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.
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: Not for drinking, and not for cooking. No beer, wine, champagne, vodka, rum, tequila, 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.
The 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.
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: This contains a very small amount of dextrose, but it is acceptable to use table salt.
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
- 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
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.
This ranch dressing is perfect for salads, sauces, and dipping fresh veggies in. Primal Kitchen is one of the most popular brands for W30 products. You'll find a huge selection of other dressings and sauces from them, as well as other products.
Organic Unsweetened Ketchup
Ketchup is a staple condiment in most households. This organic, unsweetened version from Primal Kitchen is perfect for topping your burgers.
French's Spicy Brown Mustard | French's
Spicy Brown Mustard is a great pantry staple. You can use it for dipping, add it to your meats, and use it to make sauces. I love to use it for deviled eggs!
Classic Avocado Oil Mayo
When I started Whole 30 a long time ago, I tried making my own mayo. But now I like to limit the time I spend making this type of stuff. This is a good brand with a good flavor.
Chicken Apple Dinner Sausage
These are awesome. One of my favorite things to have on hand during a W30. I can scramble them with eggs in the morning, or slice them up and toss them on a sheet pan with veggies for dinner. Quick, easy, and delicious.
Organic Roasted Turkey Breast - Applegate
This oven roasted turkey breast is great for making turkey wraps or throwing on top of a salad.
Whole30 Variety Pack
This is pretty cool. Pederson's Farms offers this variety pack of their 10 best selling meats that are all Whole 30 approved. This comes with bacon, chorizo, hot dogs, and even bison!
If you want something for on the go food, keep these on hand and pair them with a handful of nuts and olives and a piece of fruit.
This is another product you'll want to keep on hand for grab and go options. Most Lara Bars are W30 compliant -- not the ones with chocolate or peanut butter -- so be sure to check the ingredients. But we love the cherry, apple pie, blueberry muffin, and lemon bars.
Ghee Clarified Butter - 12oz - Good & Gather™
I love Ghee. and Target has compliant ghee for a reasonable price so you don't have to worry about making it yourself. I love using this for eggs and other pan fried foods because it doesn't burn like other oils sometimes do.
Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk - 48 fl oz
This is my go-to almond milk for W30. It's carrageenan free and I feel like it has the best flavor of the brands that I've tried. Shop around and see which one works best for you, just remember to check the ingredients.
Pitted Green Olive Snack | Deliciousness Snacks
Olives are one of my favorite things to keep on hand. I even eat them for breakfast. If I need a mid day snack, i grab a scoop of olives, a hard boiled egg, some baby tomatoes, and some cashews and I'm good to go.
FLAME GRILLED USDA CHOICE ANGUS PATTIES
You can get these precooked patties in the frozen section at Costco. When you're hungry, all you have to do is heat it up and add your favorite toppings (minus the bun of course. I like to chop it and top it on a salad or a baked potato.
Variety 4 Pack
Nutpods are a great Whole 30 compliant product to keep on hand. Add it to your coffee, or you can use it in your soups and sauces. This one gets high reviews compared to other keto creamers.
NEW !! Palmini Pouch VARIETY PACK
This is a newish product that I just discovered a year or so ago. Made from hearts of palm, they have different "noodle" and "rice" variations that you can add to your recipes. I think the flavor pairs best with Asian style dishes like Mongolian beef stew, pho, and chow mein style-dishes.
Elite Wild Tuna
Safe Catch tests all their fish for mercury, and they are W30 Compliant. They also have salmon, sardines, and mackerel. And you can get the tuna and salmon in pouches or cans. These are great to have to whip up a quick tuna salad, or salmon avocado toast.
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