Diet 101: Whole30

A registered dietitian examines the benefits of the Whole30 diet.

As a registered dietitian, I’ve got a healthy skepticism towards most diets. Being in private practice for almost a decade will do that to you. I’ve seen clients come in on just about every eating pattern imaginable, from raw-food to paleo and everything in between. With the growing popularity of Whole30, I set out to examine the basics of the diet and nutritional truths behind some of the claims.

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is an elimination diet, with shares a similar philosophy with the Paleo trend. Both recommend eating lots of fresh, high-quality foods while ditching anything processed. Specifically, you are removing all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, certain preservatives and artificial sweeteners from your diet. According to the authors, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, these foods have been linked to hormonal imbalance, systemic inflammation, gut issues and more, though most of those claims aren’t backed by evidence-based research. Ideally, Whole30 is to be done strictly for 30 days; afterwards you can gently add back in said foods to see how your body responds.

Mindful eating

In addition to the diet recommendations, Whole30 encourages no calorie counting, measuring or weighing yourself for the entire 30-day process. Instead, the program focuses on non-scale victories, like improved sleep, skin, energy and overall feeling. The program isn’t promoted to be a long-term diet, but instead a reset button to focus on whole-foods that nourish your body.

As a long-time student of intuitive eating, I’m a big fan of switching the focus to non-scale victories and removing the added pressure of specific numbers and goals. For most dieters, these are big detractors and can often feel like punishment rather than an empowered choice. However, one of the tenets of intuitiveness is allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, without any parameters in place. Whole30 can fit this mindset if you are truly enjoying the foods you are eating and don’t feel deprived, but it’s not an automatic switch to mindful eating.

Whole grains are not the enemy

Whole30 encourages the removal of all grains; whole, unprocessed grains included. While some people report feeling better after the removal of gluten from their diets, many grains are naturally gluten-free. But in fact, eating whole grains may be more beneficial than taking them out. Grains contain essential micronutrients and both soluble and insoluble fiber, and they are also inexpensive and may improve longevity. In a recent meta-analysis published in BMJ, whole grains can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and infections diseases. The same report also states than consuming 90 grams of whole grains daily cuts risk for all mortality by 17 percent.

While you can get enough fiber from fruits and vegetables, there is likely not an additional need to cut out all grains. If you feel that you do better without gluten, check out gluten-free varieties like quinoa, millet, oats, sorghum and brown rice.

Processed-free

While the term processed-free gets thrown around often, there is some benefit in reducing intake of packages snacks, sugary treats and preservatives. For one, eliminating intake of these foods almost all but forces you to cook from scratch, which has big payoffs. Cooking your own meals, especially for novice chefs, reinforces life-long habits, improves kitchen confidence and helps you control exactly what goes into each meal. For those who have shied away from cooking before may find that they actually enjoy the process and will continue to do so well after Whole30 is complete.

It’s no secret that the Standard American Diet is high in refined grains, sugar, salt, processed meats and salt. An excess of any of these has been linked to both chronic disease and a lower mortality rate. Tackling the Whole30 plan allows you to check-in with your current diet to asses how much of these foods you currently eat and positive ways to cut back.

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge ( delishknowledge.com ), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their "Happy Weight." 

Keep Reading

Next Up

Diet 101: The Whole30

A nutrition expert weighs in on the Whole30 program.

Diet 101: Dukan Diet

Although the Dukan Diet has been a best seller for years in France, it’s been rapidly growing popularity since Kate Middleton announced that she’s on it in order to lose weight for her upcoming royal nuptials to Prince William. Other celebs like model Giselle Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez have also reportedly been on the diet to help them shed their post-baby pounds. But should you be following in the footsteps of these high profile celebs?

Diet 101: DASH Diet

The DASH Diet was created for those with high blood pressure, but was recently voted Best Overall Diet for Healthy Eating by U.S. News. Find out what it's about.

Diet 101: Wheat Belly Diet

Here’s a look at the newest popular fad diet: The Wheat Belly Diet. Is eliminating any and all wheat the healthiest way to lose weight?

Diet 101: The Mediterranean Diet

Salmon, olive oil, red wine and almonds top the list of preferred foods for this eating plan. They're all healthy picks, but read on to learn if the Mediterranean diet is the right choice for you.

Diet 101: Flat Belly Diet

Seems like everyone has been asking me about losing belly fat lately. Is the Flat Belly Diet the way? Find out.

Diet 101: The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (a.k.a. the Hunter-Gatherer or Caveman diet) has been around for 40 years and has recently resurfaced with a vengeance. But should we be reverting back to what caveman ate thousands of years ago? Here’s the need-to-know about the oldest diet around.

Diet 101: the Sirtfood Diet

Is the Sirtfood Diet the next must-do weight loss plan?

Diet 101: The Fast Diet

This diet became all the rage after it aired on BBC during the 2012 London Olympics. But is fasting the healthiest way to lose weight, stay healthy and live longer?

Diet 101: The Ketogenic Diet

Should you follow the ketogenic diet?

On TV

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.