I love mini wellness challenges or experiments because the short duration is usually doable for most people. Whole30 is a perfect example. It’s only 30 days and then you can go back to your old diet if you want. Easy!
What most people find at the end of the 30 days is that they love how they are feeling and want to continue to get healthier, but don’t quite know what to do next.
In this post, I’m going to talk about what you can do after a Whole30 month to keep the momentum going.
You probably already know how the Whole30 program works. It’s a whole food diet where you eliminate craving-inducing, gut-damaging, inflammatory foods for 30 days to allow the body to heal.
This break from certain potentially problematic foods gives you a chance to see if any of these foods are causing health issues.
During a Whole30 you avoid:
- healthy “junk” food
- sugar (real and artificial)
- additives like carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
If you haven’t, I definitely recommend checking out the Whole30 diet as a practical, balanced way to explore a new way of eating.
What to Do After a Whole30: Tailored Real Food Diet
Many people who try a Whole30 diet will see huge health improvements (especially if they were previously eating a standard American diet) and want to continue to see the health benefits.
There’s no reason you have to add any additional foods to your diet. A Whole30 diet contains all the nutrients your body needs, so if you’re happy on that diet you can continue.
However, if you want to add some other foods back in you can do that too. Just make sure they are real food! That means healthy protein and fat, lots of vegetables, and some fruits are important.
Easing Back In
You already know what to not eat on the Whole30 diet here are some things you can add back in:
While ghee is allowed on Whole30, butter and other dairy products are not. If you want to add dairy back into your diet, choose products that are from healthy pasture-raised animals.
Dairy can be a tricky subject as many health advocates disagree on whether it’s healthy or not. If dairy causes health problems for you (like difficulty in weight loss), stay away from it. If not you may be able to eat it in moderation. In my family, we consume moderate amounts of raw, aged cheeses and high-fat dairy like butter and (raw) heavy cream.
The thing with grains is that they aren’t necessary for the diet. Any nutrients we can get from grains we could also get from protein sources, vegetables, and fruits (more easily and in greater amounts). But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat grains.
Many people who have autoimmune diseases or other underlying issues find that avoiding grains is best for them. But some people can tolerate grains in the diet. if you want to try including grains in your diet here are a few guidelines:
- Choose ancient grains. Modern grains can be problematic for many people due to the way they are grown, harvested, and prepared. Ancient grains like einkorn are much more tolerable for many people.
- Prepare grains properly. That means sprouting, soaking, and fermenting them before eating them. This helps break down anti-nutrients so they’re easier to digest and higher in nutrition.
- Eat grains in moderation. Whether you love grains or hate them, the truth is they aren’t the most nutrient-dense food. Low-nutrient grains in the diet will displace higher nutrient foods like vegetables. So, it’s best to keep them in moderation if you’re eating them at all.
You may also want to choose gluten-free grains if gluten is a problem for you. Many people can’t tolerate gluten and there is no harm in avoiding it.
It’s still best to stay away from processed sugar but you can add in some natural sugars if you want (and if you can tolerate them). Healthy, natural sugars include:
- maple syrup
- raw honey
- coconut sugar
- dried fruit
These natural sweeteners have some health benefits which makes them a better choice than processed sugar. However, the end of the day, sugar is sugar, and too much is not healthy.
We try to make sweets a very occasional treat and focus on eating fruit instead. I also use stevia occasionally and many people can add this back in without a problem.
Post-Whole30 you may want to include alcohol in your diet again. The small amount of alcohol in extracts and used in cooking is usually fine for most people. As far as drinking alcohol, moderation (and the kind of alcohol) is key.
Research shows that moderate amounts of wine, in particular, can have health benefits. Too much alcohol, on the other hand, can be unhealthy. I personally choose to stick with low alcohol wine exclusively.
Healthy “Junk” Food
While doing Whole30 people are encouraged to avoid trying to make treats out of Whole30 legal foods. For example coconut milk ice cream, almond flour pancakes, or cauliflower crust pizza.
