FOOD

Keto vs. Whole30®

September 8th, 2020

In the world of diet trends, keto and Whole30® are often compared. While both programs encourage adopting new eating habits, there are some big differences worth noting before you dive in. If you’re considering either one, read our guide to get helpful tips—and our must-try keto and Whole30® recipes.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

Following a ketogenic diet (also known as keto) helps your body reach the “fat-burning” state known as ketosis. How do you achieve it? Limiting carbs and fasting smartly. When you cut back on carbohydrates, your body gets energy by burning fat instead of glucose, and the compounds produced are called ketones. Weight loss might be one of the benefits keto devotees enjoy today, but it wasn’t the original intent of the program. For a little keto diet history lesson, you have to travel back to the 1920s, when neurologists discovered that fasting helped their patients have fewer daily seizures.

Keto Diet Tips

Get ready, because there’s a bit of a learning curve to eating keto. These tips cover some of the basics.

  • Rethink snacking: If you’re someone with an afternoon snack habit, it might be time to reconsider; between-meal noshing is largely off-limits on keto. Keep in mind that if you’re in the state of ketosis, you likely won’t feel as hungry throughout the day. However, if you do need a snack, choose wisely—snacking may spike blood sugar levels, which may bring you out of ketosis. Choose items with healthy fats and protein, such as full-fat yogurt, hard boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, and nut butter.
  • Stock your pantry: Like many diet plans, keeping the right foods in the house (and ditching the temptations that’ll derail your health goals) can go a long way to help you stick with it. Be sure you have all the keto-friendly ingredients on hand you’ll need to make healthy meals.
    Read the menu: When dining at a restaurant, be on the lookout for hidden carbs. Your best bet is to order lean protein like grilled chicken or fish, veggies, egg-based dishes, or a bunless burger.
  • Prepare for the “keto flu”: It’s not the same kind of flu that goes around each winter, but something new dieters commonly experience as the body gets used to the new way of eating. Keto flu symptoms may include muscle soreness, digestive upset, nausea, low energy, and dizziness. (Tip: sipping bone broth can help you recover.)

Keto Ingredients List

Following a keto diet requires you to rethink some of the ingredients in your pantry. Wave goodbye to grains, beans, legumes, sugar, milk, and other high-carb options. Instead, focus on protein, good fats, some dairy, leafy greens, and other veggies. (We’ve included a partial list below, but here’s a full keto-friendly shopping list.)

Fats and Oils

  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee
  • Olive oils

Protein and Dairy

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Unsweetened nut butters
  • Greek-style yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Cucumber
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Easy Keto Recipes

Easy keto recipes will be your best friends as you navigate a low-carb lifestyle. Here are 10 of our favorites (including keto Instant Pot recipes)!

Keto Breakfast Recipe

Start your week on the right foot with a make-ahead casserole featuring a dozen eggs, lots of herbs, and veggies like peppers and zucchini. You can enjoy this dish for a few days (and it also happens to be Whole30® friendly).

Coconut Creamed Spinach With Eggs

Here’s another morning meal you’ll love—creamed spinach (made with coconut milk) simmered with perfectly cooked eggs. But honestly, you can chow down on this recipe for lunch or dinner, too.

Coconut creamed spinach and eggs

Ketogenic Chicken Meatballs

Yes, you do need another keto chicken recipe. For this dish we took inspiration from Japan, adding scallions, bok choy, and ginger to ground chicken for an unforgettable keto-friendly meal.

Cauliflower Rice Bowl With Roasted Salmon

Cauliflower is one of the most beloved keto-friendly ingredients, and often stands in for rice. Just add roasted salmon with Middle Eastern spices for a filling lunch or dinner option.

Roasted salmon with cauliflower rice bowl

Ketogenic Buffalo Chicken Dip

For game day, a potluck, or just to shake things up in the kitchen, our buffalo chicken dip is the MVP you’re looking for. Shredded rotisserie chicken combines with a quick blender sauce, then bakes up hot and bubbly.

Lamb Burgers With Pistachio Pesto

Burger night, keto-style. You can certainly plan a cookout with beef patties, but try our recipe with lamb and we know you’ll be a convert. With bright pistachio pesto as the finishing touch, you won’t even miss the bun.

Mustard Roast Beef

When the weather cools down, mustard roast beef is the comfort food your keto diet needs. The oven does most of the work, and will give you lots of leftovers, too.

