The Whole30® Program
Plan for Whole30 Success
Since April 2009, millions of people have successfully completed the Whole30® program with stunning, life-changing results. This is a summary of the official rules of the Whole30, plus some extra motivation from Melissa.
For in-depth information about planning and preparing for the program, a comprehensive FAQ, and more than 100 totally compliant recipes, refer to our New York Times bestselling book, The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.
The Whole30 Program Rules
Yes: Eat real food.
Eat meat, seafood, and eggs; vegetables and fruit; natural 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: Avoid for 30 days.
- Do not consume 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.
- Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking. (And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
- Do not eat 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.
- Do not eat most forms of legumes. This includes beans (black, red, pinto, navy, garbanzo/chickpeas, white, kidney, lima, fava, cannellini, lentils, adzuki, mung, cranberry, and black-eyes peas); peanuts (including peanut butter or peanut oil); and all forms of soy (soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy protein, soy milk, or soy lecithin).
- Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label, it’s out for the Whole30.
- Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients.* Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compliant) is missing the point of the Whole30, and won’t lead to habit change. These are the same foods that got you into health-and-craving trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, even if it’s made with coconut flour.
- Do not step on the scale or take 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. (You may take photos and/or measurements on Days 0 and 31, however.)
*Some specific foods that fall under this rule include: pancakes, crepes, waffles, bread, tortillas, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, alternative flour pizza crust or pastas, granola, cereal, or ice cream. No commercially-prepared chips (potato, tortilla, plantain, etc.) or French fries either. While this list of off-limit foods applies to everyone (even those who “don’t have a problem” with pancakes), you may decide to exclude additional foods that you already know make you feel out of control, 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 Whole30.
- Ghee or clarified butter. These are the only source of dairy allowed during your Whole30. Plain old butter is NOT allowed, as you may be sensitive to the milk proteins found in non-clarified butter.
- 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 Whole30. (We have to draw the line somewhere.)
- Certain legumes. Green beans and most peas (including sugar snap peas, snow peas, green peas, yellow peas, and split peas) are allowed.
- 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 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.
Give Us Thirty Days
Your only job during the Whole30 is to focus on making good food choices. You don’t need to weigh or measure, count calories, restrict calories, or purchase everything organic or grass-fed. Your only job is to stick to the Whole30 rules for 30 straight days… no cheats, no slips, no “special occasions.”
This isn’t a hazing or a boot camp; the requirement for 100% compliance is grounded in science. We call the Whole30 a “reset,” but at its heart, the Whole30 is an elimination diet. Elimination protocols have been around since the 1920’s, and many doctors say they are still the gold standard in identifying food sensitivities—but only if you do them by the books. In order to accurately test how your body responds in the absence of these potentially problematic foods, you have to completely eliminate them. One bite of pizza, one spoonful of ice cream, one sip of beer within the 30-day period and you’ve broken the “reset”—and have to start over again on Day 1.
You must commit to the full program, exactly as written, 100% for the full 30 days. Anything less and you won’t experience the full benefits the program has to offer. Anything less and you are selling yourself—and your life-changing results—short.
It’s only 30 days.
It’s For Your Own Good
Here comes the tough love. This is for those of you who are considering taking on this life-changing month, but aren’t sure you can actually stick to it for 30 straight days. This is for the people who have tried this before, but who “slipped” or “fell off the wagon” or “just HAD to eat (fill in food here) because of this (fill in event here).” This is for anyone who needs just a tiny kick to the butt to finally say “YES, I want this.” This is for you, from me, with love.
- This is not hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You have done harder things than this. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. Hear me now: The Whole30 is exactly as hard as you decide it’s going to be, so repeat after me: “This is not hard.”
- Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a pizza, there is no “slip.” It is always a choice to eat something unhealthy, and if you open the door now to “I’m Whole30, except…” you will bail on the program, and you cannot afford to bail on yourself again. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even started.
- You never, ever, ever have to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. You’re all adults. Stand up for yourself. Learn to say, “no, thank you” and hold the line without defending, explaining, or excusing your decision. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, best friend’s wedding, or office party does not mean you have to eat or drink anything. It is always a choice, and I hope we all stopped succumbing to peer pressure in seventh grade.
- This does require effort. Grocery shopping, meal planning, dining out, explaining the program to friends and family, and dealing with stress will all prove challenging at some point during your program. We’ve given you a huge number of tools, advice, and resources here, but you also have to take responsibility for your own program. Improved health, habits, and relationship with food don’t happen automatically just because you’re now taking a pass on bread. This will be work, but it will be worth it.
- You can do this. You’ve come this far—don’t back out now. You want to change your life. You’re ready to change your life. And I believe in you, even if you’re not quite ready to believe in yourself. So stop thinking about it, and start doing it. Right now, this very minute, commit to the Whole30, and tell someone you’re doing it.
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 believe in the power of the Whole30 that much. I promise, we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Welcome to the Whole30.