About 9 months ago, I embarked upon yet another journey to heal my body of autoimmune disease and obesity (you can read more about my whole story here). It all began with this elimination diet called The Whole30, often referred to as the Whole30 Diet or the Whole30 Program. I like “program” better because while the Whole30 is all about spending 30 days eating differently for the purpose of helping folks determine what foods are healing and what foods may be damaging, it’s really more than a “diet.” And while weight loss is likely to happen (it has for me), it’s not really why the Whole30 came about. So why did it come about?
Let’s face it, food plays a huge part in our everyday lives, and many of the health problems that we face are due to what we are putting into our bodies. Far from the way food should be, much of what we buy at the store is loaded with unhealthy toxins, chemicals, and GMOs, and we may not even realize it. We may not realize that our food is making us sick. But it is.
The standard American diet is full of processed foods and refined sugars that wreak havoc on our body systems. When we are able to get back to a routine of clean eating, we can reverse our chances of developing chronic diseases. Just by changing what goes into our bodies, we can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, infertility, autoimmune disease, and even cancer. We may even be able to heal our bodies from diseases that have already stricken us. This knowledge is what began my current journey.
And this is what makes the Whole30 diet so amazing. It focuses on eliminating foods that maybe be making us sick, and replacing these unhealthy foods with cleaner foods. In this series, I will endeavor to share what I have learned about the Whole30, how it changing my own health, and some tips to help you be successful with it as well.
So what is The Whole30?
In short, The Whole30 is a 30-day commitment to eliminating certain foods from your diet. People choose to try The Whole30 for many different reasons, and each person will have a different experience with it. However, many have fallen in love with this style of eating (including me) and have found that the experience teaches them a lot about food, their bodies, and how food affects the way they feel. It’s also a good introduction into the Paleo lifestyle (which is more where I sit now).
The overall goal of The Whole30 is to examine how certain foods make you feel, by first eliminating them, and then reintroducing them slowly and one at a time, so that you can get a better understanding of how the foods you’ve eliminated may affect how you feel and therefore function. Getting started with The Whole30 is not complicated, but it does take determination and commitment. If you are concerned you might lack one or the other, I suggest you begin by reading the book that started it all — It Starts with Food.
For those of you who are ready to dig in, here is some information you will need to get started.
What foods do I have to eliminate on The Whole30 diet?
The Whole30, at its core, is a diet of elimination. It eliminates the foods most commonly known to cause leaky gut, food allergies, and inflammation. During your 30 days on The Whole30, you should not consume any of the following:
- dairy (including milk, cheese, yogurt)
- grains (including wheat, barley, rye, oats)
- legumes (including peanut butter)
- added sugar (including artificial sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, and stevia)
- carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites
- Whole30 compliant versions of “junk” food (i.e. recreations of your favorite dessert, pancakes, etc. using compliant ingredients*)
* Note: Many of the reasons people choose to do The Whole30 are for the physical benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, eliminating cravings, and losing weight. Not recreating your favorite junk food is recommended to help you get in the mindset to complete the 30 days successfully by decreasing your cravings for things like sweet treats. This helps you build a mental strength and willpower to avoid your favorite junk foods in the future and overcome cravings. Allowing a way to “cheat” by creating mock-ups of the foods you often crave, using Whole30 compliant foods will not help you achieve success in overcoming those bad habits and cravings. As a side note, you should also avoid drinking your calories with juicing and smoothies during the Whole30. Even though you likely consider those to be healthy habits (as do I), they are not allowed during your 30-day Whole30 challenge.
Okay, so what CAN I eat?
Great question! Even though it seems like you’re eliminating a lot by committing to The Whole30, there are tons of nutritious (and tasty!) foods that you can incorporate into your meals. In order to be successful in completing your Whole30, you will need to focus on these.
Here are the staples for your 30 days:
Vegetables are a huge staple in the Whole30 and YES, you can have white potatoes! When the Whole30 first started gaining traction, white potatoes were out and sweet potatoes were in. After much thought and consideration from the people who created Whole30, they decided to add white potatoes to the list of acceptable foods. I can’t even express in words how happy this makes me. During the several times I have completed The Whole30 challenge, it has been potatoes that has often saved me.
Read more about why potatoes are now allowed here.
Fruit is on the accepted list of foods for the Whole30, but keep in mind that you want to limit your fruit intake because of the sugar. I generally try to stick to lower glycemic fruits such as berries and grapefruit, not more than 2 servings per day, but all fruit is allowed.
Meat & seafood
Meat is another huge staple for Whole30, but you’ll want to make sure it isn’t processed with additives, sugars, or preservatives that are off limits. Buy grass-fed, free-range, organic, or wild caught as often as you can. Many stores are getting better about including these types of proteins for people who want healthier options, but it’s a good idea to check the labels before buying just to be sure. And you’ll want to budget for the increase in price that comes with grass-fed, organic, non-GMO meats that are not laden with sulfites and sugar.
Get ready to get creative with eggs, a staple of the Whole30 diet. A great boost of healthy protein and fat, eggs are a pretty reliable staple and getting creative with them to avoid boredom is one of the most fun challenges of the Whole30 challenge. I daresay I have eaten more eggs in the past 9 months than in the rest of my life combined. They are my go-to for quick, easy, cheap meals. Find a local supplier who free ranges her chickens and provides non-GMO feeds for the best tasting and freshest options.
(Most) nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds are a great healthy and replenishing snack for Whole30 achievers, but keep in mind that peanuts are considered a legume. For that reason, you’ll want to avoid them, including peanut butter.
Healthy oils such as olive, avocado, and coconut will be great resources for cooking fats that are healthy and acceptable on the Whole30 diet. Ghee is also an acceptable form of fat for cooking. It’s simple to make yourself, or you can buy organic ghee in most large grocery stores and online.
Coffee and Tea
If you’re a coffee or tea addict, these are still great options for you. Coffee and tea are both totally fine for Whole30 – just don’t add any milk products or sweeteners. I am a huge fan of Nutpods non-dairy creamer made with coconut and almond milk. It’s sugar-free, Whole30 compliant, and comes in several flavors (my current fav is French vanilla). It’s great with both coffee and hot tea.
Ultimately, there are still lots of tasty foods to be enjoyed on the Whole30 diet and you could come out of it with a different perspective and understanding on how food affects your body.
What are you looking forward to most about trying the Whole30 diet? Share in the comments!
Next up: The Whole30 Shopping List