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The Ultimate Guide to the Whole30 Diet: What It Is and Recipes

Looking for a reset to get your eating habits back on track? Then you may need the Whole30 diet. Learn what this diet is, its benefits, and recipes to try.

The Ultimate Guide to the Whole30 Diet: What It Is and Recipes

You're not alone if you feel like your eating habits aren't so healthy. Processed foods are everywhere and convenient. It's all too easy to indulge in foods you know aren't good for you because they're affordable, easy to prepare, and—let's be honest—delicious. But when you're ready to get back in control of your eating, the Whole30 diet is here for you.

What is the Whole30 diet?

The Whole30 diet is an elimination diet. For the first 30 days, you'll eliminate dozens of foods from your diet. Generally speaking, whole foods are in and processed foods are out. Then, in the following 10 to 30 days, you'll slowly reintroduce some of those foods.

The goal of this diet is to reset your eating habits. By taking away processed foods for a whole month, you'll get used to not having those unhealthy foods on a regular basis.

What makes Whole30 so different from other diets is that it's holistic and highly personalized. No food is off-limits forever. As you start the reintroduction process, you can judge your relationship with each food group. Do you feel good after eating them? Then they're welcome into your diet. But if you feel bloated and tired, that food is best left out.

What can you eat on the Whole30 diet?

Whole30 meals are rich in whole, minimally processed foods:

  • Meat (beef, poultry, pork, and so on)
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Natural fats
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Some condiments (like hot sauce)

There are no hard-and-fast rules about portions. You could enjoy five portions of fruit a day in the summer (when produce is more plentiful, fresh, and affordable) and just one or two in the winter. What's important is that your meals are balanced, nutritionally rich, and satiating.

What can't you eat on the diet?

Because Whole30 is an elimination diet, some foods are off-limits for the first 30 days:

  • No added sugar (both natural and artificial sweeteners)
  • No alcohol
  • No grains (including whole grains)
  • No legumes (including beans and soy products)
  • No dairy

There are only a few exceptions: ghee and clarified butter are allowed (even though they're dairy products); green beans and peas are also allowed (despite being legumes).

If you're plant-based, you can also follow the Whole30 diet. Recently, the creators of this diet created a separate plan for vegetarians and vegans. It cuts out meat, fish, and eggs (for vegans) but welcomes all legumes into the Whole30 meal plan.

5 benefits of the Whole30 diet

Need some more convincing before committing to the Whole30 diet? Here is a handful of reasons why this food challenge is so popular:

  1. Focuses on breaking bad habits: Cravings and binging are two of the problems dieters most commonly face. The Whole30 challenge is all about leaving those habits in the past. The first 30 days might be hard, but that's because bad habits die hard.
  2. It's not just about weight loss: You're not supposed to weigh or measure yourself for the first 30 days of the diet. While people often lose weight, that's not the main goal of the challenge.
  3. Less prone to slip-ups: Sure, Whole30 is restrictive—but just for the first 30 days. After that, it lets you enjoy once again your favorite foods that make you feel good. While other diets are restrictive for a long period (like the paleo diet), Whole30 is more doable.
  4. Promotes a personal relationship with food: You know yourself better than anyone else. Only you can say what foods make you feel good. Let your intuition and your gut (quite literally!) guide you.
  5. Helps regulate digestion: Many adults are intolerant to lactose and gluten but don't even know it. The same can be said for lots of other foods (like beans, for example). As you reintroduce those foods into your diet, you get a unique insight into how they make you feel. Elimination diets are great if you've been struggling with digestive issues.

5 ideas for affordable Whole30 meals

Get inspired to build your Whole30 meal plan with these affordable Whole30 recipes.

  1. Spinach omelet: Sauté spinach (or another veggie that's in season) in olive oil and spices. Then whisk two eggs and add them to the pan. It's a simple and filling Whole30 breakfast.
  2. Sweet potato hash: Grate a large sweet potato and mix together with a diced onion. Season with salt and pepper and fry spoonfuls of the mixture until golden and crispy.
  3. Tuna lettuce boats: Spoon tuna mashed with mayo and diced eggs into lettuce leaves, then eat as if it were a taco.
  4. Grilled chicken and roasted vegetables: This recipe is as easy as can be. Season chicken breasts, grill them in a hot cast-iron skillet, and roast a tray of seasonal veggies in the oven. You could even replace the chicken with tofu for a plant-based Whole30 version.
  5. Turkey meatballs and spaghetti squash: While pasta isn't allowed during the first 30 days, spaghetti squash is. Pan-fry the grain-free meatballs and toss them in a Whole30-friendly marinara sauce (read the label to make sure there's no added sugar!). Then serve with the baked squash.

What to consider before starting the Whole30 diet

The Whole30 diet isn't for everyone. If you've struggled with eating disorders in the past, it may not be wise to start a restrictive diet. Likewise, if you have a health condition that requires you to follow a specific diet (like diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome), be sure to talk to a health professional before making dietary changes.

It's also important to point out that Whole30 is a great first step toward a healthy lifestyle. But there's more you can do. For example, exercising (even while on a budget) can be a terrific complement to this food challenge!

Make healthy eating affordable with coupons

Everyone knows processed foods are often cheaper than wholesome, nutritious foods at the grocery store. Fortunately, with the help of discounts, you can eat healthy even on a tight budget. Find a local Save Coupon Book near you and start clipping money-saving deals. They'll make it oh-so-much easier to follow the Whole30 diet without blowing the budget.