Food for carbs
Everything You Want To Know About The Whole30 Diet

Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC


Melissa Hartwig Urban, the founder, and CEO of the Whole30 brand, doesn’t mince words or beat around any bushes.

Her approach to nutrition is sink or swim. You have to be all in and fully committed to the drastic changes required for the life-altering results you’ll love.

The Whole30 way is eating whole foods for 30 days. NO cheating. But there are also some entire food groups you’ll eliminate—just for a month.

Like a cleanse, avoiding these food categories helps reset your hormone and blood sugar regulation, digestion, immune response and inflammation, and cravings (1).

This isn’t a plan to gradually change your habits by crowding out “bad” foods and introducing “good” ones.

It’s total immersion—like going to a foreign country and learning the language by talking only to natives.

It’s challenging at first, but it’s the quickest way to get results.

And as with any new approach to nutrition, especially if you’re on medications or have current health challenges, particularly an eating disorder, check with your doctor before you jump in.

Whole30 is only one of many options to help you eat and feel better.


  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • Natural fats
  • Herbs
  • Spices and seasonings

Eat food that doesn’t have a label, or the label has one ingredient—itself.

You can eat foods that list their ingredients, but you have to be able to pronounce and recognize all of them. And they have to be on the plan.

Of course, you can create endless recipes with multiple foods in them for variety and enjoyment.

Eating is the most pleasurable when your body feels fabulous after eating instead of miserable.

At the end of 30 days, you gradually re-introduce foods into your diet to observe which of them cause discomfort or problems for you.

This process is a valuable and vital part of the Whole30 approach because it shows you the foods you can permanently scratch from your shopping list.

In alignment with effective change, the Whole30 nutrition program takes the gray areas out of decision-making by providing strict rules.

Whole30 is freeing because it takes the guesswork and excuses for poor food choices out of the equation.

You never need to wonder if it’s okay to have one little cookie or just a sip of your friend’s soda.

It isn’t a diet. You don’t have to count calories or control portions.

You do have a solid reason for saying “no” to the ice-cream social or donut run at work, and you have a legitimate excuse for not trying the Christmas fruitcake.

This program helps you identify foods that notoriously cause problems for many people but are hard to detect because their effects may not be immediate.

We also combine a variety of food every day, typically during each meal.

You’ll see benefits such as better sleep, more energy and focus, easier digestion, improved performance at work and play (2).

Melissa Hartwig says, “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.” (3).

The first rule is to eat real food.


  • No added sugar, natural or artificial.
  • No alcohol, even for cooking.
  • No grains—not even oats, rice, or quinoa.
  • No bread, even “whole grain,” and no pasta, even egg noodles.
  • No legumes except for green beans and peas.
  • No dairy from any animal. Not even yogurt.
  • No MSG, sulfites, or carrageenan.
  • No baked goods.
  • No weighing or measuring except on days 0 and 31 (7).

Some of the most challenging restrictions are the ones we’ve been told are good for us.

It’s easy to accept that sugar, fat, and salt aren’t healthy because we’ve repeatedly heard those ideas.

But quinoa? And what about yogurt? And beans. What about pancakes made with coconut flour?

That’s not a grain, and technically all the ingredients are allowed, right?

“There is not a single health-promoting substance present in grains that you can’t also get from vegetables and fruit.” (8)

Another major takeaway from the Whole30 program is that we don’t need to eat things that taste sweet.

That defeats the purpose because “fake” sugar still lights up the reward centers of our brain and promotes the urge for goodies.

The reason taking some foods away is unappealing and downright terrifying for some people is because we’re addicted to them (4).

If you suggest cutting sugar out of their diet to most people, they scoff and act like it’s impossible, or they label those who do avoid sugar as fanatics or “health nuts.”

Why such an emotional reaction?

Processed junk food with high sugar and fat, especially fried fats, is studied and tested by companies to affect the brain as addictive drugs do.

This practice ensures repeat customers and reliable sales (5).

Melissa said, “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” (6).

On that note, here are the “not hard” restrictions in their abbreviated form.


The idea isn’t to follow all the restrictions or any of them forever—just 30 days. That’s all it takes to make some mind and body adjustments that can create “food freedom” (9).

Food freedom, according to Whole30, means that you can decide when it’s worth it to indulge in a treat instead of feeling compelled never to pass up a tempting morsel.

It’s knowing that what you eat doesn’t make you good or bad; it just might make you feel good or bad, and being able to choose how you want to feel is incredible.

Food should be enjoyable. It’s so much more fun when it doesn’t make you double over in pain or have to run from the room to avoid embarrassing yourself.

Sometimes you say “yes,” and sometimes you say “no,” but you’re conscious about your choices. Your emotions don’t make you eat, and your food doesn’t make you feel guilty.

That’s food freedom.


Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC