One of the best tools for a journey through a Whole30 plan is having a well-stocked kitchen. Get rid of the cravings (if possible) and fill the fridge, freezer, and pantry with compliant ingredients. This means 80% of your grocery cart should be meat, fresh/frozen vegetables, and a few fruits. The middle of the grocery store can be tricky. First, here are a few absolute MUST-DO rules. Yes, rules. Just like in school. I’m putting on my Teacher hat and sharing the rules of going grocery shopping for a successful Whole30.
1. ALWAYS read the ingredients. Every can, bag, box, package that has an ingredient list, READ THEM.
2. ALWAYS put down anything that has sugar or the many forms of sugar. Do not look at the SUGAR percentage. Even if that percentage reads 0, there can still be a sugar ingredient. The percentage of 0 can be fractions of a percentage up to 1%. Read the ingredients.
3. IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, carry your copy of It Starts With Food, a food list from the online tools, OR your smartphone. Have a tool handy if you have any questions. And part of this rule is ALWAYS have a list. Do not try to wing it, especially if this is your first round.
Now, let’s go through the different parts of the grocery store and list some great options for preparing Whole30 meals. It is going to require some cooking so you want to have all your ingredients on hand.
Produce: This section is wide-open. Make your selections more vegetables with a few fruit. Fruit is a natural sugar and it is allowed on Whole30, but it needs to be greatly limited if you are trying to kill the sugar dragon.
- Greens: kale, collards, bok choy, mustard, beet, turnip, swiss chard
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi
- Salad greens: bib, green and red leaf lettuce, watercress, arugula, spinach
- Nightshades: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, chili peppers
- Aromatics: garlic, onion, celery, ginger, fennel, leeks
- Squash: Summer, zucchini, butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, pumpkin
- Roots: turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, radishes
- Pods: green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas (NO starchy peas/beans)
- Others: Asparagus, cucumber, avocado, jicama
- Oranges, lemons, limes, nectarines, mandarines
- bananas, plantains
- dates, figs
- LIMIT DRIED FRUIT. All dried fruit must be unsweetened.
- LIMIT FRUIT JUICE. It is to be used as a cooking liquid, not as a drink.
Meat/Protein. When possible, choose grass fed/finished beef, poultry raised without growth hormones and limited anti-biotics (ie..”humanely raised” or “farm-raised” vs. factory or stockyard raised) anything Pasture-raised is a great choice. This is not a hard-and-fast rule and may not fit in the family budget right now.
- Beef-ground, sirloin, stew, roast, BONES FOR BROTH!!
- Pork-ground, butt, shoulder, chops
- Deer, elk, buffalo-same as beef
- Poultry-legs, thighs, breasts, whole, offal (organ meat)
- Deli/sausage. Check all ingredients carefully.
The RULES OF BACON: Nitrates are allowed, but not preferred. SULFITES are NOT allowed. Carrageenan is NOT allowed. The hardest part of finding compliant bacon is SUGAR FREE bacon. If you can find sugar-free bacon, the rest is almost always allowed.
Canned foods: Check ingredients for thickeners, sugar, carrageenan.
- tomatoes, sauce, paste
- vegetables in water/salt
- broth (very hard to find compliant broth)
- coconut milk
- coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative)
- Oils-olive, coconut, sesame, macadamia, avocado NO GRAIN OIL or PEANUT OIL.
- Vinegars-white, red wine, apple cider
- Spices and seasonings: CHECK FOR SUGAR and thickeners
- Coffee, tea
- Nut milks-coconut, almond
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnut, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, coconut, sunflower. NO PEANUTS. Peanuts are a legume and inflammatory.
- Nut butters: Check for sugar and added OILS.
- Clarified butter (ghee) and animal fat-lard.
Frozen foods: Vegetables and fruits. No added ingredients other than salt.
This is not an exhaustive list. It is more of a good start on working the perimeter of your grocery store and what sneaky ingredients might be hiding in your food. In my experience, I find that making a meal plan for the week and making my list from those meals is my best strategy for buying just what I need. Fresh produce should be eaten within the week. Keeping canned goods and oils are good investments. Buying meat on sale in bulk is a good strategy if you have room to store it. It is easy to go overboard in the store, especially when excited about taking on a new eating plan. The sticker shock at the register will quickly bring us down to earth. Have a plan. Have a list. Stick to it!