Whole30: how to eat out

I did it. I managed 30 full days of eating completely compliant Whole30 foods. And went on holiday. And continued to have a social life. Hurrah!

I’m not going to pretend that eating out whilst doing Whole30 is easy. In reality, there are very few options and sometimes you feel like a bit of an idiot (like when you’re scraping mayo off a tomato slice or sending back mushrooms that have been cooked in butter despite you saying you couldn’t eat dairy). But it is possible, and enjoyable. I had a couple of really quite good dinners out during the last month. Shocking, I know.

So here are my top tips for eating out, Whole30-style…

Tip one: remember that the courgette fries at Byron come battered!
Tip one: remember that the courgette fries at Byron come battered!

Plan where you are going

If you just decide to go out for dinner, without a clue where you’re going, you’re going to be wandering around for a while. Check out restaurant menus first and check whether there’s something you’ll be able to eat (even if it’s with a few substitutions). Yes, it completely takes any spontaneity of the situation, but unfortunately, it is totally necessary.

Get used to asking for subs

I have never been good at being assertive in restaurants, but if nothing else, Whole30 makes you be. I only ate one meal out in the whole 30 days that didn’t require any amendments, so practice saying ‘no cheese’, ‘no dressing’ and ‘no bread’ like you mean it. Which brings me onto drinks…

Get used to saying ‘NOT CORDIAL’

The drinks part of Whole30 is absolutely the easiest. I mean, you can have tea AND coffee and neither are particularly improved with the presence of milk anyway. And, one of my favourite soft drinks normally is soda and fresh lime, which made it even easier. But the amount of people that think that ‘fresh lime’ means lime cordial… or lemon… or no lime… or just a completely different drink altogether is unbelievable. It’s also one of the drinks with the vastest ranging pricing I found, having been charged anything from absolutely nothing to over £2.

Learn to love steak

I’m pretty sure most people who eat meat already know that steak is bloody brilliant. I did not. But after eating it – albeit very tentatively – on my first dinner out, I now do. And that, along with a naked burger, is pretty much all you’ll be able to eat on most restaurant menus. But I had some very, very good burgers, so it really wasn’t a problem.

Go with people who are supportive

It really won’t be an enjoyable dining experience if you are having to justify and explain yourself throughout your meal. I am lucky that I dined with some very supportive and accommodating friends during my Whole30. And on several occasions I was with Charlie, who did the whole thing with me, which was absolutely invaluable. If you can drag a friend along with you on the journey – do!

Come back on Friday for my guide of where to eat (and not eat!) in London on Whole30.

Whole30: day 31!

It’s now day 31 of my first Whole30. Which means I did it! I survived for 30 whole days eating nothing but real food – just meat, fish, fruit, vegs, nuts and natural oils. I survived for 30 whole days without bread, cheese, chocolate, cake, biscuits and pasta. I survived for 30 whole days not drinking juice, squash, wine, beer or gin.

How do I feel?

To be honest, right now I feel AWESOME.

I haven’t once felt hungry. I haven’t once eaten something I didn’t want to. I haven’t once eaten something I thought was horrible – the closest I came was two mouthfuls of a Chia Pod for breakfast on an early train to Cardiff last week. That quickly went in the bin and I ate my delicious lunch of chicken, roast veg and avocado instead.

I feel awake, lean and full of energy. Admittedly, it took a long time to happen – it probably wasn’t until my final week. But after feeling (genuinely) the tiredest I have ever, ever felt during week one especially and even into week two, I finally feel really good, just in general. Running feels good, cycling feels good, eating feels good.

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Several awesome things have come out of this experience…

I have fallen in love with cooking (again)
I’ve always liked being in the kitchen, but only when I’ve been ‘in the right mood’. But for the last month I have cooked (almost) every single breakfast, lunch and dinner from scratch and honestly I have loved it. I’ve enjoyed thinking of meal combinations, trying new things and the thorough meal planning for each week. It really has played to my super organised side. I’ve really enjoyed Sunday evening cook ups, spending several hours in the kitchen prepping and planning for the week ahead.

