Your Whole30 Questions, Answered by the Expert

Last Update: May 13, 2024

Got Whole30® questions? We’ve got answers. To gear up for Whole30®, we asked our Instagram followers, Facebook community, and employees to submit their most pressing questions about the program. And who better to answer those questions than Whole30® headmistress, Melissa Urban? As the co-creator of Whole30®, the 30-day nutritional reset that emphasizes whole foods and eliminates grains, most sugars, alcohol, legumes, dairy, and soy, she’s the go-to source for everything from how to do Whole30® as a vegetarian to tips for first-timers.

Can you do Whole30® while being vegetarian?

If you don’t eat any animal protein, you can’t do the Whole30® as written, as we eliminate almost all of your plant-based protein sources. If you eat eggs and fish, you can absolutely do the Whole30®—it might get a little boring, but it would afford you the opportunity to test the plant-based proteins you enjoy, and through elimination and reintroduction, see how well they actually work for you. If you don’t eat any animal protein, you can follow the Vegan Reset outlined in Food Freedom Forever, which is based on the Whole30® framework but doesn’t include any animal products.

What are some tips for someone who wants to try Whole30® for the first time?

Plan and prepare—that’s the most important tip. Have more emergency food on hand than you think you need; everything from hard-boiled eggs and roasted veggies at home to meat sticks, raw veggies, and almond butter in your desk at work. Gather your support system at home and online, making sure everyone in your circle knows their role (cheerleader, recipe resource, or purveyor of “suck it up, you’ll be happy you stuck with it” tough love). And stay connected to the process with Whole30® Day by Day, which will help you stay motivated, track your progress, and remain accountable.

How has the Whole30® changed from its original form? How do these changes come about?

I’m always working with our team of RDs, MDs, and functional medicine doctors to ensure the rules are grounded in the latest science, but I’m also heavily invested in the community experience, and may make rule changes or clarifications to ensure you get the most out of your Whole30®. Some rules have remained unchanged since 2009, like “no stepping on the scale during the program” or “no added sugar in any form.” In some areas, we’ve added foods back in when the science doesn’t back excluding them. (See ghee or white potatoes, both of which are Whole30®-compatible.)

In other cases, the foods in the marketplace have evolved, which results in rule clarifications or modifications. For example, there were no commercially available, compatible coffee creamers in 2009, but today, no-sugar-added nutpods are totally Whole30® compatible. On the other end, plantain chips weren’t a thing back then either, but now that they are (and we’ve observed their food-with-no-brakes effect on Whole30®’ers), commercially prepared chips were recently added to the “no” list.

Can you start keto and Whole30® simultaneously?

In a word, no. These are two different dietary experiments with two different purposes, and combining the two means you’ll have no idea what to blame if things go awry, or what to credit if things go well. Plus, each of these on their own are tough to implement, and require a lot of attention to detail and planning. Trying to combine the two for the first time is, for many, going to be too much to take on at once. If you’re already well-versed in a keto approach and have created a balanced, sustainable daily meal plan that works for you within a keto framework, it’s probably okay for you to add a Whole30® on top of that. (At that point, your keto plan is no longer an experiment; it’s a well-established, easily sustained protocol.) But in general, I’d start with JUST a Whole30®, learn as much as you can from the experience, and after the fact, decide whether you want to start tinkering with things like macros.

Would you ever recommend transitioning into Whole30®? For example, start eliminating dairy for the first week, expand to remove grains the next, and gradually move into the full Whole30® program.

I would not … and trust me here, I’ve been watching people do the Whole30® for 10 years now. There’s a reason the Whole30® eliminates the most potentially problematic food groups all at once. Baby-stepping may feel more comfortable, but if you’re sensitive to multiple food groups and take weeks to get around to eliminating all the ones that don’t work for you, you’ll spend a month leaving out a bunch of foods you love, while still eating ones that you’re sensitive to. Because of this, you won’t see much tangible benefit for your efforts, which is both misleading and discouraging.

Imagine giving up sugar the first week, legumes the second week, non-gluten grains the third … now you’re three weeks in, giving up lots of stuff you enjoy but still eating gluten and dairy, and still feeling sluggish, tired, bloated, and achy. That’s a lose-lose.

You can certainly “practice” for your Whole30® by reducing your sugar intake or swapping your side of bread for veggies, but when it comes to the 30-day experiment, you’ll get the most bang for your buck by doing it our way.

What resources are available for someone interested in doing Whole30®?

The entire program is available for free on the website, along with a ton of free resources, like a shopping list, meal template, and pantry-stocking guide. But we also have seven(!) Whole30® books to help you along the way, including the newest recipe book, Whole30 Friends and Family. The Whole30 book is your how-to handbook, Whole30 Day by Day is your daily journal/guide, and Food Freedom Forever is your life-after-Whole30® manual. (We also have three cookbooks full of compatible recipes.) Real Plans also offers effortless Whole30® meal planning, allowing you to generate a week’s worth of meals and a shopping list in five minutes flat. Finally, connect with our community on Instagram, Facebook, and the free Whole30® forum for support, motivation, and resources.

What is your #1 tip for shopping success on Thrive Market?

One word: Autoship. I have my most-beloved pantry staples, kid’s lunch box items, and cooking oils Autoshipped to me every month. I never run out. I never need to remember to pick up one more (expensive) jar of mayo at my local health food store. And my kid always has a giant box of mom-approved snacks to choose from after school and on the weekend. If only Thrive Market offered pantry-snack-organization services! Seriously, Autoship is the best. And don’t worry: You’ll get a reminder every month that your box is coming, and it’s super easy to customize or skip if you need to.

What is your secret kitchen weapon, and how do you use it?

Coconut aminos. They are so much more versatile than I ever gave them credit for. They’re a marinade for chicken and fish, a dipping sauce for raw veggies (try a mix of mayo + aminos + onion powder with snow peas, carrots, and red bell pepper), a light dressing for eggs and salads, and an extra umami [booster] to burgers. Why settle for too-salty soy sauce ever again?

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Lily Comba

Lily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.

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