What Is the Whole30 Diet, Anyway?

The Whole30 diet is likely one that's popping up on your newsfeeds and something you've heard about, but what exactly is it?

Grilled chicken skewer with rocket saladPhoto: Shutterstock / vanillaechoes

If you find yourself asking “what is this Whole30 thing?” you’re not alone. In 2009, Marissa Hartwig blogged about a new 30-day experiment where she followed a regimen of eating only whole and unprocessed foods. And so, Whole30 was born. With millions claiming to have been transformed by this diet with weight loss, more energy, better sleep, no more cravings and better health, it’s easy to see why Whole30 is so enticing.

What Can You Eat?

Like the paleo diet, Whole30 emphasizes eating whole and unprocessed foods.

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Lots of vegetables, some fruit
  • Natural fats, herbs, spices and seasonings
  • Coffee

These should all be foods made with very few ingredients that are easy to pronounce.

What Can’t You Eat?

  • Added sugars (real or artificial)
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol and, ideally, tobacco
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Carrageenan, MSG, sulfites (these are preservatives and enhancers)

The final no-no of the diet? No stepping on the scale until after the 30 days are over.

The Reality

Cutting out processed foods and refined sugars and choosing whole foods instead isn’t unique to this diet, as it’s what’s generally recommended for a healthy diet. But most dietitians agree that whole grains are beneficial when eaten in moderation, as are legumes—an important source of protein in many diets, especially vegetarian and vegan.

These foods are approved exceptions to the rule.

  • Ghee or clarified butter
  • Fruit juice
  • Certain legumes (snow peas, sugar snap peas, green beans)
  • Vinegar (malt vinegar is the only one not allowed)
  • Coconut aminos (this naturally fermented soy substitute is acceptable, even if coconut nectar is an ingredient)
  • Salt

Still confused about something you can or cannot eat? The Whole30 team released a comprehensive guide to help clarify the rules.

The Bottom Line

Since the diet is only 30 days long, going back to your usual way of eating afterward is over won’t keep the weight off (or maintain any other benefits you had while you were on the program), so it’s about adopting what you feel are the best parts of the diet and following those ideas long-term.

Ready to give Whole30 a try? A Taste of Home staffer took her shot at the diet and came away with seven tips to conquer your 30 days.

While you’re deciding if Whole30 is right for you, these wholesome dinners will get you started on a path to better health.

30 Healthy Dinner Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes
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Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.