Rules for the Whole30 Program: 30 Day Elimination Diet

Whole30 is a 30 day elimination diet used to figure out what foods may be problematic for you. It is also followed by those who are looking to rid their diet of fake foods and start to really eat whole, nutritious foods. It can be a little confusing because there are some extra rules to it besides just whole foods, so let’s dive in!

What is Whole30?

This 30 day diet is geared towards ridding your diet of all foods that wreak havoc on our bodies. Over half of Americans suffer from one or more of the following: low- energy, digestive issues, chronic pain, weight gain, skin irritations, anxiety, depression, seasonal allergies; all of which can usually be covered with pain medicine but rarely does it cure you. A lot of these symptoms/problems can be caused by the foods we are eating.

Melissa Hartwig of Whole30 states “Strip these foods from your diet completely. Eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days.” The idea of this diet is to help heal your body and recover from any stress that processed foods were putting on your body. By pressing this “reset” button you are essentially telling your body to start over, and by doing so you can see just how food makes you feel. By eating whole foods you can then see what it’s like to really FEEL GOOD and see what foods were causing your body to function slower.

For 30 days you follow a strict protocol with only whole foods, and then you can slowly add other foods back in. The idea is that you continue to eat this way and keep all “junk” out of your diet. But this diet also removes a few foods that aren’t necessarily bad; and those are the foods you can slowly introduce back in to see if your body tolerates them. If it does, then you can go ahead and continue consuming them. If it doesn’t then you should try to avoid them!

coaching call

Now, this diet is not directed at weight loss. You might, however, end up losing weight but that is not the goal. In fact, you are not even supposed to step on the scale during these 30 days. So while it is not about losing weight, it is also not about stressing over numbers. You do not count macros or calories. You just eat to fuel your body with whole foods, while also trying to change your view on foods. A lot of people tend to eat processed foods because they are addictive and we have learned that they help us cope with bad days. Food is not the enemy, but rather how we view it. It should be used as a tool to fuel our bodies and make us ride at full speed…not taste good and cradle us while we cry after a hard day.

What to Eat on Whole30

The important thing to remember when following the Whole30 Diet is REAL FOOD. Anything that is a whole ingredient is legal. The great part about Whole30 is that there is no tracking. No specific calories to track or numbers to crunch; but the downside is that there are 293483298 rules to follow and foods you cannot consume. Some may think that it is overkill, but the whole purpose of this diet is to clean our bodies and make sure they start back at 0, at fully functioning capacity.

You should eat moderate portions of meat, seafood and eggs, A LOT of vegetables, some fruits, plenty of healthy fats.

List of food exceptions on Whole30:

→ Ghee or clarified butter

→Fruit juice (can be used as a stand-alone sweetener, but no added sugar in it)

→Certain Legumes (green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas)

→Vinegar (white, red wine, balsamic, apple cider)

→Coconut aminos


What to avoid on Whole30

Where to even begin….just kidding. The list of foods to avoid on Whole30 might be hefty, but in general it is just avoiding added sugar, dairy, soy, alcohol, grains, legumes, MSGs, sulfites and carrageenan.

Here is a more in-depth list straight from the Whole30 Program:

NO added sugar: maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, splenda, equal, nutrasweet, xylitol.

NO alcohol

NO grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, core, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat. No added wheat/corn/rice like germ, bran or starch

NO legumes: beans of any kind (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava), peas, chickpeas,  lentils and peanuts (this means no peanut butter).

NO soy: soy sauce, miso, tempeh, edamame, and all ways it is snuck into food (like lecithin)

NO dairy: includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products (milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, frozen yogurt).

NO Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites: read your labels

NO baked goods, junk foods and treats with “approved ingredients”: no not try to recreate or buy foods that have approved ingredients. You will be completely missing the point. We do not want to retreat back to old ways…a pancake is still a pancake, even if it’s made with coconut flour.

Specific foods: pancakes, waffles, bread, tortilla, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pizza crust, cereal, french fries, potato chips


My Thoughts on Whole30

Everyone loves a good review, so here is my take on Whole30. I tried Whole30 when I was having a lot of hormone and digestive issues. I couldn’t tolerate any foods..like not even asparagus and rice. So I decided I should try an elimination diet. A friend of mine had done several “rounds” of Whole30 and told me to try it. So I made a grocery list and decided to dive in. The first problem I ran into was breakfast. I am not one for savory foods early in the morning, I had been eating a mixture of oatmeal, protein powder and nut butter for months. So I decided to try a smoothie, but wait, was that allowed? You cannot re-create any kind of sweet food, but I did it anyways. I made warm smoothies with sweet potato and cauliflower and they were delicious. But then I got bored and wanted to add things, so I would add nuts and nut butter and fruit and coconut flakes (allowed, not sure!).

From there I decided to start making elaborate lunches, which got crazy expensive. I had been eating rice, veggies and lean meat for lunch so I wasn’t sure how I was going to replace my carb source. I made a few lunch meals that were delicious, but I was still having stomach issues. Even though i had eliminated SO MUCH i just couldn’t shake the bloated feeling.

Whole30 works wonders for some people, and not for others. It is all about what works for you specifically.

Not to mention that going out to eat on Whole30 is a nightmare. You have NO IDEA what stuff is cooked in. And then as you read the menu you start adding up how many things you need taken off the dish that it didn’t seem worth it to even pay for. So, don’t go out to eat. But with that comes actually missing out on a lot of things with friends and family. I also found the issue of, what next? What do you do after 30 days? Do you start over? Do you try it alone? Are you supposed to do it forever?

I know some of this is very petty, but it was just my experience. I followed the diet for about 18 days until i finally had to try a new route. Shortly after is when I decided to try Keto, and well, the rest is history!

Overall, if you find yourself struggling to get rid of processed foods or addictions, Whole30 is a good route. You just have to prepare yourself to be extremely strict 100% of the time. It has great rules laid out for you and you can google just about any food to see if it is “approved”. It can also help find out trigger foods for you, if you haven’t already done enough damage to your digestive tract that all foods seem to be triggers. Again, finding what works for you is going to be the best option. Don’t listen to what Aunt Karen did or your dentist. Try things out for yourself. If you don’t find yourself having health problems and just want to be healthy, then just try to limit your intake of processed foods. If you find yourself having a really bad relationship with food and an elimination diet would restrict you too much causing a binge, then don’t do it. But, if you have any chronic anxiety, digestive issues or brain fog, I would definitely try out an elimination diet!

You can check out a few other diets I have tried/wrote about here! Making sure you fully educate yourself before trying a diet or exercise regime is so important!


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Primal Kitchens Mark Sisson writes “I set out to create Primal Kitchen, the world’s best-tasting, health-enhancing, real-food pantry staples. Nothing processed or artificial, no added sugars, partially hydrogenated or trans fats, soybean or canola oils. No more artificial flavors, colors, dyes, waxes or chemical preservatives. Just. Real. Food.”

author: Haley Perry