One of the most active sections of our free Whole30 Forum is the “Can I Have…” section. This is where Whole30’ers ask about ingredients that they wish to include as part of their Whole30 program—things like bee pollen, mesquite flour, or pea protein.

Sometimes, we wonder if people really want to eat these things, or if they’re just trying to stump us.

The forum is a great venue for these kinds of questions, but it can be a bit cumbersome to search, and as new people are joining every day, the same questions are asked over and over again. So today, we’re going to give you all of the most common “Can I have…” questions and answers all in one place, along with our most helpful tips to maximize your Whole30 success.

Note, anything in italics below are not official “rules” of the Whole30—they’re just suggestions from us to you, based on our experience, and the experience of the 100,000+ people who have done our Whole30 program in the last four years. So, you know, you don’t have to accept our helpful suggestions… but you probably should.

Before You Ask, “Can I Have…”

Before you even read this list, please make sure you’ve done the following: 

Read the Whole30 Program Rules.

Read them all of the way through a few times, and then review supporting resources (like this Can I Have article) to make sure you understand the nuisances and particulars. Still have a question? You can check our forum, which has over 10 years of helpful questions-and-answers from dedicated Whole30 community members. Still have a question about a particular food? Email us at [email protected] We’re here to help you!

Read your labels.

Before you ask whether Cholula hot sauce, French’s Yellow, or a  Tanka bar* is compatible, read the ingredient list! If all of the ingredients are okay, the food is okay. If it contains an off-plan ingredient, then it’s out for your Whole30.

*Yes, yes, and no because of the added sugar.

Remember, added sugar is about the ingredients, not the nutrition label.

The amount of sugar listed on the nutrition label has nothing to do with whether something is Whole30 or not. Nutrition labels round to the nearest full digit, so just because something says “0 grams” next to “sugar” doesn’t mean there’s no added sugar! Look for any form of sugar (real or artificial) in the ingredient list. If it’s there, it’s out for your Whole30.

When it comes to additives, less is better, but only three are specifically out.

The Whole30 eliminates carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites on the program. Other common additives, like xanthan gum or ascorbic acid, are allowed. Not all additives are “toxic;” acsorbic acid sounds scary, but it’s really just a fancy name for vitamin C. See our Common Additive Cheat Sheet for details.

On the Whole30, Can I Have…

Almond Flour: Yes

Yes, you can have almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, cassava flour and other non-grain-based flours, but it’s context-dependent. You can use it in place of breadcrumbs in your meatballs, to dredge a piece of chicken, or to thicken a sauce or stew.  You may not use it for Paleo baking—to make muffins, pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies, waffles, biscuits, tortillas, pizza crust, or anything of that nature; nor can you have it in pasta or gnocchi recreations. Those foods fall under our “Pancake Rule, formerly known as SWYPO,” and they are expressly off-limits during your Whole30.

Almond Milk: Read Your Labels

Compatible commercially-produced almond milk is easier to find than ever before, however, the majority will still have sugar and few may even still have carrageenan—rendering those off-limits for your Whole30. If you can’t find a compatible brand, like New Barn Unsweetened or JOI, the alternative is to make your own—but remember, no added sweetener!

Arrowroot Powder or Tapioca Starch: Yes

These are fine choices as thickeners and can be especially helpful in sauces and gravies. Like almond flour, though, they are not appropriate for use in baked goods.

Bacon: Read your labels

While finding compatible bacon is a lot easier these days, it can still be challenging in many parts of the country (and world!). There are a few Whole30 Approved partners that carry compatible bacon, including Applegate, ButcherBox, Naked Bacon, Pederson’s Natural Farms, and US Wellness Meats, If you are having trouble, check with your local natural foods store, or (even better) ask a local farmer or butcher shop.

Bean Sprouts: Yes 

The plant part of the bean is fine to eat. The potentially problematic compounds are found in the seed (bean) itself.

Bragg’s Amino Acids: No 

Bragg’s Amino Acids are derived from soy, and all forms of soy are out for your Whole30. A great Whole30-compatible substitute is Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos, Big Tree Farms Coconut Aminos, or Thrive Market Coconut Aminos. Tastes just like soy sauce!

Buckwheat: No

Buckwheat falls into the category of plants that we call pseudo-cereals. These products are not botanically grains, but contain compounds that may cause similar problems, which is why we rule them out for your Whole30.

