Thinking of Trying the Whole30 Diet?

Whole30 is an eating plan that emphasizes eating whole foods, cooking from scratch, and avoiding processed convenience foods. Those who founded Whole30 have seen great results. In fact, they claim that 96% of participants who followed the program lost weight and improved their body composition.

What is the Whole30 Diet?

  • The Whole30 program is not a diet at all. It is prescriptive eating plan that allows followers to press the reset button on their health, habits and relationship with food by changing what they eat.
  • It is a plan that has been around since 2009, is still popular today and was designed by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.
  • The 2019 U.S. News and World Report ranked it #38 (tied with Keto) out of 40 diets in the category of Best Overall Diet plans. Diet plans were evaluated on several factors: ease of following, short-term and long-term weight loss, nutritional completeness and ability to prevent and manage diabetes and heart disease.

What you will be eating on this diet

  • Meat such as pork, chicken, beef (organic/grass fed)
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Healthy fats such as avocado, certain oils
  • Clarified butter or ghee
  • Certain nuts and seeds
  • Unprocessed potatoes

What foods to avoid on this diet

  • Added sugar (real or artificial)
  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Oats, wheat, gluten, rice, corn
  • Legumes or dried beans/peas (including peanut butter)
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • All snacking

Pros of the Whole30 Plan

  • You do not have to weigh or measure your food or count calories. You are encouraged not to step on the scale during the 30 day plan. However it is recommended that you weigh yourself before and after following the plan.
  • The books written by the Hartwigs provide ample menus and tips to increase success with sticking with the plan.
  • If you eat out less frequently, your total food cost might be lower.
  • Resources for support around Whole30 are available on social media, including on their Whole30 website, Facebook, Instagram, on Twitter.

Cons of the Whole30 Plan

  • The plan is potentially difficult to follow as 3 major food groups are eliminated: grains, dairy and legumes. If you think the Paleo diet is limiting, this is even more restrictive which simply means in order to be successful you'll need to plan out your meals ahead of time and get creative.
  • Dining out may involve researching menus ahead of time and steering towards simply prepared meat entrees and veggies. Be ready to ask questions of your server to fine tune the details of your order, such as what oils are used during cooking and what side dishes such as grains, may need to be omitted.
  • This plan may not work for people who are very active and need a pre and post workout snack. Since carbohydrate fuels workouts, severely restricting carbohydrate intake may result in limited glycogen stores which translate to a lack of energy during an intense or lengthy workout.
  • Purchasing organic, grass-fed meats and organic vegetables can be expensive.

Word of caution

A word of caution to individuals after they finish the 30 day active phase. Some individuals I have worked with in the past, are focused and committed when engaged in an eating plan. However, after the "reins have been lifted" they struggle to find a happy medium of what to eat and what to avoid, once the active phase is over. This can be prevented by knowing yourself and your patterns. If you are at risk of eating the prohibited foods with abandon once the program is over, follow something like the Whole30 reintroduction phase, have a plan and find support ahead of time.

Final Thoughts

Finally, my literature search did not result in any peer reviewed studies looking at weight loss results following this eating plan or comparing results with other diets. I would anticipate weight loss would result for individuals who ate a lot of processed foods, quick and convenience items and snacks prior to starting the plan. Also, a proven strategy for weight loss is to eliminate entire food groups since it significantly reduces caloric intake. This plan does just that, so one would anticipate weight loss. Weight loss on the plan is not guaranteed, especially since tracking, weighing and measuring of portions are not required. Though cleaning up your diet is just about guaranteed.

A final consideration for folks who like to know where they stand with regard to weight loss: the eating plan discourages tracking body weight or progress on a scale in the middle of the plan. You are encouraged to weigh yourself on Day 1 and Day 30. Thus, you may find that you follow this plan diligently for 30 days and yet the scale never reflects your hard work.

What do I think about the diet?

The typical American diet is high in refined sugars, unhealthy fats, salt and processed foods. If your old diet included a lot of these items you may find you lose weight simply by cleaning up your food choices. Because the diet is restrictive, one is at serious risk of gaining their weight back as they return to a more liberal eating plan. In other words, I would not recommend this plan for someone who wants to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul.

Originaly published 30 January 2018
Updated: August 21, 2019

Joanna Kriehn is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator with a passion for supporting individuals as they move towards a healthier lifestyle. You can learn more about Joanna by visiting her LinkedIn page

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Weight Loss/Diets

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