How to Do Whole30 When Your Partner Isn't

Meals so friggin' good, your partner will never suspect they're "diet food."

Updated 06/22/18
Product Disclosure

Getty Images

Since our kindergarten days, we've learned about the benefits of "the buddy system." When an endeavor is particularly challenging — for example, a 30-day, super-restrictive diet like Whole30 — it's always better to have some encouragement and accountability in human form.

But first, what is Whole30? You might recognize the program courtesy of multiple cookbooks, countless op-eds, or the Instagram weight-loss journey of a random girl from high school you still follow. You can read the official "rules" here, but the gist is that you're axing sugar, grains, dairy and legumes. Your sustenance will now come entirely from meat, eggs, veggies, (some) fruit, and lots of herbs, spices, and seasonings.

Whether you've decided to give Whole30 a go in the months leading up to your wedding, or as a newlywed experimenting in the kitchen, it sure would help if your fiancé/spouse joined you in ditching those muffins and mimosas at brunch, right? Unfortunately, that's not the norm.

"We did a survey a few years back, and were shocked to discover that 75 percent of Whole30-ers were doing the program alone," says Whole30 co-founder and CEO Melissa Hartwig, "not with their spouse or anyone else."

Well, that sucks. Learning this, we asked Hartwig to help a Whole30-ing Brides reader out. Below, her advice for prepping your non-compliant partner on how to help you, plus Whole30 meals you can sneakily serve that will satisfy you both. Hartwig promises they're so good, your significant other will never suspect they're "diet food."

Tip 1: Have a Discussion. Before. You Start This Thing

As Hartwig puts it, "On Day 1 over dinner is not the time to say, 'Hey, by the way, I'm doing Whole 30. I'm not cooking your pizza tonight.'" Plan to inform your partner at least a week in advance, and don't have the conversation around food. "Food can be very emotional for people," explains Hartwig. "If you start talking about taking steps to improve your health, it can make your partner feel defensive and having food around is even more likely to trigger that." Instead, Hartwig recommends taking a relaxing walk or a drive together so that you're stationed in tandem, side-by-side, and not sitting across from each other. "It's sort of like you're on a team as opposed to facing each other," she says.

Tip 2: Make Your Reasons Extremely Personal (And Share Them With Your Partner)

We all want to lose weight, have more energy, and uncover all the secrets of the universe yada yada yada. Your significant other has heard all of this before. Be more specific explaining why you're doing Whole30. "Instead of saying, 'Oh, I eat way too much junk food,' you could say, 'Do you remember the other night when I couldn't stop eating all those cookies and felt really bad about myself? My emotional relationship with food is really impacting my self-confidence, and there's this program that's supposed to help people establish a healthy relationship with food,'" says Hartwig. "That's a very different, non-generic approach." She also advises finding a point that will affect your partner's life as well. "If they know you've been struggling with sleep, you could bring that up: 'I know I keep you up at night, and there's this 30-day nutrition program that's supposed to help me figure out if there are foods negatively impacting my sleep,'" Hartwig says.

Tip 3: Designate A Separate Space for Non-Compliant Items

Lots of people already have a "junk drawer/cabinet/shelf" in their homes, but if you're doing Whole30 and having to avoid that treasure trove of temptation completely, you'll need to be strategic about its location. "You shouldn't see Oreos every time you're reaching for a can of coconut milk," says Hartwig. Give your partner a drawer in the fridge, a shelf in the pantry, a cabinet, and maybe even a little tote box that can be moved so that you interact with non-compliant items as little as possible.

Tip 4: Plan Social Events & Outings

Don't turn into a "Whole30 Hermit," warns Hartwig. "You're not going to be establishing a very good association with this healthy eating plan if you stop participating in fun family social things," she says. "Those things are never about the food. They're about making connections with your spouse or your family." But if food is a must, bring your own snacks! For instance, cauliflower popcorn is Hartwig's go-to choice for movie night.

Tip 5: Ask for the Support You Need

When we polled Hartwig on whether or not you should try convincing partners to change their minds and do Whole30 with you from the start, she referenced a practice of "leading by quiet example." Let them see your results, and decide themselves it's worth trying. She says, "You might be feeling so good about your Whole30 journey that you feel it's helpful to encourage the other person to make changes, but you can't do it for them. If they're not ready, they're not ready. The last thing you want is for them to resent this diet (and you!) before they even try it." What you should request from them, however, is support—in whatever form you need.

"Your partner is not a mindreader," says Hartwig. "It doesn't really matter how you two to decide to approach one of you Whole30-ing while the other doesn't, but you have to be in sync so there aren't any surprises."

If you are the primary shopper and meal preparer in your household, do you need to suggest that your significant other make separate grocery runs for his or her favorite treats so you're not enticed on the ride home? Should you sit down and agree on a menu of shared Whole30 dinners, and discuss the bread or rice or other carb options the non-Whole30 half of your duo can add? Don't be afraid to have an upfront conversation about any of the back-up you want, even if it feels silly.

A Day of Whole30 Meals A Non-Whole30 Person Will Eat and Not Hate

Breakfast: Vegetable Frittata

Excerpted from The Whole30 Cookbook © 2016 by Melissa Hartwig. Photography © 2016 by Brent Herrig. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

"I don't think anyone would look at a Whole30 breakfast and think it was weird," says Hartwig. One of her fave brekky options is a vegetable fritatta with diced-up sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and kale all baked into a crustless fritatta, but you can tailor the ingredients to whatever your partner really loves. Serve with crispy no-sugar bacon, roasted potatoes, and a fruit salad. (Hartwig does a mix of berries and whatever's in season.) Now, if your partner wants to add in their own English muffin, they can go right ahead, "but with a meal like that, you don't really need anything else," says Hartwig. "You've got the sweet and the savory and it's very hearty. It's the perfect, elevated diner breakfast."

