A Whole30 recap

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Whole30 is done! Woohoo! You can read more about why I decided to try it again here. Below is a quick take about the entire month followed by a much longer explanation if you’re in a reading mood.

The short version: Now that it’s behind me, I can honestly say I enjoyed Whole30 more than I thought I would. It took just one meal during the reintroduction phase for me to realize some foods leave me feeling so bad that it’s not worth the taste.

Since finishing the program, I have tried to incorporate more veggies and healthier snacking into my diet. However, no plan will ever get me to cut baking out of my life forever. I recommend Whole30 if you’re looking to pinpoint an illness/ ache/ pain. If you want to lose weight or just eat a little healthier, this plan is too strict.

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The longer version: Whole30 was hard but (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) worth it. When I told friends and family I was eliminating dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol and grains for thirty days, the comparison Whole30 garnered most was Atkin’s. I’ve never tried Atkin’s, but Whole30 is not intended as a longterm diet. Nor is it actually a diet since weight loss is not the main goal.

Thankfully, the last thirty days were some of the most sedentary we have planned for the year so cooking at home and staying inside were both very doable. The time commitment on the other hand was a serious strain. When you’re trying to get out the door in the morning after making dinner and snacks the night before (which alone is a success!) cooking an entire breakfast was sometimes the last thing I wanted to do.

I’m very grateful that I live a lifestyle which allows me to invest in my health and that I tried Whole30 while I only have my own schedule to worry about. It took me a solid three weeks to feel like I finally got into the swing of things and could whip up meals in a reasonable amount of time. I credit this to smarter meal planning and a better understanding of the restrictions.


Real talk: It cannot be said enough how much of a time commitment Whole30 requires. If you try this plan, be prepared to spend a lot of time reading labels and avoiding many pantry staples.

Because I was cooking so much at home, I thought I would save money, but the fresh produce and a myriad of ingredients for homemade sauces and dressings meant I didn’t save much at all. Can you hear my frustration? What I missed most was grabbing a spontaneous drink after work on the way home and spending my weekend mornings baking desserts to share with friends.

I tried Whole30 (sometimes lovingly referred to as Hell30) because I wanted to understand what causes my migraines and to make healthier food choices. During the process, I couldn’t understand how people finish the program and don’t crave foods they once loved. (You mean to tell me there are people out there who don’t like toast?)

Since this reset, I now know that foods which once sounded good don’t sound that great anymore, and I feel stronger for knowing some things (I’m looking at you, lattes) don’t have a hold on me like they used to.

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Life post-Whole30: After returning home from vacation, I was incapacitated with the flu. Indulging more than usual and feeling downright awful made me want to stick to Whole30 again. Do I sound like one of those individuals who drinks kale for breakfast and makes imitation parmesan cheese? Hell, if it makes me feel good, I’m beginning to think neither of those things sounds so bad. While I spent so much time wishing I could have a bowl of ice cream or piece of toast, I never thought I would want to be on Whole30 once it was over, and yet here I am.

I’ve reintroduced most foods with the exception of dairy. Making banana bread while we were in Arizona and lemon bars (I’ll share the recipe I used later this week) this past weekend was downright therapeutic, and I have no intention of ever giving up baking again. However, I do plan to incorporate more vegetables on a daily basis and maybe ease up on treating myself so much.

If you’re going to try Whole30: Try to find friends near and far to do it with you and hold you accountable. Swapping everything from complaints to recipes made the plan more doable! I also recommend the cookbook. Planning ahead is the number one key to surviving the full thirty days, and a complete book of recipes helps tremendously!

If you want to learn more:  

Week one update

Week two update

What I’m looking forward to baking

More recipe ideas on my Instagram


A few things I plan to bake now that Whole30 is finally over


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And just like that, I can welcome legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol and bread back into my life one by one. I’m beyond excited to bust out my Kitchenaid and get the sugar, butter and flour flowing once again. Come back next week for my thoughts on Whole30, but until then, here are some of the desserts I’m most excited to bake.

