Whole30 Progress + Paprika Cabbage and Chicken

In Lunch + Dinner by Amanda0 Comments

Exactly 16 days ago I announced on Instagram that I was starting my first Whole30. Though it may have seemed like a sudden, spontaneous announcement, I had actually been considering doing a Whole30 for a while. And now, since I’m over half way done (hallelujah!), I want to share why I’m doing it and reflect on the past two weeks.

Why Whole30?

In the months before starting my Whole30, I felt like I was stuck in this downward spiral of bad eating habits. I love to cook, and I cook both lunch and dinner most days (perk of working from home), but even though I generally cook healthy meals, my portions were way too big, I was snacking pretty much the entire afternoon (and not on the healthy stuff), and washing down my dinners with a few glasses of wine or a beer. This was the drill pretty much every day. It may sound mostly harmless, but I realized one morning (possibly after a few too many glasses of vino the night before) just how tired I was and how shitty I felt. I wasn’t sleeping well, couldn’t stay focused on work, felt bloated and tired a lot, and wasn’t seeing the results I wanted from my BBG program (which, yes, I’m still doing 🙂 ).
I couldn’t blame my malaise on the gloomy weather or the shorter days anymore. I had to do something about my diet, and something serious. In the past I’ve tried to tell myself “Okay, no snacking today. You had a good, healthy lunch. And no booze!” This usually works for all of one or two days, and then I’m just back to my usual routine of noshing and drinking. I needed some rules. I needed harsh rules and some accountability to make a real change and stick with it.

You may have heard of Whole30, but in case you haven’t, it’s 30 days of no dairy, grains, beans, legumes, sugar or alcohol. It isn’t some ‘quick-fix weight-loss diet’. Whole30 is like a reset for your body and your mind. Eliminating the foods and food groups that are known to have negative impacts on your health is supposed to let your body recover from all that junk you’ve been giving it (guilty!). I read about the program and the guidelines on the Whole30 website and was sold right away. I had to try this. I’ve never done an elimination diet like this before, what do I have to lose? Nothing. There is nothing to lose, only gains here. That’s what I saw at least. Plus, there are so many resources online for Whole30 doers (doers?). Tips, recipes, meal planning, and more. So I decided on a Monday (October 17th to be exact) that I wanted to do this, but like the Whole30 website suggests, I wanted to pick a 30 day window that would work best for me. I was celebrating my wedding anniversary that Wednesday, so I decided to start the following Saturday (October 22nd). I really had nothing major going on for the next 30 days, and, most importantly, I’d be done before Thanksgiving. 😉

My First Whole30 So Far

Here’s what I’ve learned at the halfway point:

Planning is everything
I’ll tell you right now, if you don’t plan ahead, you will fail so hard. You’ll read this piece of advice in some shape or form on every Whole30 blog because it is so true. After doing some research before starting mine, I heeded their advice and planned out my meals for the first 9 days. This really saved me. I’ve maintained some decent motivation through the first two weeks, but there were some days when I really, really did not feel like cooking. But since I had already picked out the recipe for the day and purchased all the ingredients I needed, pushing through these moments of weakness was much easier. The past two Saturdays I’ve planned out all my meals for the week, accounting for possible leftovers, and went shopping for as many ingredients as I could fit in my tiny fridge. This is the number one thing you can do to set yourself up for success.

Sugar is everywhere
Even in Austria. For real guys, just read the labels. The Whole30 site has a great cheat sheet listing out all the names for sugar so you can sniff it out on sneaky food labels. Being in Austria, this has been a little tricky since most food labeling is in German (duh). If I’m not sure if something is compliant, I just don’t buy it. The one place I was really surprised to find sugar here was in cooking stock. Maybe I was ignorant in this practice, but pretty much every beef, chicken or vegetable stock I found in the grocery stores had sugar. Austria has excellent quality of food and grocery items, so this shocked me at first. I finally found some sugar-free stock at a organic market for a pretty penny, but I decided to make my own. I made it in the slow-cooker using this recipe and it came out great. But as I was saying, the ‘no sugar’ rule is a really big one for Whole30 probably because it takes the most effort to follow. Read labels and ask questions.

