Plenty of women have found the Whole30 diet helps them to lose weight. But with all the work that goes into the 30-day regime—which includes avoiding all sugar, processed foods, grains, dairy, alcohol, and legumes and eating lots of veggies, moderate meat, seafood, eggs, and some fruits—it would make sense you’d notice changes.
Inevitably, however, all the label-checking and cooking involved in the Whole30 can make it hard to maintain. “There’s so much prep that goes into it, and for people who aren’t used to a lot of food prep, they may have difficulty keeping up with all Whole30-appropriate foods,” says New York City-based nutritionist Jessica Cording, R.D. “Some people find that without certain foods they really love, they’re miserable, which also makes it hard to follow,” she adds. Avoiding all dairy, including yogurt and cheese, as well as grains, can certainly make you feel deprived.
But just because you’ve decided the Whole30 diet isn’t for you doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from some of its guidelines. “I have a client who does what they call a ‘Whole30-esque’ plan that works for them. They’re primarily compliant but allow for items that are really difficult not to have,” says Cording. She says that even if you toss most of the restrictive parts of the diet out of the window, there are still a few things just about anyone looking to eat healthier can learn from it.
Here are seven of the best eating tricks you can steal from the Whole30 without actually going on it.
The Whole30 is big on protein—a super-satiating nutrient that helps people to eat fewer calories on the diet without feeling like they’re starving all the time, says Cording. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, spread out to about 25 to 30 grams per meal, may help manage appetite and weight; for a 130-pound (59-kilogram) woman, that means aiming for about 70 to 94 grams of protein a day.
What’s more, because the Whole30 includes some animal proteins, it tends to work especially well for women. “A vegan-style, plant-based diet has health benefits and can be done well. But because women in their childbearing years need more of certain nutrients like iron, I’ve found that fatigue, energy, and menstrual difficulties tend to be less of an issue on the Whole30,” Cording says.
Related: 14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat
While many people love that the Whole30 doesn’t involve calorie counting or restricting, it does require you to pay attention to the portions of meat. “You tune into sweet spot so you’re covering your needs and feeling satisfied without overdoing it,” says Cording.
The fact is, most of us are used to much bigger portions than we should really be eating. The “small” standard restaurant steak, for example, is 10 ounces; most women should aim to eat 4 ounces of red meat or 4 to 6 ounces of poultry and fish. As you get used to new portion sizes, Cording suggests cutting your protein into smaller pieces and spreading it out on plate tomake it seem more exciting than a lonely single piece sitting in the corner.