Salted chocolate chunk cookies from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. No recipe round-up is complete without a shoutout to Deb!

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Corgi chai cookies from Adrianna of A Cozy Kitchen. Might have to add the double decker tacos to this list too because what’s better than a taco? A taco wrapped in a taco!


Peanut butter chocolate chunk bars with with salted caramel drizzle by Lily of Kale and Caramel. Just looking at these makes me drool all over my computer.


Homemade funfetti cake with chocolate frosting from Michelle of Hummingbird High. I love stumbling upon the early days of a successful food blog. I clicked this recipe from the recipe index and what I found was an honest account of moving to a new city, desserts turning out all wrong, and encouragement to keep on keeping on!


Lavender vanilla bean sugar cookies by Kate of The Wood and Spoon. And if you haven’t yet seen her stop motion videos on Instagram, definitely check em out!

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DIY box of chocolates from Christina Lane of Dessert for Two. Walking by all of the Valentine’s Day candy this past month was no easy feat. If I make this box of chocolates, it’s almost like I didn’t miss out on the holiday at all!


p.s. You can’t tell in the above photo, but I cropped out my Whole30 cookbook. I highly recommend buying it if you’re thinking of giving it a go!


The only guacamole recipe you’ll ever need

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I am 95% certain any social invites I had coming my way will go out the window now that my super secret guacamole recipe is officially on the internet and up for grabs. It’s all fun and game nights until your friends know all the deets for the only guacamole recipe you’ll ever need and can cut out the middle(wo)man.

Friends, promise you’ll still have me over even though you can make this guac yourself now? Alright then, here’s the secret: Seasoning salt. And lots of it! Douse your avocados in seasoning salt and lemon juice and just wait for all the friends to roll in. This guac is so good I’ve been making it at least twice a week lately.


Here’s another tip: If your avocados are not quite ripe and you don’t have a potato masher (like moi), after you scoop the avocado out of its shell and into a bowl, use a pizza slicer to cut the avocado into smaller pieces. This makes it much easier to mash!

Also, pictured are plaintain chips since Hell30 forbids real chips. Although these have been a nice alternative to the real thing. They’re so colorful too! I have a feeling I won’t kick these to the curb anytime soon.


Did I mention I only have three days of Whole30 left? Look for a post later this week about all the sweet treats I’m looking forward to making and next week, I’ll share what I thought about Whole30. After I’ve had some distance and a beer or two. And probably also some ice cream. Take that, Whole30!

I hope you had a relaxing, restorative weekend. It was in the 60s all weekend here in DC. Next time that happens, I’m taking this guacamole party to the park!

Grocery list

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 1/4 tomato
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon seasoning salt
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Chips


  1. Scoop the avocado out of its skin and mash it.
  2. Dice 1/4 of the onion and add to the avocado.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime and lemon juices and seasoning salt.
  4. Dice 1/4 of the tomato and add to the mix last since it doesn’t need any mashing.
  5. Fin.

Eyeing: A mandoline

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As my only starch option, potatoes have appeared alongside nearly every meal I’ve made in the last twenty-three days. I’ve eaten eggs with potato pancakes, baked potatoes with buffalo chicken, sweet potato nachos – you name it. Have you ever tried to slice a potato into thin chips?

Wrangling and slicing any vegetable so that it’s thin and consistent as it slides around could be an Olympic sport, and the fact I’m typing this with all ten fingers intact is a damn miracle. Ever since Amanda Frederickson recommended her mandoline as one of her favorite kitchen items, I can’t un-think it! I need a mandoline.

From what I’ve read, mandolines are great for cutting down (pun intended, obviously) on time slicing and dicing, and they always create even, uniform slices. Not to mention you never again have to worry about an injury in the process! Or at least worry less so. I’m smitten! Positively smitten, and I need one of these STAT.

Each of the options I’ve included can stand on its own and has multiple blade thickness options to customize the results. Here’s what I’m eyeing.


