You made it through 30 days of no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, and—pretty much—no other bad stuff. Whole30 is all healthy, whole foods all the time. Congrats! And you’re likely feeling pretty darn good. After Whole30, some successful dieters have boasted benefits such as better digestion, less bloating, more energy, less joint pain, and weight loss. Going back to the foods you used to eat might seem scary or intimidating. Or, you might be dying to sink your teeth into a baguette! Either way, it’s important to reintroduce food after Whole30 in a strategic way, so that you can really reap the benefits of the program.
“Whole30 is meant to be a 30-day reset that helps you figure out what foods work for you in your unique context,” explains Samantha Presicci, a registered dietitian and Whole30 certified coach. “If you never reintroduce foods, you’ll never find out what non-Whole30 foods you might be able to include while still feeling great. Reintroduction helps you move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and find something that works for your unique body instead.”
For most people, reintroducing foods should start on day 31. However, some people with complex health issues might do the diet for 45, 60, or even 90 days. When you decide to reintroduce foods after Whole30, don’t go crazy and indulge in all the formerly taboo foods right away.
Make a plan. “Begin mapping out your reintroduction a few days before day 31,” advises Presicci. You’ll want to reintroduce each different kind of food separately and at least a few days apart. This way you can really be on the lookout for any ways it might be affecting you.
Follow the recommended order.
Whole30 has both a 10-day reintroduction schedule and a “slow roll option.” These schedules have a very specific order of reintroducing foods.
- #1: Legumes (day one)
- #2: Non-gluten grains (day four)
- #3: Dairy (day seven)
- #4: Gluten-containing grains (day ten)
This order is for good reason. The idea is that you’ll stick to all the other Whole30 eating rules during the transition period. Introduce those four types of foods in the order of least likely to be problematic (legumes and non-gluten grains) to most likely to be problematic (dairy and gluten).
Presicci recommends having one serving of the food you’re introducing at each meal on that day. “For example, if you’re reintroducing gluten-free grains, you could have a slice of gluten-free bread with breakfast, some corn chips with lunch, and rice with dinner,” she says. “You would then go back to Whole30 eating for two days (more if you have a particularly adverse reaction) to assess any negative symptoms you might encounter.”
Watch out for symptoms.
During the reintroduction period, it will probably help to keep a log of the symptoms that you’re feeling. Sometimes, foods are very obviously causing problems. Other times, their effects are subtler.
“Digestive woes (including constipation, diarrhea, cramping, and bloating), headaches, acne, changes in mood, an increase in sugar cravings, the return of joint pain, low energy or fatigue, a change in sleep quality, or a return of medical conditions or symptoms are all signs that certain foods may not be working for you,” says Presicci. (There’s a checklist of Whole30 benefits to track while you’re doing the diet. It may help you see what changes during reintroduction.)
Presicci says that typically these negative symptoms are a sign of an intolerance. So the response will be delayed and may not be as obvious as an allergic reaction (such as itching, swelling, hives, or anaphylaxis).
Make a plan for the future.
Once you’ve introduced foods back into your diet after Whole30, you can use your observations to help you make smart food choices going forward. “Remember that a poor reaction to a food doesn’t reflect on you as a person or negate the benefits of your Whole30,” says Presicci. “Every food you reintroduce is simply giving you information. That’s it. You can decide to do whatever you want after that. And you can always decide when a food is worth it (and when it isn’t). You’ll simply be empowered to make that choice yourself.”
For example, after Whole30, if you find that dairy bloats you, you may want to cut it out completely. Or, you might just decide to dial it back. Either way, you’ve gained a better understanding of your body and how it reacts to what you’re eating. Whether it’s how you’re sleeping, your energy levels, or more severe symptoms like migraines and chronic pain.
When you really think about it, proper reintroduction is what can make the biggest impact on your life. It’s what makes the last 30 or so days totally worth it.