Everything You Need to Know about The Whole30® Diet

By Kristen Mccaffrey on

The Whole30® was created in 2009 and is focused on eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods including meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.The diet focuses on eliminating all dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, and processed foods from your diet for thirty days to help reset your body, increase energy, decrease inflammation, and improve overall health. Most people also lose weight on the Whole30® diet due to the drastic change in their diet. There is no calorie counting or portion control on the Whole30® but instead the focus is on what you eat and how it affects your body.

What is the Whole30® Diet?

Following the Whole30®, you cut out all of these foods for 30 days and then slowly reintroduce them to your diet one at a time so you can better understand how they affect your specific body and then make informed decisions about what to include in your diet to feel your best and be your healthiest.

The main foods that are avoided during the Whole30® are grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, and all processed or fake foods. The diet focuses on real food that is natural and unprocessed including meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and some oils.

The basic rules of the Whole30® diet are simple.

  • Eat whole, unprocessed foods that are full of nutrients and nourish the body. This can include vegetables, some fruits, meat, eggs, seafood, nuts, and natural oils.
  • Avoid eating any types of processed foods or grains including dairy, wheat, legumes (including peanuts), sugar, beans, corn, pasta, bread, rice, and other processed foods that normally come in a box or bag and are created in a factory.
  • Do not consume alcohol in any form.
  • Do not try to recreate your favorite processed foods or junk foods with Whole30® approved ingredients. No pancakes, muffins, breads, candy, etc.
  • Additionally, during the Whole30®, you are not supposed to step on a scale or take any body measurements. It should be about health, not weight loss, even though most people will lose weight.

Why Whole30®?

The Whole30® diet is meant to help you live healthier and better understand your specific body and how it reacts to a number of different food groups that are known to cause problems in the human body. By cutting out these problematic foods for 30 days, many people experience significant changes in their health and how they feel. This often includes weight loss as well. Then as they reintroduce different foods to their body, they understand exactly how their body reacts to the food and can make an informed decision about whether or not to include that food in the future.

People who have followed the Whole30® diet have reported that the diet both improved and in some cases cured the following conditions: sleep problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, allergies, sinus infections, hives, skin conditions, endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, migraines, depression, heartburn , arthritis, joint pain, ADD, thyroid dysfunction, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, lupus, Crohn’s, IBS , and more. Additionally most people report that they feel better, have more energy, sleep better, and lose weight. Finally, it helps people to reset their diet and change their eating habits for the long term.

Pros and Cons of The Whole30®

Like any diet, the Whole30® has its pros and cons and it is important to weigh both sides carefully before deciding if it is the right choice for you. In terms of the big picture benefits of the Whole30®, most people report that they feel much better, have more energy, sleep better, and many times lose weight. Many also report improvements to chronic health conditions as well as an overall improvement in healthy. Finally the Whole30® will help you better understand your body and how it reacts to food.

In terms of barriers to the Whole30®, the main challenges are following the diet. It is restrictive for most and involves more food prep than many people are used to. There is also a steep learning curve to understand what you can eat and can’t eat on the diet and it takes some work to creating an eating plan that works with the diet.

PROS

  • No calorie counting or portion control
  • Most people experience weight loss and maintain a lean build
  • People report feeling more full, likely due to increased fat and protein intake
  • Many people report higher levels of energy and generally "feeling better"
  • Reported to cure many chronic illnesses and conditions
  • Helps you to better understand how your body reacts to different, potentially harmful, food groups
  • Helps people to nutritionally reset and change eating habits
  • Clean diet without added preservatives, additives, or artificial ingredients
  • Naturally gluten free and mostly sugar free, aside from natural sugars in fruits and vegetables
  • Many anti-inflammatory benefits from removing gluten and increasing plant based foods

CONS

  • Difficult to follow for some due to increased restrictions
  • More intensive food prep for most people
  • Steep learning curve to understand what you can and can’t eat
  • Diet can be low in calcium, Vitamin D, and other nutrients usually found in dairy and whole grain if you are not careful about what you consume
  • Can be extremely difficult for vegetarians since the diet doesn’t include whole grains or beans
  • Currently there is a lack of research about how healthy the diet is and a lot of controversy about whether it is healthy to cut out all whole grains and dairy
  • Can be more expensive - can be pricey due to the generally high cost of produce, meats, seafood, and nuts

How does the Whole30® Diet Work?

Following the Whole30®diet is actually pretty straight forward as long as you become familiar with the allowed and prohibited foods. There is no calorie counting, no pre-set portions, and no specific daily requirements. There are also no new or packaged foods to buy.

With that said, following the Whole30® approved food list can be difficult for some, especially if you currently consume lots of processed foods, carbs, grains, or dairy. Since you will eliminate those from your diet completely for thirty days, it can be a shock if that’s what you are used to eating. Your diet will consist of meat, eggs, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and approved oils.

