The Plant-Based Whole30 Rules
Plan for Plant-Based Success
Introducing Whole30’s newest offering, the comprehensive Plant-Based Whole30® program. This is a summary of the official rules of the Plant-Based Whole30, plus some extra motivation from Melissa.
The Plant-Based Whole30 program is laid out in two phases: 30 days of elimination, and 6+ days of reintroduction. For the first 30 days, you’ll be eating plant-based protein sources, lots of vegetables and fruit, and natural plant-based fats. The list of foods you’ll eliminate may seem intimidating, but we have dozens of free recipes here to see you through—and it’s only 30 days. Below is a summary of the Plant-Based Whole30 elimination.
The Plant-Based Whole30 Program Rules
Yes: Eat real food
Eat legumes, lentils and peas; whole or minimally processed forms of soy like edamame, miso, natto, tofu, and tempeh; whole forms of plant-based protein powders like pea, hemp, pumpkin, or chia; vegetables and fruit; nuts and seeds; natural plant-based fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with a simple or recognizable list of ingredients, or no ingredients at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.
No: Eliminate for 30 days
- No animal protein. This includes beef, bison, lamb, chicken, turkey, wild game, pork, fish, shellfish, or eggs.
- No animal fats. This includes butter or clarified butter, ghee, lard, tallow, suet, or schmaltz.
- No highly processed forms of soy. This includes soybean oil, textured soy protein, textured vegetable protein, soy protein isolate, or soy protein concentrate.
- No added sugar, real or artificial. This includes (but is not limited to) maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, monk fruit extract, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, and xylitol. If there is added sugar in the ingredient list, it’s out.
- No alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking. (And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
- No grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
- No animal-sourced dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, ghee, clarified butter, or frozen yogurt.
- No carrageenan or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label, it’s out for the Plant-Based Whole30.
- No recreating or purchasing baked goods, “foods with no brakes,” or treats with Plant-Based Whole30 compatible ingredients.* Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compatible) means you’ll come out of the program with the same exact habits, coping strategies, and food choices you had when you started—and that won’t lead to the kind of long-term, life-changing results we want for you.
- No stepping on the scale or taking any body measurements for 30 days. The Whole30 is about so much more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, lifelong benefits this plan has to offer. So no weighing yourself, analyzing body fat, or breaking out the tape measure during the 30-day elimination period.
*Some specific foods that fall under the “Pancake Rule” include: pancakes, crepes, waffles, bread, tortillas, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, alternative flour pizza crust or pastas, granola, cereal, “ice cream,” commercially-prepared chips (potato, tortilla, plantain, etc.), or deep-fried French fries. While this list of off-limit foods applies to everyone whether or not you like pancakes, you may decide to exclude additional foods that you already know promote cravings or mindless overconsumption, like RXBARs or almond butter. (See page 95 in The Whole30 for guidance.)
The Fine Print
These foods are exceptions to the rule, and are allowed during your Plant-Based Whole30.
- Fruit juice. Some products or recipes will include fruit juice as a stand-alone ingredient or natural sweetener, which is fine for the purposes of the Plant-Based Whole30.
- Vinegar and botanical extracts. Most vinegar (including white, red wine, balsamic, apple cider, and rice) and alcohol-based botanical extracts (like vanilla, lemon, or lavender) are allowed during your Plant-Based Whole30 program. (Just not malt-based vinegar or extracts, which will be clearly labeled as such, as they contain gluten.)
- Coconut aminos. All brands of coconut aminos (a brewed and naturally fermented soy sauce substitute) are acceptable, even if you see the words “coconut nectar” or “coconut syrup” in their ingredient list.
- Salt. Did you know that all iodized table salt contains sugar? Sugar (often in the form of dextrose) is chemically essential to keep the potassium iodide from oxidizing and being lost. Because all restaurants and pre-packaged foods contain salt, salt is an exception to our “no added sugar” rule.
- Rice found in fermented soy. Rice is often used for the fermentation and processing of certain forms of soy, such as miso and tempeh. In order to provide enough plant-based protein and include as many traditional and culturally significant foods during the Plant-Based Whole30, rice listed as an ingredient on miso and tempeh products is allowed.
Your Plant-Based Whole30 isn’t over yet! Following the 30-day elimination, you’ll enter phase two, a 6 to 30 day period of reintroduction. This is the fun part—where you get to bring back the food groups you’ve been missing one at a time, and compare your experience. This is where you learn the most about which foods may be having a negative impact on your energy, sleep, mood, cravings, digestion, and more, so be thorough here!
In this phase, you’ll reintroduce one food group at a time, then go back to the elimination phase for two days to reset (in case you have a negative experience). You’ll reintroduce food groups in order of least likely to be problematic to most likely. We have two reintroduction protocols outlined: one for those who don’t wish to reintroduce any animal products, and one for those who might.