I have eaten new things
At least 95% of the meals I have cooked have been something that I would not have cooked before. I’ve discovered new foods, new ways of cooking things and new flavour combinations. I’ve used coconut oil to cook with and a julienne peeler to make courgetthi for the first time. I’ve discovered almond butter, cooking chorizo, raisins, kiwifruit and turkey. I thought nuts were a boring snack before, and now I love them. I was adamant I didn’t like beef, but in thirty days I’ve had more mince, burgers and steak than I had in the last five years. STEAK IS AMAZING!

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I have eaten more healthily
I will admit that (especially towards the end) I didn’t stick completely to the ‘spirit’ of Whole30 in that I snacked quite a lot and had a very high fruit intake. HOWEVER, I didn’t eat a single non-compliant food (apart from an accidental bite of corn on the cob on holiday… it’s easy to forget sweetcorn is off limits!) the whole way through. So, you know what, if I’ve snacked in between meals and it’s been on cashew nut and raisins, or apple and almond butter, or strawberries and grapes, instead of half a packet of Maryland cookies, then that is a massive win. I ate virtually no protein before, now I’m getting a good sized portion with every meal. I struggled to hit five a day before, now I’m easily doubling it. Every single day.

What have I learnt?

One of the main things I wanted to get out of this was to stop snacking so much, especially at work.

That hasn’t happened.

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I have come to the conclusion that I am just not a only three meals a day kind of person. It’s not that I’m not eating enough for my meals – I have followed the meal planning guide throughout and I never felt hungry. I would say that three eggs, a whole avocado, some salmon or chorizo plus tomatoes and/or cucumber and/or mushrooms is a pretty hefty breakfast, but I still liked eating fruit and nuts throughout the day. But as I said, if it’s fruit and nuts, it’s not exactly the end of the world by any means.

But I also haven’t missed a lot of things I thought I would. The drinks part is easy. I didn’t miss alcohol at all, in fact I feel great for not having drunk for a few weeks. It’s made me realise most social situations do not require alcohol in the slightest – it’s just the norm to drink at every flipping opportunity in this country. I haven’t missed cheese (really surprising) or pasta that much (I ate it a lot!) either.

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What will I do now?

Firstly, I will probably drink a glass of Prosecco and have a slice of cake. Cake (specifically sponge cake) has been my biggest craving throughout.

But then, I’ll probably carry on.

For the most part anyway. I’m looking forward to eating out and not feeling like the biggest pain in the ass for all involved, but I’m going to keep my house as Whole30 compliant as possible. I’ll keep making lunches the same way I have been because they’re awesome. Dinners have been my absolute favourite – it’s been a bit of a revelation that with a bit of prep and by having some basics always ‘in stock’, I can have a meal that’s not pasta and sauce, that’s well rounded and delicious in less than 15 minutes. Breakfast I’m undecided on – getting up to make eggs every morning was the biggest shift required in my overall routine, so I think time will tell.

Overall, I’m glad I did it. I’m in a much happier place with the way I am eating now than I was thirty days ago, and that was the aim. I’m in control again, I’ve picking up some new tools, I’m eating some great foods. Definite success in my book.

 

The photosets of everything I ate during my Whole30 are over on my Tumblr:

Days one to ten

Days eleven to twenty

Days twenty one to thirty

I’ve also developed quite a penchant for posting photos of food over on my Instagram.

Look out for some more Whole30 inspired posts coming soon!

Whole30: week one

I’m through seven whole days of my first Whole30. Phew!

I sort-of (read: massively) ignored Leah’s wise advice not go on a massive pre-Whole30 binge (whoops!) and spent Day 0 eating all my favourite things, like this from Pret (Italian Prosciutto on Artisan, in case you’re wondering).


Lots of rubbish happily consumed beforehand, here’s how the first week went down…

Day 1

I am so PUMPED! LET’S DO THIS! This is going to be AMAZING etc, etc.

I had spent a great deal of the previous evening doing a mega cook up after a mega Ocado delivery. I was ready, I was prepared, I had snacks and determination galore.


