason there are so many jokes about moms eating treats in the pantry and opening bottles of wine after bedtime. Parenting is stressful, and it’s easy to develop some not-so-healthy ways to take the edge off. For me, what I lack in appetite during the day, I make up for the moment the kids go to bed. I would like to tell you that my primal urge to eat all of the sugar in the house the second we say goodnight has been curbed in the last 30 days, but it hasn’t. But I can tell you that sipping on Sleepytime tea while watching a show is a pretty good second place. I have also felt more rested this month after not having any alcohol and that is vital when you’re already operating at a sleep deficit.
But at least there’s coffee
The Whole30 is a test for anyone who tries it, but it is by no means impossible. Once I got in a groove, it became easier to pass on the contraband and load up on the good stuff. I feel confident that some of my new found habits will stick with me now that my 30 days are up. It was eye opening to learn some of my own negative eating habits and create some new healthier patterns. I lost some weight and gained some empathy for friends who deal with more than one food allergy. Overall, despite my kids doing their best to throw me off track, I learned that I do actually have will power and the ability to wait. It is possible to create tasty grain and dairy free meals, many of which we will add to our regular rotation. I am willing to bet that if you give it a try, you will surprise yourself too. You may even begin to enjoy black coffee.