Introducing Whole30’s newest offering, the comprehensive Plant-Based Whole30® program. We hope those of you who are currently vegan or vegetarian are excited for a program that offers the same life-changing benefits without any animal products! The Plant-Based Whole30 is also perfect if you’ve done the Original Whole30, and want to evaluate how a plant-based diet might work for you in comparison.
In this article, we’ll share the background on our new Plant-Based Whole30 program, the science behind our recommendations, how this program differs from the Original Whole30, how to complete and troubleshoot a Plant-Based Whole30, and how to know if this new program is right for you.
Table of Contents
What is the Plant-Based Whole30?
The Plant-Based Whole30 combines the benefits of an elimination diet with the science of behavior change, helping you identify food sensitivities; transforming your health, habits, and relationship with food; and helping you achieve true food freedom.
The Plant-Based Whole30® program is a 100% plant-based version of our original 30-day reset, including free recipes, resources, and support designed for vegans, vegetarians, and those curious about adopting a plant-based diet. It’s the first-ever whole food plant-based elimination and reintroduction protocol that thoughtfully prioritizes plant-based proteins and supports metabolic health.
Similar to the Original Whole30, the Plant-Based Whole30 is a structured elimination and reintroduction protocol designed to reset your health, habits, and relationship with food. The premise is simple: Certain food groups could be having a negative impact on your body composition, health, and quality of life without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or nonexistent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by overuse or injury? Are you struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake feeling rested? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, migraines, allergies, or fatigue) that are holding you back from feeling your best? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff.
So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you? Eliminate them from your diet for 30 straight days. The Plant-Based Whole30 targets food groups that scientific literature and 12 years of clinical experience have identified as commonly problematic (to varying degrees) in one of four areas—your cravings, metabolism and blood sugar regulation, digestion, and immune system. During the elimination period, you will see what life is like without these potentially problematic foods, and pay attention to how their absence might positively affect your energy, sleep, digestion, mood, attention span, self-confidence, cravings, chronic pain or fatigue, athletic performance and recovery, and any number of other symptoms or conditions. This elimination period can show you a new “normal”—a healthy baseline from which to compare.
Plant-Based Whole30 elimination: 30 days of no added sugar (real or artificial), alcohol (even for cooking), and grains (including pseudo-cereals). Because of the nature of the Plant-Based Whole30, participants by default are not consuming any animal proteins or fats.
Following the elimination phase, you will reintroduce each food group one at a time per a carefully designed schedule. You’ll then observe how your body reacts to the reintroduction of these previously eliminated foods and beverages, and compare your experience. Do your 2 p.m. energy slumps return? Does your stomach bloat? Does your face break out, your joints swell, your pain return? Do your cravings for sugar come back with a vengeance? The reintroduction period is just as important as elimination, as it shows you which specific foods are having a negative impact on how you look, feel, and perform.
Unlike any other freely-available health reset, the Plant-Based Whole30 offers two structured reintroduction approaches: one that is 100% plant-based and another which includes the reintroduction of animal protein. You can see more details about the Plant-Based Whole30 Reintroduction protocols here.
The Plant-Based Whole30 is meant to be a short-term experiment, not a prescriptive long-term diet. We don’t believe everyone needs to (or should) eliminate all of these food groups forever! After elimination and reintroduction, you will have gained valuable insights as to which foods work well in your body and which do not. Using our follow-up book Food Freedom Forever, you’ll go on to make educated decisions about when, how often, and in what amount you can include the foods you love back in your diet in a way that is balanced, sustainable, and joyful, but still keeps you feeling as fantastic as you now know you can feel. Through the Plant-Based Whole30 protocol, you’ll be well on your way to creating a personalized, sustainable diet for YOU, and achieving true food freedom.
What Are the Benefits of the Plant-Based Whole30?
- The Plant-Based Whole30 is a 100% plant-based protocol prioritizing whole foods.
- It was designed by a Registered Dietitian, and endorsed by a diverse team of healthcare providers
- The program was built on an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense framework, and designed with blood sugar regulation in mind.
- Our carefully structured elimination and reintroduction protocol helps individuals learn whether they have sensitivities to commonly problematic food groups, like grains, dairy, alcohol, or added sugar, and how those sensitivities may be negatively impacting their health or symptoms.
- For some, this program is a more budget-friendly, ethical, or culturally appropriate option compared to the Original Whole30.
What are the differences between the Plant-Based Whole30 and Original Whole30?
