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The Whole30 diet is a strict 30-day elimination diet that many people turn to for weight loss or help with digestive concerns.
The program encourages you to cut out alcohol, sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, and additives from your diet for 30 days. It is advertised as a total lifestyle change, rather than a simple diet.
Whole30 supporters rave about its health benefits, while critics claim it’s just another unsustainable diet fad. So does it work, and should you try it?
This article explains everything you need to know about the Whole30 diet.
The Whole30 diet is a strict 30-day elimination diet that promises a variety of health and emotional benefits.
It was developed in 2009 by two certified sports nutritionists, who promoted it as a way to reset your metabolism and reshape your relationship with food.
The program focuses on the idea that certain foods — like sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, and dairy — may negatively affect your health and fitness.
Eliminating these foods from your diet is supposed to help your body recover from these negative effects and promote long-term health.
Many people follow this diet in hopes of losing weight. Some may use the program to identify food intolerances or achieve some of its proposed health benefits.
The Whole30 diet is a month-long eating program that aims to help you lose weight, improve your relationship with food, and achieve better long-term health.
The idea behind the Whole30 program is simple: For 30 days, you completely cut out foods that may harm your health.
After the initial 30 days, you slowly reintroduce some foods while monitoring the effects they have on your body.
This is a pretty intensive elimination diet, so it has a strict set of rules. It also provides you with a list of allowed foods, as well as a list of off-limit foods.
During the month-long elimination period, no cheating is allowed. It’s recommended that you start the challenge over if you get off track.
The founders claim that strict adherence to the diet allows your body to reset in isolation from certain foods that may cause inflammation, gut disruptions, or hormone imbalances.
Unlike many other diets, there is no need to track calories, measure portions, or count points. Also, weighing yourself is strictly reserved for days 1 and 30 of the program.
Following the Whole30 diet involves eating as much as you’d like from the approved list of foods while avoiding certain foods for 1 month.
Following the Whole30 diet perfectly for 30 days is said to have many health benefits, according to supporters. These include:
- fat loss
- higher energy levels
- better sleep
- reduced food cravings
- improved athletic performance
The diet’s founders promise that the Whole30 program will change both the way you think about food and your taste. Proponents of the diet further claim that it can alter the emotional relationship you have with food and your body.
Although these claimed benefits may appear very attractive, it’s worth keeping in mind that no scientific studies back them up.
The Whole30 diet is claimed to provide you with physical and psychological health benefits above and beyond simple weight loss. However, there is no sound evidence to back up these claims.
Foods allowed on the Whole30 diet mostly consist of minimally processed foods, including:
- Meat, eggs, and poultry: beef, veal, pork, horse, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
- Fish and seafood: fish, anchovies, shrimp, calamari, scallops, crab, lobster, etc.
- Fruits: fresh and dried fruits
- Vegetables: all vegetables
- Nuts and seeds: all nuts and seeds, nut milk, nut butter, and nut flour (except peanuts because they are legumes)
- Some fats: olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, tallow, lard, duck fat
The Whole30 diet encourages the use of fresh, minimally processed foods.
During the 30-day diet, you must eliminate certain foods from your diet. These include:
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners: raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, artificial sweeteners, and all products containing these
- Alcohol: all types of beer, wines, liqueurs, and spirits
- Grains: all grains, including wheat, corn, oats, and rice
- Pulses and legumes: peas, lentils, beans, peanuts (green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are exceptions)
- Soy: all soy, including tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all products made from soy, such as miso and soy sauce
- Dairy: cow, goat, and sheep’s milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and other products made from dairy
- Processed additives: carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
In addition, the diet recommends that you avoid re-creating your favorite baked goods, snacks, or treats — even with Whole30-approved ingredients. So, foods such as cauliflower pizza crust and paleo pancakes must be avoided.
There’s also no such thing as a cheat meal on this program. Instead, you’re encouraged to adhere strictly to the guidelines all the time. If you do slip up, the diet’s founders strongly encourage that you begin the whole program again from day 1.
The Whole30 diet eliminates sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, dairy, and processed foods for 30 days.
The Whole30 diet encourages some additional rules that are not related to diet. For instance, smoking is forbidden for the duration of the diet.
You’re also not allowed to step on the scale on any days other than day 1 and day 30 or partake in any form of body measurements.
The justification behind these additional rules is that the Whole30 program is about more than just weight loss. Following these rules is promoted as a way to change your mindset and promote long-term health.
The Whole30 diet is promoted as more than a simple weight loss diet. You are encouraged to avoid smoking and weighing yourself for the duration of the program.
Once you’ve successfully completed the Whole30 program, it’s time to focus on step two — the reintroduction phase.
In this phase, you slowly reintroduce certain foods into your diet. You evaluate how they make you feel in regard to your metabolism, digestive tract, immune system, and relationship with food.
