June 1, 2017

Whole30 101: Can I do the Whole30 as a Vegetarian or Vegan?


Since the origins of the Whole30 in 2009, one question has come up more than any other: “Can I do the Whole30 as a vegetarian or vegan?” In the past, the answer to this question was a bit complex. Today, the answer is easy–a resounding YES, thanks to our new Plant-Based Whole30 program.

We rolled out the Plant-Based Whole30 in February 2022 as the first ever comprehensive elimination and reintroduction protocol that marries the science of an elimination diet with habit research, using a whole food, plant-based approach. The program is built on the proven Whole30 framework, designed to eliminate cravings, promote healthy blood sugar regulation and hormonal balance, improve digestion, and minimize inflammation.

And for the first time ever, vegetarians and vegans can complete this Whole30 exactly as written, and experience the same life-changing benefits, free resources, delicious recipes, and community support that the Original Whole30 has brought our community for the last 12 years.

So what’s the Plant-Based Whole30 all about, is it right for you, and how do you start the program? Read on to find out.

The Plant-Based Whole30

For the full program rules, free resources, recipes, and support, visit our Plant-Based Whole30 Hub.

What is the Plant-Based Whole30?

The Plant-Based Whole30 is a 30-day elimination and reintroduction program designed to help vegans, vegetarians, and those curious about adopting a plant-based diet identify food sensitivities and reset their health, habits, and relationships with food. During the elimination period, you’ll be eating plant-based proteins from whole forms of soy, beans, lentils, and unsweetened protein powders; healthy plant-based fats from nuts and seeds, olives, coconut, avocado, and certain cooking oils; vegetables and fruit; and herbs and seasonings. During this period, you’ll be eliminating all forms of added sugar (real and artificial), alcohol, and all grains and pseudo-cereals. Starting on Day 31, you’ll complete one of two carefully designed reintroduction protocol options–one without any animal products, and one that includes any animal  products (like eggs or dairy) you may want to reintroduce.

How is the Plant-Based Whole30 different from the Original Whole30?

Both programs eliminate added sugar, alcohol, grains, and dairy. The Original Whole30 uses animal protein (meat, seafood, and eggs) to ensure adequate protein needs, while also eliminating legumes (soy, beans, lentils, and peanuts). The Original program also includes animal fats like ghee, lard, and duck fat.

The Plant-Based Whole30 does not include any animal protein or fats, but does include legumes as necessary sources of protein. The Plant-Based Whole30 also utilizes unsweetened plant-based protein powders more frequently, to ensure adequate protein intake in a digestively-friendly way. There are other minor differences as well, like recommending four meals a day instead of three for our Plant-Based protocol, again to ensure participants achieve adequate protein intake. For details, view the Plant-Based Whole30 Rules.

Is the Plant-Based Whole30 right for me?

Do you eat at least two animal sources of protein, like eggs and salmon, or all forms of fish and shellfish? In that case, we recommend you do the Original Whole30. This will allow you to test even more of the plant-based protein sources you may want to include regularly (like soy or legumes) through elimination and reintroduction, and evaluate how well they work for you.

If you only eat one form of animal protein (like eggs) or don’t eat any animal protein at all, the Plant-Based Whole30 was designed specifically for you. This program still eliminates some of the most commonly problematic foods in a plant-based diet, like gluten and non-gluten grains, processed forms of soy, and added sugar, while ensuring you eat adequate protein from whole food forms of soy and legumes. And if you choose, you’ll still have the opportunity to test eggs, dairy, and any other animal protein sources you like in reintroduction.

I’ve been vegan for a while–why should I try the Plant-Based Whole30?

The Plant-Based Whole30 is designed to help you identify foods which may be having a negative impact on your cravings and emotional relationship with food, blood sugar regulation and metabolism, digestion,  and inflammation. You may be surprised that some of the “healthy” vegan foods you’ve been eating could be having a negative effect on your energy levels, sleep, cravings, mood, digestion, skin, pain, or other chronic conditions. The Plant-Based Whole30 will help you identify how individual food groups work for you with a structured, proven elimination and reintroduction approach. By the end of your program, you’ll know exactly how to structure your plant-based diet to meet your wellness goals even more effectively.

I’ll probably keep eating some animal protein–but I also want to adopt a more plant-forward approach. Can I try the Plant-Based Whole30?

You can! The Plant-Based Whole30 is perfect for omnivores who want to evaluate how well they’d do on a plant-based or plant-forward diet. You’ll eliminate all animal products for 30 days (along with other food groups like added sugar, alcohol, and grains), then carefully and systematically reintroduce those food groups, including eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy if you choose, to learn how each works in your unique context. The Plant-Based Whole30 will help you identify the plant-based foods that best suit your health and goals, to allow you to create your own personalized, sustainable plant-forward diet.

Can I mix and match aspects of the Original Whole30 Program and the Plant-Based Whole30, like doing the Original Whole30 with legumes?

Nope! These are two distinct protocols that were carefully designed and endorsed by a team of registered dietitians and healthcare providers, and each should be completed exactly as written to achieve maximum benefit. If you feel like you fall into a grey area of “should I do the original Whole30 or the Plant-Based Whole30?” send an email to [email protected] and a trained moderator can help you decide.

The Original Whole30 program seemed to suggest that animal protein was necessary for optimal health. Have you changed your position?

Whole30’s mission has always been to empower you to change your life and achieve optimal health on your own terms. As we have grown as a team, our mission has expanded to make the Whole30 even more inclusive, representative, and culturally sensitive. Whole30 co-founder Melissa Urban wrote an entire article about this shift in our approach and tone–you can read that here. In summary, the Whole30 is here to help you identify the foods that work best for your unique context, and create a personalized, sustainable diet–what we call Food Freedom–that fits your health goals and values, and now offer two unique programs to help even more people do exactly that.

How do I start the Plant-Based Whole30?

To download our Plant-Based Whole30 Prep Pack full of resources, recipes, and guidance to start your journey, visit whole30.com/subscribe.

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