Whole30 For The Whole Family: Tips & Tricks
Okay, so you want to do a round of Whole30 but you're feeling a bit concerned about navigating the program with your family in tow. You really want to do the program, but you don't want to have to make different meals for your family (nor should you!) but you also don't want to spend the 30 days of the program watching them turn up their noses to all the amazing and healthy foods you are making. You will work hard to create new healthy habits and of course you want to bring your family along for the journey, but you are not really sure how receptive they will be. I get it! It was totally a concern about my family's reaction before embarking upon on my first round of Whole30....
....and then I got over it.
I decided that the positive possible outcomes (healthy habits, healthier family, better relationships with food) were worth the possible headache of listening to my daughter whine about me not making her favorite coconut flour pancakes for a month. So I took the plunge, dove head first into Whole30 to see what I learned and how I felt ....and discovered that navigating Whole30 with a family wasn't as terrifying or as difficult as I had originally feared.
So how did I do it? What did I learn? What advice can I offer to mamas and papas wanting to try this whole Whole30 thing on for size but are nervous about bringing their kiddos along for the journey? Here ya go folks! My Tips & Tricks For Surviving Whole30 with a Family
Wait, wait, wait. Before we get started, there is an important piece of info you must remember. I am not a doctor, so I cannot ultimately tell you how you should feed your kiddos or yourself. I'm just a lady (who happens to be a mom and teacher) that has read too many nutrition-focused books and walked-the-walk of healthy eating for years. Before making drastic changes to your family's diet (especially if there are medical issues), it is always a good idea to check with your family doctor.
Okay, now onto my words of wisdom....
1. Make peace with the fact that this is all food they should be eating anyway. Really. Despite what your child might say, he/she will not die from not eating ice cream for a month. Or crackers. What actually might happen is that they discover some new, wildly healthy foods that they never had the opportunity to fall in love with before. Whole30 is honestly about a whole bunch of tough love and reprogramming the palate and brain for what foods you reach for when you're hungry....for yourself and your family. Hang tight, guys. No one has died from cheese stick withdrawals....that I know of.
2. Make this the opportunity to introduce them to new healthy habits! Like celebrating an accomplishment with a favorite activity (going to the beach or the movies) instead of with food. After a really well played soccer game or an awesome report card, instead of going out for ice cream, hit the book store for a new book to read with Junior and get a new game to enjoy together as a family. Or just tell them how proud you are of them. Your heartfelt words matter more to your kids than we parents will probably ever know.
3. Be patient and embrace that this is a transition. Okay, you get that all this Whole30 food is good for your family. You went in, all or nothing, but they are putting up the rejection walls...hard and strong. No matter how you cook it, your kiddo (or spouse) just will not (did you hear me, will not) eat that cauliflower "rice". Okay, before you cave and make a box of mac & cheese out of desperation for your child to eat something, take a deep breathe and embrace that change is hard....especially with food. Children need to be offered a new food 5-10 times (and some kiddos need it more like 20 times) before it becomes less intimidating and they are more willing to try it. People (old, young, and in between) have the ability to change tastes they prefer, but it takes time. So once they get past missing muffins for breakfast, they will eventually learn to love scrambled eggs.
4. Be willing to try baby steps. If in your heart of hearts, you feel like being strict Whole30 right out of the gate is not for your whole family, know where and when to take baby steps. Make a batch of rice ahead of time to serve next to the cauliflower rice you are enjoying (or mixed in with the caulirice). Make egg cups for breakfast instead of muffins. But baby steps, in my opinion, should not include baked goods or treats (paleo or otherwise). Sugary treats are not doing anything positive for your body or your child's. Stand your ground in this area and know that they will be healthier in so many ways in the end for it.
5. Even if they are "baby stepping", keep trigger foods out of the house. You really want to do this program, yes? Yes you do, otherwise you wouldn't still be reading! If your family is struggling to embrace Whole30, fine....but don't sabotage yourself by keeping trigger foods kicking around the house. If pasta is your one great love in life and your family refuses zoodles, maybe just skip all pasta-like dishes for duration of Whole30. If you only have healthy nourishing food in your pantry and fridge, than healthy and nourishing food is what you are going to eat.
6. Role model. Love the new foods. Embrace the new healthy habits...or at least fake it for the moment. I know I've only said this about a bazillion times before, but it is worth saying one more time: Your kiddos are taking major cues from you. If you are gagging on your roasted Brussel sprouts, there isn't a chance in hell they are going to take a bite of them (much less play with the idea of enjoying them). You know all of these changes are for the better, so show them that you really believe that with a smile on your face and plate full of heaping vegetables.
7. Don't treat Whole30 like a diet. Nononononono. Don't you dare. Thats not healthy for you or the little people along for the ride. If you face Whole30 with the "Only 10 more days until I can swim in a vat of chocolate sauce again" mentality, that you are treating Whole30 like a diet and that is against everything that the program promotes. I get it, you miss your hot fudge sundaes. You'll get to to enjoy them again, but you made the choice to take these next 30 days to hit a reset button and figure out how certain foods make you and your family feel. Instead of missing bread, enjoy the mental clarity you suddenly have all day long. Instead of counting the days down until you get to binge eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's, enjoy how less bloated you feel in your jeans. Whole30 is an opportunity, not a diet, to understand what foods your body and your family bodies thrive on. Embrace it...and encourage them to embrace it to.
8. Meal plan and Meal prep. Just gotta do it! Not all Whole30 recipes are going to be family-friendly. Some are just a little too out of the box for picky eaters to embrace right off the bat. So having a handful of Whole30 compliant recipes that will also have your family excited to come to the dinner table is key! Plan ahead of time, shop accordingly, and have a game plan for each day of the week so you aren't staring into the fridge blankly at the end of a busy day while you clan runs circles around you, asking what's for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch).
Then meal prep! I like to dedicate a little time each weekend to cook a few staples for the week ahead. You can cook every last bit of food you plan to feed your family....or (the more popular approach) is to just do some. I like to cook a little for each meal. Some hard boiled eggs for quick breakfasts. Sliced veggies to throw together a quick salad. A batch of meatballs for an emergency protein at any meal (they are great on top of salads, cauliflower rice, or zoodles). Or a batch of homemade tomato sauce. Some meal prep is better than none and will set you up for success when life gets busy or stressful (like life often does).
I'm not going to lie or sugarcoat it for you, embarking upon a round of Whole30 as a family can/might be a bit of a journey. But don't let the possible challenge deter you! The amazing longterm benefits the entire family will enjoy are worth (in my opinion) 30 days of transition. And on the other side of it, you will not only be a healthier you, but your children will have an even stronger foundation of healthy habits to carry with them for a lifetime.