The first day was actually pretty smooth sailing. Well, it would’ve been a bit embarrassing for it not to be…


Breakfast: Scrambled egg, avo, homemade chunky salsa

Lunch: Chicken breast, roasted sweet potato and carrot, steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes

Dinner: Homemade meatballs, courghetti, cherry tomatoes, avocado

Day 2

A similar feeling for day 2. I was up early for a workout before work, so had to prepare breakfast the night before, but managed to take it all in my stride.


Breakfast: Boiled egg, avo, homemade chunky salsa

Lunch: Chicken breast, roasted sweet potato and carrot, steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes

Dinner: Baked haddock with garlic & herbs topped with homemade chunky salsa, courghetti, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli

Day 3

THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVER. I have never been so headachy, so nauseous and so god damn TIRED all at the same time (without alcohol being involved).

The day started off well, I worked out, was drinking loads of water, had my breakfast. By mid morning I had a headache, by lunchtime I felt dreadful. I sat and ate my lunch outside and returned to my desk THE TIREDEST I HAVE EVER BEEN. From 2pm it was a constant battle to keep my eyes open. I also found myself having to buy a big tray of fruit and a coffee in the afternoon to try and keep me going (it didn’t really help). I left work dead on time, and couldn’t even manage the walk home – so I instead fell asleep on the back seat of the bus. Thankfully I woke up in time for my stop, going straight to bed for another hour’s kip.

Thank goodness my wife Clare was staying with me this week – she cooked me dinner, as well as doing some of my other house chores, whilst I just sat on the sofa. It was an odd feeling – like being struck down with flu without any of the cold symptoms.


Breakfast: Boiled egg, avo, homemade chunky salsa

Lunch: Homemade meatballs, roasted sweet potato and carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes

Dinner: Baked cod topped with tomato puree & mixed herbs, courghetti, sugar snap peas

Day 4

Okay, I feel much better today. Plus, it’s Friday! *yawn*… *yawn*… 

Day 4 did actually find me feeling much, much better than the day before, but I was definitely more tired than usual. So staying up until 1am watching the World Cup definitely wasn’t that smart (idiot).

I also ventured for my first meal out. It had been planned for a couple of weeks – Steph had been brilliant at doing lots of menu research and finding somewhere that (with a few substitutions) I’d be able to make compliant. Four of us headed to Tramshed in Shoreditch, which I’d wanted to try for a while anyway. As well as me needing to be super specific with ordering, I also had Clare still staying with me, who’s a non-wheat eating pescartarian. In a chicken and steak restaurant.

Thankfully, our waiter was patient and helpful and suitably tongue in cheek about our fussiness. I ordered the 250g rib steak (£20), subbed the chips for grilled mushrooms with garlic, and ordered lettuce heart salad (£3.95) on the side. The steak and mushrooms were delicious and succulent, but I was disappointed that the ‘salad’ was literally a bowl of leaves (admittedly I requested no dressing, but even with it, almost £4 felt like a lot). I drank soda water with fresh lime, and was bought a mini carafe of lime juice. Overall, a dining out success!


Breakfast: Cooked salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes

Lunch: Homemade meatballs, roasted sweet potato and carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes

Dinner: Rib steak, grilled mushrooms with garlic, lettuce heart salad

Day 5

IT IS WHAT TIME?!

After my (stupid) late night, I slept like a log for eleven hours (eleven!) and I woke up well past midday. Wow. This clean eating thing makes you really tired. Alright, it might not just be that. The average 6 hours sleep a night I get might also have something to do with it. But still, I’m pretty sure this pretty dramatic change in my diet isn’t helping.
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Breakfast: Cooked salmon, scrambled eggs, avocado, cucumber

Lunch: Homemade meatballs with a tomato purée sauce, courghetti, sugar snaps

Dinner: Asparagus guacamole with crudités

Day 6

Why am I still so tired?!

I had planned to make up for the laziness of my Saturday with a super productive Sunday… go to the gym, maybe a little bike ride. But nope. My body was t.i.r.e.d. So I succumbed to another day on the sofa and made myself a rather good (if I may say so myself) Whole30 Sunday brunch AND roast dinner.