Recipe for breakfast frittata with spinach, mushroom, and leeks
SERVES 2 OR 3
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 10 minutes
TOTAL: 20 minutes

2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only)
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon full-fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
11⁄2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 bag (about 6 ounces) baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1. Trim the roots and wilted leaves from the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then cut them crosswise into 1⁄4-inch-thick pieces. Rinse well with cold water. Drain and dry the leeks and set aside. 2. Preheat the broiler (or preheat the oven to 500°F). In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, coconut milk, thyme, salt, and red pepper flakes; set aside. 3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat; add the leeks and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the spinach and garlic and let the spinach wilt for 30 seconds. 4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook over medium heat. As the egg mixture sets, run a spatula around edge of skillet, lifting the cooked egg so the uncooked egg flows underneath. Cook until the egg is beginning to set (the surface will still be moist). 5. Transfer the pan with the eggs to the oven and broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat (or bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 3 minutes), until the top is set and lightly browned. Top with the green onions. Cut into wedges and serve hot, directly out of the pan.

Excerpted from The Whole30 Cookbook © 2016 by Melissa Hartwig. Photography © 2016 by Brent Herrig. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Lunch: Carnitas Mexi-Salad

We love a slow cooker recipe here at Brides and so will your non-Whole30ing other half. Season the meat with a little bit of cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Then, dump over mixed greens, into a hollowed-out bell pepper, or between two roasted sweet potato "buns," instructs Hartwig.

Each option pairs nicely with Hartwig's original recipe for Whole30's Mango or Pineapple Relish:

2 cups fresh mango/pineapple, diced
1⁄2 medium jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

2 whole scallions, minced
2 Tbs. red onion, peeled and minced
1⁄2 cup avocado oil
Juice from 1⁄2 lime

Finally, add a side of avocado or guacamole. "Those healthy fats are really filling," says Hartwig. "They feel light and fresh, but not like a 'diet salad' at all."

Snack

Excerpted from The Whole30 © 2015 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. Photography © 2015 by Alexandra Grablewski. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

While they don't recommend much snacking on Whole30, Hartwig does encourage having "emergency food" on hand at all times so "if you get home late from work and you're starving or you need to grab something really quick for a road trip, you've got it," she says. Her first suggestion is chicken/tuna/salmon salad. "You can even get high-quality canned meat for this, and just mix in a little bit of mayo and either apple cider vinegar or lemon." Next, throw whatever fruits, veggies, herbs or spices you and your partner want in it. (Grapes, celery, and green onions are great for chicken salad!) Again, you can enjoy this with greens or inside a bell pepper, or you can dip carrots or celery sticks in it.

Recipe for protein salad
SERVES 2 (WITH LEFTOVERS)
PREP TIME: 10 to 15 minutes

1 pound cooked or canned chicken, salmon, or tuna, or 8 hard-boiled eggs
1⁄4 cup creamy base, such as Basic Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons acid, such as lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Additional ingredients of choice (See Hartwig's recs above!)

1. If you’re using canned chicken, tuna, or salmon, you’ll need 3 cans (5 to 6 ounces each). Start the salad off with just 1⁄4 cup mayo and the juice of 1 lemon or lime (or 2 tablespoons vinegar). You can always add more if you want your salad creamier or tangier. Serve on its own, over a bed of lettuce, in a hollowed-out tomato or bell pepper, or inside ribs of celery. 2. If necessary, chop or shred the protein into large chunks. Combine the protein and mayo in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and any additional ingredients, and stir to combine.

PRO TIP: The creamy base can be Basic Mayonnaise, Egg-free Mayonnaise, or mashed avocado. The acid can be lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar.

Excerpted from The Whole30 © 2015 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. Photography © 2015 by Alexandra Grablewski. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Hartwig also mentioned wrapping fruits (melons, peaches, pears) in prosciutto, or these Brussels sprouts in bacon with spicy mayo. Serve your sweethearts that last one as "diet food" and watch the mouths drop — out of both surprise and readiness to eat.

Dinner

"Getting involved with the grill is always really fun to do on the Whole30," says Hartwig, "It's really grill-friendly." To that end, she loves a stereotypically "manly meal" of steak frites with a nice chimichurri recipe, alongside pan-friend plantains, thinly sliced baked potato "fries," and a side salad. (Psst! There are plenty of compliant dressings from Tessemae's or Primal Kitchen.) She's also a fan of these surf-n-turf shrimp and veggie skewers.

Recipe for chimichurri

MAKES 2 1⁄2 CUPS
PREP TIME: 10 minutes

1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 shallot, minced
1 1⁄2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro
1⁄4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and shallot in a food processor and mix on low speed. Drizzle in the olive oil while mixing; the dressing will begin to emulsify. Add the cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper and continue to mix on low until the dressing is uniform in texture and the herb pieces are chopped quite small. 2. Chimichurri will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. If making ahead, bring it to room temperature before serving. If the dressing has separated, gently whisk to reblend.

Excerpted from The Whole30 © 2015 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Dessert

While Hartwig acknowledges there aren't many desserts on the Whole30, she also recognizes a special dinner date or other wedding-related celebration might call for something "a little festive." Headed into summertime, she recommends topping a bowl of fresh berries — blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries — with whipped coconut cream. "You just take the thick part of canned coconut and literally beat it like you would regular cream and it turns into a little whip," she explains. "Sprinkle a little bit of toasted coconut over the top, and a few sprinkles of 100 percent cacao nibs, and you've got a really light, fresh dessert."

(Here's a recipe from Dahlia Kitchen.)

Related Stories