Starting the Whole30®

There is really never a perfect time to start the Whole30® diet so the creators recommend committing, telling other people about your diet, and then finding ways to make it work. Every month there will be holidays, parties, happy hours, and special occasions that threaten your ability to stay on the diet, so why wait? Just commit and start. Use the food lists, recipes, and meal ideas to plan out your shopping lists and what you will eat and be prepared the first few weeks for it to be challenging.

After the Whole30®

After competing the Whole30®, you will slowly begin to reintroduce some of the prohibited foods into your diet. This exact method is outlined in the Whole30® book and website. By isolating the foods as you introduce them, you can learn how your body reacts and feels when you consume certain foods. Then hopefully you can build a healthy diet for your body long term that makes you feel at your best.

Whole30® Food List

One of the most important parts of following the Whole30® diet is knowing what you can and can’t eat. Since there is no calorie counting or other method, eating the right stuff is what the entire diet is about. Therefore having a Whole30® Food list of what you can and can’t eat is important. Some people find it helpful to post something to their fridge so they always remember what is allowed on the diet.

What’s Not Allowed on the Whole30® Diet

  • No Grains: This includes wheat products, corn products, rice products, pasta, bread, oatmeal, cereal, chips, tortillas, quinoa, barley, faro, and other grain based products. (wheat products, corn products, rice, pasta, bread, oatmeal, cereals, etc)
  • No Dairy: This includes all milk, creams, yogurt, cheese, cream cheese, artificial creamers, and other dairy products.
  • No Sugar including Artificial sugar: This includes agave, Equal, Splenda, Stevia, honey, maple syrup, Corn syrup, fructose, molasses, honey, maltodextrin, etc. Fruit jucie can be used as a sweetner when cooking.
  • No Processed Snacks, Sweets, Junk Food: This includes chips, ice cream, candy, pretzels, crackers, etc. It also includes junk foods and baked good made from Whole30® ingredients.
  • No Legumes/Beans: This includes peanuts, any type of beans, lentils, split peas, and other items in the legume family or made with legumes.
  • No Alcohol

What Is Allowed on the Whole30® Diet?

Meat and Poultry – it is recommended that you consume grass fed meat when possible on Whole30® and most meats are Whole30®as long as they aren’t overly processed (think hot dogs, SPAM, or meat products contained corn meal)

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Bacon
  • Lamb
  • Ham
  • Venison Steaks
  • Buffalo
  • Bison
  • Rabbit
  • Goat
  • Elk
  • Emu
  • Goose
  • Wild Boar
  • Ostrich
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Jerky - beef, turkey, venison, etc.

Seafood: It is recommended to buy natural seafood whenever possible and when purchasing canned or dried seafood, make sure it does not contain wheat or corn.

  • Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Lobster
  • Scallops
  • Oysters (canned or fresh)
  • All types of unprocessed fish
  • Tuna (canned or fresh)
  • Salmon (canned or fresh)

Fresh and Frozen Vegetables: Almost all vegetables are allowed on the Whole30® diet except for potatoes and corn. Tubers (sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash, and yams) can be eaten but should be eaten in moderation.) When purchasing frozen vegetables make sure they do not come in gluten or dairy based sauces.

  • Sprouts, alfalfa and other small seeds (sprouted legumes have more carb)
  • Greens – lettuce, spinach, chard, etc.
  • Hearty Greens - collards, mustard greens, kale, etc.
  • Radicchio and endive count as greens
  • Herbs - parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Sea Vegetables (Nori, etc)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage (or sauerkraut)
  • Jicama
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Okra
  • Cucumbers (or pickles without added sugars)
  • Green Beans and Wax Beans
  • Fennel
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Summer Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Scallions or green onions
  • Snow Peas/Snap Peas/Pea Pods
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos
  • Artichokes
  • Turnips
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabagas
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Celery Root (Celeriac)
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Other vegetables that aren’t overly high in starch

Fruit: Almost all fruit is fair game on the Whole30® diet but since it is sugar heavy it should be eaten in moderation.

  • Apple
  • Avocado
  • Blackberries
  • Papaya
  • Cherimoya
  • Cherries
  • Rhubarb
  • Nectarines
  • Persimmon
  • Pomegranate
  • Apricots
  • Pineapple
  • Star fruit
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Mango
  • Lychee
  • Grapes
  • Lemon
  • Berries: Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries
  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple Guava
  • Cantaloupe
  • Melon
  • Citrus: Tangerines, Oranges, Grapefruit, Lime, Lemon, etc.
  • Figs: fresh

Nuts and Seeds: Almost all nuts and seeds are allowed on Whole30® except for peanuts, which are actually a legume not a nut. However they should be eaten in moderation since their calorie and fat content is high.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds

Oils and Fats: Most naturally occurring oils from nuts and seeds are allowed on the Whole30® diet. Most Whole30® dieters also allow clarified butter and ghee. Peanut oil is not allowed on the Whole30® diet.

  • Olive oil
  • Seed and nut oils: sunflower, macadamia, etc.
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Clarified Butter and ghee

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