I’m one third of my way through my Whole 30 cleanse program, and here’s what I’ve learned so far. First of all, I attribute my success so far to two things: preparing myself in mind and spirit before I started out, and setting aside time each week to organize and plan out my meals for that week. By committing to the 30 days before I started, I’d already been internalizing the challenge and was ready to face it head on. By doing some simple research, I knew some of the things to expect, especially in the first week, and that made it easier. Knowing that I might experience headaches did not make the headache any less annoying, but I had a reason I could attribute the experience to. To keep myself organized, I created my own very simple worksheet where I jot down ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as what I need to prep or get out of the freezer for the next day. I also created a section to note what was still left over from the previous week, and any items I needed to get at the market.
Secondly, there are a ton of great resources, blogs, and other people out there also doing either Whole30 or just living the paleo lifestyle, and knowing that you’re not alone can be really encouraging. I have become a fan of Nom Nom Paleo who shared her Whole30 experience day by day last year, journaling the food she ate each day. The Whole9 site also has a ton of great resources including a clear shopping list of acceptable foods and ingredients for an omnivore like me. (They also have a list for vegetarians!) I also love the blog, The Clothes Make The Girl by Melissa Joulwan and her two cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2. Seriously, I would eat her recipes whether I was following paleo or not, and I love how she includes tips to tweak or dress up a dish to suit your taste du jour.
Thirdly, the discipline of sticking to this plan is hard…at first, and then it really does get easier. I’m not going to lie. I miss my cheese. I miss having a glass of wine with dinner, but this doesn’t mean I’m not eating flavorful, interesting dishes; I am eating like a rock-star! Case in point – last night, I made West African Chicken Stew from Well Fed 2. It was both spicy and creamy, satisfying and delicious… it was everything that comfort food should be. Melissa graciously allowed me to share her recipe here, and I recommend you try it at your earliest convenience.
West African Chicken Stew
Prep 15 min
Cook 70 min
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon) 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds
Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.
In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.
Recipe courtesy of Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, Well Fed 2, and the blog The Clothes Make The Girl. You can find more paleo recipes in her cookbooks and on her site.