Cacao (100%): Yes

Cacao (or 100% cocoa) is great when used as a savory spice (our Mocha Steak Rub from It Starts With Food is a great example), but you can also add it to your coffee or tea. However, don’t mix cacao with dates, figs, or other fruits to make chocolate-y confections during your program. That goes against the spirit and intention of the program.

Canola Oil: Yes, reluctantly (because sometimes, you have to dine out)

While we don’t think vegetable oils are the most nutritious choice, we don’t expressly rule them out on the Whole30. If we did, you’d never be able to eat outside of your own kitchen, because most restaurants use them in cooking. We wanted to create the healthiest program possible, but we also need it to be do-able for those who travel for business or pleasure, or simply want to dine out during the month.

Tip: Eliminate the consumption of vegetable oils at home, even if you’re not on the Whole30. Try cooking with avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, or animal fats like lard or duck fat.

Carob: Yes 

While Carob is technically a legume, carob powder is generally made from the pod of the plant and not the seed. Since all of the potentially problematic parts are contained in the seed, it’s A-OK to eat parts of the plant other than the seed during your Whole30.

Chia: Yes

These “seeds” aren’t the same botanical family of seeds that we eliminate with grains and legumes, so that makes them fine to eat during your Whole30.

Chickpeas: No

While the word “pea” is right in the name, these are also known as Garbanzo Beans, and are botanically a bean, not a pea. 

Chips: Not if they’re store-bought

While we recognize that potatoes are a real food, we also know that eating them in the form of fries and chips has turned them from “produce” into an adulterated commercial “product.” It’s easy to find potato, tortilla, or plantain chips that are compatible with the Whole30 based on their ingredients. It is not easy, however, to consume those chips in a way that’s true to the spirit of the Whole30. For most of us, deep-fried, salted, crunchy chips are a bonafide food-with-no-brakes, and fall into that deep, dark area of less-healthy foods with technically compatible ingredients. For that reason, no store-bought chips of any nature on the Whole30. That includes store-bought (or restaurant-made) potato, plantain, tortilla, apple, or kale chips, No pork rinds either, not even with cooking. Feel free to roast your own kale, pan-fry your own plantains, or bake your own sweet potato spears at home, however.

Citric acid: Yes

This is a common and acceptable additive in canned or jarred foods, like tomatoes or olives.

Coconut aminos:  Yes

This soy sauce substitute is derived from coconut nectar, but brewed (and lightly fermented) with sea salt and water into a savory “umami” flavor. Per this ruling, all coconut aminos are allowed on the program.

Coconut flour: Yes

Yes, you can have coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, and other non-grain-based flours, but it’s context-dependent. You can use it in place of breadcrumbs in your meatballs, to dredge a piece of chicken, or to thicken a sauce or stew.  You may not use it for Paleo baking—to make muffins, pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies, waffles, biscuits, tortillas, pizza crust, or anything of that nature; nor can you have it in pasta or gnocchi recreations. Those foods fall under our “Pancake Rule, formerly known as SWYPO,” and they are expressly off-limits during your Whole30.

Coconut water: Read your labels

Most coconut waters are technically compatible, containing only natural sugars from the coconut. However, some brands add sugar to their ingredients, so read your labels. Anything with added sugar is out for your Whole30.

Tip: Coconut water is essentially a “light” fruit juice. If you’re involved in endurance athletics, work in a profession that leaves you prone to dehydration, or just want a refreshing treat, coconut water can be a fine choice for rehydration. Just don’t let coconut water take the place of plain old water in your daily routine.

Coconut milk yogurt: Read your labels

Most coconut milk yogurt contains added sugar, but there are some plain varieties that would be considered Whole30-compatible, and a source of natural probiotics. Just don’t turn it into a breakfast bowl with dried fruit, shredded coconut, and cacao nibs, m’kay?

Coffee: Yes

Yes, you can have your coffee. You’re welcome. You can drink it black, add unsweetened compatible nutpods, coconut milk, almond milk, or add cinnamon or vanilla beans to the brew.  But remember, Whole30 guidelines exclude milk, cream, non-compatible milk substitutes, and added sweeteners—including date paste or stevia (more on that below). 

“Dark” Chocolate: No

Anything less than 100% cocoa (cacao) is off-limits during your Whole30. Even the really dark chocolate is still candy.

