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whole 30 meal planning

whole 30, part 1 {a christian perspective on the whole 30}

this semester, as part of our health curriculum, the older two at home are going to read It Starts With Food.  (clicking this title will take you to my amazon affiliate link for the book.  purchasing through this link does not cost you extra, but may bring me a small commision.)  we are also, as a family, doing the Whole 30 challenge.  i’m excited, because as i read the book, i’m in awe of how much truth lines up and stands at attention in the authors’ words.  so much is ringing familiar with concepts of idolatry… of “not being mastered by anything,” as paul once said.  and as i read, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to some (especially since there’s even a comment on “creationists welcome,” as it relates to the premises behind the paleo diet) to hear a christian perspective on the whole 30, as well as get an inside look at a whole family’s experience with the challenge.


when we first told the kids we were going to embark on this journey (ONE MONTH of eating no grains, sugar, dairy, legumes or, ahem, alcohol), you’d have thought we threatened them with starvation.  which broke my heart, because clearly, no one here is suffering.  “we caaaaaan’t go without milk for a MONTH, mom!” moaned my second.  and with that, i knew the trouble was real.


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at the time of writing, we are halfway into the book, and halfway through the challenge.  so far, i’m enjoying the science in the book, minus the evolutionary hogwash.  (on that note, i’m always amazed that people can study the human body and come to believe it was a happy accident, magically evolved from some other “stuff…”) the more i read wisdom in the whole 30 teaching, the more i wonder how they come so close but don’t see the amazing, mind-blowing, impossible-to-imagine wonders of the human body and become drawn to know its Maker!


but the concepts of craving, as associated with both our actual physical needs and our psychological reactions, are so familiar to me.  i’ve always known that food is tied to emotion and to memory, and seeing its hold on us, because it is also necessarily connected to true need, is so intriguing.  the idea of abstaining from particular foods for a full thirty days, in order to discover what really works well for our bodies, is not new.  but the writers of the book, dallas and melissa hartwig, use a combination of scientific evidence, personal and client-related feedback, and a good dose of humor to make this somewhat daunting (in modern america’s food-rich but nutrient-poor climate, that is) journey seem not just doable, but necessary.  (note: caution with sharing the info with your kids directly through the website.  there are some tongue-in-cheek phrases that quite accurately describe the concepts to grasp in the program, but inappropriate for a rated-g audience.)


so many moments during the afternoon as she’s reading, my daughter will come grab me to read some section of the book and share what concept she’s discovering.  she’s said more than once, “mom, they’re so close to getting to the heart of the truth, if they just understood how we are created!”  and she’s right.  they just miss the mark when it comes to the need, i believe, to connect our spiritual habits, desires, and true need for fulfillment, to our tendency to try to fill those needs with physical food.  having said that, we are finding that the psychological connection is so close, and if we read the concepts in conjunction to what we know to be true (sacrifice is sometimes for our good, God made us to need emotional fulfillment as well as to discover who we are in Him, when we don’t find who we are in the Truth of Him, we’ll seek fulfillment, usually in things that will ultimately damage us, body, soul, or mind, etc…), we get such a fuller understanding about the connections with this body of ours!


whole 30 meal plan


as we enter our first half of the journey, i’ve spent a ton of time researching recipes.  (refer to the original book, the newer book the whole 30, and a google or pinterest search for “whole 30 recipes” or “whole 30 meal planning” for a plethora of recipes!!)  i created a pretty plan and stationed the clipboard in a prominent place in the kitchen so the whole family could refer to it.  next i printed selected recipes from the oodles of recipes i’d pinned, and made my shopping list.  i’m not going to lie, we’ve spent a TON of money on food this month.  i journaled that i really felt like the proverbs 31 woman who traveled afar for her goods, as i searched high and low for special sauces, ghee, and snack-able items so no one would feel “deprived” on this journey.  and to be honest?  i would do less of that the next time around.  i feel like i’m getting smarter about what we really need to be nourished, and what is a splurge that we can do without, and am focusing instead on real-life matters, and simple, clean food, well-seasoned and well-prepared.


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above are some of my favorite meals we’ve cooked.  i did notice that at the beginning i needed to stick closely to our plan.  as we’ve progressed, we’ve all gotten more creative, remembering to check ingredients (it is SHOCKING that there is sugar in nearly everything we purchase), and remembering the concepts of eating to live, not living to eat.


in order, the meals above are:

fried eggs with blistered tomatoes (seasoned with salt and pepper and italian herbs), avocado halves drizzled with trader joe’s hatch chili salsa

kale salad with leftover roasted sweet potatoes and garlic, venison carnitas, fresh salsa, and tessamae’s lemon chesapeake dressing.

layered salad in a jar: tessamae’s dressing, chicken and apple sausage, shredded carrots, yellow peppers, arugula, slivered almonds and poppyseeds.

favorite snack/side of all month: home made refrigerator pickles.  try this recipe; we left out the additional veggies this time and just used fresh garlic cloves and baby cucumbers.

roast chicken.  slather with ghee and fresh rosemary under the skin.  roast on top of carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes with whole cloves of garlic.  this is perfect for dinner and leftovers get used for chicken salad, chicken soup, and chicken on top of a quick veggie stir fry.

chopped apples and mandarin segments with flax meal, coconut flakes, coconut milk (the thick cream from a full-fat can), and clean bacon.

fish fillets topped with macadamia nuts, roasted green beans with sun dried tomatoes, and a simple carrot salad of shredded carrots stirred into coconut oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  side of, of course, a pickle!

romaine spears with roasted garlic, blistered tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts.  a quick dressing made by stirring lemon juice and olive oil in to deglaze the pan after cooking tomatoes and garlic.


there you have it – our take on the first half of our first whole 30.  what are your thoughts?  have you tried the plan?  would you like to?  have you made the connection between your heart, your mind, and your body, and how it relates to food?



