Last Update: August 31, 2023
Can you change your eating habits in 30 days? That’s what the Whole30® program wants to help you do! CEO and co-founder Melissa Urban created the program in 2009 to act as one big reset button for the body and mind. to act as one big reset button for the body and mind. There are loads of potential benefits like improving energy levels, getting better sleep, and reducing inflammation. And yes, weight loss may be a natural byproduct for some, but it’s not the focus. Intrigued? Here’s the lowdown.
For 30 days, you eliminate processed foods, sugars, grains, legumes, and dairy, and increase high-quality proteins, healthy fats, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and loads of veggies. And it’s a lot more than a diet—Whole30® is a journey. It’s important to stay curious as you learn what makes your body feel good!
You’ll get the most out of the program when you focus on what you can eat (we’ve got lots of suggestions below, plus ready-made shopping lists) as well as uncovering the root causes of your cravings. After the 30 days is up, how you move forward is completely up to you. Some people stick with it long-term and others use the program as a jumpstart once or twice during the year. As you add eliminated foods back into your diet slowly, you can see how your body reacts and make a decision from there.
Now, there are two parts to any Whole30® experience—rules and recommendations. Rules are the same for everyone and definitely a must for sticking with the program. Recommendations are a bit looser and can vary depending on your unique situation. Here are all the Whole30® guidelines:
It’s tempting to stick with your weekend waffle routine, by subbing Whole30-compatible ingredients into your favorite recipes but this is missing the point. You’re looking at psychological health as well as physical, and foods like pancakes, bread, tortillas, muffins, cookies, brownies, cereal, potato chips, and French fries (just to name a few), won’t help you shift a habit or eliminate cravings. If you’re unsure about an ingredient, follow the Whole30® mantra: “When in doubt, leave it out.”
Sure, you might lose a few pounds along the way, but Whole30® isn’t about weight. Weigh yourself before and after to see the difference, but don’t spend a lot of energy worrying about it during the 30 days. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling and what you’re learning along the way.
The rules might be set in stone, but here are a few areas where you can loosen up and make adjustments as needed.
Three meals a day with minimal snacking is ideal because it helps foster mindful eating. However, listening to your body is the most important thing! If you’re used to six small meals, work to transition to three larger meals over a longer period of time. If you work long hours, you might need three meals and a snack. And if you’re pregnant, snack away (leaving about 3 hours in-between, if you can). Basically, you do you.
Whole30 recommends two servings of fruit per day, eaten with meals rather than as a snack or as a dessert replacement. Again, listen to your body here! For example, if it’s summer and fresh fruit abounds, it makes sense to enjoy a bit more. But if the extra sugar feeds into deep-rooted cravings, take a look at this more closely and adjust as needed.
Instead of treating fruit and nut bars like snacks, move them into the emergency food category. They’re perfect for afternoon hikes, travel, or an extra-long work day, but don’t rely on them. As long as the ingredients are compatible, you’re good to go!
When possible, choose organic or non-GMO ingredients to help avoid pesticides, and the same goes for grass-fed meats versus conventional options.
These days it’s easier than ever to find Whole30®-compatible ingredients like salad dressing and mayonnaise. Stock your pantry at will when you find the right products, but don’t be shy about making them yourself, too! Homemade condiments like savory bone broth and ketchup are easy to prepare and will make your recipes even more flavorful.
We know there are lots of rules to follow, but we have some good news! Study this list for a few ways to bend the rules (the Whole30® way, of course).
Since having the right ingredients on hand is half the battle, we always rely on founder Melissa Urban’s go-to pantry staples. Last time she stopped by Thrive HQ, we got the rundown of what to shop for. Check out even more Whole30 picks on ThriveMarket.com!
Whole30® has its very own line of sauces, marinades, and dressings to add instant flavor to your meals. From a buffalo vinaigrette to classic ranch dressing, every recipe is free from added sugar, soy, and dairy.
Thanks to Safe Catch’s rigorous testing methods, its tuna has the lowest mercury levels of any brand on the market. We’re always up for adding a dollop of mayo (see above!), but tuna salad can soar to new flavor heights with flavors like tandoori spice and habanero mint.
Here’s a mayo that’s made with avocado oil, not canola oil. Organic eggs, a touch of vinegar, and rosemary extract make it the creamiest spread. Give the chipotle lime flavor a try if you’re feeling fiery.
These sauces are an easy way to build flavor in your meals and work with meat, seafood, and veggies.
Flavor-packed curries are a go-to for quick meals. You can use whatever veggies and protein you have, plus cauliflower rice to serve alongside. Super easy!
Barney Butter makes an almond butter for every mood. Choose from smooth or crunchy jars, and don’t miss out on a little indulgence with their chocolate blend.
Here are even more foods to grab!
There are lots of Whole30® ways to start your day, like a filling scramble, green smoothie, or perfect hard-boiled eggs.
When you’re whisking eggs, don’t miss an opportunity to add extra flavor. This scramble gets a Mediterranean spin with zucchini, EVOO, and cherry tomatoes. Just be sure to swap the butter for Whole30®-compatible ghee and you’re good to go.
Popsicles for breakfast? Yes, please! With a blend of avocado, banana, mango, spinach, and coconut water, it’s basically a frozen vegan smoothie.
This Whole30® breakfast standby is made with a splash of ACV. It adds gut-friendly bacteria and makes the shells easier to peel, too!
Easy lunches don’t have to be boring, even when you’re rocking Whole30®! From Indian-spiced tuna salad to citrus-marinated poke, there’s plenty to choose from.
Rev up your taste buds and turn basic tuna into something crave worthy. Safe Catch adds Indian spices like coriander and cumin so you can give global flavors to your next salad.
Big romaine lettuce leaves are stuffed to the brim with grilled chicken that’s topped with chopped bell peppers and onions. This is a great make-ahead dish, too! Mix up the filling and save it in the fridge for a day or two.
Head to Hawaii with this citrusy poke bowl! Sushi-grade fish is tossed with lots of flavor enhancers like coconut aminos, sesame oil, and ground ginger.
When dinner calls, be ready by prepping as much as you can in advance (like mixing up meatballs). Then you can break out your sheet pan or heat up your favorite pan, and dinner will be ready in no time.
Who’s ready for Taco Tuesday? Just add chicken thighs, tomatoes, and savory spices like smoky chipotle to your Instant Pot for a family-friendly Whole30®-compatible recipe that’s ready in under an hour.
This recipe comes straight from the Whole30® Fast & Easy cookbook, and it couldn’t be simpler. All you need is a single sheet pan plus shrimp, broccoli, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes for an easy dinner that’s big on flavor.
Missing pasta? Swap in spaghetti squash. It serves as a base for juicy turkey-sage meatballs mixed with pine nuts, dried cranberries, and plenty of garlic powder.
Here’s a Whole30® side ready in 15 minutes! Garlic-roasted broccoli gets a punch from pungent anchovies and briny capers.
What happens when a flaky fish meets a deeply-flavored broth? A savory and satisfying soup made in just 30 minutes. To keep it Whole30-compatible, choose coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
Your muffin tin probably isn’t getting a lot of love during your Whole30® month but we’ve got a great way to put it to use! It’s the perfect for baking these savory little cups. A compatible marinade from The New Primal helps flavor chicken cups that are wrapped in bacon. Each portion delivers about 3 ounces of protein so you can stay full and on track.
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