Reintroduction: The Most Important Part of Your Whole30
Reintroduction is where you get the results of the self-experiment you’ve been conducting for the last 30 days, and it’s the key to your food freedom. That makes it a mission-critical part of the Whole30. So please don’t skip it, rush through it, or otherwise short-change it.
- Every elimination diet (including the Whole30) includes both the elimination phase and a reintroduction phase. Maybe we should have called it the “Whole 40-49,” but that’s not quite as catchy.
During your Whole30, you completely eliminated five categories of foods (and beverages) for 30 straight days: added sugar, alcohol, legumes, dairy, and grains. During elimination, you’ve likely experienced improvements in your energy, sleep, mental health, digestion, and cravings. Many also report a reduction in symptoms, from allergies, asthma, anxiety, and migraines, to joint pain and swelling, chronic pain, skin conditions, and more. It’s obvious that removing at least some of these foods brought positive health changes to your body. But how will you know which foods were having a negative impact?
Reintroduction is where you add those eliminated food groups back into your diet, one at a time, carefully and systematically—like a scientific experiment. During Reintroduction, you’ll pay careful attention to the impact these foods have on your physical and mental health. Did bringing back oatmeal and rice help you feel even better during your run, but wheat made you bloated and tired? Did wine with dinner ruin your sleep, but the goat cheese in your salad had no noticeable effect?
In this phase of your Whole30, you’ll be able to bring back the foods and drinks you’ve missed, while comparing how you felt without these foods to how you feel when you reintroduce them. You’ll learn exactly how these foods have an impact on you, in your unique body and context. And that’s exactly the information you’ll need to create your perfect mix of delicious options for lasting food freedom.
- Reintroduction isn’t about confirming you should eliminate foods permanently. It’s about finding the broadest variety of foods you can consume comfortably and healthfully, according to your definition of “comfort” and “health.” Even if you react to a specific food, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever eat it again. Reintroduction helps you understand your response. That way you can include foods that are so special, delicious, or culturally significant you don’t want to be without them—and do it in a way that still supports your health goals.
- Reintroduction takes 10-30+ days.
- There are two options: The Fast Track*, in which we recommend the order and schedule, as well as the Slow Roll, in which you determine your own order and schedule.
- Food groups should be reintroduced one at a time.
- On Reintroduction days, the rest of your diet should be Whole30-compatible—to isolate the impact of that food group.
- You’ll reintroduce enough of each food group to effectively challenge your system.
- You’ll go back to the Whole30 elimination phase for 2-3 days to ensure your body is reacting to each new food group independently.
*For most, especially those new to Whole30, we recommend a Fast Track reintroduction. Read on for more about each approach.
Reintroduction Food Groups
During Reintroduction, you’re adding back each category of foods you eliminated, one at a time. Here are the categories, with some examples:
- Added sugar: cane sugar in coffee, honey in your tea or drizzled on a sweet potato, salmon glazed with maple syrup, maple chicken sausage, or honey ham.
- Grains: whole-grain bread, wraps, or tortillas; pasta or couscous; crackers; low-sugar whole-grain cereals; corn; popcorn; 100% corn tortillas; gluten-free oatmeal; gluten-free bread, wraps, or tortillas; white or brown rice; quinoa; or buckwheat.
- Legumes: tofu, tempeh, edamame, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas or hummus, natural peanut butter, or dry roasted peanuts.
- Dairy: heavy cream or full-fat milk, butter, plain yogurt or kefir, cheese (of any sort), cottage cheese, cream cheese, or whey protein powder.
- Alcohol: gluten-free beer or cider, wine, and unflavored vodka, tequila, gin, rum, or any distilled (unflavored) spirits.
During Reintroduction, we’ll break down “grains” down even further, into non-gluten grains (corn, rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.) and gluten-grains (wheat, rye, barley, etc.)
Fast or Slow?
Many people are eager to evaluate their Whole30 results and move into their food freedom. Furthermore, planning your Reintroduction order and schedule can be time consuming and cumbersome. For that reason, we recommend that most people follow the Fast Track.
This option allows you to follow a prescribed Reintroduction schedule based on our extensive experience. You’ll reintroduce food groups in order of “least likely to be problematic” to “most likely to be problematic,” and move through all the groups in just 10-15 days. This plan gives you the most actionable information on the quickest timeline—a win-win for many.
The Slow Roll Reintroduction schedule doesn’t follow a set order or timeline. You’ll continue eating your Whole30-compatible meals and foods until something special or delicious catches your eye. At that point, you’d reintroduce that food, then evaluate the effects.
