Whole30 is a popular one-month meal plan designed to reset your body. The basic philosophy is that by eliminating commonly problematic foods like alcohol, sugar, grains, and dairy, you will reset your body. Through gradual reintroduction of foods, you can discover what ingredients affect your metabolism, digestion, energy levels, mental health, and more.
Even though the creators of Whole30 don't consider it a "diet," something to keep in mind is that you can only eat certain foods during the 30 days with a list of specific foods that are forbidden. Unlike a normal diet, a single slip up means starting all over again, so it is best to know what you're getting into before you start. As always, it's important to consult with your healthcare professional before starting any diet.
What You Can't Eat
These foods are off-limits during the 30 days of a Whole30 eating plan. Don't eat them or drink them—even a bite or a sip will throw off the whole experiment.
A good general rule is if a food label has a long list of ingredients, it's probably not Whole30 compliant. The focus is on eating real, whole foods and ditching preservative-filled convenience foods. The meal plan also encourages you not to emulate junk foods like pancakes and pizza, even if they're made out of Whole30 compliant ingredients. This is to help change the way you think about food after the month is over.
- Alcohol: No beer, wine, or liquor, not even for cooking.
- Added sugar: Exclude added sugar and artificial sweeteners of any kind, including popular sugar substitutes like honey, agave, maple syrup, and Stevia.
- Dairy: No milk products from any animals including cow, goat, and sheep. This includes cheese, cream, and butter.
- Grains: Every kind of grain is out, even if it's gluten-free. This includes oats, wheat, rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, barley, and more. Note that ingredients made from grains also count, like germ, starch, and bran.
- Legumes: No beans or peas of any kind including soybeans and soy products like tofu, soy sauce, and miso. No peanuts or peanut butter, either.
- MSG, Sulfites, or Carrageenan: Be sure to read all food labels carefully and avoid preservatives and highly manufactured ingredients.
- Packaged Foods: Foods that may technically comply with Whole30, but are clearly unhealthy such as baked goods, chips, and French fries should be excluded from your diet.
What You Can Eat
While some key groups of foods are excluded while on a Whole30 meal plan, there are still plenty of delicious things you can eat.
- Vegetables: All veggies, including carb-rich potatoes, are allowed during Whole30. A healthy mix of different vegetables both cooked and raw is recommended. Sugar snap peas, green beans, and snow peas are allowed.
- Meat and Poultry: All meat, including beef and pork and poultry like chicken and turkey, are allowed. Watch out for processed meat like lunch meat and sausage, since they can sometimes have added ingredients like sugar.
- Fish: Fresh and canned fish, including salmon and tuna, are perfectly fine to eat while on the diet.
- Eggs: Protein-rich eggs are a Whole30 friendly food.
- Fruit: Since added sugar is not allowed, fruit can help curb sweet cravings. Eat in moderation, though, since fruit contains lots of natural sugars. Unsweetened fruit juice is also allowed in small amounts.
- Nuts: All nuts and seeds are allowed with the exception of peanuts. If you plan to consume nut butters or nut milks, carefully check the labels to avoid added sugars and preservatives.
- Fats, Oil, and Vinegar: Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and even animal fat like lard and schmaltz are okay. Ghee is also Whole30 compliant—making it the only dairy allowed. Vinegar, as long it isn't malt vinegar, are also good to go.
- Salt: Whenever possible, use non-iodized salt.
- Coffee and Tea: The caffeinated beverages that many people can't live without are allowed on Whole30, but in moderation. Just don't use any sweetener or dairy.
Why Try Whole30?
Following such a strict meal plan with no room for cheating may seem like a daunting task, but it's just for 30 days. Once you get used to carefully reading labels and asking questions at restaurants, you'll get into the swing of things. Some Whole30 participants report better sleep, clearer skin, and more energy. And while it's not the focus of the program, some people lose weight. At the very least, you'll change the way you think about what you put in your body.
It's worth mentioning that Whole30 consistently ranks at the bottom of doctor and dietitians' diet rankings. Some experts consider the program to be unsustainable for most people and potentially unhealthy for others—Whole30 is high in sodium and cholesterol, but low in calcium and other nutrients. The diet may not be a good fit for individuals with hypertension, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.