The reasoning is to keep a healthy food mentality and to avoiding the sometimes obsessiveness we can have with treats and junk food. In other words, food freedom. Freedom from an emotional connection to food.
But when your Whole30 is over you may find that you can add in some of these treats when they’re really worth it (birthdays for example). These healthy “junk” foods can include:
Of course, if you find yourself relying too heavily on these healthy “junk” foods you may want to avoid them or put strict rules around them (birthdays and holidays only, for example).
How to Reintroduce Foods Back into the Diet
One of the cool things about a wellness challenge like Whole30 is that it gives you a chance to see how “treat foods” really affect your body, even the healthy ones. After Whole30 you may notice that you feel better not eating dairy or you might find that you feel better not eating grains at all.
When adding back foods after a Whole30, be sure to add them slowly. Adding foods in one at a time is the best way to be able to tell if that food is bothersome to you. If you add more than one food group at a time it’s harder to know which food is causing your side effects.
After your Whole30 you can decide which whole foods make you feel healthy and vibrant and which ones don’t. You may decide to eliminate them or only eat them occasionally. Health is highly personal. Reintroductions will be different for everybody, and that’s okay!
Other Ways to Continue a Healthy Lifestyle After Whole30
A healthy diet is very important for good health, but healthy habits are what keep everything going. Here are some ways to improve your health for the long haul.
Along with the kinds of food, you eat the time you eat them is really important for health. Dr. Satchin Panda and his researchers have found that extending the fasting time at night to at least 12 hours and restricting the eating time during the day to an 8 to 12-hour window can have lots of health benefits:
- Improved weight
- Healthier metabolism
- Healthy heart
- Better blood sugar regulation
- Reduced inflammation
- Healthy liver function
Dr. Panda also suggests eating at the same time every day (and fasting at the same time) as well as eating to support the circadian rhythm. That means eating food during the day and slowing down as dark approaches.
It’s worth noting that while the benefits of TRE are well researched, these studies are largely based on men. Women’s health expert Alisa Vitti recommends in this podcast that women in their reproductive years do not exceed a 12 hour fast or it may negatively impact natural hormonal rhythms.
Get moving! There are numerous ways that exercise can improve your health. Make regular exercise a priority. You don’t have to go to the gym for an hour each day (and probably shouldn’t) but 10 to 20 minutes a day of light exercise can have huge benefits.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of good health. Lack of sleep can undo the benefits of a good diet and exercise plan and can even put you in a pre-diabetic state.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and most of us don’t get it. There are a few things we can do to make getting enough sleep easier though.
- Get to bed by 10PM each night
- Make sure it’s really dark in your room
- Keeping the temperature below 68 degrees
- Avoid blue light at night to balance circadian rhythm cycles
As a mom, I know it can be tough to get the amount of sleep we need, but it’s so important! I’d argue (along with other experts) that’s more important than diet or exercise.
Reducing stress is also an important aspect of good health. In fact, unmanaged stress can also undo a healthy diet and exercise plan.
Stress keeps stress hormones elevated and suppresses the immune system. Elevated stress hormones cause the body to not be able to digest and assimilate food properly. It can also disrupt blood sugar and lead to weight gain or pre-diabetes.
So, find a way to relax every day. Spending time outside, talking with friends and family, stretching or doing light exercise, praying, or any other activity that gives you a sense of peace are ways you can make relaxation part of your day.
From our food supply to our personal care products, cleaning products and more, chemicals are everywhere. Removing as many of these as possible can help the body function better and detox the chemicals it must come in contact with. Find my best tips for natural living here.
What to Do After a Whole30: Bottom Line
You’ve done the hard work of cutting out potentially unhealthy foods. You’ve focused on healing the body and pinpointing foods that may be problematic. Congratulations! Let’s keep the momentum going. After a Whole30 is the perfect time to make lasting diet and lifestyle changes. These tips will help you keep you on the path to health and healing.
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you done a Whole30? What diet changes did you keep (and which ones did you not)?