Dates: Yes

All fruit, including dates, are allowed on your Whole30. They’re a great way to add that hint of sweetness to a sauce, or to stuff with almonds and wrap in (compatible) bacon as a fancy-schmancy appetizer. But please, no processed date syrup.

Tip: These little sugar bombs pack a big punch—they’re as close to candy as you can get on the Whole30. We recommend against using them as a “treat” to feed your Sugar Dragon.

Flax Seeds: Yes

These “seeds” aren’t the same botanical family of seeds that we eliminate with grains and legumes, so that makes them fine to eat during your Whole30.

French Fries: Not if they’re commercially prepared or deep-fried

Ordering fries with your (no bun, no cheese) burger really misses the point of the Whole30. Fries are the epitome of “food with no brakes.” Make your own potatoes at home using coconut oil, duck fat, or ghee, and baking or roasting them in the oven instead of deep-frying them; or order them baked or mashed (no cheese, sour cream, or butter!) if dining out.

Fruit Juice: Yes

Fruit juice is the only acceptable added sweetener on the Whole30. (We had to draw the line somewhere.) Use it to flavor sauces, soups, or entrees.

Tip: While drinking a glass of fruit juice is technically compatible, we don’t generally recommend it, even if you juice it yourself. Juicing strips many of the nutrients out of the fruit, but still leaves all of the sugar. We’d much rather you just eat the fruit.

Guar Gum: Yes

This is a common and acceptable thickener, often found in canned coconut milk.

Green Beans: Yes

The problem with legumes comes when you consume the seed. As with snow peas or sugar snap peas, green beans contain a tiny, immature seed, and a big, green pod. As such, we’re not worried about the potential downsides.

Gum: No

All chewing gums contain some form of added sweeteners (including xylitol) that aren’t acceptable under Whole30 guidelines.

Tip: Chewing sends a message to your body that food is coming. If you spend a lot of time chewing, but not eating, your body is going to get quite confused in its responses. Consider brushing your teeth more frequently or chewing on mint leaves or fennel seeds as a fresh-breath alternative. See our 9 Fresh-Breath Strategies for more ideas. 

Hemp Seeds: Yes

See chia and flax.

Hummus: No

Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, which are a legume and not Whole30 compatible. However, there are some really yummy hummus-like dip recipes out there, using cauliflower, carrots, or even green peas as a base.

“Ice Cream”: No

Even if it’s just frozen mashed-up bananas with coconut milk or a cashew milk-based frozen concoction… This. Is. Ice. Cream. Unlike plain frozen fruit, the only purpose of this confection is to replicate the taste, texture and reward sensation of ice cream. This falls under our “Pancake Rule, formerly known as SWYPO,” and is expressly off-limits during your Whole30. Just eat the banana.

Kombucha: Read your labels

We like the probiotic benefits of ‘booch, and we think it makes a fine addition to your Whole30 menu. Just read your labels carefully—any mention of “sugar” listed in the ingredients means it’s a no-go.  Some varieties have fruits and fruit juices added, which are just fine. For the in-depth behind-the-scenes on kombucha, read this.

Tip: As of December 2020, we have a Whole30 Approved kombucha option from Humm! This is a great option if you don’t want any of the ambiguity of label-reading.

Larabars: Read your labels, and use with caution

Most (but not all) varieties of Larabars or similar fruit-and-nut bars are acceptable during your Whole30, so read your labels. (The Peanut Butter and Jelly bar is out because of the peanuts.)

Tip: We recommend using Larabars as emergency snacks, or fuel during endurance athletics. They’re as close to candy as you can get on the Whole30 (with dates as a binder), so don’t use them to satisfy sugar cravings. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a Snickers bar and a Larabar!

Mayonnaise: Read your labels

Most commercial mayonnaises contain off-plan ingredients—generally, added sugar. (Even the “olive oil” mayo is mostly soybean oil!) Primal Kitchen offers two wonderful options, the Original and the Chipotle Lime Mayo, but the good news is that making your own compatible mayo is easy! Just read this article.

Monk Fruit: No

Monk fruit extract, “juice,” and powder are sneaky forms of sugar that are used as stand-alone sweeteners in food and drinks. Just like stevia, it is only used to sweeten something that was not already sweet. (You can’t actually drink a glass of monk fruit juice!) And unlike apples or other fruits, you can’t find whole monk fruit in your local Costco; it’s almost impossible to find unless you visit a region where it’s grown, and even then, it’s rarely eaten fresh since it ferments and grows rancid quickly after it’s harvested. For those reasons, monk fruit is considered a sweetener and not a true “fruit,”  and is not compatible in any form during your 30-day elimination.

