Many people don’t know the answer to the question, what is the Whole30? Just another fad diet? Extreme dietary restrictions that are unhealthy? When I told people I wanted to become a coach, I even had two people ask me if Whole30 was an MLM! I’d like to shed some light on this program and give you the run-down.
What is the Whole30 Program?
First off, there is literally NO COST to the program. There no shakes, powders, or pills to buy, and no membership fees to pay. You simply do your normal grocery shopping at your normal store, and simply only purchase foods with a compliant ingredient list (more on that later). Any fees in addition to that are completely optional. Not many programs can say that!
You could buy the Whole30 books, but you don’t have to-all the program information is available online. You could also work with a certified Whole30 coach, but that is also optional. In fact, for the Whole30 rounds I’ve done, I got all the books for free at my library, and I did it myself without a coach.
What are the Whole30 rules?
So what are the rules? What is the run-down on the program?
I’ll get right to the point. You completely remove the following: 1-sugar, 2- grains, 3- legumes, 4- dairy, 5-alcohol, 6-specific additives: carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites, 7- SWYPO-recreated versions of baked goods, treats, or junk food, even if the ingredients are compliant.
For further clarity, let’s break down these 7 no-no’s.
EVERY form of sugar is out for the 30 days, even natural forms like honey or stevia. Literally any form of sugar. You will want to read this to familiarize yourself with all the names sugar goes by.
No grains! Even gluten-free grains are out, so no oatmeal or corn (yes, corn is a grain, not a vegetable!). No psuedo-grains either- think quinoa or buckwheat. These aren’t technically grains, but the body reacts to them the same way it does to actual grains, so they are included. For further reading on grains and psuedo-grains, click here.
Legumes are out! This can be tricky for people, as many people aren’t familiar with what foods actually fall under this category. Chickpeas (bye bye, hummus), beans, soybeans (including all form of soy), peas, etc. For an extensive list of legumes, click here. An exception to this is peas, which were only allowed into the program in early 2020. This would include green, yellow, and split peas, and pea protein.
Dairy is off limits! No milk, butter, or cheese. It doesn’t matter what animal produced it, it is all off limits. Even dairy milk kefir. The ONLY exception to this rule is clarified butter, or ghee. More on this later.
Alcohol. Some alcohol contains gluten, but alcohol can cause a host of issues on its own, especially involving your liver and blood sugar. It also impairs you sense of self control, which is another thing this program helps with. An exception to this rule is extracts. You are safe to have flavoring extracts and the like, such as vanilla or mint.
Additives. No carrageenan. MSG however, not so much. It, like sugar, has various names it hides behind. Click here for a list of those names. “Natural flavoring” is acceptable on the program, it is not MSG 100% of the time, it’s basically a catch all for manufacturers. When it comes to sulfites, if a product lists sulfites in the ingredient list, it’s out. However, if the label reads “contains sulfites”, that is acceptable. We are only concerned about ADDED sulfites, not the naturally occurring ones.
SWYPO, aka Sex With Your Pants On. A fun way of saying, a substitute for something that isn’t quite the real thing. This area can cause a lot of confusion, so let’s clear it up!
These are things like a paleo version of a cupcake, pancake, or bread. Or a bag of compliant potato chips since it was baked with avocado oil! Anything that is a recreation of junk food. NO paleo tortillas made from cassava flour and eggs. NO pancakes no matter how compliant the ingredients are!
The Whole30 is more than just WHAT you eat, but also about the psychological effects food can have on you. Food can be addicting, and trigger an emotional response. Have you ever eaten away your stress? Chances you didn’t binge on a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, you probably chose mac n cheese or ate a whole dozen donuts!
So while we are doing a nutritional reset, let’s also work on the factors that affect us psychologically as well.
Oh, and one last rule: NO scale! Weigh yourself before your Whole30, because you’ll be off of it completely until your 30 days are over. Same goes for body measurements. This is because Whole30 is about SO. MUCH. MORE. than the numbers on the scale. While your weight is important to your health, we don’t want you to be obsessed with it. Focus on other indicators of your health: your skin, sleep, mood, and energy levels.
What’s left to eat on the Whole30?
Ok! You’re probably wondering, what in the WORLD is left to eat? Let me give you some tempting examples before I give you the specifics:
–Unstuffed egg-rolls topped with a creamy, chili-garlic sauce.
–Creamy tomato and pumpkin meatballs over a bed of sweet potato noodles.
–Baked sweet potatoes stuffed with buffalo chicken and topped with ranch dressing.
–Moroccan Chicken Stuffed Squash.
So here’s the specifics on what you CAN eat:
Meat. Seafood. Eggs. Alllll the vegetables! Fruit. Natural fats (oils). Nuts and seeds. Herbs and spices.
A few specifics to clear up: if the ingredient list on sausages, hot dogs, bratwurst, or the like is compliant, enjoy!
You do NOT need to purchase only organic, grass fed, pasture raised, non-GMO, etc. This is of course fantastic if you can, but purely optional.
As many fruits as you like are allowed, but I would caution you against using fruit as your dessert. This will keep you craving sugar and train your body to expect a sweet after your meal.
Oils are a great way to add fat to your meals. If the oil comes from a non-compliant ingredient (think corn or soybean oil), it’s out. But oils like almond or olive oil are fine! Clarified butter or ghee is another great fat source. This is allowed because the milk proteins have been removed.
Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed. According to the Whole30 site, “while they’re technically a legume, these are far more ‘pod’ than bean, and green plant matter is generally good for you.”
Fruit juice is allowed, just make sure the ingredient list has no form of added sugar. Caution here though, this can be sweet all on it’s own and may keep your sugar cravings strong! It’s best used as an ingredient in a recipe, not as a drink all by itself.
Nut butters are allowed, but again, read that ingredient list! Some of these have added sugar or other non-compliant ingredients.
With herbs and spices, not to sound like a broken record, but read those labels! Some seasonings have added MSG or other no-no’s.
So, why were some foods chosen to be taken out and some not? The chosen foods to avoid are commonly problematic for a large amount of people. They can cause inflammation and are some of the most common allergies and sensitivities. Therefore, it’s worth taking them out for 30 days and seeing if they are negatively affecting you.
What happens when the 30 days are over? You may think that’s all there is to the question “what is the Whole30”, but there’s more to it! Reintroduction time.
One by one, we will introduce legumes, gluten free grains, dairy, and gluten. One every 3 days. See how you react. Did your face break out after the dairy? Did your stomach have bloating after the legumes? Did you have a major mood swing after consuming gluten? Or do you feel the exact same, no changes?
See what works for you, and what doesn’t. PLEASE don’t be tempted to skip the reintro! This is where you find your results! If day 31 comes and you go straight to a burrito with a flour tortilla, refried beans, and queso sauce, you’ve just introduced 3 things and will have no idea which one caused your potential symptom(s)!
In conclusion, the Whole30 asks that you take 30 days to find out how commonly problematic foods may be affecting you or not. Reintroduce them one by one to see your results. These foods are not inherently BAD or GOOD, but since they come with so many unknowns and many potential downsides, don’t you want to know if you’d feel better without them?
I hope this post has helped to answer what is the Whole30! For any questions, or if you are interested with working with a coach, please reach out.
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