Simple can be way, way better
It’s not necessary to try every Whole30 recipe under the sun, especially on your first go around. I was so excited to start this program, I was pinning and saving delicious looking recipes left and right. The first mistake I made was cramming my first week of planned meals with a new recipe every day. I just wanted to try them all! In reality I ended up with more leftovers than I anticipated and had to get flexible with my meal plan (pushing a few things back to next week and swapping things around so I wasn’t eating chicken breast 4 days in a row. Bleh). Trying to cook so many different, new recipes is probably what contributed to my minor kitchen fatigue that first week, so for week two I decided to simplify my lunches. I roasted some bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on Sunday (saved those bones for stock!), and stored it in the fridge along with lots of fresh veggies that would be ready for roasting. Now for lunch if I’m not having leftovers, I can roast some brussel sprouts, broccoli, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, or anything else I might have to go with my chicken breast and some other awesome sides to mix up the flavors (like some compliant sauerkraut or beet salad). This has been working beautifully. It saves me some time mid-day during my lunch break and by the time dinner comes around I’m usually excited to whip up something new. Check out some of the recipes I’ve tried so far on my Pinterest board.

Overall, I’m really loving this process. I’ve been sleeping beautifully, I have more energy during the day, and I’ve been noticeably less bloated with fewer tummy troubles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. I miss my morning oatmeal, dark chocolate, toast, cappuccinos, and that glass of Grüner Vetliner while I’m cooking dinner. But I’ve learned that I love fried eggs in ghee (yum!), coconut oil in my coffee, spaghetti squash, the no-fuss deliciousness of perfectly roasted veggies and chicken on a plate, and that you really can have fun without alcohol (if you have to). This Whole30 has already been quite an eye-opening experience and I’m so thankful I decided to do it. I’m looking forward to enjoying the holidays with my family (we’ll be in Arkansas this year for Christmas and New Years! Yeah!), and I’m already planning on another Whole30 in January.

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And now for a recipe! The first time I made this sauteed chicken and cabbage, I was a skeptical on how it would turn out. The ingredients are so simple; I was mostly afraid it would be really boring, but I was very wrong. Christof and I both loved it so much, I’ve made it twice since starting my Whole30. It’s perfectly compliant to the guidelines, inexpensive, makes a great low-carb protein packed dinner, and even better as leftovers for lunch the next day. The cabbage gets so soft, it almost tastes like a tomatoey pasta dish (at least that’s what I tell myself). This one is going into my regular recipe rotation. Give it a chance. Even if you don’t eat a lot of cabbage, I think you’ll like this.

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PAPRIKA CHICKEN AND CABBAGE

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes + Cook Time: 1 Hour
Easily doubles, makes great leftovers.

  • Ingredients

    3 Tbsp olive oil
    8 oz lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
    ½ large cabbage, sliced into thin strips
    2 medium carrots, shredded
    1 Tbsp good paprika
    ⅓ cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
    3 bay leaves
    1 cup chicken stock
    salt, pepper
    flat-leaf parsley to garnish

  • Make it

    Warm up the olive oil in a large saute pan or heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for  5-7 minutes or until browned.

    Once the chicken pieces have a nice brown color, add cabbage and paprika. If you have some fancy paprika hiding in your spice rack, now is the time to use it. The paprika is the star here! Stir everything together and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the cabbage starts to soften. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, shredded carrots and bay leaves. Season everything with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and stir it all together. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a tight lid.

    Continue cooking on low with the lid on for 45 minutes, lifting the lid occasionally to stir everything around. I give it a good stir about every 15 minutes. When it’s ready the cabbage should be very soft with almost no liquid remaining in the pot.

    Serve on colorful plates with fresh chopped parsley!

( Note )
The chicken to cabbage ratio is not super important here. I’ve always used the amount of cabbage the recipe calls for, but changed the amount of chicken depending on what I have. If you have 10 or 11 oz of raw chicken in the fridge that you need to use, do it. It will still be awesome.
This recipe makes great leftovers. You can easily double this if you have a large enough pot!

Slightly adapted from Cooktoria

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