I’ve never been much of a dieter. It only took a handful of uninformed and misguided attempts at replacing lunch with cans of chalky Slim Fast way back in middle school to realize that I like eating too much to deprive myself of the pleasure of real food. When I finally learned to cook years later, it became effortless to eliminate most processed foods from my diet because I finally had the skills to make real ingredients taste delicious. Now in my late twenties, I have what I regard as a mostly healthy relationship with food. Years ago I adopted the 80/20 philosophy: 80% healthful foods with a satisfying but not excessive amount of wiggle room for foods to be consumed for pure pleasure. While this principle worked for a while, lately I’ve found that ratio dipping too easily. Though I adore fresh fruits and vegetables and eat them in abundance, I’m also finding that treats are becoming much too routine in my day-to-day diet. Enter the modified Whole30.
I obviously love the concept of moderation and balance, but it’s easy to see how life gets in the way of keeping it in practice. Moreover, it’s a b*tch to get back to 80/20 when habits have moved the needle somewhere south of there. I realized I needed a jolt to reset my habits, cravings, and expectations. I started researching Whole30 and searching my calendar for a 30-day window clear of social activities and holidays. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Whole30 was not the right plan for me and that there would never be a perfect time to do this. I also realized that this is part of the point: hitting the reset button would be physical but also mental. Eating patterns are enforced by habits, and I know it would do me a lot of good to address the habits I’ve unintentionally developed over the months and years.
I devised a plan–a modified Whole30 if you will–that works for me and though it is obviously restrictive, that’s what I need right now. I’m not going so far as to eliminate legumes, all gluten, and categories like smoothies, but I am removing foods and beverages that serve no other purpose than pleasure. Here’s what I’ve decided to nix:
- Alcohol. I tend to have a glass of wine every night with dinner, and at least a few cocktails over the weekend. I’m really interested to see what other things I reach for when I’m unwinding, celebrating, or hanging at a social event.
- Dairy. This is a big one for me because cheese is one of my favorite foods! I also use greek yogurt in our morning smoothies so I’m going to have to get creative with other sources of protein.
- Processed sugar. I am however using a little pure maple syrup or honey here and there.
- Processed grains. This eliminates bread, tortillas, pasta, etc. but keeps whole grains like quinoa, oats, brown rice, and farro.
The best part is I’m not doing this alone! My darling husband loves a good challenge and decided to brave the reboot with me. He also looked at the Whole30 guidelines and was confused by the no-smoothie rule. I totally get that many have tried and loved the Whole30 program and find success with it, but it was pretty obvious that it’s not the right plan for us. We tend to use lots of greens in our smoothies (celery, cucumbers, spinach, kale, and avocados in particular) and I find them very satisfying for breakfast or a light lunch. I’ve also done a gluten elimination before and found that it doesn’t negatively impact me, so I’m more satisfied with having the option to have whole grains that aren’t gluten free. I also just don’t agree with the “sex with your pants on” mentality.
Despite my affection for smoothies, a girl needs options. I have been on the chia pudding bandwagon for a few years and while a simple vanilla version is quick and easy, I recently tried a more fragrant and flavorful variety that requires just a few extra minutes of time and results in lots of flavor.
- ¼ cup white chia seeds
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp. Golden raisins
- ½ tsp. Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. Maple syrup
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 inch piece ginger root, finely grated
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup raspberries
- 3 figs
- Unsweetened shredded coconut, to taste
- Combine the chia seeds, coconut milk, almond milk, raisins, vanilla extract, maple syrup, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, a very small pinch of salt and grated ginger in a lidded jar or bowl. Vigorously stir with a fork or shake until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust ingredients to your liking.
- Cover and place in the fridge overnight or at least four hours to allow the pudding to thicken.
- Garnish with raspberries and sliced figs (or any fresh fruits you have on hand) and a sprinkle of shredded coconut.