How Whole30 Can Reset Your Health

A real-food cleanse that fixes your gut, tames mood swings, boosts energy and makes you feel like a champ

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Whole30 roasted salmon recipe

What You Need To Know:

  • By doing a nutritional reset—eliminating some foods for a short period of time—your health will greatly improve.
  • On Whole30 you eat real food: Vegetables and fruit; meat, seafood, and eggs; and natural, healthy fats such as coconut oil, ghee and olive oil.
  • You’ll feel happier, your immune system will be strengthened and you might lose a few extra pounds in the process.

By Sarah McColl

The tough-love, real-talk express vibe of Melissa Hartwig’s It Starts With Food—which sold more than half a million copies and ignited the #Whole30 movement—continues with her new Whole30 Cookbook: 150 Delicious And Totally Compliant Recipes To Help You Succeed With the Whole30 And Beyond. Hartwig’s program provides a short-term nutritional reset to help heal your gut, restore your metabolism, boost your immune system and alleviate unhealthy cravings and habits.

We talked with New York Times’ best-selling author and certified sports nutritionist Hartwig about the feel-good ripple effects we can expect when we dive into her popular eating plan—and all 150 new Whole30-approved recipes—head first.

Whole30 cookbook and author Melissa Hartwig
Photo Credit: Brent Herrig

First, the cardinal rules to start Whole30. NO…

  • Added sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • MSG
  • Sulfites
  • Carrageenan

And, NO CHEATING!!

Um, why? “We eliminate foods the scientific literature and our clinical experience have shown to be very commonly problematic, to varying degrees, across a broad range of people,” Hartwig says. This elimination phase has helped its followers with a varied array of health problems from high-blood pressure and depression to endometriosis and fibromyalgia.

“You can’t figure out how these foods are actually impacting your health, habits, and relationship with food if you’re still eating a little bit here and there; you have to completely eliminate them, like, 100 percent, for a period of time, then carefully reintroduce them one at a time and compare your experience,” she says. “It sounds rigid, but it’s the only way you’ll know for sure how these foods are affecting you.”

What’s left to eat? In two words, real food: Plenty of vegetables and fruit; meat, seafood, and eggs; and natural, healthy fats such as coconut oil, ghee and olive oil.

So, if you abide by the (ironclad) rules, you will eventually see a much healthier immune system, gut, blood pressure and more; but in the short-term, here are the immediate results Hartwig says you can expect:

Vitality and Energy 

“The Whole30 began as a self-experiment in April 2009, to see if a 30-day squeaky eating plan would help my athletic performance and recovery,” Hartwig says. Her co-founder was also dealing with chronic shoulder pain. “We had stunning results. His shoulder pain completely disappeared, and my relationship with comfort foods and cravings was radically transformed.” Both Hartwig and her partner discovered that once they had isolated the foods that negatively impacted their own bodies, they felt a significant increase in energy and vitality.

Oftentimes, removing these foods from your system does result in weight loss but that’s a side benefit: “Your reset is about so much more than just weight loss,” Hartwig writes in the Whole30 cookbook. “Focusing on your body composition means you’ll miss out on the most dramatic and lifelong benefits this plan has to offer.” Whole30, in other words, is holistic—expect to see changes beyond the body.

A Happier Attitude

“Mood actually improves as the Whole30 program progresses,” Hartwig says. “Once your blood sugar is better managed, energy is up, sleep is better—it’s hard not to have a sunnier disposition!”

For many, strict rules around food can actually be liberating: “Having black-and-white rules around your food can be really comforting for many. Feeling in control of your food for the first time in a long time helps you feel more in control of other areas of your life, too.”

Cravings Stop

“Cravings are almost always born of habits or an emotional response to a life circumstance,” Hartwig says. For that reason, she strongly discourages replacing a hankering for a chocolate-covered macaroon with, say, a coconut-and-chocolate nut bar.

“That just continues to feed the cravings and the habits! Instead, by knowing the average craving only lasts for 3 to 5 minutes, distract yourself by calling a friend, tidying up, going outside, or reading a few pages of your book,” she says. And to stop the cravings in the first place, be sure to eat a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner, eating nutrient-rich food like Hartwig’s One-Pan Herb-Crusted Roasted Salmon With Roasted Broccoli Steak, below.

Your Relationship With Food Changes

“You have to think about Whole30 as the first step in a life-long process,” Hartwig says. “It’s not a diet, it’s not a quick fix, it’s not going to fix every issue you’ve had with food in just 30 days.” The reason people have gone bananas (yes, they’re allowed) for the program is because it offers the chance for real change.

“It’s an incredible jump-start to a whole new relationship with food, and it can make stunning improvements in your health in one short month.”

One-Pan Herb-Crusted Roasted Salmon With Roasted Broccoli Steak

  • Serves: 2
  • Total Time:40 minutes
  • Active Time:15 minutes
  • PRINT Print This Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 2 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • 3 small heads broccoli with the stems attached (about 1 pound total)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the basil, parsley, 4 tablespoons of the oil, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper, and the lemon zest in a blender or food processor. Cover and pulse until smooth. Pour the herb mixture into a bowl and stir in the almond flour.
  2. Place the salmon fillets in a large roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Pack the herb mixture on the top of each fillet.
  3. Trim the broccoli stems to about 3 inches below the florets. Slice the broccoli heads lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slabs (two or three slabs per head), cutting from the bottom of the stems through the crown to preserve the shape of the broccoli. Brush both sides of each broccoli slice with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Arrange the broccoli in a single layer in the pan around the salmon.
  4. Roast the broccoli and salmon for 25 minutes, until the salmon just barely starts to flake when pulled apart with a fork and the broccoli is lightly browned, turning the broccoli once halfway through roasting. Sprinkle the broccoli with the toasted almonds before serving.