If you follow wellness accounts on social media, you’re likely to have seen #whole30. In fact, the diet has become so popular that even health-conscious food brands are labeling their products with Whole30 Approved symbols. So what exactly is this diet that’s gaining national interest (including some intense criticism)? It’s a 30 day clean-eating program developed by a husband and wife, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, both of whom have a background in nutrition. Together they co-created the Whole30 program and wrote The Whole30 and It Starts With Food.
The idea behind the 30-day cleanse is to reboot your metabolism while teaching you how what you’re eating impacts how you look and feel. A key way that it does this is by encouraging practitioners to read nutritional labels carefully; as a result those who attempt the program hopefully become more aware of what they’re consuming (and just how much added sugar is in the average supermarket product).
What you can eat
Whole30 is similar to the Paleo diet in that all processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and added sugar are banned. While Paleo and many other diets allow some sugar, Whole30 bans all including maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, and stevia. The diet also underlines that it’s essential to not re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats with approved ingredients. “Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point,” the diet’s guide reads.
And that’s not the only way Whole30 is more intense than your run-of-the-mill Paleo diet — Whole30 is all or nothing. If, for example, a few days in you cheat by having a bagel slathered in cream cheese, you have to start the 30-day program all over. In other words, there’s no room for even the 80/20 wiggle room many health-conscious eaters live by.
While the guidelines are restrictive, there are no calorie limits. You can load your plate with as much natural and unprocessed vegetables, eggs, fruit, seafood, and meat as you want. The plan also recommends healthy fats like the ones from fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds.
The promise (and some skepticism)
While it’s up for debate whether or not you’ll truly see all the promises made by Whole30 — more energy, more restful sleep, improved skin health, easing of digestive ailments, mitigated seasonal allergies, fewer junk food cravings, better athletic performance, a healthy and comfortable pregnancy — there’s much to be said for focusing on fresh produce and minimizing processed food. The all-or-nothing approach isn’t particularly sustainable, though, and you’d be pressed to find many nutrition experts suggesting eliminating so many foods from your diet. One way or another, we don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon.