Your Whole30 Reintroduction Game Plan
Just because you can now eat all the hummus and pita in sight doesn’t mean you should.
Throughout the last 30 days, you’ve ditched your late-night bowl of ice cream for handfuls of berries and grapes, swapped your morning pancakes for veggie-forward frittatas, and kicked your habit of eating peanut butter by the spoonful to the curb, all in the name of the Whole30 diet.
Now that you've finished the elimination diet, a celebration is definitely in order, but you shouldn’t go 0 to 100 and wolf down an entire pizza. Phase two of Whole30—reintroduction—is just as important as the elimination diet itself, and it’s something a lot of followers skip, says Catherine Moring, Ph.D., R.D.N, M.C.H.E.S., and a Whole30 certified coach, which involves providing in-person support and guidance through elimination and reintroduction for Whole30 followers. After phase one is up, it’s time to start slowly incorporating the five food groups you’ve given up—alcohol, added sugar, legumes, grains, and dairy—back into your diet.
“The purpose [of reintroduction] is to identify how foods affect you, your body, and your mind—physically, mentally, and emotionally,” she says. “Reintroduction is so important because you go through this 30-day process to get your body to a super clean slate, and just to blow it on day 31 with pizza and ice cream doesn't tell you what foods you’re sensitive to. You wouldn’t know if the problem was caused by dairy, gluten, or soy.” (Related: This Whole30 Food List Will Break You Out of a Grocery Shopping Rut)
How to Do Whole30 Reintroduction
Whole30 reintroduction usually happens over 10 to 20 days following the completion of the first 30 days, but can last up to 60 days, depending on your goal (i.e. maybe you're looking to narrow in on a very specific food/issue) and the number of times you've participated in the diet. Many Whole30 veterans, for example, opt for the "slow roll" plan, which involves maintaining a largely Whole30 diet until something special (say, your sister’s carrot cake) comes along and you decide to try it and evaluate how you feel afterward.
However, Dr. Moring typically recommends the "fast track" Whole30 reintroduction plan, which involves adding the eliminated food groups to your plate one at a time, from the least commonly problematic to the most, over the course of 10 to 20 days. Some eaters will extend their reintroduction and try individual foods within the same category, such as peanuts and soy, overtime to find the specific food that’s causing a negative reaction. “You see the best effects by stretching it out and being slow and methodical,” says Dr. Morning. For example, you might end up finding that hard cheese is no problem for your gut, but soft cheese leads to horrible stomach aches.
The gist: You’ll spend one day gently incorporating one eliminated food group into each of your meals, then revert back to the Whole30 diet for the next two days. This gives your body enough time to show the effects of eating that food and return to a clean slate before the next reintroduction, says Dr. Moring. “Just like working out, you might not be sore until the next day,” she adds.
As you work your way through your Whole30 reintroduction, Dr. Moring recommends using a food journal to measure your progress and be able to pinpoint the reaction-causing or triggering foods for you and your body. Continuously ask yourself, “what foods make me feel good, better, or best?”
Finally eating that bowl of pasta you’ve been craving since Day 1 of the Whole30 diet might not be as enjoyable as you’d think, though. After cutting these foods out of your diet for a month, you could experience mental, physical, and emotional side effects. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and skin rashes are common reactions from suddenly eating these foods again.
But the uncomfortable trips to the bathroom that can come with Whole30 reintroduction can be valuable. By doing this self-study and learning which foods affect your energy, sleep, digestion, and more, you can devise a personalized, sustainable eating plan. “Reintroduction gives you the ability to figure out what foods work best for you and your body and how to work them into your eating style,” says Dr. Moring. “You don’t know what your body thrives on until you go through this process on your own.”
Ready to learn which foods your body loves—and which it could be better off without? Use this Whole30 reintroduction timeline as a general game plan. If you don’t plan to reintroduce added sugar or alcohol, start your phase off with legumes. And if you don’t feel like you’ve recovered properly after introducing a particularly problematic food, stick to the Whole30 diet for a few more days before trying a new food group.
The Fast Track Whole30 Reintroduction Plan
Day 1: Reintroduce added sugar by itself. A sweet potato drizzled with honey or salmon glazed with maple syrup will do the trick.
Days 2 & 3: Back to the Whole30 diet.
Day 4: Reintroduce gluten-free alcohol by itself. Grab a glass of bourbon or gluten-free beer when you hit the bars tonight.
Days 5 & 6: Back to the Whole30 diet.
Day 7: Reintroduce legumes by themselves. Nosh on apple slices with peanut butter for a quick breakfast, slurp down a miso bowl for your mid-day meal, and load your plate with a side of black beans with dinner.
Days 8 & 9: Back to the Whole30 diet.
Day 10: Reintroduce non-gluten grains by themselves. Try a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, a sandwich made with gluten-free bread for lunch, and a veggie bowl with white rice for dinner.
Days 11 & 12: Back to the Whole30 diet.
Day 13: Reintroduce dairy by itself. Pair your morning cup of berries with a scoop or two of yogurt, spread cottage cheese on gluten-free toast with avocado for lunch, and sprinkle feta on top of your hearty dinner salad.
Days 14 & 15: Back to the Whole30 diet.
Day 16: Reintroduce gluten-containing grains. Pour yourself a bowl of whole wheat cereal in the a.m., enjoy a taco with a whole grain tortilla for lunch, and warm up with a bowl of soup with crackers at supper.
Days 17 & 18: Back to the Whole30 diet.