April 30, 2024

Can I have dessert on the Whole30?

Dear Melissa—Melissa Urban wearing a light blue jean top and darker blue jeans, cooking on a wooden table top, and smiling at the camera.

Dear Melissa, do “desserts” made of fruit go against the spirit of the Whole30? Would you say it’s a bad idea to combine fruit and nuts (like a baked apple, raisins, and walnuts drizzled with almond butter) to serve after a meal, like dessert? —EW6508, on the Whole30 Reddit

Dear EW6508,

I LOVE this question, because it shows me you’re thinking beyond the technicalities of the Whole30 rules, and really embracing the idea of changing your habits and emotional relationship with food. There are a few ways I’d answer this, depending on what day you were on and how much experience you have with the program (first-timer or alumni). 

The highest level answer

To answer your question as simply as possible: NO, desserts do not violate the spirit of the Whole30. Fruit is not only Whole30 compatible, but a real, whole, nutrient-dense food. So are nuts and seeds. The same goes for cinnamon, 100% cacao, nut and seed butter, or coconut butter. 

So as long as you’re not using those ingredients in a way that is specifically called out in the Pancake Rule (like recreating banana bread or a brownie), go ahead and enjoy your fruit-and-nut concoctions, whenever and wherever you choose. Your only job during the elimination phase is to eat Whole30 foods. Let it be that simple.

I’ll also point out that you’re not talking about special occasions here, like creating a fruit-based birthday “cake.” I want you to embrace special occasions on the Whole30, and have created recipes for this in The Whole30 Friends & Family! I love helping participants realize they can celebrate a big day, cherish the moment, or uphold a family tradition without champagne in their glass or cake on their plate. For the purposes of this discussion, however, we’ll focus on the idea of “dessert” as an everyday happening, not a special event.

The question you’re really getting at, though, is more subtle. You’re asking, “Is routinely eating something sweet after meals or before bed serving my Whole30 goals?” Only you can answer that question—but I will provide some guidance based on your experience with the Whole30. 

If you’re new to the program and in the early days (first two weeks)

You really don’t have to worry (and especially stress) about this right now. The most important thing for you to focus on is eating Whole30 food—and figuring out how to do that around work, kids, social events, and life stressors can be challenging enough. 

There is no such thing as a “perfect Whole30.” Keep eating Whole30 food, and keep paying attention to how you feel during and after meals and snacks without additionally restricting which Whole30 foods you eat when. 

One thing you should be doing at this (and every) stage of your Whole30, however, is paying attention to how you feel during and after certain foods or meals. Evaluate your hunger levels, energy, mood, focus, cravings, and digestion after meals, to help you adjust your meal timing, composition, and size. One question you could ask yourself specific to the “dessert” context is: “Is eating fruit and nuts after meals negatively impacting my cravings, energy, blood-sugar regulation, sleep, mood, or digestion?”

If you’re new to the program and in the back half (last two weeks)

You could choose to continue with your approach above. (I promise, you still have the opportunity to gain so many huge Whole30 Non-Scale Victories (NSVs) just by eating Whole30 foods for 30 days!) But if your Whole30 elimination is starting to feel easier at this point, you may start naturally gravitating towards refining your plan. Would adding more protein at breakfast help your energy even more? Could you branch out with your veggies to prevent mealtime boredom? Is that post-dinner fruit-and-nut blend every single night serving your Whole30 goals?

Get curious here, not judgmental. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Were cravings a big part of my decision to start the Whole30?
  2. Is there a habit associated with eating sweets that I was hoping to address through the Whole30?
  3. Does a meal not feel “complete” until I eat something sweet? If so, does that bother me, or is that something I’d like to uncouple during my Whole30?
  4. Am I working uncomfortably hard to try to make old habits and foods fit into my Whole30 template?

There are no right or wrong answers here—and remember, fruit and nuts can always play a role in your Whole30. But if you’re feeling emotionally ready to take your Whole30 even deeper, you may decide to skip “dessert” a few nights and see what comes up for you, or start including fruit and nuts with your meal instead of after to see how that impacts your results.

If you’re a Whole30 alumni (having completed two-plus programs in the last few years)

I’d assume if this is your context, the Whole30 elimination phase feels less daunting and more familiar to you. You’re likely going to settle into this phase quickly, and likely will start to feel the benefits of the program faster. You’ll also have less “low-hanging fruit” than your first go-round, especially if you’ve been applying your Whole30 learnings in your food freedom. That means the insights you’ll gain from subsequent Whole30 eliminations and reintroductions will be more refined and nuanced. (These insights will prove invaluable in helping you continue to fine-tune your Food Freedom plan.)

In which case, I’d jump to the above four questions as a means of taking subsequent Whole30s deeper, and learning even more about how various foods and habits impact your health and emotional relationship with food and your body. You can start that examination whenever it feels comfortable to you. If you have capacity to address this at the start of your next Whole30, I’m certain you’ll be able to answer this question in a way that suits your goals by Day 30.

Your Whole30 learnings

There are many reasons why someone would do multiple rounds of Whole30. Medical professionals recommend repeating elimination diets at least once, to rule out any placebo effect or confirmation bias, and affirm the results you observed the first time through. Many participants find regular “resets” with the program, whether annually or as-needed, can help them continue to support their energy, sleep, digestion, and self-confidence. 

Repeating your Whole30 elimination and reintroduction also gives you the opportunity to take the program deeper, in any direction you feel might serve you. Your relationship with “dessert” or eating sweets after a meal is one such area that might benefit from a future round, with this specific aspect as a focus.

Regardless, remember that this is your Whole30. My goal is to empower you to achieve your unique individual goals with the program. I can certainly help guide you towards that, but in the end, I trust you (and you should trust yourself) to make the right decisions for you about the foods that serve you best. 

XO Melissa

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