Reintroduction Schedule 1 (no animal products)
- (OPTIONAL) Added sugar
- (OPTIONAL) Gluten-free alcohol
- Non-gluten grains
- Gluten-containing grains
Reintroduction Schedule 2 (with animal products)
- (OPTIONAL) Added sugar
- (OPTIONAL) Gluten-free alcohol
- Animal-based protein (poultry, beef, bison, lamb, chicken, turkey, wild game, pork, fish, shellfish, eggs)
- Non-gluten grains
- Animal-sourced dairy
- Gluten-containing grains
Give Us Thirty Days
Your only job during the Plant-Based Whole30 is to eat Plant-Based Whole30 foods. You don’t need to track calories, count calories, restrict calories, or even think the word “calories.” You don’t have to purchase everything organic, it’s okay if you snack, and not every meal needs to perfectly fit our meal template. Your only job is to stick to the Plant-Based Whole30 rules, 100% by the books.
The requirement to follow the program strictly is grounded in science, not diet culture. We call the Plant-Based Whole30 a “reset,” but at its heart, the Plant-Based Whole30 is an elimination diet. Elimination diets have been around since the 1920’s, and many doctors say they are still the gold standard for identifying food sensitivities—but only if you do them exactly as written. In order to accurately observe how your body responds in the absence of these potentially problematic foods, you have to completely eliminate them. One vegan cupcake, plate of pasta, or glass of beer within the 30-day period means you’ve potentially short-circuited the healing process and the self-experiment. If you’re sensitive to those foods, you may need to wait four or five days for those effects to diminish, and on the Plant-Based Whole30, when this happens, we recommend starting over again on Day 1.
We’re asking you to commit to the program exactly as written, to give you the best chance of experiencing the full benefits the Plant-Based Whole30 has to offer.
You Can Do Hard Things
The Whole30 is famous for its tough love, but don’t be nervous– it’s heavy on the love. At this point, many of you want to take on this life-changing self-experiment, but aren’t sure you can really do it. If you’ve spent your whole life dieting, those efforts have likely left you discouraged, and you’re skeptical that the Plant-Based Whole30 really is different. It is, I promise. And also, you’re going to have to do the work. Here are a few key mindset shifts I want you to make heading into your Plant-Based Whole30, so you can step into your own power, reclaim your confidence, and keep this promise to yourself.
- This will be hard. There are so many roadblocks to changing the way you eat. For some, it’s emotional ties to comfort foods. For others, it’s time or budget concerns. For still others, it’s missing culturally significant foods. I honor the tremendous efforts many of you will go through just to complete the Plant-Based Whole30. And still, you have done harder things in your life. Losing a parent is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. The Plant-Based Whole30 may also be hard, but you are more powerful than you give yourself credit for, and I know you can do this too.
- Don’t self-sabotage. If you leave the program open to negotiation when you have a bad day or a special occasion, you are setting yourself up to fail. If you don’t clean out your pantry, if you tell yourself “one glass won’t matter,” if you say “I’ll try to do all 30 days,” you are setting yourself up to fail. Language matters, and “I’ll try” leaves you an out. Wake up each day and say, “I am Whole30, and I will keep this promise to myself.”
- Hold your boundaries. You never, ever, ever have to eat anything you don’t want to eat. We’re all grown-ups here, and someone else’s feelings aren’t as important as your physical and mental health. Practice saying, “No, thank you” or “I’m not drinking right now.” Remember your “why” and come back to that when you’re feeling pressured. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, your best friend’s wedding, or your company picnic does not mean you have to eat anything. Realizing the event is just as special and your participation just as meaningful without the wine or cake is a huge benefit of the program.
- Changing your life requires effort. Grocery shopping, meal planning, dining out, socializing, and dealing with stress will all prove challenging at some point during your program. We’ll give you all the tools, guidelines, and resources you’ll need in our books, website, newsletters, and social media feeds, but you also have to take responsibility for your own program. The Plant-Based Whole30 will challenge you in ways you don’t expect, which is exactly why the benefits will carry over into every area of your life. Remember that when things get hard.
This is the journey you have been preparing for. You want to do this. You’re ready for it. And I know that you can do it. So stop thinking about it, and take the first step. Right now, this very minute, commit to the Plant-Based Whole30.
Then take a deep breath, because you’ve already begun! I’m so excited to welcome you into our community and witness your journey. Even if you’re not 100% sure the Plant-Based Whole30 will be as transformational for you as it has been for so many, all I ask is that you give the program your commitment, and trust the process. What we do here is that important. I believe in it that much. It changed my life, and I want it to change yours, too.
I want you to have this experience. I want you to join our community, complete the program, and see amazing results in every area of your life. Even if you aren’t convinced this will actually change your life, just give us 30 short days. You are that important, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Welcome to the Plant-Based Whole30 Program.