Diet 101: The Whole30

A nutrition expert weighs in on the Whole30 program.


Photo by: Robyn Mackenzie ©2012 Robyn Mackenzie

Robyn Mackenzie, 2012 Robyn Mackenzie

Does this month-long elimination diet hold the key to your health? Here’s a crash course on the program and the book being released later this month.


This program promises to “change your life” by excluding sugar, grains, dairy, legumes and alcohol. According to the authors, dropping these food groups for a month will help dieters improve digestion, skin health, metabolism, fitness and general sense of well-being.

The Plan

Fitness buffs and founders Dallas and Melissa Hartwig use their areas of expertise (physical therapy and nutrition, respectively) and their social media savvy to urge folks to commit to this 30-day plan for diet and exercise. Cut out various foods and ignore the scale — weigh-ins are off-limits.

Each day should consist of three meals made up of modest portions of fruits, vegetables, protein, nuts and seeds, and fats from oils, butters, coconut and olives. Followers are urged to avoid snacking, unless it’s properly orchestrated before or after a workout.

After the 30-day stint, start reintroducing nixed foods to evaluate how they make you feel. Follow reintroduction guidelines and decide which changes make sense for you going forward.

Sample Day

Based on the guidelines and list of “allowed” foods, here’s what a day might look like.

Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables and avocado
Lunch: Salad with chicken, chopped nuts and olives

Dinner: Roasted salmon and vegetables sauteed in coconut oil (and occasionally the addition of a baked sweet potato, especially if after a workout)

The Costs

The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom is currently going for $20 to $30 from various online retailers. The website contains a detailed description of the plan, plus free downloads for shopping lists, seasonal produce guides, and tips for help and support.

The Good

The Whole30 provides guidelines on clean eating, exercise and an emphasis on self-awareness, plus a pleasant and easy-to-navigate website that offers a wide range of documents to help guide users.

The Not So Good

This program is WAY too restrictive. Eliminating that many food groups limits your ability to consume the nutrients your body needs (and 30 days is a long time). The authors don’t seem to have enough expertise to back up the bold claims made here.

Bottom Line: Cutting out junk food is never a bad idea, but there is such a thing as excluding too much. Following this plan might promote weight loss, but it could also put you at risk for a lack of proper nutrition .

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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