  1. Amazon – $20.99
  2. Zyliss – $21.99
  3. OXO V blade – $39.95
  4. OXO – $69.95

p.s. A chopper?! I want everything! Might have to invest in these until then.


Whole30 update: Week two

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Let’s pretend like there are ten days in one week for the purpose of these posts, shall we? As of today, I have ten days left of Whole30. Knowing there are more days behind me than in front of me is a beautiful thing. Are you sick of hearing about Whole30 yet? Trust me, I’m more than ready to be done!

Instead of a day by day breakdown, I thought I would answer some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard. I’ll keep my answers relatively brief, but if you’re thinking about trying Whole30, check out more meal ideas on my instagram or shoot me an email at emmagrdina(at)gmail(dot)com. I’d love to tell you more about it!


What is Whole30 again? 

Whole30 is a temporary reset of your relationship with food. Participants eliminate dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol and gluten for thirty days after which point there is a re-introductory process.

But why would you do that?

I am extremely grateful for a healthy body which keeps me well most of the time and a healthy work-life balance which allows me to disconnect and enjoy time to myself.

That being said, I’ve suffered from frequent migraines and skin problems for at least the last three and a half years, and have never quite gotten to the root of the problem. While I’ve tried on more than one occasion to identify the cause, nothing has stuck, and I’m inevitably left more confused than before. Finally, it occurred me the food I’m putting in my body might be to blame. Again, small in comparison to other potential health issues, but bothersome to me nonetheless.

Have you cheated? 

Not that I’m aware of. But don’t get me wrong, I’m counting down until I can bust out my Kitchenaid once again and smear some avocado on toast in the morning.

So then what do you eat? 

Right around the halfway mark last Wednesday, I started getting bored of the regular meals I was rotating. I’ve made compliant buffalo chicken, potato pancakes with fried eggs, and cauliflower fried rice to name a few things, but my favorite meal so far has been spaghetti squash pad thai.

I snack less often than before, but when I do, I eat smoothies, almond butter with bananas, plantain chips and guacamole, and fresh fruit. I also discovered that carrots and guacamole is not as disgusting as it sounds!

And do you feel any better?

The first week on the program was really challenging. Everyone’s Whole30 experience differs, but it took even less than a week to make me realize just how much I’m an emotional eater who should probably make wiser snack choices.

Overall, I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin and energy levels, but I also think my mood fluctuates more than before. I’m not sure if the time of year is to blame (anyone else get the winter blues?) or if it’s because I miss inviting friends over to share in meals and desserts. For me, baking is therapy, so I’m looking forward to having that outlet again.

Would you ever do it again? 

As of now, no. It’s an expensive lifestyle I’m fortunate I can afford, but it’s difficult to be flexible with your social life because the plan is so strict. I hate feeling like a burden! This was never intended to be a longterm plan. If I want to have a beer or some cheese once in awhile, what’s the problem with that?

Although I have enjoyed feeling like I have control over my food choices more than the other way around. I no longer fall prey to pizza, and I really have enjoyed a different kind of fullness after each meal.

Congrats for making it to the end of the Q&A! Have you ever tried Whole30 or something similar? Any favorite meals you’d like to share? Shoot me an email at emmagrdina(at)gmail(dot)com or let me know in the comments below.

(p.s. Who knew swiss chard was so beautiful, huh? I took the first picture one Sunday morning after picking a bunch up at the farmer’s market. Of course my sugar-laden brain still thinks the stalks look like those colorful Twizzlers.)


Spaghetti squash pad thai


Spaghetti squash pad thai

I’m going to come right out and say it: I want to spread this sauce all over everything and make this recipe everyday. Ever since eliminating carbs from my diet, I’ve missed seemingly simple but otherwise forbidden breads like toast and tortillas. Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to traditional noodles, so much so that I almost forgot this bowl contained almost nothing but vegetables.

Spaghetti squash pad thai

I wish I could take credit for the genius behind this Whole30-friendly recipe, but alas, this recipe is from Melissa Joulwan, former roller-girl and paleo recipe creator extraordinaire. If this recipe is any indication, Melissa is a genius. And so is Sam (@cookdrinkdance), my friend who found this recipe and recommends it profusely.

