How To Survive The Whole30 Program

Whole30 is hard; eating a whole cookie is not

Start the year off right with the healthy ingredients, dishes and recipes that will stick with you long after you've abandoned those pesky resolutions. We're going all in on Clean(er) Eating—and drinking, too.

The holidays have come and gone, and the New Year is upon us. We've put all of the ham, pot roast, potato gratin and pie behind us, and we're finally getting back on track with cleaner eating.

I'll be honest: I cringe at the word diet. I'm a big believer that life is all about balance, and you shouldn't have to sacrifice everything you love to achieve your goals. Jumping into healthier eating habits cold turkey works for some, while others prefer to take baby steps, easing into making better food choices. What works for some people simply might not work for others.

But no matter how you do it, the Whole30 Program is a great way to hit the reset button and start the year off right.

The Whole30 Program, founded by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig, instructs followers to limit their food intake to meat, seafood, vegetables, eggs, as well as moderate consumption of fruits, nuts and seeds for 30 days. Yep, that means no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes or alcohol. I first did the Whole30 Program a few years ago, because certain foods were making me sick and I couldn't figure out what was triggering my symptoms. By eating non-processed, whole food, this program allowed me to eliminate possible items that were making me sick, and then slowly add them back into my diet to see what I could tolerate. There's no denying it—it's a strict program, and it's truly all or nothing.

Here are five tips on how to start, succeed and finish the Whole30 Program. Trust me, you'll need them.

① Throw out or store anything that isn't Whole30-approved.

The saying "out of sight, out of mind" absolutely applies here. If you remove temptation, you will be less likely to cheat. I'm not saying to throw out an unopened bag of black beans. Instead, stash it away (far, far away) in a safe spot and revisit it after the 30 days are over.

② Take the time to meal prep.

If you try to cook your Whole30 meals each day, you're likely to burn out quickly. If you prepare your meals a few days in advance, though, you don't even have to think about what you'll eat that day or how long it'll take to cook. Plus, if you make a batch of different foods like steak, chicken, eggs, spiralized noodles and so on, it's easier to change it up, so you don't feel like you're eating the same old thing all the time.

③ Don't forget to plan ahead before going out.

If you know you're going to a friend's house for dinner, be sure to take something along for yourself. Temptation can take over when you're surrounded by all those off-limits treats, so be smart and make yourself a dish you know you'll enjoy. This goes double for eating out. Always check the menu ahead of time—most restaurants offer a handful of approved dishes like fish, meat and vegetarian options.

④ Follow the Whole30 cookbooks.

Instead of trying to recreate your favorite recipes or constantly finding yourself disappointed with repetitive bland meals, try the recipes featured in the Whole30 cookbooks. I recommend the walnut-crusted pork tenderloin, salmon cakes and steak salad with cilantro-lime mayo.

⑤ Never skip breakfast.

On this program, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Make sure to eat a big meal each morning to properly set yourself up for the day. Pro tip: The program suggests incorporating last night's leftovers into your morning meal for a quick, easy and 100 percent Whole30-approved breakfast.