This can be helpful for people with autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, or fatigue. The Slow Roll approach also works for those with a health condition that improved so dramatically during the Whole30 elimination that you’re afraid a fast Reintroduction would seriously compromise your health and quality of life. Reintroducing only the foods you think are worth it on your timeline—often over weeks or even months—can help you preserve your improved energy, sleep, digestion, and comfort.
The drawback of the Slow Roll method is that you’ll be testing foods “in the wild” instead of setting aside a few weeks specifically to reintroduce. That means you may end up discovering something really doesn’t work for you at a wedding or on a vacation. You may also find it difficult to figure out which ingredient caused the reaction (if you have one), as the foods you come across in your everyday life often include multiple food groups (like pizza, which is dairy and gluten; or sushi, which is rice, soy, and gluten). And reintroducing in the middle of a special event or vacation means you’ll have to pay attention to the results, something that’s often harder to do in that environment.
Again, if you’re not sure which program is right, choose the Fast Track—or adopt the best of both worlds by stretching out your Fast Track schedule. Breaking out food groups even further (like having a “cheese” Reintroduction day, then an “other dairy” day) can help you better learn how individual foods from each group impact you, and help you pinpoint serious reactions faster.
- Regardless of the schedule you choose, we encourage you to plan ahead, just as you did when you started the Whole30. By selecting a Reintroduction plan, you can remain just as committed to this phase of your Whole30 as you were in the first 30 days. The more thorough and careful you are with Reintroduction, the more you’ll learn from your experience. It’s really important not to rush this phase. Grouping multiple Reintroduction categories together (like eating pizza, ice cream, and beer on your first day) or skipping your days on the Whole30 between food groups will make it impossible to tell what food is responsible for your bloating, wheezing, joint pain, or migraines. And it may lead you to believe certain foods impact you more severely than they actually do.
Fast Track Reintroduction
During a Fast Track Whole30 Reintroduction, you consistently reintroduce foods on a set schedule—in order of least to commonly problematic to most.
This is the plan we recommend for the vast majority of Whole30 participants. That’s because it allows you to individually assess the impact of each ingredient on your body, mind, and spirit
The Fast Track plan also allows you to finish your Reintroduction in 10-20 days, which means you have the information your need to craft your Food Freedom more quickly.
Here is our recommended Fast Track Reintroduction schedule:
- Days 1–30: Whole30 elimination
- Day 31 (optional): Reintroduce added sugar all by itself.
- Days 32–33: Back to Whole30 elimination.
- Day 34 (optional): Reintroduce legumes all by itself.
- Days 35–36: Back to Whole30 elimination
- Day 37: Reintroduce non-gluten grains all by themselves.
- Days 38–39: Back to Whole30 elimination.
- Day 40: Reintroduce dairy all by itself.
- Days 41–42: Back to Whole30 elimination
- Day 43: Reintroduce gluten-grains all by themselves.
- Day 44–45: Back to Whole30 elimination
- Day 46 (optional): Reintroduce alcohol all by itself.
- Day 47–48: Back to Whole30 elimination
You can break this schedule down ever further if you like: splitting out artificial sweeteners from more natural sugars, reintroducing corn separately from other non-gluten grains, or reintroducing gluten-free alcohol separately from gluten-containing beer. The more carefully and patiently you reintroduce, the more you’ll learn from your experience.
Just remember to return to the Whole30 elimination phase for 2-3 days between each Reintroduction food group. And if at any point you feel like you haven’t adequately recovered from the effects of the reintroduced foods, give yourself a few more days of Whole30 elimination before you bring in another.
Slow Roll Reintroduction
The Slow Roll schedule doesn’t follow any particular timeline. Instead, you’ll continue eating mostly Whole30 compatible foods until you discover something so special or delicious, it’s worth reintroducing.
To make the Slow Roll a sustainable option, maintain your general Whole30 habits, but relax on the “no added sugar” rule when it comes to food like deli turkey, chicken sausage, salad dressings, and condiments, and don’t worry about cooking oils used in restaurants (like soybean oil in your canned tuna).
While we can’t create a schedule for you, here’s a sample journal to illustrate how it works:
- Day 31: My Whole30 is done! I’m having some maple bacon at breakfast, but not bringing anything else back just yet.
- Day 35: My friend made an apple pie for dessert, but that’s not my favorite, and I didn’t really want it.
- Day 42: Tonight’s my birthday, and I really want a special meal. For me, that usually includes a glass of wine and dessert. I’m open to the possibilities, and I’ll decide when I get there!