Mustard: Read your labels

Mustard is a fine choice, just read your labels carefully. French’s Yellow is compatible, but beware your Dijon—it often contains white wine, which rules it out during your Whole30. Look to our Whole30 Approved partners for spicy, yellow, and even Dijon options in line with the Whole30 program rules.

Nut “Cheese”: Read your labels, use with caution

Technically, almond “ricotta,” cashew “cheese” dips, and nut-based Alfredo sauces are allowed on the program, as long as their ingredients are compatible. But as with Larabars or nut butters, use your best judgment. If you have an unhealthy emotional relationship with cheese, use cheese as a comfort food, or find cheese is a trigger food for other cravings (like wine or crackers), you might want to consider leaving these recreations out of your Whole30.

Nutritional Yeast: Yes

This is a great substitute for parmesan on a garden salad, over spaghetti squash and meatballs, or sprinkled over chili.

“Paleo” or Grain-Free Bread: No

This goes back to our “Pancake Rule, formerly known as SWYPO.” Baked goods, even those made with Whole30 compatible ingredients, are a no-go for the 30 days of your program. This extends to coconut-cassava tortillas and almond or coconut wraps as well. Just say no, and sandwich your meat in a lettuce leaf, portobello mushroom caps, or toasted sheets of nori instead.

Pancakes: No

From the beginning of the Whole30, this has been a source of confusion and consternation for our community, because of a recipe that combines egg with banana to create a “pancake.” Yes, those two ingredients are compatible, but when combined together and served as a pancake, they’re a no-go during your Whole30. If you’re wondering why…

Pancakes in any form do not encourage success with the Whole30 program. Reaching your health goals depends on committing to both the rules and the spirit and intention of the program. The Whole30 is designed to change your relationship with food, first and foremost. And the psychological impact of eating pancakes as part of your healthy eating, life-changing plan cannot be ignored.

Eating eggs, a banana, and some olive oil is not the same as combining those ingredients into a pancake. There are studies that show that how your brain perceives the food influences satiation. This is often cited with liquid food (smoothies or shakes, as we reference in the back of It Starts With Food), but experientially we see this with whole foods as well, depending on how they are combined. Pancakes bring up a totally different psychological response than frying some eggs and eating a banana. And it’s that psychological response that we are trying to target with the program.

You may not have an affinity for pancakes, but we find that most people who complete our program do best without any of these comfort/trigger/reminiscent-of-the-SAD-stuff-you-used-to-eat foods. So, because we need to create one program that applies to as many people as possible, we rule these Paleo recreations out. In our vast experience, this sets everyone up for the best Whole30success possible. And, of course, what you choose to do after your 30 days are up is entirely up to you.

Pasta: Not unless it’s 100% veggies

Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) or sweet potato noodles are a fun way to eat your veggies. (In this case, “noodles” just represents the shape, not the taste, texture, or flavor.) But pasta recreations that use alternative flours (like Trader Joe’s gnocchi) are specifically designed to replicate the taste, texture, and flavor of real pasta–and this is a “no” under the “Pancake Rule, formerly known as SWYPO.” Read your labels; if there is any form of flour or starch (like chickpea, cassava, potato, or coconut) used in the pasta, it’s out for your Whole30.

Peas: Yes.

Green peas, yellow peas, split peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are an exception to the “no legume” rule per a rule change in 2020.

Pea Protein: Yes.

100% green or yellow pea protein is acceptable on the program. Pea protein is often used by functional medicine providers since it’s gentle even for sensitive patients (those with GI issues or a host of allergies/intolerances) and is considered a “hypoallergenic” protein source. However, many vegan protein blends also include other grains like rice, and/or have added sugar, sugar alcohol, or artificial sweeteners. Pea proteins that also contain off-plan ingredients are not compatible.

Potatoes: Yes!

We changed the official Whole30 rules in August 2014 to include all varieties of potatoes—white, red, Yukon gold, purple, fingerling, baby, sweet potatoes, yams, etc. Feel free to boil, bake, roast, pan-fry, grill, microwave, or steam them, but no store-bought potato chips or restaurant French fries; that’s completely against the spirit of the Whole30.