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Breakfast: Chillied scrambled eggs, sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes, smoked salmon, avocado

Lunch: Lots of fruit

Dinner: Roasted garlic and herb chicken breasts, roasted sweet potato mush (not quite mash!), roasted veg (red pepper, green pepper, carrot, red onion, mushroom, cherry tomato)

Day 7

Today is a good day!

With all the free time I had over the weekend, I went into Monday all prepped up and ready to go again.

I surprised myself by looking forward to steak (which I’d had the foresight to defrost – prep is key!) all day at work and when I ate it, along with the side dish of a medley of sautéed veg, it turned out to be my favourite meal of Whole30 so far.

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Breakfast: Chillied scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes

Lunch: Leftover roast dinner from the day before

Dinner: Steak! With a side of courghetti, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and sugar snaps

The snacks

I would be being a bit disingenuous if I pretended all those photos above were everything that I ate in the last week. As well as all those delish meals, I also had the following:

  • a banana every morning – either before working out or with my main breakfast
  • 2 clementines every day – either with my main breakfast (if I’d already eaten the banana earlier) or as a mid morning snack
  • every working day – a small tub containing a handful of mixed nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts), 3 dried apricots and 1 medjool date. I usually ate the nuts in the morning and the fruit in the afternoon
  • on Day 5 I also made a fruit bowl of mashed banana, strawberries, coconut flakes and pecans
  • I discovered Meridian almond butter. I am not exaggerating when I say it is divine. Paired with jazz apples from Waitrose which are clearly in season as they are so delicious, and I have *almost* not been missing chocolate

Now, I’m not too sure on how ‘in keeping’ with Whole30 all of the above are. Sure, they are all completely compliant foods, but I am really wary of not just replacing a chocolate/cake/biscuit sugar habit with a fruit one instead. I’m happy with the amount of fruit it is, but next week I’m going to focus on incorporating fruit as much into actual meals as possible.

So how do I feel?

Other than the horrendous day 3, the last week has been relatively manageable. I’ve found it fairly easy to turn down snacks and overall at work there wasn’t anywhere near as much food as usual hanging around near my desk, which really helped.

I’ve felt really, really tired for most of this week, and I have to admit I’m yet to feel ‘the magic’. Some days, I’ve definitely felt less bloated, but other days just as bloated as before.

For week two, I’m going to try out some new recipes, vary the salads I’m eating for lunch and definitely eat more steak. After swearing it is something I ‘just don’t eat’, beef has been somewhat of a revelation already.

I’m posting LOADS about my Whole30 over on Instagram – follow me for updates!

The Great Whole30 Experiment

Bear with me here, folks…

I haven’t really ever spoken about food or nutrition on here (other than the odd cake picture), and for good reason. I feel I have nothing to offer. I really, really enjoy eating out and have a to-visit list as long as my arm of ‘London food spots’ that just keeps on growing. But when it comes to feeding myself, I’m pretty rubbish.

When I lived with my (evil) ex, meal planning and food shopping was easy. We planned the meals we were going to eat each week based around where we were going to be. It’s a lot easier cooking for two – it’s more likely someone’s going to be at home to prepare food and it’s just plain simpler to cook double portion sizes. Prior to that, I lived with my best friend Clare for four years and we cooked everything together – doing regular Ocado shops was the norm. So, in short, until the beginning of this year I hadn’t really had to cook solo on a daily basis since I was at university.

One of my fave photos of me and Clare

Since January, I’ve had two food phases – the not eating phase and the eating everything phase. One coincided with the break up from aforementioned (evil) ex (at the time, Steph and Cara had to remind me to actually eat dinner… thanks guys!) and the other with marathon training. I am not in either of those places right now, so my diet doesn’t need to be either.

Since running the marathon eight weeks ago, I’ve gained a stone in weight. I’m not complaining about that per se, in fact it probably needed to happen. What I’m unhappy about is how it has happened and how it has made me FEEL. I’ve gained it through cake, chips, cocktails and chocolate. A LOT of chocolate. My marathon appetite has in no way abated and at the same time, I seem to have developed an insatiable sweet tooth. I can’t carry on this way.