- Day 43: I had a glass of red wine with dinner, and a slice of chocolate cake (with a candle). I woke up today with a headache, feeling bloated and achy. I’m not sure which ingredient caused it, but it was worth it, because it was my birthday and I enjoyed my meal! I’ll try wine and dessert separately again at some time in the future to see if I can figure it out.
- Day 47: It’s a movie night at home, and hot, buttered popcorn sounds delicious. I’ve still got clarified butter left over from my Whole30, so we’ll see how corn goes.
- Day 48: Not bad! I had no noticeable effects from the corn. In fact, I felt really satisfied after eating it. Hooray!
- Day 50: I’m going to a new restaurant tonight, and my friends said they have the best churro in town. I can’t wait to try them, so this seems like a good time to figure out how gluten works for me. I’ll keep the rest of my meal Whole30 and skip the wine tonight.
- Day 51: I feel bloated and achy again—but no headache. It could be gluten, or the combination of gluten and a lot of sugar. I’d like to try gluten again in a different form and a different amount (maybe whole sourdough toast with breakfast one morning?) to learn a little more.
Reintroduction Meal Ideas
The easiest way to reintroduce just one food is to plan/serve/order your usual Whole30 meal, then add one Reintroduction food on the side, over the top, or to the recipe. Here are some ideas:
- Added sugar: Use sweetened nutpods in your morning coffee, enjoy honey-maple turkey with your lettuce wrap at lunch, add honey to your mid-afternoon tea, make your favorite salmon sheet pan dinner but glaze the fish with maple syrup.
- Legumes: Scramble veggies with tofu instead of eggs in the morning, dip raw veggies in hummus with lunch, add black beans to your Smoky Sweet Potato Chili, or top an apple with natural peanut butter.
- Non-gluten grains: Add oatmeal as a side for your usual Whole30 breakfast, wrap your lunchtime tacos in a 100% corn tortilla, add a side of rice or quinoa to your Whole30 dinner.
- Dairy: Add heavy cream to your coffee, eat a side of plain Greek yogurt with your veggie frittata, add feta or goat cheese to your Whole30 salad, top your Smoky Sweet Potato Chili with sour cream and shredded cheese.
- Gluten grains: Add a side of whole wheat toast to your Whole30 breakfast, eat your lunch in a 100% whole grain wrap instead of lettuce, add a dinner roll as a side to any meal, serve your Whole30 meatballs and marinara sauce over pasta.
- Alcohol: Enjoy a mimosa or vodka-infused Bloody Mary with your Whole30 brunch, have a gluten-free beer with your Whole30 lunch, or add a glass of wine to your Whole30 dinner.
It’s tough to come up with a comprehensive list of everything that could happen when you reintroduce these potentially problematic foods. That’s because various components of different foods interact with every single person in a unique fashion.
You’re looking for any noticeable changes—a reversal of improvement, a return to not-so-awesome, a decline in performance, or a resurgence of symptoms.
Here is a list of things you could evaluate during the Whole30 reintroduction, to determine if a particular food is having an impact. (It’s the same basic factors you’ll find on your Non-Scale Victories checklist.)
- Attention span/focus
- Breathing (asthma, congestion)
- Athletic performance or recovery
- Medical symptoms
What Comes After Reintroduction?
Food freedom! The entire point of the Whole30 is to help you learn which foods work best for you, in your unique environment. Once you eliminate, reintroduce, and compare your experience, you’ll have a blueprint for making choices that are right for you, according to your goals, lifestyle, priorities, and your definition of “health.” You’ll take what you’ve learned and create a sustainable diet that lets you enjoy all of the foods and drinks you decide are worth it, while feeling just as good (or close!) as you did on the Whole30.
The payoff of Reintroduction is less guesswork, more accurate predictions about how foods work for you, and more joy in your food freedom. Best of all, you won’t have to worry or stress about food, because you know what works for your body, and you trust the signals it’s sending you.
In your food freedom, you’ll know exactly how you’ll feel when you eat a certain food, which gives you the freedom to eat it—or decline it—joyfully. You won’t feel deprived, because you’re the one making the decision. No foods are off-limits, because you’re deciding for yourself what’s worth it for you, and whether or not you really want it. And you’ll be able to play with how much you can get away with reintroducing so your life feels full, delicious, satisfying, and culturally appreciative, while still feeling as good as you want to feel.
Reintroduction is the perfect time to start reading or listening to Food Freedom Forever, to learn more about Whole30 co-founder Melissa Urban’s three-part Food Freedom plan, and to get a preview of what your relationship with food could look like in life after the Whole30.
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