If you’ve had enough of hearing about the keto diet, then brace yourself for the other big diet trend you’ll be seeing a lot more of this year: Whole30.
Although it’s been around since 2009, the Whole30 diet has recently gained popularity in the past year, mainly thanks to a list of high-profile advocates of the diet. A-list celebs such as Jessica Biel, Miley Cyrus, Megan Fox and Busy Phillips have followed the program to lose weight and heal their relationship with food. Others who have tested the diet have also seen success, from dramatic weight loss to steady blood sugar levels.
So what is it and is it really worth the hype? We asked leading dietitians and founders of Health and Performance Collective, Chloe McLeod and Jessica Splendlove, to answer all your questions.
What is the Whole30 diet?
Just like it sounds, “Whole30 is a programme designed to have more wholefoods in your diet,” McLeod and Splendlove explain.
The diet was developed in 2009 by two certified sports nutritionists who promoted it as a method to reset your metabolism and relationship with food. Categorised as a “clean-eating program”, it focuses on eliminating foods that may negatively affect your long-term health for an entire month.
“The duration of the plan is 30 days, and after completion it advises slow reintroduction of eliminated foods back into your diet, one at a time.
“It is an elimination style diet aimed at helping you understand foods which you are sensitive to.”
What are the health benefits of the Whole30 diet?
Although most people follow it for its weight loss benefits, it has also been shown to be an effective means to identify food intolerances, with gluten and dairy being the most common.
Furthermore, according to Healthline, following the diet for 30 days straight is said to result in “higher energy levels, better sleep, reduced food cravings and improved athletic performance.”
Dieters will also see an improvement in their emotional relationship with food and their body, however there are currently no scientific studies to back these claims up.
What can you eat?
McLeod and Splendlove note that the diet “relies mainly on meat, vegetables, eggs and fruit.” The main difference between the Whole30 and keto is the fact that it is not low carb or high fat – instead, it focuses on minimally processed foods.
- Meat and poultry: Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, veal etc.
- Fish and seafood: All fish, anchovies, shrimp, crab, lobster, squid etc.
- Eggs, as well as food made from them such as homemade mayonnaise.
- Fruits: Dried is allowed, but fresh is preferred.
- All vegetables
- All types of nuts and seeds
- Some fats: Coconut oil, healthy plant oils, duck fat, clarified butter and ghee.
What can’t you eat?
What you need to remember is that for 30 days you must avoid “alcohol, dairy, legumes, grains and sugar.”
According to Healthline, these include:
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners: Raw sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup and all products containing these sweeteners.
- Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor and spirits.
- Grains: Regardless of their degree of processing, all grains, including wheat, corn, oats and rice, are to be avoided.
- Pulses and legumes: Most peas, lentils and beans (including peanut butter) should be avoided. Green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are exceptions.
- Soy: All soy products – tofu, tempeh, edamame, and miso and soy sauce.
- Dairy: Cow, goat and sheep’s milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, and all other product derived from dairy. Clarified butter or ghee is allowed.
- Processed additives: Any food or beverage including carrageenan, MSG or sulfites.
Healthline also notes that homemade baked goods, even those using Whole30-approved ingredients, should be avoided. What’s more is that if you do happen to slip up, the diet’s founders strongly encourage you to begin the whole program again from day one.
The Whole30 diet encourages additional rules that are not related to diet.
1. Smoking is forbidden.
2. You are not allowed to step on the scale on any days other than days 1 and 30, or partake in any form of body measurements.
These rules apply because the Whole30 program is about more than just weight loss; it is supposed to help you change your mindset and promote long-term health.
Are there some who should avoid the Whole30 diet?
“At present, there is not much research on this way of eating to confirm it is as good for you as people may be lead to believe,” McLeod and Splendlove note.
“There are concerns it can be too restrictive, and anyone with a medical condition should consult their GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.”
They also heavily advise those who are at risk of disordered eating, or those who have a history of an eating disorder, steer clear from the diet.
So, is it good for weight loss?
Although the diet will help you lose weight, it won’t necessarily be the right type of weight you are losing.
“The best approach to long term, sustainable weight loss will always be small, sustainable, consistent changes,” McLeod and Splendlove explain.
They note that any sudden diet changes will change your body in some way, but the short duration of the diet means those bodily changes won’t be long-term ones.
“Any meal plan or way of eating which creates an energy deficit will always create an initial loss of weight. Often the issue with weight loss is you need to lose the right kind of weight and body fat, which is a much longer and slower process.
“Initial weight loss will often be fluid, glycogen, and potentially muscle, depending on how the energy deficit is created, what training the person is doing, and how much food is being consumed.”