With the sheer number and scope of popular weight loss diets these days, it can feel like you almost need a specialized degree or full-semester college course to choose the best weight loss diet for you.
To name just a few, there is the very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, macronutrient ratio diets like the Zone diet or the 40–40-20 diet, crash diets like a Military diet, the vegan diet, and the many iterations of intermittent fasting diets that dictate when you can and cannot eat.
Another popular weight loss diet that is said to also promote digestive health and reduce inflammation is the Whole30 diet.
Although there can be health and weight loss benefits of the Whole30 diet, there are also quite a few Whole30 rules, which can make the diet feel intimidating and immediately unappealing, particularly if you don’t understand the various rules of the Whole30 diet.
People who are interested in the Whole30 diet try to scan the long list of rules and struggle to quickly find answers to questions like “Can you eat rice on the Whole30 diet?”, “Can you eat fruit on the Whole30 diet?” or “Can you eat any type of sweetener on the Whole diet?”
If you are interested in trying the Whole30 diet but have felt overwhelmed by Whole30 rules and what you can and can’t eat, keep reading for a complete guide to the Whole30 rules.
We will cover:
- What Is the Whole30 Diet?
- What Are the Benefits of the Whole30 Diet?
- Whole30 Rules
- What Foods Can You Eat On the Whole30 Diet?
- What Foods Do You Have to Avoid On the Whole30 Diet?
- Example Whole30 Diet Meal Plan
Let’s jump in!
What Is the Whole30 Diet?
The Whole30 Diet isn’t necessarily intended to be a long-term weight loss diet or a dietary approach.
The Whole30 diet was created in 2009 by married couple and sports nutritionists Melissa Urban and Dallas Hartwig.The Whole30 Diet was created primarily to serve as a 30-day dietary reset eating program designed to help people identify food sensitivities and triggers of inflammation, food cravings, low energy, hormonal imbalances, and digestive dysfunction rather than just promoting quick weight loss.
One of the unique Whole30 rules is that adherents are supposed to fully buy into the diet for the entire 30 days, abiding by all the Whole30 diet rules without a single slip-up. In fact, one of the main Whole30 rules is that should you break a single Whole30 rule, even once over the 30 days, you are required to restart the 30-day count from day one.
In this way, the Whole30 diet is extremely strict (and as will be seen, there are many additional Whole30 diet rules), and discipline is at the very core of the diet. There is no grace or leeway.
The Whole30 diet focuses on consuming whole, unprocessed foods, which is certainly a sound eating principle, so the actual Whole30 diet plan can definitely promote health.
However, because the list of Whole30 rules is so extensive, and you can’t make any concessions, the actual diet is highly restrictive, strict, and thus hard to follow.
Because the primary purpose of the Whole30 diet is to remove potential trigger foods, the diet eliminates many major food groups, including dairy, legumes, and grains.
After the 30 days of dietary reset, you are allowed to slowly try reintroducing the foods you really miss eating one at a time while paying attention to note any adverse reactions.
If the re-introduced food does trigger cravings, inflammation, bloating, low energy, sleep disturbances, etc., then you are supposed to permanently eliminate it from your diet.
What Are the Benefits of the Whole30 Diet?
To date, there are no scientific studies specifically examining the benefits of the Whole30 diet, so all the cited benefits of Whole30 are merely anecdotal.
The creators of the Whole30 diet report that people who successfully complete the diet program experience impressive improvements in their health, including weight loss, reduced body fat, better sleep, clearer skin, increased energy, blood pressure, fewer food cravings, and less bloating and gas.
Because the Whole30 rules are so extensive and specific, the diet also forces people to be more mindful and cognizant of the foods they put in their bodies. This can be helpful in being more present with eating and deliberate in your food choices, even moving forward after the 30 days.
The Whole30 diet also encourages intuitive eating because you are supposed to focus on eating only when you are hungry and stopping when you are full rather than counting calories or weighing yourself.
There are many Whole30 rules, including the following:
- All Whole30 rules must be followed to a T. If you break any of the rules of Whole30 over the 30-day period, you must restart your 30-day count from day one, even if you are on day 29 or 30.
- You are only allowed to weigh yourself on the first and thirtieth day of the program, but no other days in between.
- You may not take body measurements with a tape measure or even photograph the body except for the first and last day of the 30-day protocol.
- You are not supposed to track calories; instead, focus on eating to satiety.
- You may only consume the foods that are specifically allowed on the Whole30 diet.
- You must avoid all of the foods banned on Whole30, including all grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and natural and artificial sweeteners.
You can also read all of the Whole30 Program Rules here.
What Foods Can You Eat On the Whole30 Diet?
The Whole30 Diet allows you to eat a selection of certain whole, natural, unprocessed foods only. No processed foods are permitted.
As long as you are eating Whole30 diet-approved foods, you are allowed to eat as much as you would want in terms of serving size and frequency.
You are allowed to eat any of the following foods on the Whole30 Diet:
- Meat: All real, natural meats are allowed, but processed, and cured meats are not permitted
- Poultry: All poultry is allowed as long as it does not contain additives
- Fresh or frozen vegetables
- Nuts and Seeds: All except peanuts and peanut products because peanuts are legumes
- Fruit: Fresh and canned fruit is allowed, but fruit products with added sugars are not
- Healthy Fats: Examples include avocados, olive oil, and ghee
What Foods Do You Have to Avoid On the Whole30 Diet?
There is a rather extensive list of foods you can’t eat on the Whole30 Diet. Here are the main foods you can’t eat on Whole30:
- Any type of grains, even whole grains, cereals, bread products, rice, granola, etc.
- All dairy foods, including cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream, sour cream, and butter, among others.
- All soy products, including soy lecithin, tofu, soy milk, tempeh, miso, vegan “meats,” and soybean oil.
- All legumes, which include peanut butter, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, and peanut oil.
- All alcohol, even if it is cooked off in a meal like a wine sauce.
- All sugar, even natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, date syrup, jelly or jam, jello (even sugar-free), brown rice syrup, and agave syrup.
- All artificial sweeteners like Splenda, xylitol, monk fruit, sugar alcohols like erythritol, stevia, aspartame, sorbitol, or any other sweetener, even in chewing gum.
- All processed food additives, such as carrageenan, sulfites, and MSG.
- All sweet treats of any type, even if you bake them, and prepare alternative versions made only with ingredients approved on the Whole30 Diet.
- Any bread-like products you make, even with Whole30-approved ingredients and alternative flours.
- Any snack foods like chips (even corn chips, bean chips, or plantain chips), French fries, pork rinds, pretzels, pudding, etc.
Example Whole30 Diet Meal Plan
So, what does a day of eating look like on the Whole30 diet? Here is a sample Whole30 meal plan:
- Breakfast: 2 scrambled whole eggs with bell peppers, onions, spinach, and mushrooms, a side of hash browns cooked in ghee.
- Snack: Apple slices with almond butter.
- Lunch: Lettuce wrap with chicken salad made with shredded chicken breast, homemade mayo, craisins, celery, and shredded carrots.
- Snack: Cashews and cantaloupe.
- Dinner: Salmon with sweet potato, green salad, and asparagus roasted in olive oil.
- Snack: Pistachios and blueberries.
Overall, Whole30 receives some criticism for being overly restrictive and eliminating food groups typically considered to be healthy (such as whole grains and legumes), but many people do find it to be a great way to have a dietary reset of sorts and identify foods that trigger cravings, fatigue, bloating, and gas.
Working with a Registered Dietician (RD) or nutritionist can also be an effective way to identify food triggers and develop a sustainable, healthy meal plan.
Looking for other diet options? Check out our other diet guides here.