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Whole 30: The Rules

If you have recently heard people talking about Whole 30, you’re not alone. The popular food lifestyle trend started in 2009 when creators Melissa Urban and ex-husband Dallas Hartwig first conceived the idea. They released their first book about Whole30 in 2012 and it quickly became a New York Times best seller. Over a decade later, the lifestyle diet has become so popular that numerous brands and retailers have begun developing products specifically to accommodate those searching for food that is Whole30 compliant. If you’re not sure what that means, read on and learn about the Whole 30 diet rules with this quick guide.

Whole 30 The Rules

What Is Whole 30?

Whole30 is a nutritional lifestyle that emphasizes eliminating processed foods as well as allergy-inducing or problematic foods and ingredients. The program encourages elimination of these items for a full 30 days as a nutritional reset to help you gain food freedom by learning how to gain control of unhealthy food cravings, and identifying how your body reacts to certain foods.

Often called a nutritional reset, the program eliminates a number of things from your diet and relies heavily on eating whole foods. At the end of the 30 days, you can begin reintroducing certain ingredients into your diet (if you want) one at a time to see how you react to each item after not consuming it. Many people notice how beans, dairy, or other foods may affect their body’s digestion, energy, allergies, or other conditions.

Whole 30 Rules

The number one rule is: Eat Real Food. Here are the rules and details for what to eliminate and what to include.

No Added Sugar: This includes real or artificial sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, monk fruit extract, stevia, splenda, equal nutrasweet, xylitol, and any other form of sweetener.

No Alcohol or Tobacco: Not for drinking, and not for cooking. No beer, wine, champagne, vodka, rum, tequila, tobacco, and so on.

No Dairy: All dairy products are out including anything made from cows, goats, and sheep.

No Grains: No rice, wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. All forms of these grains should be eliminated including flours, brans, germs, and starches.

No Legumes: All beans are out including black, red, pinto, kidney, navy, garbanzo, white, lima, fava, lentils, cannellini, adzuki, mung, cranberry, and black-eyed peas. The only exceptions for legumes are most peas and green beans. Also eliminate peanuts and all peanut products, and all forms of soy.

No Seed Oils: When cooking at home, don’t use peanut oil, corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, or rice bran oil.

No Carrageenan or Sulfites: These are commonly found in packaged and processed foods. If they are on the package ingredients, don’t buy it.


No Weighing Yourself or Taking Measurements: Your body fluctuates. The point of W30 is not just to lose weight, it’s about overall health and nutrition. For 30 days, don’t focus on what the scale or tape measure says. Instead, think about the other ways your body feels and any other changes you may notice during the process. Focusing on weight can also influence your motivation. If you think you’re not losing enough, you’re more likely to give up. Again, this isn’t just about weight – give it the full 30 days and see how your body feels overall.

Whole30 Pancake Rule: Whole 30 defines the Pancake Rule as “Do not recreate or purchase baked goods, “foods with no brakes,” or treats with Whole30 compatible ingredients. Some specific foods that fall under this rule include: pancakes, crepes, waffles, bread, tortillas, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, alternative flour pizza crust or pastas, granola, cereal, ice cream, commercially-prepared chips (potato, tortilla, plantain, etc.), or deep-fried French fries.” Essentially, do not recreate any of those foods you might turn to for stress eating, or junk food type items.

Exceptions To The Rules

Ghee or Clarified Butter: Clarified butter and/or ghee are compliant with Whole 30 because they have had the milk solids removed and are considered dairy free. Beef tallow, pork lard and duck fat are all Whole30 approved as well.

Fruit Juice: Foods that are made with 100% fruit juice are compatible with Whole 30 even if it is used as a natural sweetener.

Acceptable Legumes: Because they are mostly pod, green beans and the following peas are compliant with W30: sugar snap peas, snow peas, green peas, yellow peas, and split peas.

Vinegar and Extracts: Acceptable vinegars include white vinegar, red wine vinegar (yes, even though it has “wine” in it), balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar. Malt vinegar or malt based extracts are not allowed because they contain gluten. Alcohol based extracts are acceptable including vanilla extract, lemon extract, lavender extract, and almond extract.

Coconut Aminos: All coconut aminos are acceptable even when the ingredients contain coconut nectar or coconut syrup.

Iodized Salt (table salt): Salt contains a very small amount of dextrose (sugar), but salt is an exception to to the official rules given the difficulty it would take to avoid.