Instant Pot Carnitas

If you don’t already have an Instant Pot, it’s a keto diet tool worth considering. These tender carnitas can feed your hungry family, and we serve them in bibb lettuce cups instead of tortillas to keep everything ketogenic.

Keto Pork Chops With Creamy Mushrooms Sauce

For a keto-friendly date night in, look no further than pork chops with creamy mushroom sauce. It’s decadent and filling—perfect for a little indulgence.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Did we save the best for last? Maybe. Pasta is usually off the menu when following a keto diet, but swap in cauliflower florets coated in creamy cheese sauce for comfort food done right.


What Is the Whole30® Diet?

Unlike the keto diet, Whole30® is a short-term program that lasts for only 30 days. You eliminate many of the same ingredients as a ketogenic diet (like legumes, beans, and grains), and focus on how your body responds to the changes you’re making. The ultimate goal is to shift your food habits, so the diet emphasizes bringing mindfulness to the table alongside the modified recipes you’ll be eating.

Tips for Starting Whole30®

Founded by Melissa Urban, Whole30® has its own set of guidelines to help you make the most of your month. Here are just a few.

  • Nix temptations: Sometimes when you start a new diet (like low-sugar or gluten-free), you quickly look for recipes to recreate favorite treats. Not on Whole30®! According to Urban, this approach misses the point. Because you’re focusing on psychological benefits as well as physical, trying to transform pancakes and brownies into Whole30®-friendly foods won’t shift long-term habits.
  • Put your scale away: No need to weigh yourself while following Whole30®. You can weigh yourself before and after to see the difference, but focus more on how you’re feeling rather than a number.
  • Limit snacks: Just like keto, a Whole30® diet recommends limiting snacks. Three meals a day should take care of all your nutritional needs (or six smaller meals if that works better for you).
  • Fruit rules: Two servings of fruit per day, eaten with your meals rather than as a dessert alternative, is the Whole30® approach.
  • Get cooking: For both diets, cooking from scratch can help you stay on track and control your ingredients. It’s easy to find Whole30®-compliant ingredients on ThriveMarket.com (more on those below!) so everything you need will be within easy reach.

Whole30®-Compliant Ingredients

When you’re following Whole30®, there are five categories of foods to avoid: alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar or artificial sweeteners. Here’s what to fill your plate with:

Here’s a shopping list of Whole30®-compliant ingredients.

Easy Whole30® Recipes

We have it all: Whole30® breakfast recipes, Whole30® lunch recipes, and Whole30® dinner recipes. Plan on enjoying one (or all) of these dishes during your next 30 days!

Whole30® Breakfast Recipe

Kick-off your Whole30® morning with filling breakfast sausage. Infused with fennel, garlic, and sage, and paired with braised greens, this sausage marks a wholesome start to the day.

Whole30® Instant Pot Recipe

An Instant Pot works for any diet you might be following, and chicken adobo is one of our favorite easy recipes. A few pantry staples like apple cider vinegar and coconut aminos flavors the chicken thighs, and you can serve it with cauliflower rice for a full meal.

Whole30® Shrimp Recipe With Broccoli

Who doesn’t love a sheet pan dinner? Toss shrimp, broccoli, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes together and you’ll have an easy main that practically cooks itself.

Lemony Baked Chicken Wings

Craving crispy chicken? Make this recipe ASAP. Lemon zest, salt, and pepper season the chicken wings simply, but every bite packs a punch.

Poached Cod in Lemongrass Coconut Broth

This light and elegant dish is simple to prepare. Wild-caught cod is poached in a coconut milk broth and scented with lemongrass, lime, and ginger.

Instant Pot Turkey and Pesto Stew

We recommend this comforting dish as part of your reintroduction dinner. After you’ve completed a Whole30® month, make this stew in your Instant Pot to help you ease back in.

Bacon-Laced Chicken Cups With Spicy Marinade

If you’re someone who has a busy schedule or likes to refuel after a workout, make a batch of bacon-laced lettuce cups to enjoy for a few days. An approved marinade adds lots of flavor, and each portion offers enough protein to keep you full.

Instant Pot Chicken Tinga Tacos

Are you sensing a theme with the Instant Pot? It’ll make easy work of chicken tinga tacos seasoned with bone broth, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and chipotle.

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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