The suggested way to reintroduce off-limit foods is to add back only one food group at a time. For instance, dairy can be reintroduced on day 1 after completing the Whole30 program.
You are then encouraged to return to the Whole30 diet and avoid milk on days 2 through 4, while paying attention to any potential symptoms. If all goes well, you can reintroduce a different food group on day 5, then repeat the process.
Reintroducing only one food group at a time while keeping the rest of the diet the same is promoted as a way to better identify which foods cause negative symptoms, such as bloating, skin breakouts, or achy joints.
Once all food groups have been individually tested, you can add the ones your body tolerated well back into your regular diet.
Naturally, individuals are not required to reintroduce all foods. In fact, you’re strongly encouraged to avoid reintroducing foods that you do not miss.
After the initial 30 days, you may slowly reintroduce off-limits foods to see how they affect your health and fit into your new eating pattern.
Those interested in giving the Whole30 diet a try can start with the following week-long menu suggestions.
- Breakfast: hash with eggs, potatoes, and ground beef
- Lunch: chicken salad made with homemade mayo, served over baby spinach
- Dinner: shrimp in red pepper sauce over zucchini noodles
- Breakfast: fried egg “sandwich” served on a Portobello mushroom cap
- Lunch: homemade meatball soup with greens
- Dinner: chili made with beef and sweet potatoes, served with avocado
- Breakfast: avocado-banana smoothie sweetened with dates
- Lunch: bunless burger with a side salad
- Dinner: stuffed bell peppers with ground meat and vegetables
- Breakfast: soft-boiled eggs and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto
- Lunch: Asian-style pork in lettuce boats
- Dinner: baked fish and roasted broccolini
- Breakfast: green smoothie sweetened with dates
- Lunch: smoked salmon and asparagus frittata
- Dinner: roast chicken with side salad
- Breakfast: poached eggs over veggie saute
- Lunch: grilled chicken “nuggets” with kale chips
- Dinner: ribeye steak with mushrooms and brussels sprouts
- Breakfast: egg baked in an avocado half
- Lunch: zucchini pizza “boats” with no cheese
- Dinner: beef and vegetable stew
For recipes, tons of websites share Whole30-compliant ideas. Additionally, premade meal services like The Good Kitchen offer ready-to-eat Whole30 meals if you need more convenient options.
Remember to vary your sources of protein and vegetables throughout the day to provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it requires.
The meal suggestions above are a good introduction to the Whole30 way of eating. More recipes can be found on the Whole30 website and Instagram.
Snacks are a great way to stay energized throughout the day and keep hunger between meals at bay.
Whole30-approved options include:
- plantain chips with salsa or guacamole
- apple with hazelnut butter
- banana ice cream made from blended frozen bananas
- seaweed snacks
- trail mix (without peanuts)
- almond milk latte
- prosciutto and melon
- carrots with almond butter sprinkled with cayenne pepper
- hard-boiled eggs
- walnut-stuffed figs
- frozen fruit and coconut milk smoothie
These Whole30-approved snacks are convenient options aimed at keeping your energy levels up and minimizing hunger between meals.
Several aspects of the Whole30 program are in line with a nutritious diet.
For instance, the diet promotes consuming minimally processed foods and a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, avoiding nutrient-rich foods like legumes, soy, and dairy may make meeting all your daily nutrient recommendations more difficult.
This may create negative health effects if the diet is continued for more than 30 days.
In addition, although rigid rules can be a good way to reset eating habits for some people, restrictive diets with no allowance for indulgences are generally not sustainable over time.
Those contemplating following this diet in the long term are encouraged to record their meals for a couple of days in an online diet journal such as Cronometer.
This can help ensure that daily nutrient recommendations continue to be met.
The restrictive nature of the Whole30 diet may make it difficult to meet daily nutrient recommendations or sustain the diet in the long term.
A calorie deficit is needed for weight loss. Because of its restrictive nature, the Whole30 diet will likely help create this calorie deficit.
However, unless the food choices you make on this diet become a habit, the weight loss you experience may not be sustainable in the long term.
As for the supposed benefits, there are no scientific studies available to support the claims. There’s also no strong reason to restrict dairy, grains, or legumes (
Nevertheless, it is true that some people may unknowingly have food intolerances that cause digestive symptoms, which the diet’s reintroduction phase can help identify.
Overall, this diet may be helpful if you want to completely reset your eating habits.
But if you’re simply looking to improve your diet and overall health, a more balanced and long-term approach that focuses on choosing whole foods while minimizing — not necessarily eliminating — less healthy choices.
The Whole30 program is a 30-day elimination diet designed to remove certain foods that may cause health concerns in some people. Most people start a Whole30 for weight loss or help identify foods that give them digestive issues.
On Whole30, you can eat meat, vegetables, fruit, tree nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. However, you must avoid sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and processed food additives.
Although it would be difficult and very restrictive to maintain long term, the Whole30 is designed to be done only for 30 days.