A Note From the Editors
The Spruce Eats does not endorse this diet; rather, we are providing some information that can contribute to your decision. Please talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet.
Whole30 Diet Basics
The Whole30 diet is a type of elimination diet, which means it involves eliminating certain categories of food for a period of time, in this case, 30 days, followed by a gradual reintroduction of foods over 10 to 14 days. The focus is on eating real, whole foods and ditching ultra-processed convenience foods. Nor does the diet permit baked goods or desserts, even if they are made from ingredients that are otherwise compliant, such as cookies made from almond flour, for instance. This is to help change the way you think about food after the month is over.
Foods that are eliminated include grains, all forms of natural and artificial sweeteners, legumes, dairy, and alcohol, as well as foods with certain additives, such as MSG, carrageenan, and sulfites. Compatible foods include fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, fish and seafood, eggs, unrefined fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings.
It is not a weight-loss diet, although people on the diet may lose weight as a side-effect. The goal of the diet, its proponents say, is to create a short-term "reset" that will curb cravings and bad eating habits, while boosting metabolism, healing the digestive tract, and balancing the immune system, leading to a new way of eating. It should be noted that there is no scientific evidence for any of these claims, and little research into the diet has been done.
The key to the diet is 100 percent compliance with the plan. So-called "slips" or "cheats" are not allowed. Any deviation from the plan requires the dieter to restart the 30 days. Weighing or measuring yourself are likewise not allowed during the 30 days.
The diet, which was created by sports nutritionists in 2009, bears similarities to the paleo diet, and other diets based on reducing the consumption of carbs. And studies find that low-carb diets are no better at producing long-term weight loss than diets that cut out fats or overall calories.
Pros and Cons
- Some on the diet may lose weight.
- Aims to produce a change of eating habits, leading to greater health and mindfulness.
- There is only one official version of the diet, minimizing confusion over what foods are compatible.
- The official website of the diet provides additional information including recipes and meal plans.
- Portion size and calorie intake are unregulated.
- It's only 30 days.
- The diet is strict, with no flexibility or so-called "cheat" meals allowed.
- No desserts allowed.
- Failure can be discouraging.
- Higher grocery bills for the 30 days, and during the reintroduction period.
- Difficult for vegetarians who rely on legumes and soy products for protein.
- High in sodium and cholesterol, but low in calcium and other nutrients.
- Meal planning and prep can be time-consuming.
- Eating out can be challenging, requiring researching menus in advance.
- 30 days may be too short to significantly change eating habits.
- Lack of research to support any purported benefits.
- 2021 US World News Report ranked it as one of the lowest-recommended diets.
What to Eat on the Whole30 Diet
On the Whole30 diet, people are free to eat the following categories of foods:
- Vegetables (including potatoes)
- Fruits (except dried fruit)
- Unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Natural fats (such as olive oil, coconut oil, lard, avocados, and nuts)
- Herbs, spices, and seasonings (including salt)
- Nuts (except peanuts and peanut butter)
Here's a one-day sample meal plan, as well as a number of recipes you could enjoy while on the Whole30 diet.
- Breakfast: Southern Style Beef Hash
- Lunch: Celeriac Parsnip Soup
- Snack: Sautéed Broccoli
- Dinner: Chicken Oregano With Garlic and Potatoes
- Breakfast: Dairy-Free Scrambled Eggs
- Lunch: Baked Eggplant
- Snack: Vegetable Smoothie
- Dinner: Thai Waterfall Beef Salad
- Breakfast: Green Kale Smoothie
- Lunch: Chicken Avocado Soup
- Snack: Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie
- Dinner: Cajun Spiced Chicken Breasts
Desserts are specifically not allowed on the diet, but someone craving something sweet after a meal could enjoy a piece of fresh fruit.
What Not to Eat on the Whole30 Diet
Excluded on Whole30
- All sugar and sweeteners (including maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, monk fruit extract, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, and xylitol)
- Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits), not even for cooking
- Grains (all grains, even if it's gluten-free, including wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, as well as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat)
- Legumes (including beans, peanuts, tofu, peanut butter, and all forms of soy)
- Dairy products (including cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt)
- MSG, Sulfites, or Carrageenan (read all food labels carefully and avoid preservatives and highly manufactured ingredients)
- Ultraprocessed foods (foods that may technically comply with Whole30, but are clearly unhealthy such as baked goods, chips, and French fries)
The Whole30 diet involves completely eliminating foods such as sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes from the diet for 30 days, for the purpose of triggering a "reset" which will lead to better eating habits and overall health. There is no scientific evidence for what the diet's proponents claim, and there has been little research on the diet.
Some participants are said to lose weight, but in general, elimination diets are no more effective than other diets in promoting weight loss. It's a strict diet that leaves no flexibility for "cheat" days, and it can be difficult—and potentially dangerous—for vegetarians who get most of their protein from legumes and soy products.
Kirkpatrick CF, Bolick JP, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Review of current evidence and clinical recommendations on the effects of low-carbohydrate and very-low-carbohydrate (Including ketogenic) diets for the management of body weight and other cardiometabolic risk factors: A scientific statement from the National Lipid Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force. J Clin Lipidol. 2019;13(5):689-711.e1.
Whole30 Diet Health & Nutrition. U.S. News & World Report
Migala, J. Best and worst diets of 2021. U. S. News & World Report. EverydayHealth.com. January 6, 2021