What Is the Whole30 Diet?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 13, 2023
4 min read

If you’re looking to start a diet plan, you may have heard of the Whole30 diet. It’s a 30-day challenge to stop eating unhealthy foods. It’s a restrictive plan that encourages mindful eating. Talk to your doctor before you try it to make sure it’s safe for you.

When you start the Whole30 diet, there's a set of rules and recommendations to follow. The goal is to help you stop eating foods that might be allergens or cause inflammation in your body. Unlike other diets, you’ll be looking more at whole foods and where they came from instead of their calories. 

When you start this diet, you won’t be able to eat a lot of different foods, which means you might have to cut out some of your favorites. The diet recommends you avoid grains, dairy, sugar, most legumes, and alcohol. 

Once you’ve cut out these items for 30 days, you can start having them again. This diet is supposed to give your body a reset. That way, you can pay attention to symptoms or reactions you might have to certain foods.

This diet may work if you’re struggling with poor gut health or irregular bowel problems. It has also helped people lose weight, among other benefits. 

The Whole30 diet is meant to jumpstart your body on a healthier path. The focus on fruits and vegetables has been linked to less obesity and heart disease. 

Since the Whole30 diet is restrictive, there are some things you're allowed to eat and some you should avoid. 

Foods you’ll eat while on the Whole30 diet include:

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Juices
  • Some legumes, like green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas

When buying foods for your 30-day challenge, you should pay attention to where the food is coming from. The diet recommends buying organic and free-range foods when available. You won’t be able to use frozen or canned versions. 

Foods that you’ll need to avoid on the Whole30 diet include: 

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Junk foods
  • Sodas or other drinks with refined sugar in them
  • Foods with added sugars
  • Baked goods and dessert 

You’ll need to pay attention to the ingredients of your foods. Buying pre-made foods isn’t recommended. That’s due to the processed ingredients found in most of these meals. 

Since the Whole30 diet is more of a food challenge than a long-term change, there are some hurdles. The Whole30 diet has strict rules. The overall goal is to restrict your eating. So, if you “cheat” on a day of your challenge, they recommend you start again from day one.

You’re supposed to be breaking food habits and cravings. But that can be tough to do on your first try. Just because the diet’s rules are restrictive doesn’t mean you should be hard on yourself. 

Don’t look at the diet as a one-time challenge, but more of a lifestyle change. That way, you’ll be able to take it easy on yourself if you give in to your cravings. 

This mindset might also prevent you from having too much of your favorite non-Whole30 foods once the 30 days are up. There are benefits to restricting and reintroducing foods to your body. But you shouldn’t look at the diet as a failure if you don’t get through the entire 30 days perfectly. 

When you restrict foods from your diet, you lose important nutrients. The Whole30 diet isn’t the best option for everyone. Before you try it, ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

Avoid it if you have a history of eating disorders. There’s a very controlling goal behind this diet, which might not be good for your mental or physical health. 

Eating meat is a big part of this diet, so if you're a vegetarian or on a vegan diet, you might also want to avoid the Whole30 diet. It also restricts important nutrients you’d get from grains and legumes. This makes it hard for you to get the right amount of calcium and vitamin D. 

The Whole30 diet could make your blood sugar levels fluctuate. It can also cause inflammation in your gut, and hurt your health. If you have diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome, you might want to avoid the Whole30 diet. 

The paleo diet also focuses on cutting out processed foods, grains, and legumes. 

The Whole30 diet is meant to help you get to the paleo diet. It doesn’t want you to reintroduce all the processed foods, grains, and legumes you used to eat. Instead, during this phase, you should try to limit the three foods. 

The difference between the two diets is that Whole30 wants you to see how the foods you used to eat make you feel after the 30 days are up. If they make you feel bad, you might continue to cut them out. That could lead to you adopting the paleo diet.