Whole30 is a program that is sweeping the nation, with millions of people successfully completing the program and finding Food Freedom Forever. Whole30 touts itself as a ‘tough love’ approach that is very cut and dry- you include the foods allowed on the Whole30 program for a full 30 days, and nothing else.
If you’re already eating a gluten-free or paleo-style diet, you will have a less of a hard time adjusting to the Whole30 way of eating. You are used to looking at labels, and are usually aware at all the places that sugar, food additives, bad oils, and fillers are hiding in packaged food. You know how to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and have the basic cooking skills to turn those raw ingredients into meals.
Whole30 is different from paleo or gluten free- the Whole30 program isn’t only about food ingredients, it’s about food attitude.
The goal of Whole30 is to reset your attitude about food and see what it’s like to use food for nourishment without compromise for 30 days.
Thankfully Whole30 allows lots of delicious health-giving foods on the program: Vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, seasonings, and healthy fats.
Even if you’re already paleo or gluten free, I’ll explain why Whole30 is a great reset to do every so often and how it differs from other diets below.
Why I Tried Whole30
During the holidays I get decision fatigue. Also, I have an event in early January that I wanted to lose a little weight for, and if I ate and drank socially through December it wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully my social circle knows me well and isn’t offended at all if I bring La Croix and a veggie tray with Whole30-approved dip to share rather than partake in the wine and chips/dip being served.
When life gets busy and there are more decisions to make (gift shopping, travel plans, festivals and activities… oh my!) A cut-and-dried approach to food helps me to stay on track without overthinking or stressing. So, the 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas I decided to implement Whole30 for myself. For everyone else, I’m cooking Whole30 and served gluten-free grains alongside the meal for them. They also continue to eat dairy, and drink milk with dinner.
What’s not allowed on Whole30
Grains, sweeteners (not even honey!), food additives including sulfites and carrageenan, legumes, and dairy other than clarified butter, and alcohol all are not allowed on Whole30.
The entire protocol is covered in the book
And there are two more things not allowed on Whole30:
Sex with your pants on: In Whole30 you aren’t allowed to have sex with your pants on, which is what they call the current paleo trend of concocting cookies, pie, candy, and other pastry-like baked goods out of paleo ingredients. No cookies. No creamer in your coffee (other than coconut milk). No pancakes, paleo ‘breads’, or almond-flour scones.
Food with no brakes: There are some foods that are made from compliant ingredients (plantain chips! roasted salted nuts! Dried fruit!) that may be tempting to binge on. If you find yourself eating more often than every 3 hours, and unable to resist these foods when they’re in your house, we need to keep them out of the house for 30 days. If you aren’t binging, they are fine to eat as part of your meals.
What can you eat on Whole30?
You can eat all the foods that make you feel good, and provide your body with needed nutrients.
You can eat: Meat, eggs, healthy fats (avocado oil, animal fats- I’m loving this trio from Epic, clarified butter), spices and seasonings, vegetables, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, fruit, nuts, and seeds.
There are lots of delicious recipes to choose from!
Whole30 vs Paleo
The biggest difference with Whole30 and Paleo is Whole30’s ‘don’t have sex with your pants on’ status on paleo baked goods. Whole30 is strict- absolutely no sugar, even in very dark chocolate. No honey, maple syrup, or even stevia. No whipping dates and coconut cream into a concoction that resembles sweetened coffee creamer. No alcohol, not even red wine or tequila mixed with lemon water.
It’s a grey area, but the Whole30 program even discourages smoothies since they’re more like milkshakes and it’s easy to suck down a cup of coconut milk and 4-5 servings of fruit. I agree, smoothies are delicious.
Whole30 vs GAPS
On Whole30 you can eat sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and plantains, which aren’t allowed on GAPS. These starches are too complex for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which the GAPS diet is based on, and depending on where you are in your gut-healing journey the starches may feed the pathogenic bacteria that you are trying to starve out. (read more about GAPS here)
Whole30 does not allow honey, or baked goods (scones, muffins, pancakes) as we’ve talked about in the paleo section above, which are allowed on the GAPS diet. Legumes also are not allowed, which rules out lentils, beans, and peanut butter.
The sweet potatoes allowed on Whole30 was my main motivation for doing Whole30 and not GAPS (which is my go-to ‘cleanse’). The cut-and-dry food for nutrition approach also is helpful for my personality.
Sweet potatoes bought in bulk and baked all at once are an easy and delicious way to bulk out meals. See below for how I prepped for Whole30.
Preparing for Whole30- Some Tips
Meal prep is what has allowed me to be successful. I’ve been making as many meals as possible in the Freezer Cooking Class Whole30 compliant (Stuffed squash! Shepherd’s Pie! Brazilian Chicken bites! Soup packs!) so I already had a freezer full of Whole30-approved food.