This *was* a pretty healthy lunch… and then the cake table happened

I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but what I am eating at the moment just isn’t doing it for me. I’ve had several instances recently where I’ve experienced massive, shaky-handed sugar crashes. The kind where you feel you need to eat something because you’re shaking, but you’re in no way hungry. I can’t get through an afternoon in the office with a root through my snack drawer or a trip upstairs to the café. Every night when I get home from work I snack through dinner decision making and preparation. This could well be normal for a lot of people, but I am bored of it.

So, I’m doing something drastic. I’m doing something that every time I’ve ever looked at it in the past, I’ve thought is ridiculous. I’m taking on a massive challenge – I’m going to do my first Whole30. (You can read the short-ish version of what this means here.)

This came about thanks to Ashley’s post featuring her sister-in-law Meg, who had been following a Paleo diet (by the way, I really hate the word ‘diet’ – it has so many negative connotations. I literally mean “the kind of foods that a person habitually eats”). I looked at her ‘FML Diet’ list and thought it looked doable. Then I remembered the Whole30. Leah is currently on her fourth round and has nothing but praise for it’s benefits. I re-read a load of the posts on her blog, then I text her saying I was thinking about it. Her immediate encouragement and enthusiasm planted the seed further.

Sure, there’s things about it I am VERY sceptical of, and sure, it’s VERY American and VERY preppy (just read this post from a British Whole30-er on the amusing differences between UK and US restaurant service), but I still want to give it a go. I’m generally an all or nothing kind of person with things like this (I gave up alcohol for about three months before my first half), and once I’ve decided I want to do something, it’s usually too late to be dissuaded.

There are some things I really like about the idea of the Whole30:

  • I thought it would preach about food just being fuel, but in fact it’s the opposite. I encourages you to take time out for meals, properly taste and enjoy them, not just “inhale lunch at your desk, or mindlessly shovel in dinner while watching TV”, both of which I do on a fairly regular basis.
  • It encourages you to challenge the emotional connection you have with food. This is not about weight loss, or getting a ‘bikini body’. It’s about understanding why and when you eat certain things, knowing how certain foods make you feel and knowing how much you actually need to eat to feel full.

So friends, family, blog readers, coworkers and all round lovely people of the internet, here are my things I’d like you to know (because it’s going to be hard enough surviving without brownie, gin and muesli for a month as it is):

I AM NOT DOING THIS TO LOSE WEIGHT

Yes, I know I’m skinny. But fortunately this is down to my genetic make up and relatively fast metabolism. Yes, I know I exercise a fair amount too, but trust me, I eat enough. Just look at the size of the cake below. The Whole30 encourages you to eat enough so that you are full and satisfied. It’s not about portion control or calorie counting.

IT IS ONLY 30 DAYS

I’m going to remind myself of this too. I mean really, what’s a month in the grand scheme of things?!

IT DOESN’T REALLY AFFECT YOU, DOES IT?!

I’m not asking you do it. I’m just doing this myself, for myself. *stern face*

Okay, well unless you’re one of the handful of people who’ve already been trying (really hard – it’s hard!) to find a Whole30 compliant restaurant in London for when we will be going for dinner over the course of the 30 days, you won’t really be that bothered (other than being subjected to A LOT of posts on social meedjah, obvs).

I AM ACTUALLY QUITE EXCITED ABOUT IT

The other day at work, as well as eating my relatively wholesome breakfast and lunch, I ate a chocolate croissant, a chocolate cupcake and a 75g bag of Scottie dog shortbreads. I am constantly surrounded by food and have no concept of moderation. I am looking forward to experiencing the feeling of leaving the office not feeling bloated, sluggish and on a sugar low and/or high depending on when my last snack was.

A Whole30 practice breakfast

So there you have it, from 10th June to 9th July, this is happening. It might do me good, or I might be in a 30 day grump. It might do both. But I’ve read enough and prepped enough already to know this is something I want to give a shot and I’m very interested to see what happens…

I will be posting updates here on the blog, as well as on my InstagramTwitter and Tumblr. Join me for Whole30 fun!