Both resets are intended to help you identify food sensitivities and create a personalized, sustainable diet through proven elimination and reintroduction protocols.
The two protocols are identical, encompassing a 30-day elimination and structured reintroduction period. Both plans emphasize eating adequate protein, filling your plate with vegetables and fruit, and adding healthy fats to satiety. Neither program restricts calories, nor recommends calorie counting or macro tracking. Our programs are not weight loss diets. As such, neither program allows participants to weigh themselves or take measurements during their 30-day elimination.
Both programs also focus on habit change and participants’ emotional relationships with food, encouraging mindset shifts away from diet culture and the formation of new, healthy habits during the elimination period. Because the Whole30 is also focused on tackling cravings, both programs discourage the recreation of baked goods, “foods with no brakes,” or treats with technically compatible ingredients.
Both programs are available to our community for free, with additional free resources, support via email, our Forums, and social media feeds, and free recipes.
The main differences are the program’s protein and fat sources. The Original Whole30 focuses on high-quality animal protein and encourages the use of some animal fats while eliminating legumes, including peanuts and soy. The Plant-Based Whole30 uses legumes, less-processed forms of soy, unsweetened plant-based protein powders, nuts, and seeds to provide adequate protein, and includes only plant-based fats.
Why did Whole30 create this Plant-Based reset?
Whole30’s mission is to empower humans to own their health and change their lives. While the Original Whole30 serves omnivores, we’ve always supported the vegetarians and vegans in our community. Over the years, we’ve offered plant-based shopping lists, sections for vegetarians and vegans in the 2012 book It Starts with Food and the 2015 #1 best-seller The Whole30, a Vegan Reset outlined in the 2016 book Food Freedom Forever, and additional website resources for those who wanted to be a part of the Whole30 community while still honoring their plant-based diet.
In 2020, we began discussing how to more effectively support our vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based-curious community members with a more comprehensive program. In November 2021, we conducted a survey of 1,461 Whole30’ers, and found that an astonishing 87% of omnivorous community members were interested in exploring a plant-based diet.
The Plant-Based Whole30 is the result of those conversations and community research, and the next generation of plant-based support for our community members who choose to follow a plant-based or vegan lifestyle, or are curious about these nutrition frameworks.
Will the Plant-Based Whole30 work for everyone?
It depends on what you mean by “work.” The Plant-Based Whole30 is a self-experiment designed to show you which plant-based food groups may or may not be right for you. If you have a poor experience during the elimination phase–with lethargy, digestive issues, skin issues, or other negative symptoms–it is likely that some specific plant-based foods (or a 100% plant-based diet) don’t work well for you. In that context, the program itself functioned exactly as intended, helping you identify food sensitivities and moving you closer to an individualized, sustainable diet that works best for you.
If that is the case, we encourage you to listen to your body. If your religious, cultural, or ethical convictions allow, consider expanding your plant-based options to include modest amounts of responsibly raised- and sourced animal protein (such as bone broth, eggs, and fish). Or, seek the help of a qualified healthcare provider to (a) determine whether any underlying health conditions (like SIBO) may have impacted your Plant-Based Whole30 experience, and (b) create a customized dietary program that meets your specific needs.
Others who participate may discover that a 100% plant-based diet provides a positive benefit to their energy, sleep, digestion, mood, and other health factors—or that a few plant-based foods aren’t well-tolerated, but many are. Their Plant-Based Whole30 experience would then allow them to fine-tune their vegetarian or vegan diet in a way that is even more health-promoting.
Please note, the Plant-Based Whole30 is not recommended for those who are pregnant or nursing, or young children. Always consult your physician before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program.
Who is the Plant-Based Whole30 for? Do you have to be vegan?
The Plant-Based Whole30 is designed for:
- Vegans or vegetarians who want to experience the life-changing benefits of the Whole30 without any animal products
- Omnivores who want to test how well a plant-based diet works for them with a structured, proven elimination and reintroduction protocol
- Original Whole30 community members who want to compare their Original Whole30 experience to a Plant-Based Whole30 experience, to further fine-tune their food freedom
For those who are currently omnivorous and would like to test the Plant-Based Whole30, our team of healthcare experts highly recommend taking a few weeks to slowly introduce legumes and lentils for a few weeks prior to starting the reset. This allows your microbiome a chance to adapt to the specific carbohydrates and fiber in beans, and should alleviate at least some digestive distress during the program. You would also benefit from preparation and cooking techniques that make legumes and lentils easier to digest such as soaking, draining, and rinsing. Finally, eating most of your vegetables cooked (not raw) can also help ease your transition to a 100% plant-based diet
How do I know which Whole30 program is right for me?