Recommended, But Not Rules

Here are a few things that they recommend when doing a Whole 30, but they are not hard and fast rules that you have to follow to do it right.

Meal Template: They recommend specific portion sizes and eating schedules that you can find here, but you do not need to stick to this if it doesn’t work for you. Eat according to your hunger cues, and adjust your food based on your preferences or your body’s needs. Keep in mind that like any diet, you don’t want to consume large amounts of oils, butters, and high-fat, high-calorie foods (even if they are healthy fats). Try to get the bulk of your calories from protein, veggies, and fruit.

Slow Down On Snacking: They want you to attempt to eat three meals a day with an extra snack or mini-meal when necessary rather than grazing all day. But this doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, everyday. Snack when needed, just remember to choose healthy, compliant options.

Fruit Intake: They recommend only two servings of fruit per day. But fruit is a healthy, whole food so you make the call for your own personal journey.

Dried Fruit & Nut Bars: These can be used as emergency on-the-go options, but they don’t want you to rely on these as meal replacements, or actual food. And don’t turn to these when you need to satisfy your candy craving.

Organic & Grass Fed: You do NOT have to use organic and grass fed products. If it’s compliant, use it — the fancy stuff is not essential to completing the Whole 30 program.

Everything Homemade: Not everything has to be made from scratch. You can use plenty of products now on the market that are compliant with the program. Take a look around your store to find essentials like mayo, bone broth/chicken broth, ketchup, dressings, sauces, and dips.

Smoothies: They don’t recommend smoothies as a meal on Whole 30. But if you do choose to have smoothies during your program, they recommend going light on the fruit, add greens, and include healthy fats like avocado, chia, or coconut milk. You can even throw in a scoop or two of protein powder so long as it is unsweetened. Even better, pair it with real food like scrambled eggs or a veggie hash.

What Is Allowed on Whole 30?

At first glance, it may seem like you are eliminating so much from your diet. But realistically there is still way more that you CAN have.

Examples of What You Can Eat on Whole 30

  • Unprocessed meats including beef, pork, and chicken
  • All fish including fish, oysters, shrimp, and mussels
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables (including potatoes)
  • All fruits
  • Most nuts and seeds
  • Herbs and spices
  • Fats including lard, coconut, palm and sesame oils
  • Tea, coffee
  • and so much more

Whole 30 Beginner Tips

Here are a few Whole 30 beginner tips to get you started:

  • Stock your kitchen with Whole 30 approved pre-made condiments such as ketchup, mayo and salad dressing since many of these widely available items contain sugars or dairy.
  • Keep it simple, this diet can get expensive purchasing Whole 30 approved products. Make simple meals like steaming, sautéing, or frying vegetables and a protein.
  • Try to meal prep so it’s easier to stay compliant.
  • Have compliant snacks readily available so you’re not tempted to “cheat.”
  • Try cutting back slowly on soda, alcohol, sugars, breads and more so it’s not as drastic when you make the switch.
  • Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods with long ingredient lists that may not be compliant.
  • Learn to make popular processed and pre-packed foods at home and at a fraction of the cost. For instance, you can make mayonnaise, almond butter, ghee, salsa, dressings and much more.
  • Search for “Paleo Recipes” for additional ideas that are Whole 30 compliant.

Need help getting in the groove? Use the Whole 30 Shopping List, Pantry Stocking Guide, and the Official “Can I Have” Guide.

And below, we’re going to show you some awesome products that you can use for your Whole 30 – for snacking, easy meals on the go, dressings, and other ingredients that will help make your Whole 30 meal prep easier.

Tip: Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Thrive Market, and even Costco all carry a large selection of Whole 30 compliant food, but your regular grocery store should also have plenty of products on their shelves that are sugar free, preservative free, etc.

You don’t have to buy the expensive stuff. If you shop at Ralph’s or Kroger, many of the Simple Truth Organic products work with W30 — the marinara and tomato basil pasta sauce are both compliant and they are often $5 to $7 less per jar versus the fancy versions, and I think they taste better. They even have sugar free bacon that is generally less per package versus other brands.

Ready to give Whole 30 a try, or just interested in what Whole 30 meals look like? Check out our Whole 30 recipe pages:

Whole 30 Products & Ingredients

These Whole 30 products and ingredients are Whole 30 compliant and will help make meal prep so much easier. Grab some of these to keep on hand and you're sure to get through your 30 days successfully.

Heidi Deal
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