When Whole30 is done, I’m looking forward to making this again (with peanuts sprinkled on top. Woohoo!) to see how it holds up, but I’m optimistic it will be as delicious as it was the first time around.

Spaghetti squash pad thai

Here is the recipe for the “sunshine sauce.”

And this is the recipe for the whole shebang.

Also, if you’re staring at a spaghetti squash wondering how you’ll ever cut it open in all its yellow football-shaped glory, my friend who recommended this recipe also suggests using this step-by-step process.


Whole30 update: Week one


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It’s been a little over a week since I started Whole30, and I can honestly say it’s not as hard as I remember it the first time I tried. Life without donuts and lattes and bread is not a life I want to lead permanently, but I’ve enjoyed trying new recipes. It’s also nice to find an excuse to eat more fruits and veggies in the dead of winter. Below are some notes I took about how I felt each of the last ten days if you’re interested to know more.

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Day one: Realizing how much I turned to food when I was sad, happy, angry, overwhelmed, etc. hit me like a truck on day one. I found myself wanting certain items just because it was the normal time of day I’d grab a latte or take a lunch break instead of only eating because I’m hungry. This day was a wake-up call.

Two: Because I couldn’t rely on my go-to meals, I prepped a lot of items as if I was growing my pantry from scratch. Everything takes longer to make which is fine in the evening and you’ve got nowhere to go but annoying when you’re trying to get out the door for work in the morning.

Three: I didn’t think this was possible, but on the third day I wrote, “I might be sweet potatoed out.” The third day was the hardest for me so far. I went to a friend’s for a girls night where I turned down margs and tortilla chips in favor of sparking water and sweet potato chips I made the night before. I topped the chips with the nacho ingredients I could have: shredded lettuce, guacamole, salsa and compliant taco meat. It wasn’t the same, but I’m glad I powered through my headache and made it to the weekend.

Four and five: Exhaustion rolled in on the fourth and fifth days. Thankfully it was the weekend so I loafed around the house with nothing pressing to do. I relied on smoothies to fight my hunger cravings and tried to convince myself I didn’t miss baking all that much (lies).

Six and seven: Finally I was feeling great! I noticed I had more energy on my runs, I’ve been sleeping like the dead, and having a clementine after dinner instead of ice cream isn’t really all that bad. I also found meals like the cauliflower rice fried rice pictured above which thankfully require less than an hour of prep and work.

Eight, nine and ten: Sadly, the excitement did not last. I made the mistake of weighing myself on the eighth day (something which is strictly off limits) and noticed zero change! How could this be? I eliminated dairy, legumes, sugar, and gluten and the scale hasn’t budged an ounce? Needless to say my spirits were down, but I’m glad I didn’t grab cookies to console myself. My cravings for cheese, sandwiches, and ice cream have unfortunately only gotten stronger.

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According to this Whole30 timeline, all of what I’m experiencing is par for the course. People are most likely to quit on the tenth day, and today marks eleven days for me (praise!). After noticing zero changes on the scale, I’ve vowed not to step on it again until the program is over. The whole point of Whole30 is not to lose weight but rather to reset your relationship with food. Day one was a big wake-up call, that much I know.

Since the day I stepped on the scale, I’ve tried to take notice of when I’m hungry and why. I’ve been working out more which helps quell my anxiety and I bought a monthly planner (pictured above) to help me stay organized and motivated.

I’ve also tried to avoid social media and looked for other ways to treat myself. (It’s not until you can’t have cakes and toasts that you realize just how much people share photos of cakes and toasts.) Instead of turning to food, I’m blogging more often than ever before and developing my personal portfolio (a post about that forthcoming). I made spaghetti squash pad thai last night which was so good I just about cried, and then ended the evening watching Hidden Figures at the Air and Space Museum.

I have no regrets about trying this program, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already looking forward to it being done.