If you are comfortable eating two animal protein sources (like eggs and salmon, or all varieties of fish and shellfish), we’d encourage you to complete the Original Whole30, perhaps also utilizing compatible plant-based protein powders to ensure adequate protein intake. The Original program will afford you the greatest learning opportunity, and the ability to test out a wider variety of plant-based protein sources (including legumes, lentils, soy, and peanuts) to determine how well they work for you in your food freedom. Feel free to consume only plant-based fats during your Original Whole30–there are plenty to choose from.
If you don’t eat any animal products and are not open to doing so, or if you’ve done the Original Whole30 and are curious about how a plant-based diet might work for you by comparison, then you are exactly why we created the Plant-Based Whole30! Welcome to the program.
Can I do the Original Whole30 with beans or tofu? Is there a “mix and match” option?
Nope! Each program was carefully designed to function as a stand-alone, discrete elimination and reintroduction protocol. Once you choose a program, please complete it exactly as written. (Basically, the Original Whole30 has worked incredibly well for millions of people, creating sustainable, life-changing results, so don’t mess with it!) Legumes, including peanuts, soy, and lentils, are only allowed on the Plant-Based Whole30 to ensure adequate levels of protein during the reset.
How were the Plant-Based Whole30 guidelines created?
The Plant-Based Whole30 was created based on 12 years of clinical experience, empowering people to achieve true food freedom through the Original Whole30 program. The Plant-Based Whole30 guidelines were designed by Registered Dietitian Stephanie Greunke and Whole30 co-founder Melissa Urban, and are endorsed by a team of medical advisors.
The Plant-Based Whole30 eliminates food groups that have been shown in the scientific literature and through clinical experience to be commonly problematic (to varying degrees) across a broad range of people. It also takes into consideration some of the downfalls of even healthy plant-based diets, such as the blood sugar dysregulation that can occur when protein sources are limited and more refined carbohydrates are chosen. Finally, it’s aligned with a whole food plant-based methodology, the health benefits of which are supported by a wealth of research promoted by a wide range of healthcare professionals.
The Plant-Based Whole30 team of expert consultants include:
- Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN – Board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and five-time New York Times bestselling author.
- Dr. Casey Means, MD – Stanford-trained physician, Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder of metabolic health company Levels, and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention.
- Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC – Senior Functional Medicine clinic director in Pittsburgh, PA. Consults world-wide in autoimmune, brain, gut, hormone, and thyroid health.
- Dr. Michael Ruscio, DNM, DC – Doctor of Natural Medicine, Doctor of Chiropractic, clinical researcher, and published author. A committee member of the Naturopathic Board of Gastroenterology research division.
- Stephanie Greunke, MS, RDN – Registered Dietitian who specializes in metabolic health, prenatal/postnatal nutrition, behavioral psychology, and holds additional certifications in perinatal mental health and fitness.
- Dr. Catherine Moring, PhD, RDN, BC-ADM, CDE– co-owner of Delta Health Solutions and Executive Director of a hospital and community wellness center. Registered Dietitian, board-certified in advanced diabetes management, and a certified diabetes care and education specialist. Whole30, Keto, and Intermittent Fasting Certified Coach.
- Rhyan Geiger, RD – Registered Dietitian and vegan author who specializes in vegan nutrition.
- Whitney Stuart, MCN, RDN, CDE – Certified Whole30 coach. Nutrition expert and diabetic educator focusing on holistic nutritional counseling, corporate nutrition and educational support for all health, gender and age profiles.
Will I get enough protein on the Plant-Based Whole30?
Unlike the Original Whole30, the Plant-Based Whole30 includes legumes, soy, peanuts, and lentils to help ensure that participants consume a variety of essential amino acids and sufficient protein.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 g/kg (about 0.36 g/lb) of body weight per day, or about 10-35% of daily calories coming from protein. Understanding there is much variability in the needs of more muscular/larger people and less muscular/smaller people, and taking into account that your activity level will also impact protein needs, the RDA calculation amounts to (on average) 70 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound adult. (And if your calculation comes out to slightly less, know that the Registered Dietitians we consulted were reluctant to recommend any adult consume less than 70 grams of protein a day.)