Protein Shakes: Almost Always No

Almost all protein powders (like whey, casein, or soy) contain off-limit ingredients. Besides, anything you can get from protein powder (except maybe chemical extractives, added sweeteners and strange-sounding isolates) you can get from whole foods during your Whole30. In addition, formulated and processed meal-replacement shakes are always off-limits. These products don’t even come close to our definition of real, whole food—and they’re packed with off-plan ingredients like soy protein and stevia. However, protein powder from approved ingredients like 100% egg white, 100% grass-fed collagen peptides, or 100% pea protein are allowed on the Whole30, provided they contain no sweeteners.

Tip: You can have your shaker cup back in 30 days. For now, focus on starchy veggies and lean protein after a workout. Hard-boiled eggs, compatible deli meat, chicken breast, or tuna are easy, portable protein sources post-workout.

Quinoa: No

Quinoa is another one of those pseudo-cereals. While it might not technically be considered a grain, it contains properties that could be similarly problematic to your body, which makes it off-limits for your Whole30. The same guideline applies to buckwheat, amaranth, and other gluten-free grain substitutes.

Safflower/Sunflower Oil: Yes

While we don’t think vegetable oils are the most nutritious choice, we don’t expressly rule them out on the Whole30. If we did, you’d never be able to eat outside of your own kitchen, because most restaurants use them in cooking. We wanted to create the healthiest program possible, but we also need it to be do-able for those who travel for business or pleasure, or simply want to dine out during the month.

Tip: High-oleic saafflower or sunflower oil are very different than their counterparts. The high oleic versions actually have a favorable fat profile, similar to extra-virgin olive oil. These fat sources are also encouraged on your Whole30.

Salt: Yes

First, salt makes your food delicious. Second, when you cut out processed and packaged foods, you remove the vast majority of sodium from your diet. Adding salt to your Whole30 plate won’t push you over reasonable sodium limits, and if you avoid salt altogether, you run the risk of an electrolyte imbalance (not to mention serious food boredom). We encourage a mix of iodized table salt and sea salt.

Tip: 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. But remember, salt is an exception to the Whole30 “no added sugar” rules. Without this exception, you’d never be able to eat outside of your own home, because iodized table salt is added to all restaurant and pre-packaged foods.

Smoothies: Yes, but not encouraged

A common Whole30 NSV is getting in-touch with your satiety signals—the feeling that lets you know when you’re hungry, and then when you’ve had enough to eat. For many, smoothies bypass the satiety signal, since your brain perceives drinking differently than it does chewing and swallowing. Smoothies also often contain lots of sugar from fruit (way more than you’d typically consume if you’re eating whole fruit). In general, we encourage you to eat a meal rather than have a smoothie. However, for specific populations, smoothies made with compatible ingredients are a helpful way to get additional nutrition when solid meals aren’t possible or convenient. Pregnant or nursing people, children, and vegetarian/vegans may fall into this category. We encourage you to own your own program here and make the choice that fits best with your objectives.

Snap/Snow Peas: Yes 

Snow peas (and snap peas, and green beans, and romano beans) are fine during your Whole30 – even though they’re botanically legumes. The problem with legumes comes when you consume the seed. Snow peas contain a tiny, immature seed, and a big, green pod. As such, we’re not worried about the potential downsides of consuming these “veggies.”

Stevia Leaf: No

While it’s not highly processed like its liquid or powdery cousins, the only purpose of stevia leaf is to sweeten something that was not already sweet. This is something we want you to avoid during your Whole30. Instead, learn to appreciate the natural flavors of your foods, and don’t rely on sweet tastes to prop up sugar cravings.

Tahini: Yes

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are compatible with the Whole30 program, so tahini paste is too, if all the other ingredients in the paste are compatible.

Vanilla Extract and Other Botanical Extracts: Yes

Alcohol-based botanical extracts (like vanilla, lemon or rosemary) are allowed during your Whole30 program. These extracts are used to boost flavor in food and beverages and also to preserve certain food products, like meat. Yeast extract is also fine during your program. It comes from yeast (which is a fungus) and has been certified as gluten-free.

Water Kefir: Yes

Following the same logic as kombucha, we’re okay with water kefir.  If you’re making it yourself, do what you can to ensure that the sugar is used by the bacteria (appropriate fermentation time). If you’re buying, avoid those brands with added sugar in the ingredients list.

Header images courtesy of Mel Joulwan and Paleo Spirit