The Skinny on the Whole30 Diet


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The Whole30 program is a strict, short-term 30-day elimination diet for nutrition reset. Designed to help with unhealthy eating habits, restore metabolism, balance the immune system and heal the digestive tract.

Learn about the whole30 diet: what it is, foods you can eat, the ones you should avoid, and recipes to try. This program is a strict, short-term 30-day elimination diet for nutrition reset.

If you’ve been on social media at all in the last few years, there’s no doubt you’ve run across the Whole30 diet. An elimination diet as much as it is a lifestyle.

Whole30 has inspired many people to dig deep into their eating habits to find out what may be making them feel sluggish, sick or otherwise stuck. Some people even experience losing weight on the program, which is not the focus but a nice perk.

Let’s learn more about this trending diet and things you should know if you’re ready to take the plunge!

What is Whole30?

Melissa Hartwig, the co-creator of Whole30, appeals specifically to people who have had struggles with their health that haven’t been adequately addressed by conventional medicine.

Hartwig claims the following may be diet-related:

  • Weight loss
  • Skin ailments
  • Digestive issues
  • Chronic pain
  • Allergies
  • Other general maladies

The program rules

Her program rules advocate for eliminating what she considers to be the most inflammatory elements of our diets for 30 days. In doing so, this gives a chance for our systems to get used to the changes, so we can find out what’s wrong.

In particular, Hartwig advocates for:

  • Moderate portions
  • No added sugar
  • No alcohol
  • No grains
  • No dairy
  • No legumes
  • No carrageenan/MSG/sulfites
  • No junk foods
  • No baked goods

No sex with your pants on

She also tells participants not to have sex with your pants on (SWYPO), meaning not to recreate bread, muffins, pancakes, and cookies with Whole30 compliant ingredients. You’re also encouraged not to hop on the scale for the full month, nor to take measurements–the primary goal is to feel good and to focus on that.

Hartwig says that sticking to the plan is essential to gauge and achieve results–no cheat days, no slipping up. Participants must fulfill the full 30 days.

Whole30 food list

So, what can you have in the Whole30 program? She’s compiled a handy list here. Hartwig also advocates strongly for reading labels thoroughly and cross-checking it with materials already supplied.

Some notable items on the “yes” list:

Some things you’ll be surprised to see on the “no” list:

Plate of grilled chicken surrounded by Whole30 allowed foods

The following will pop up frequently in Whole30-approved recipes and her cookbooks:

#1) Wild-caught

Wild-caught fish makes a delineation between fish caught in their natural habitats versus those that are farm-raised–i.e. In tanks or pens in oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. Wild-caught fish can be more sustainable (though there are responsible farm operations) and higher in nutrients.

#2) Sustainably fished

Sustainable fisheries refer to the overall health in numbers of a particular species, as well as the impact fishing that variety has on the health of the water environment, in general.

#3) Grass-fed

This term refers to how cows bred for beef are fed. Grass-fed meat is leaner, higher in antioxidants, higher omega-3 fatty acids and other components that are more heart-healthy. It also is an impediment to factory farming, meaning happier cows and a healthier environment.

#4) Organic

In the United States, organic is a legal designation. It refers to a set of farming practices aimed at cycling resources, promoting ecological balance and maintaining biodiversity. Products marked organic are absent synthetic food additives, industrial solvents, and irradiation as a preservation technique.

#5) Pastured

When something is marked as “pastured” it means the animal–whether a chicken laying eggs or a cow that will be processed into beef–has had room to graze and live. It’s not an official term, so be aware that farmers and producers may take liberties with the word to paint a picture that may only be partially accurate.

Grocery shopping

One simple way to build your meals on a budget, while putting your health first is to think of grocery shopping by prioritizing dietary needs. This grocery list is beneficial when trying to decipher how to shop and put meal plans together, print it out and check it often!

Read labels and make sure that ingredients are all Whole30 compliant, seasonings and even salt can sneak in sugars or additives. Meal prepping and planning is critical while on this diet, to keep you from temptation outside of your control. Nobody wants to start the 30 days over!

Quality protein

Lean high-quality animal protein (grass-fed, grass-finished, organic recommended) from beef, lamb, goat, elk, venison, bison, eggs, chicken, and pork. Wild-caught and sustainable fish. Avoid commercially raised and processed meat like deli meat, sausage, and bacon (some brands ok, read the label).

Quality produce

It helps to eat foods that are in season or local for the best cost, taste, and nutrition. Fresh or frozen options work well, especially if something is not in season. Organic produce is preferred, but high-quality is prioritized for Whole30.

Healthy fats

  • Oils, nuts, and seeds for cooking and snacking. However, nuts and seeds should be eaten in moderation. Buy raw or dry roasted to avoid unhealthy cheap oils.
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, and organic/pastured butter (to make clarified butter) or ghee.
  • Avocado and coconut milk are excellent choices for fats, but make sure the canned coconut milk does not contain unacceptable additives to help with thickenings like cornstarch or carrageenan.

Whole30 recipes you might like

View all Whole30 recipes

Shop for Whole30 Books

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you!

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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  1. Vandana says

    I’m a vegetarian- I eat most of the vegetables and fruits, diary, eggs. Can you customize a 30 day diet plan for me?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Vandana- At this moment I’m not creating custom diet plans, but maybe in the future! If you look up “vegetarian” in the recipe search area on the right side of the website that should get you started on some recipes. Thanks!