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whole 30 kids birthday celebration!

it’s funny how when you decide to do something “crazy” like spend 30 days eating no common “problem” foods like dairy, sugar, grains, and legumes, all kinds of life events seem to pop up and get in the way of that decision.  we were determined, though, not to let it stop us from what seems like an amazing opportunity to get in touch with these awesome bodies we’ve been given and learn how to really take care of them.  so, when our littlest’s birthday landed in the early days of our adventure, we determined to let this be a real-life experience for our whole 30 kids to learn and grow!






it’s a tradition in our house to serve breakfast in bed for the birthday person.  in order to help him make “compliant” choices, we made a little “room service” menu for him to fill out the day before, and then littlest had a say in his special treat!  (he chose “coffee cake” with the “help” of his big brother; we walked him through a better choice…)  click here to get your own printable copy of our “room service” menu!




now here was an interesting parenting moment: the day before his birthday, little got teary-eyed.  were we REALLY going to withhold birthday cake from him?  and potentially ruin his day?  (side note: doesn’t the enemy of our souls always try to make us believe we’re lacking something that’s “good” for us, when we try to give up what isn’t-so-good?!!)




we had the most tender conversation where i assured him again how much we love him, and how “cake” doesn’t really translate to love, and that we wanted him to learn how to treat himself with what’s good for his body.  and whew, did that conversation speak truth to my own heart!!!


but next came the real test… could we throw a birthday party for some of our favorite kiddos and stay true to the whole 30 plan… without them thinking it was super-weird or lacking in food-fun??!!




(these boys have been the biggest blessing to our family.  moving into a neighborhood with friends who spend hours exploring the outdoors together was a gift better than we could’ve asked for!)


i decided that a breakfast birthday party would give us the chance to serve some fun foods that were healthy, too.  so we invited the gang over for breakfast and board games.  one of the mamas even joined me for coffee and goodies.





for this “apple crisp” (for whole 30 purists, i  wasn’t trying to recreate a dessert for our sweet tooth, but rather give a healthy breakfast item a familiar name the kids would appreciate…), i sauteed apples and bananas with lots of cinnamon and orange-almond flavored coconut oil, sprinkled them with almond meal and then crisped in the oven in our iron skillet.  we recreated this dish later while camping, it was so good!




fruit salad sprinkled with lime juice and fresh mint from the backyard herb garden was a bright pop of color and flavor, and a vehicle for the birthday candle… which no one seemed to think was too weird at all!  😉  my favorite was when one of the boys excitedly asked, “is that MINT?  CAN I PLEASE EAT THE MINT??!!”  i said, “of course you can, gardener’s son.”  (his dad gardens and has been an inspiration to our whole neighborhood with his passion and green thumb!)




we also served home made turkey sausage and seafood/veggie egg cups, and “splurged” with all-juice boxes for the boys.  here’s a recipe i used before the whole 30 – i simply replaced the butter with ghee, and replaced the sausage with chopped frozen seafood from trader joe’s, or all veggies.




the boys spent time playing board games while mom sipped coffee, and then played this game i remembered from childhood.  since the big siblings couldn’t be there (oh, i mourn the days when “real life,” in the form of jobs, interferes with real life, in the form of memory-making…), they participated by making up fun tasks the boys had to do when they popped balloons.  this was a huge hit; afterwards they played balloon volleyball with a makeshift “net” we set up in the living room.  (clear the breakables!!)





we had a blast and we learned that we can honor what we’re learning about being healthier, while being hosts to some rollicking fun times!  i think the birthday boy was pleased.




**when you read the book it starts with food, the instructions are very clear: no cheating. doing so, even with “healthy versions of unhealthy foods,” can disrupt the body and mind’s journey to re-learning what is really nourishing to us as individuals. i will say up front that we decided for our family, we were going to allow one “cheat,” on the night of blue’s birthday, in the form of a paleo dessert. we encouraged him to sort through a book of gorgeous recipes and pick out one to try. he settled on meringues from the amazing book my paleo patisserie, and i modified them by leaving out the chocolate chips and sprinkling with cocoa. we told the other kids they could make the decision, and to be honest, i worried about their decision. our son whom i know struggles with a sugar addiction, opted to abstain, having read that it could make his struggle harder. and do you know what? he gave me the courage to do it, too!

have you made hard choices for your kids’ best interest?  have they ever given you the courage to do something hard?


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