Whenever you decide to make a huge change in your diet, there are often a million questions that need to be addressed. What? When do I eat? How much do I eat? How often?
Since Whole30 is a pretty strict program, this is a huge part of the learning curve in the beginning. Luckily there are tons of resources, forums, and blog posts on what to eat…but after that, things get a little fuzzier.
The “how much” part is always a huge question when it comes to healthy eating, but unfortunately there aren’t nearly as many resources out there outlining this aspect of Whole30.
That’s why we’ve compiled some information in this guide to make things a little easier!
How Much Do I Eat on Whole30?
Luckily, you don’t have to go into Whole30 portioning totally blind – the Whole30 team has provided some insight on how to portion on Whole30.
Here’s their original guide – we’ve created a more colorful variation of that same info below!
1-2 palm-sized proteins per meal
Examples: chicken, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, etc.
fill the rest of your plate with veggies
Examples: broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, peppers, cauliflower, eggplant.
Add a serving (sometimes) with meals
Examples: apples, bananas, pears, pineapple, berries, grapes, grapefruit.
OIL + FATS
1-2 thumb sized portions
Examples: olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, animal fats, nut butters.
COCONUT + OLIVES
1-2 open (heaping) handfuls
Examples: shredded or whole coconut, or olives.E
NUTS + SEEDS
1 closed handful of nuts & seeds
Examples: pistachio nuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
The Whole30 meal planning guide uses a measuring tool that everyone has available and is custom-sized based on the individual: your hand!
By using different part of your hand to measure out your portion sizes, Whole30-ers can get a general idea of the amounts of certain foods they should be eating, but also have a little bit of wiggle room for an individual’s preferences or needs.
Everyone is different! So why should everyone eat the same amounts? Use these references to portion out your meals like a Whole30 pro.
- Thumb. To use this measurement, the food in question should be about the size of your entire thumb, base to tip. This measurement is used for butters (including ghee, coconut butter, nut butter, etc.) and oils (olive oil, coconut oil, animal fat sources, etc.).
- Palm. Palm-sized portions are reserved for protein. Whether it’s eggs, chicken, steak, fish, you name it, it should be roughly the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.
- Open Handful. An open handful would be enough to a heaping scoop that sits in your open, cupped hand. This is what you should aim for when portioning other sources of fat such as coconut or olives.
- Closed Handful. A closed handful is reserved for nuts and seeds, a fat source that is still super healthy, but best limited to avoid overeating.
It’s worth noting that many folks won’t adhere to the sizing guide at all. Really, as long as you’re eating a huge heaping helpful of veggies at every meal, along with a decent piece of protein and a bit of fat, you’ll probably be good. So if sizing out your ingredients stresses you out, don’t worry about it!
How Many Meals Should I Have on Whole30?
Whole30 recommends that you eat at least three meals a day–that means three meals minimum!
Some very active people may need even more. Each meal should contain at least 1-2 palms-worth of a quality protein source, especially at breakfast to get your day started strong.
Once you have your protein, place it on your plate and fill the rest with vegetables. This will be your main source of carbohydrates!
Each meal should also feature a fat source in 1-2 portions per meal. The only exception to this rule is nuts or nut butters which should not exceed a serving or two for the entire day.
Fat is essential to satiety in meals–it’s the fat that’ll keep you happy until your next meal!
For including fats, you have a number of options, including any of these per meal:
- 1-2 thumb-sized portions of oil or cooking fats
- 1-2 thumb-sized portions of butter (ghee, coconut butter, nut butters, etc)
- 1-2 open (aka heaping) hand fulls of coconut (shredded or flakes)
- 1 closed hand full of nuts
When it comes to fat, you can also always add ½ to an entire avocado or about half a cup of coconut milk.
These, although not included in the “hand measured” portions, are perfectly acceptable sources of fat for your meals.
Pre and Post Workout Meals
Working out means adding meals to your routine.
On Whole30, it’s recommended that you eat a pre-workout meal 15-75 minutes before you begin your workout. Aim for foods that are easy to digest.
For these mini meals, include:
- 1/2 meal-sized portion of protein (aka 1/2 palm full)
- 1/2 small meal-sized portion of fat (optional)
Do NOT include fruit or carb-dense veggies.
For post-workout meals, you’ll want to eat immediately after exercising (aka 15-30 minutes after).
For these post-workout meals, include:
- 1 meal-sized portion of protein (that’s easily digestible)
- 1 serving of carb-dense veggies (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, etc)
Do NOT include fruit and add little to no fat.
Remember that pre and post workout meals are NOT substitutes for your regular three daily meals. They are bonus meals meant to help you recover from your workout!
How Should I Eat on Whole30?
Whole30 guidelines stress that since this is a lifestyle overhaul, not just a “diet” that has a beginning and end point, there are many other tips that may not be considered in many other diet plans.
First off, Whole30 encourages eating meals that will leave you full and satisfied, and discourages snacking or “grazing” unless it’s absolutely necessary. Life happens–travel, workouts, work gets crazy…sometimes you need a snack. And that’s okay! Just try not to make it a habit on Whole30.
Another lifestyle change that Whole30 encourages is to cut out midnight snacking. Late at night is when most of the emotional, bored, and just-because eating happens–on Whole30, you eat plenty of healthy foods throughout the day, you won’t need any before-bed munchies.
Arguably the most important point made by the Whole30 creators is to make an effort to make meal time mindful. You’ve taken all this time and care in preparing your food…why not enjoy it the same way?
Take a moment to sit down with your food without TV, a book, or any other huge distraction (light conversation is an exception here). Take the time to chew, taste, and enjoy your food without gobbling it down.
This, along with the food itself, the food prep, and the portioning is a huge part of the Whole30 program and will likely play a part in changing your relationship with food!
Whole30 Eating Best Practices
To sum it up, on Whole30, you should:
- Avoid snacking and grazing. Eat substantial whole meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you’re eating enough and the right foods, there should be no need for snacking!
- Don’t indulge in late night eating. This is a bad habit for many of us, and it’s when the most troublesome, binge-snacking happens. After dinner, you should be all set for the night.
- Be mindful with your meals. Avoid watching TV or messing around on your phone while eating. Take this time to be present and fully appreciate the meal you’ve made for yourself.
- Eat fruit with your meal, not after. It’s easy to start treating fruit as our after-meal treat (aka our dessert). Instead, try breaking the whole dessert habit all-together and only eat fruit with your meal, rather than after.
- Opt for whole foods over smoothies and shortcuts. Smoothies have become very popular as fast and easy meals (especially for breakfast). However, your body doesn’t process liquid the same way it does whole foods, and the same ingredients eaten in smoothie form won’t keep you as satiated as they would in their whole, traditional form.
Be Kind To Your Body
The biggest take-home message here is that Whole30 is bringing you closer to your food…so take this time to really tune into your body and give it what it needs!
These rules are not nearly as strict as the rules about the food itself–it’s up to you to figure out a lot of this on your own.
Everyone is different, and everyone needs different things! Feeling a little snacky after a fruit-heavy breakfast? Maybe opt for more protein and fat at lunch to keep you going until dinner.
Three meals just not cutting it? Add an extra mid-afternoon meal. Your Whole30 experience is totally your own and it’s up to you to take the reins.
Have questions? Ideas or tips on portioning your Whole30? Let us know below in the comments–we love to hear from you!
We’ve also put some of the info we covered today into this handy image you can pin on Pinterest to have as a reference guide. Enjoy!