Right after Thanksgiving, my husband made a major announcement: He was going on the Whole 30 Diet. Needless to say, this did not go over well.
For those of you that don’t know me, hi. My name is Shannon and I am a food writer, cookbook author, and avid baker. In short, I’m a serious carb lover. So a new, restrictive diet did not at all sound like the cookie, latke, and hot chocolate-laden December I had been planning.
Don’t get me wrong: I am 100 percent committed to real food and healthy eating. Healthyish, at least. Or whatever you want to call it. I avoid processed, packaged foods as much as possible. I cook with real ingredients and always ensure there are fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal. I rarely fry foods and try to limit our red meat consumption. Our dairy is organic. I buy local as much as possible. Blah, blah, blah — I think you get the picture.
But the Whole 30 plan removes all grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes from the daily diet for 30 days. Oh, and alcohol, too.
My husband was committed to going full throttle. He’d put on “baby weight” from when our kids — now ages 5 and 2 — were born, then he put on weight when I wrote my book about carbs. And while I believe in moderation and working out several times per week to stay healthyish, he doesn’t have the willpower to moderate himself or find the time to exercise in quite the same way.
So, being the amazing wife that I am, I took a deep breath and begrudgingly said OK to his plan. But there was a catch: I would only be cooking one dinner each night.
I was already meal planning with my 5-year-old, with great success — together, she and I planned dinners for the week, and it greatly minimized mealtime whining, as well as food waste. So now, our weekly meal planning sessions expanded to include dad’s fakakta diet. Our strategy was to come up with one main dinner each night; something that allowed for minor variations in order to minimize any additional work for the cook (um, me).
The first two weeks were rough. My husband was moody. He was withdrawing from sugar and was really quite a pain to deal with — unlike his usual easygoing, funny, and loving self. Quite frankly, I’m usually the difficult one in our marriage, so it was a new experience for all of us for him to lose his temper so quickly.
I will say this: I much prefer to be the difficult one.
After a few weeks, however, we all got into a groove — me with the planning, prepping, and cooking, and he finally stopped acting like a hangry Hulk and reverted to being the laid-back husband and dad we were used to. He did lose some weight and felt healthier, and there haven’t been any divorce papers filed yet, so I think we are in the clear.
I don’t endorse the Whole 30 Diet — in fact, U.S. News recently ranked it a lowly 37 out of the 40 most popular diets of 2018. I still believe that the best “diet” is simply to eat less and move more. But I understand that not everyone can have that kind of self-discipline and may need more prescriptive instructions to stay the course.
We just returned from a weeklong cruise where unlimited lunch buffets and fruity drinks were routine, so now my husband wants do another round of the diet. He genuinely felt better on this eating plan, and I recognize that no diet is one-size-fits-all. So, if this works for him, I will try to make it work for us.
On Saturday, we planned our meals for the week. Sunday I went food shopping. My method is to focus on a protein and veggie for each night, with some starch or carb as an option for the kids and me. My husband’s increased protein needs have increased our meat consumption; I don’t love that. Also, since he now regularly snacks on fresh vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts, our grocery bills are a bit higher, but in the long run I think these new habits are good things.
So, even though I admit to sometimes rolling my eyes or getting annoyed at my husband over his diet, I am mature enough to recognize that that marriage is all about compromise. Even over carbs.
Here’s what a week of meals looks like in our family these days. I don’t profess to be an expert on this diet, I’m just a working mom trying to make sure everyone is fed.
Monday: Baked salmon with lemon and clarified butter and roasted cauliflower; orzo for the girls and mom.
Tuesday: Chicken curry with spinach and tomatoes (you can omit the split peas); rice for the girls and mom.
Wednesday: Chili (bean-free) with baked potatoes. Avocado, chopped onion, and fresh cilantro for toppings.
Thursday: Shawarma chicken with chopped Israeli salad; fresh pita for the girls and mom.