A Whole30 Reintroduction Plan: How to Add Back New Foods
At the end of the Whole30 protocol, you might know that there is a period of reintroduction. (In fact, you may have been looking forward to it since you began Whole30!) You’ve spent a significant amount of time avoiding sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol and processed foods: surely the reintroduction will be the best part.
Not so fast, clean eater.
Your weeks of intentional eating have caused some changes in your body (you’ve probably noticed). The process of reincorporating non-compliant foods can actually be just as illuminating —perhaps even more—than the work you’ve done to change your habits. This point in your experiment with clean eating is intended to identify which foods your unique body can handle and which ones it’s better off without… long term.
Your Whole30 reintroduction plan needs to be systematic, planned and intentional. Reintroducing too many variables at once won’t provide a clear picture of which foods adversely impact your body. If you have a grilled cheese sandwich and beer at all once, and find yourself moody, bloated and breaking out, it’ll be hard to know if the culprit is gluten, casein or alcohol. It could be all three, but experimenting with one food at a time will give you a better indication of exactly what each food does when it’s brought into your system.
You should be prepared to keep up with the Whole30 protocol—apart from the individual food groups you’re adding back in—so don’t give up on grocery shopping and meal planning just yet. (But you won’t do that, right? You’ve developed so many great new habits this last month: you’re going to keep up with them. We know.)
Here’s a sample Whole30 reintroduction plan to help you stay on track:
Day 1: Reintroduce legumes. Peanut butter, black beans, lentils, soy (tofu, tempeh, miso or soy milk) and chickpeas might be simple options to try for a day. Incorporate these into your meals and pay attention to how you feel. You might want to write down anything of note, say, if you experienced headaches, joint pain or digestive trouble. Keep the rest of your food choices Whole30-compliant.
Days 2-3: Return to fully Whole30-compliant plan. Notice how you feel over these two days. Do you experience any changes in digestion or bloating?
Day 4: Reintroduce non-gluten-containing grains. Add in a grain at one or two meals or snacks on Day 4: think rice, gluten-free bread or oats, tortilla chips or quinoa. It might be tempting to overdo it (it’s been so long!), but in the interest of not overloading your system, try to stick to just a few portions today. A little bit of grain can give you a lot of information. Keep the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant.
Days 5-6: Return to fully Whole30-compliant plan. Notice how you feel over these two days. Evaluate again if your mood, digestion, skin, pain, headaches or mobility change.
Day 7: Reintroduce dairy. Add in a little dairy throughout the day – yogurt, cheese, kefir, ice cream – and keep track of how you feel. Keep the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant.
Day 8-9: Return to fully Whole30-compliant plan. Notice how you feel over these two days. Are you generating more mucous? Coughing? Itching? Unable to go to the bathroom? Did any cravings return?
Day 10: Reintroduce gluten-containing grains. Break out the wheat, rye and barley to see if gluten is an issue for you. Bread, pasta, pearled barley, hot cereals and baked goods are informative places to start. Notice how you feel. Are these foods that change your relationship to eating? Do you feel in control of your habits when they’re on the table? Keep the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant.
Days 11-12… and beyond: Notice how you feel. Check in on the symptoms that arose as a result of reintroduction. Are there certain things you feel you might be intolerant of? Symptoms you’d rather avoid in the long run? Use this information to help you decide which foods can be everyday foods (they make you feel great), special occasion foods (you can handle them sporadically, or are willing to tolerate the icky side effects for special reasons only) and foods you will choose to break up with.
This last group is perhaps most informative of all: these are the foods that make you feel imbalanced and unwell. Continue to notice which foods make you feel alive and which ones drag you down. The purpose of Whole30 is to reevaluate how we relate to food, including which ones work for our bodies and which are “worth it”. Feeling awesome and taking charge of your health are entirely in your hands. Keep it up!