The lower end of this range may meet the nutrient needs for sedentary individuals; however it likely won’t be adequate for athletes, active individuals, or those with higher protein needs. Active individuals typically require protein in amounts closer to 1.2-1.8 g/kg of body weight per day for optimal muscle protein synthesis, tissue maintenance, and repair.
For active individuals, you’ll likely need to include a compatible protein powder at least once a day, and shoot for the higher range of plant-based protein sources at each meal. This looks like 1 cup of legumes or lentils or 6-7 ounces of tofu or tempeh at each meal, along with higher-protein nuts and seeds (See our Protein Table for more information).
For more sedentary individuals, aiming for a minimum of 1 g/kg (0.45 g/lb) of body weight can better support satiety, strength, and general health.
We recommend aiming for a minimum of 15 grams of protein from one or more protein sources at each of your four meals to prioritize your protein needs. Sources that are highest in plant-based protein include: legumes, lentils, minimally processed meat alternatives, and unsweetened plant-based protein powder. Nuts and seeds provide additional protein to complement your main protein source(s). The Plant-Based Whole30 offers educational resources, including a Plant-Based Protein handout to help you understand and meet your protein needs. This resource offers more information on meeting your protein needs.
What if I experience digestive issues on the Plant-Based Whole30?
Legumes and lentils can cause gas and bloating, especially if an individual’s microbiome isn’t accustomed to consuming them, or if there is an underlying gut issue like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Some individuals also have a hard time digesting foods high in specific carbohydrates called FODMAPs. Legumes and lentils also happen to be high-FODMAP foods. If you experience digestive distress on the program, the following tips may help:
- Introduce beans and lentils in small portion sizes (¼ cup), and work up to a full serving over time.
- Smaller varieties of legumes and lentils (like split peas and green lentils) may cause less gas than larger beans like kidney, garbanzo, or black beans.
- Sprout legumes before cooking them (or purchase pre-sprouted from health food retailers like Thrive Market).
- Cook dried beans thoroughly. Beans are more easily digested when cooked all the way.
- Rinse and drain can beans at least once before consuming.
- Choose fermented varieties of soy, like tempeh and miso.
- Use other plant-based proteins, such as whole forms or soy and unsweetened protein powder, to help you meet your protein needs with fewer legumes and lentils.
- Kombu (a type of seaweed), cloves, ginger, garlic, and turmeric can all help reduce gas production. Cook dried beans with at least one of these seasonings.
- Ask your healthcare provider if using a digestive enzyme supplement is appropriate for you. When used with meals, this can help your body adjust to the increased fiber content of your diet and the specific carbohydrates in legumes and lentils.
In many cases, GI issues resolve in about two weeks after reintroducing legumes. If not, an individual should work with their provider to determine the root cause.
Why are smoothies and chia puddings made with protein powder featured on the Plant-Based Whole30, when they’re discouraged in the Original program?
Smoothies and chia pudding made with unsweetened plant-based protein powder are promoted on the Plant-Based Whole30 as an option for those who have a hard time digesting legumes and lentils. Their inclusion allows individuals to meet their protein needs in a way that won’t disrupt their digestion, and gives participants’ microbiomes a chance to adapt to the higher fiber content of legumes and lentils. Compatible smoothies and chia pudding should include no added sugar and not resemble a dessert. They should also be incorporated as part of a complete meal, not used as meal replacements, whenever possible. Smoothies and chia pudding are not required for this program.
Should I use supplements with my Plant-Based Whole30?
It’s important to supplement certain nutrients on plant-based diets, since these nutrients are not as bioavailable and/or easily found in plants. The Plant-Based Whole30 advisory team recommends working with your provider to include the following supplements during your Plant-Based Whole30:
- DHA & EPA from algae oil
- A multivitamin that includes B12, zinc, iodine, selenium, magnesium, D3, K2, and choline
- An iron supplement (if needed based on lab results)
We hope this helps you better understand the foundation of the Plant-Based Whole30 program, the basic tenets of an elimination diet, and how the Plant-Based Whole30 framework could help you reset your health, habits, and relationship with food. Our mission is to empower you to own your health and change your life, and we invite you to join the millions of people around the world who have experienced the life-changing results of the Whole30, and used the program to achieve lasting food freedom.
The opinions and/or information presented in this article is in no way intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical treatment, and should only be used in conjunction with the guidance, care, and approval of your physician. Nothing herein is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before making dietary or lifestyle changes.