whole30 roast chicken and potatoes

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If there’s one meal I can advocate for you to make while you’re Whole30-ing, it’s this roast chicken and potatoes with wilted spinach. You need this roast chicken and potatoes because your stomach will be busy emptying itself of the carbs, sugar, dairy and alcohol you’ve been consuming your whole life, and you’ll need to fill it with something that will stick to your bones. I’m going to insist that you at least try to roast a whole chicken even if you’re not on Whole30, because it’s easy, provides a lot of meat for more than one meal, and is the way chicken is meant to be eaten.

For those of you just tuning in, for the last three and a half weeks I’ve been on a diet called Whole30. It’s a temporarily restrictive diet that requires you to ban alcohol, dairy, legumes, grains and refined sugar from your diet for 30 whole days. I decided to undertake a Whole30 for a few reasons, but mainly because since having kids I’ve been sluggish and tired pretty much all of the time. I’d previously attributed this problem to sleep deprivation because one or both of our kids used to wake up at least once a night and also run me ragged during the day (while I tried to balance work, life and blogging all at the same time). Even though I still have the same life obligations, the kids rarely keep me up anymore (KNOCK ON SO MUCH WOOD), so I knew I had to make a change in my diet and exercise to try to increase my energy levels. Enter Whole30.

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whole30 watermelon cucumber salad

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My mantra this week has been, “I woke up like this.” I say this whenever someone asks me how I’m feeling during the final stretch of Whole30 (which is quite often). I said it when I schooled my friend Tara at her new time-killing obsession, Kolor. I said it to my son when he marveled at how I fixed his sunglasses. It’s a take-charge kind of week. I woke up like this.

That’s how I feel about Whole30 right now. I feel empowered because of how successful we’ve been at it. If you’ll recall, Whole30 is the 30-day restrictive diet that prohibits consuming processed grains (and most carbs), dairy, alcohol, refined sugar and legumes. We’ll be done with our grand experiment on Sunday, and I’m seriously amazed at how easy it has been, now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, to adapt our favorite recipes to fit into the restrictions of Whole30 and still make other, interesting dishes. Take, for example, this Whole30 watermelon cucumber salad that I made the other day as a refreshing side dish to a roast chicken. The kids had a school carnival around dinnertime, and I’d been in a tizzy about how we’d manage to stay on track with our Whole30 diet and still enjoy ourselves at a carnival certain to be chock full of fun food. Finally, the hubby and I decided that I’d roast a chicken, and I’d pack it up along with a side dish that didn’t have to stay hot that we’d eat at the carnival. While we ate like kings, we also didn’t get to chat much with the other parents. People looked at us kind of weird, which is fair because I was an Asian lady carrying a whole, lukewarm chicken in her tote bag. (It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last.)

For me, the social aspect is the hardest part of Whole30. After the carb/dairy/sugar withdrawal wore off, I’ve found myself less eager to socialize because of the heartburn it causes me to explain Whole30 and having to resist the foods I love to have at parties. We’ve put off dinners with friends until after this crazy experiment is over, so much so that the next two weeks are jam-packed with social events because we keep saying, “When Whole30 is over …”

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whole30 banana almond chia pudding

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Today is Day 23 of Whole30. I feel both like a victim and a survivor. I’m not shaking from sugar withdrawal, my energy levels are high, and my cousin’s wife told me this weekend that I’m “glowing.” I told her it was from all the bacon grease (kidding, sort of). I also survived the long Memorial Day weekend, which has been in years past my primary excuse to kick off spending lots of time outdoors sipping wine and eating gigantic juicy burgers perched on yeasty rolls. Instead, this Memorial Day, the hubby and I sat soberly (literally) on the sidelines eating burgers wrapped in romaine lettuce. Our kids, meanwhile, smothered their faces in chocolate-y smores at night and ran around in the backyard with flashlights. Oh, what I would’ve given to be them.

Besides the obvious yearning for off-limits foods, there are still day-to-day logistics that make Whole30 challenging. First and foremost is breakfast on the weekdays. When we first started this adventure, I was cooking around the clock — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since we’re not subjecting our kids to this insanity, I’d also make separate lunches and prep side dishes for the kids for dinner (usually rice or pasta) to supplement the carb-free dinner we were eating. I also photograph nearly everything we eat that is a success in case I want to blog about it later. It was a dizzying, intense process, one that reduced me to hand-flapping anxiety. The hubby wisely told me to take a step back and let him shoulder some of the burden, and since then he’s handled getting breakfast ready and packing his own lunch. I’m also prepping chia seeds in coconut milk on Sunday or Monday nights so that we can have this Whole30 banana almond chia pudding (or some variation of it) for a quick on-the-go breakfast. Everyone is breathing easier now.

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whole30 steak, mango and brussels sprouts

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You can have steak during Whole30, y’all. Did you hear me? You can have steak. With so little left of my former diet (which consisted largely of food-centered hugs made of cheese, sweets, loads of carbs and red wine), I really struggled at first with the idea that all I could basically eat for 30 days would be meat and plants. Then I found out I could have steak, and the world was right again. (For those of you unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s a temporarily restrictive diet that prohibits consumption of alcohol, dairy, grains, processed sugars and legumes for 30 days. You can read more here.)

Today’s Whole30 compliant recipe is steak, chili mango and brussels sprouts, a grill-centered dish made for warmer summer weather. I got the idea for this recipe, which was a hit with the whole family, after I heaved a $12.99 case of champagne mangoes into the enormous mound of produce in my cart at the grocery store. I figured that eating mangoes during the first week of Whole30 would help lessen the burn of my crazy, inevitable sugar withdrawal. Plus, I’ve always wanted to try this (peel mango using a glass). Have you done it before? It’s crazy — once you learn, you’ll want to peel about a hundred mangoes in a row. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching the mango separate from its peel, dribbling sweet nectar into the glass as you move the fruit slowly down the outer edge. It feels kind of like peeling dried Elmer’s glue from your fingers. You did that too as a kid, right?

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