This simplified my cooking, planning, and grocery shopping immensely! If I’m feeling creative, I thaw meat and try a new recipes. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by food, I pop a freezer-to-slow cooker meal in the slow cooker or Instapot and call it a day.
I also had things prepped for the kids (gluten-free muffins, coconut flour waffles, etc) so that they also were eating well, even if it wasn’t all Whole30.
Whole30 would work just fine for kids, and we all ate many of the same meals, but I don’t mind giving them baked goods with nutrient-dense ingredients. My children didn’t need a Whole30, I did :)
These aren’t allowed on Whole30, but are great additions to meals for people not on the Whole30 program:
The Whole30 program is on Real Plans, so you can simply add their recipes and not only have access to hundreds of Whole30 approved recipes, but you also can easily plan your grocery list and meal schedule for when you have time to shop and cook. The Whole30 program comes with instructional emails from you that keep you on track, encouraged, and motivated to complete the whole 30 days.
Meal planning and having a grocery list of approved food ingredients automatically updated each week is a lifesaver on a new dietary program.
Instant Pot for Whole30
The Instant Pot makes it possible to go from a chunk-of-meat in the freezer to a Whole30-compliant (and delicious!) meal in under an hour. This really takes the frustration out of eating in a way that makes takeout (or even homemade pancakes) not an option.
In addition to cooking meat the Instant Pot is great for:
- Cooking rice for people who are not on Whole30.
- Cooking spaghetti squash or other hard winter squash in just 15 minutes.
- Cooking any freezer-to-slow cooker meal in an hour… rather than 4-8.
- Steaming eggs for easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs.
This is the Instapot that I use, and it’s really a nice addition to a Whole30 kitchen. I’ll be updating my recipes with Instant Pot directions as I try them.
Having some food on hand that takes no preparation can keep you on track. These foods are meant to be used in a pinch, not as a replacement for an afternoon candy bar or after-dinner dessert.
I’m currently on day 14 of Whole30 (I’ll update as I complete it) and I’ve loved trying out a bunch of new recipes in my Instant Pot. I’ve been successful at continuing to base our meals on protein and vegetables all through the holiday season, and abstained from alcohol completely. I’ve managed to dodge the stomach flu that went through our home as well, which I attribute to eating well!
I did notice the reduction in carbs, and days 4/5 were a little grumpy. In the Whole30 book she calls this ‘Kill All The Things’ – and I felt it. But I adjusted starting on day 6, and since then it has been MUCH easier to stay on.
Personally, I benefit from the tough love approach that Whole30 is. It takes the decision making off my mind, and I just go on autopilot.
Whole30 doesn’t have to be low carb, but for me it is lower carb than what I have been eating, so I know 2 or so pounds of the weight that I dropped is water weight and will return once I introduce more rice and gluten-free baked goods again. But some isn’t water weight, so Whole30 has been a great healthy way to lose weight while resetting food attitudes again.
And as a bonus I have a bunch of new family favorite recipes that I discovered in the process!
Prepare in advance for a successful New Year with me!
I’ve made a mini freezer cooking class to help you get started on Whole30, or a paleo diet if you prefer. From my experience doing Whole30, having these foods prepared and on hand can keep you from failing or being hangry.
In this free freezer cooking class (free for 48 hours only!) we are going to prepare:
- Roasted chicken in the Instant Pot (oven directions are provided if you don’t have an Instant Pot) that we’ll turn into easy shredded chicken that we’ll stuff into sweet potatoes. The Instant Pot makes this super fast and easy, and I’ll even show you how to nicely brown the meat first- right in the Instant Pot.
- A dozen (or up to 20!) stuffed sweet potatoes, packed with protein-rich shredded chicken and flavorful BBQ sauce. These are great all-in-one meals that you can thaw ahead of time, or reheat by steaming in the Instant Pot, or even microwave if you choose.
- Flavorful pineapple-sweetened BBQ sauce to combine with the shredded chicken, and you’ll have enough left over to use on any meat or even eggs for your Whole30. I’ll tell you how to adjust the seasonings to be as spicy as you’d like.
- Dairy-free ranch dressing to top your vegetables and meat to add a dairy-free creamy flavor and texture- without the dairy or food additives!
- Ghee/Clarified butter, which is SO much cheaper to make yourself and is super easy as well. I’ll show you how to do this in the oven.
- Chicken Stock in the Instant Pot to make soups in a snap with easy-to-digest gut-healing nutrition. Soups are a great portable food to eat on Whole30 (pack in a thermos or travel mug!).
Members of the Freezer Cooking Class already have this class available to start at any time.
Join the free Freezer Cooking Challenge!
We're cooking the weekend of December 31/Jan 1 (you'll get the recipes in advance- check your email for details)