Editor’s note: To start the new year, CharlotteFive writers and staffers committed to 7-day, 14-day and 30-day challenges through January to shake up our norms and lifestyles. Other challenges included the Minimalist Game, 14 days of veganism, 14 days of talking to strangers, 7 days of classic Charlotte things, letting your fiance choose your outfits for 7 days.
During the month of January, I decided to take the plunge and attempt Whole30. It had been on my radar for about a year… but I was never entirely convinced that I wanted to completely cut out a massive list of foods that I love for an entire month.
In a nutshell, Whole30 is a 30-day lifestyle change where you give up sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, processed ingredients and alcohol. If you read a food label and do not know exactly what an ingredient is is, more often than not, this item is striked from your approved eating list. This cleanse is meant to reset your system and train you to naturally make healthier food choices.
As far as following the plan to the exact guidelines, I may have strayed just a little bit. Did I dive head-first into a bowl of carb-o-licious pasta? Not quite… but I did nibble on snacks between meals when I felt it was necessary (which they discourage but it’s not exactly breaking any rules). I also came up with several go-to meals to make at home, which I’ve surprisingly enjoyed a few times after my Whole30 journey as well.
A recurring question amongst my friends was, “How on earth are you going to survive this as a food writer?” and “Where are you going to go out to eat”? I was determined to stay social during my experiment, so I combed the city to find my top Whole30-compliant restaurants.
When you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant:
Ranking in at my #1 overall spot is Burton’s Grill & Bar in the Park Road Shopping Center. Not only does this casual dining spot have a plethora of Whole30 compliant appetizers and entrees, but they also offer separate menus for gluten sensitive, vegetarian and paleo. They will create a custom meal to accommodate your dietary restrictions and list all ingredients for you to double-check compliancy. When you visit, tell Marc (their GM) that Jess sent you.
Spinach Salad ($10.95): spinach, red and yellow bell peppers, English cucumbers, red onion, grape tomatoes and COMPLIANT oregano vinaigrette.
Pan Seared Salmon ($18.95/$26.95): bronzed gulf of maine salmon, charred tomato salsa, julienne vegetables, romesco sauce. Substitute Shrimp ($16.95/$23.95).
MLT Burger ($15.95): hand packed certified angus beef, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, iceburg lettuce “bun”, broccoli. Add avocado ($1.95).
Grilled NY Strip ($28.95): aged Allen Brothers angus beef, carmelized wild mushrooms and onions, marinated tomatoes, broccoli. Substitute chicken ($22.95).
1601 E. Woodlawn Rd.
When you’re looking for something quick and easy:
Pio Pio: I treated my office to a takeout feast, some compliant… some not so compliant. In order to stay on track, I filled my plate with their Guacamole & Tostones ($9.50), Side Salad with Shredded Chicken ($9.75) and a piece (or two) of Fried Yuca ($3.75). These prices are for lunch, so make sure to check their website if you plan to join them for dinner.
1408 East Blvd. and 15025 Lancaster Hwy.
Some days at the office are longer than others and I often forget to grab something to eat. I teamed up with @bitesquad to try out their delivery services and everyone was pleasantly surprised with their speedy service! Added Bonus: my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Pio Pio, participates in their program and they even included extras of their delicious sauces with our delivery! Score!!
Nekter Juice Bar: I visited here on a Saturday morning for the first time with my husband and toddler. We were very impressed with their selection and our son loved the acai bowl (this isn’t compliant, though). We ordered a variety of their fresh squeezed juices. Just make sure to ask for no agave nectar and skip the homemade cashew milk (it has agave nectar in it, too). They were very helpful with substituting so our experience was great.
Chipotle Mexican Grill: The Pork Carnitas here are Whole30 friendly, so opt for their salad bowl ($6.95 + extra for guac). To stay compliant, make sure to only top your salad with carnitas, fresh tomato salsa, and guacamole. When I was in the mood to make things spicy, I also added their tomatillo red-chili salsa.
Clean Juice: I’m a big fan of this juice house, and I even partnered with them towards the later half of last year to create a recipe for their Juice Till Dinner Campaign (which just so happened to be a Whole30 compliant recipe!). I loved The Double One with no maple syrup (sub fresh dates) and no almond milk (sub coconut water) with hemp protein. Whole30 recommends that you eat your fruit/veggies rather than drinking them… so technically this isn’t cheating and sometimes a smoothie is calling your name.
I decided to try Whole30 because I felt that I was in a food rut, and basically eating the same diet as our toddler (think heavy carbs, hidden vegetables and the sugar-forward pastry). We ate healthy ingredients too, but I wanted to introduce some new menu items to my family’s meals and this felt like a good opportunity.
As far as going out to eat, finding compliant restaurants in Charlotte was pretty tough. Not only do you have to consider substituting those mashed potatoes for a salad with no dressing, but you also need to confirm that spice rubs used on meats and vegetables do not contain any sugar or additives. I’m sure there are some Queen City restaurants that simply fell off my radar, however I was pleasantly surprised with our experience at the ones listed above.
In the end (I must be honest), I was more than a little excited to return to my favorite eateries and introduce some forbidden items back into my diet.
Would I consider doing another Whole30 in the future? Absolutely. I woke up with a swift boost of energy each morning and actually slept better than I have in years. Was I hangry? Sometimes (ok… maybe more than sometimes, but who’s counting?).
Note: Please seek professional medical advice if you have any questions regarding Whole30. This post is simply a roundup of my own Whole30 journey. Results and personal experiences may vary.