The Whole30 Diet is a diet and lifestyle change program that eliminates certain foods — including alcohol, sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, and food additives — for 30 days to see how you feel. After 30 days, you slowly add each food group back into your diet to gauge how your body reacts.
What Is the Whole30 Diet?
Whole30 is an elimination diet, but it’s marketed as a broader lifestyle change that resets your life.
The company claims that the Whole30 program was not designed for weight loss at its core, and using it for this purpose can negatively affect your hunger cues, cravings, hormones, willpower, and metabolism.
Instead, Whole30 is focused on improving energy and sleep, allergies, chronic pain, anxiety, digestive issues, skin conditions, and your overall relationship with food. Food freedom and a healthy emotional relationship with food are the ultimate goals.
How the Whole30 Diet Works
On the Whole30 diet, it’s recommended to eat three meals a day, three to five hours apart, comprised of “real food,” AKA unprocessed foods. However, it’s okay to have a snack between meals if needed, especially at the beginning when you’re experimenting with meal sizes and to find what works for you.
How you consume your food is up to you.
- You can cook with Whole30-approved groceries and brands.
- You can buy meals from Whole30-approved delivery services or restaurants using their handy list.
- Whole30 also sells its own dripping sauces and dressings.
Unlike some other diet programs, exercise is not a featured component of the Whole30 diet because, ultimately, it’s all about learning how different foods affect your body.
If you accidentally or knowingly consume one of the eliminated food groups, you’ll need to start again to experience the beneficial effects of the diet.
The Diet Plan
Phase One: Elimination
This phase of the Whole30 program lasts 30 days.
You’re encouraged to eat “real” food, including foods that are entirely natural or have recognizable and straightforward ingredients.
Whole30 approved foods include:
- Protein includes beef, chicken, eggs, lamb, pork, salmon, turkey, and seafood. Grass-fed, pastured, wild-caught, and/or organic is best.
- All vegetables, excluding corn and lima beans
- All fruit, including fruit juice
- Natural fats, including ghee
- Herbs, spices, and seasonings
You should eliminate certain foods, including:
- All added sugar and artificial sweeteners, such as white sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, date syrup, and stevia
- Grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, barley
- Legumes, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, and soy (including soy sauce)
- Dairy, including cow, goat, and sheep milk products
- Carrageenans and sulfates
- Any baked goods, even if the ingredients are approved
- Some processed meats
- Sulfites and corn starch
Although counting calories isn’t a part of the diet, serving sizes are suggested:
- Oils and cooking fats: one to two thumb-sized portions
- Coconut: one to two open handfuls
- Olives: one to two open handfuls
- Nuts and seeds: one closed handful
- Avocado: one-half to one avocado
- Coconut milk: Between one-quarter to one-half of a 14 oz can
Phase Two: Reintroduction
This phase lasts for at least 10 days.
It involves reintroducing the food you eliminated during the first phase in one of two reintroduction schedules:
- A consistent reintroduction of foods in order from least to most problematic (added sugar, gluten-free alcohol, legumes, non-gluten grains, dairy, gluten-containing grains)
- It is done over 10 to 20 days.
- You may experience some side effects.
- There is no specific timeline.
- You’ll continue on the Whole30 plan until any situation arises where you want to eat one of the eliminated foods.
If you have an adverse reaction, you’ll return to the elimination phase for two days before trying another new food.
You’ll choose your diet plan using RealPlans.
- Monthly: $36 for the first month, then $21 per month
- Quarterly: $59 for the first quarter, then $45 per quarter
- Annually: $99 for the first year, then $91 per year
You can also sign up for coaching, providing you with support and accountability. Six weeks of coaching generally costs $147 for a group and $246 for private coaching.
The recommended Whole30 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom book costs about $15.
Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t weigh yourself or take any body measurements for 30 days.
- Don’t count and restrict calories or weigh and measure your food.
- Do try to eat three meals a day, including breakfast. If you exercise, eat two to three hours pre-workout and within 60 minutes post-workout.
- Do make sure snacks include at least two macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat), should you need a snack in between meals.
Sample Diet Plan
You’ll use RealPlans to generate your meal plan, but Whole30 also has free recipes for creating your meals. For example:
Breakfast: Whole30 House Ranch Deviled Eggs
Eggs, yellow mustard, mayonnaise, Whole30 House Ranch dressing, scallion, dill sprigs, parsley, salt and pepper, bacon
Sweet potatoes, ghee, yellow onion, garlic cloves, red bell pepper, salt and pepper, ground beef, tomato paste, coconut aminos, paprika, scallion
Chicken breasts, Whole30 House Ranch dressing, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, walnuts, bacon, garlic, parsley, dill
Snack ideas: Meat stick with almonds or carrot sticks with guacamole
Health Benefits and Drawbacks
According to the company, the elimination phase heals your gut, calms your immune system, reduces inflammation, restores healthy metabolism, and regulates blood sugar. However, no clinical studies have been able to assess these benefits directly.
There has been some research on the benefits of elimination diets in general. For example, this kind of diet may:
- Reduce irritable bowel syndrome symptoms by 10 percent
- Reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis
- Reduce the frequency of chronic migraines
It’s possible to experience negative symptoms on the Whole30 diet, particularly in the first 14 days.
- Typical side effects include headaches, fatigue, irritability, brain fog, food cravings, breakouts, and mild digestive problems.
- See your doctor if you experience nausea, vomiting, vertigo, rashes, and/or sinus problems.
The Whole30 diet is very restrictive. It could be dangerous for people with a history of disordered eating or special dietary requirements, as it may make it harder for them to obtain essential nutrients.
The Bottom Line: Is the Whole30 Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?
The Whole30 diet is not designed for weight loss (even though you may lose some weight naturally), and the creators recommend against using it solely for this purpose. It is already a restrictive diet, so further restricting calories is not a feasible long-term solution.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.