As you may have noticed, many if not most, of the entrée recipes that I post are tagged as Whole30 compliant and you may or may not know what exactly that means. In short, the Whole30 is an elimination diet which outlines specific rules and recommendations around foods which are commonly problematic for many people as they tend to violate at least one of the “Good Food Standards” outlined by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig in their book, It Starts With Food. I recently reread this book, and was surprised by how much of the fine detail I had forgotten. The book is a robust review of research in the areas of both nutrition science and habit formation and they argue that what we choose to ingest should promote healthy psychological and hormonal responses while supporting a healthy gut and immune function. A Whole30 is a structured way to allow yourself to eliminate foods which often do not accomplish the aforementioned for 30 days and then systematically reintroduce them to assess the impact they may or may not have on you specifically (official rules and recommendations are here). It allows you to, as co-founder Melissa Hartwig says frequently, “press the reset button on your health, your habits, and your relationship with food.”
My first experience with the Whole30 was the summer of 2015. I had transitioned from being completely apathetic about my health and consuming a standard American diet to a “healthy” one a few years prior to my first Whole30. Although I had made countless positive changes, I knew I was becoming obsessive about calorie counting and deprivation. Not so healthy. When I learned about the Whole30, I was admittedly overwhelmed by the rules and tough love, but was convinced it could result in a more sustainable lifestyle. And I can hardly express how tremendously my life was changed. I am an Upholder, which means once I decide to do something or make a commitment to myself, I generally keep it, so failure to complete the program or temptation to cheat wasn’t a big issue. I was, however, astounded by what I learned about my relationship with food. I was using it often as reward/punishment and did a lot of emotional (especially stress) eating or mindless snacking. I had many unhealthy associations and habits which meant automatically eating X in a particular environment or with Y group of people. And I remember feeling anxious when I realized my mom and sister would be visiting the last week of that first round; thinking that I would be “missing out” or ostracized for not “living a little.” It was an epiphany when I realized that enjoying time with my family didn’t necessarily have to mean eating foods that were less healthy or that I’d later regret. It was my first taste of food freedom and it felt amazing!
To me, the Whole30 is effective, because it allows one to find out what works for him or her specifically. There is unending conflicting information and advice when comes to “scientific evidence,” especially in the realm of nutrition. And as I learn more and more about nearly any topic, I come to appreciate more deeply the uniqueness of each individual when it comes to personality, preferences, tendencies, and even the way that our body responds to different stimuli including nutrition and exercise. I like the approach of the Whole30 in that it is founded on vast amounts of research to identify and eliminate those things which are most commonly problematic, but at the end of it all, it allows you the opportunity to learn more exactly what does and doesn’t work for you. For me personally, more than knowing that dairy and gluten make me feel less than my best physically, has been the way that the Whole30 has changed the way that I think about food from a psychological perspective. And that has made a profound positive impact. I don’t have to worry about excessively counting calories or macros, etc. because I have taught my body how to respond to hunger and satiety signals and I can recognize what will and will not be “worth it” and make decisions accordingly. The Whole30 has tremendously transformed my level of awareness of my body, myself, and the emotions, traditions, and habits which food often brings along with it.
Before the Whole30, I couldn’t have possibly imagined just how much is impacted by what’s on our plates and I wholeheartedly believe, based upon my own experience and the testimonies of others, that it really does start with food. The Whole30 has the power to transform the lives and health of those who truly commit to being successful with the program. It is not a quick way to lose weight or just a 30 day elimination diet for people to figure out food sensitivities or allergies. It actually has the power to help people change the emotional context of their eating and allows for identification of psychological and habitual areas of opportunity. By addressing our unique habits and relationships with food, making lasting changes becomes truly possible. The framework and specific strategies established will work for a wide variety of people with different starting points, goals, personalities, and tendencies. Since that first Whole30, I have completed three more official rounds, ever increasing in my understanding of the way that what and how we eat impacts our emotions, energy, skin, sleep, mental clarity, athletic performance, sense of accomplishment, self-efficacy, body composition, and overall health.
Not only has the Whole30 has equipped me with the knowledge and experience to make healthy eating sustainable, but it has also opened my eyes to a world of possibilities in the kitchen! There are endless ways to make real, whole or minimally processed food mouth-wateringly delicious and over the past few years, I have never been bored or felt as though I was “missing out.” I am not one to consign myself to a lifetime of eating plain and flavorless boiled chicken and steamed broccoli, but this Whole30 Lemon Artichoke Chicken? SIGN ME UP!
- Ghee 2 TBSP
- Chicken Breast, Thinly sliced or pounded to flatten 1 lb (450 g)
- Almond Flour .5 cup (50 g)
- Salt .25 TSP
- Pepper .25 TSP
- Garlic Powder .5 TSP
- Onion Powder .5 TSP
- Bone Broth .5 cup (120 ml)
- Juice from 1 Lemon
- Artichoke Hearts 2 cups (350 g)
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 4 each
- Yellow Onion, Diced 1 Medium
- Spinach 8 cups (250 g)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl combine the almond flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
- Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture to evenly coat both sides and shake off excess.
- Place the chicken in the pan with the melted ghee and brown both sides, about 5 minutes each.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and place on prepared baking sheet in the oven for another 10 minutes or until cooked through.
- Meanwhile add the bone broth and lemon juice to the pan, cover and allow to come to a simmer.
- Add the artichokes, garlic, and onion to the pan and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
- Spoon the spinach and artichoke mixture onto your serving dish or plates and then add the chicken on top. Option to sprinkle some parsley or lemon slices as garnish.