8 Things You Should Know Before Starting Whole30

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant
Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Whole30 Compliant Foods Like Lean Beef and Vegetablees

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One of 2019's biggest diet trends was the Whole30 diet, and more likely than not, you or someone you know has tried it.

Unlike other diets, the focus of Whole30 is to identify intolerances that you may not have realized were negatively affecting your health. The diet, founded by Melissa Hartwig Urban just over 10 years ago, came about when a 30-day diet experiment "transformed Urban's health, habits, and emotional relationship with food."

So we rounded up all the info you should know before jumping into the diet, from what you can eat to what you can't eat and how to make it work for your lifestyle:

1. It's not all about weight loss.

In essence, Whole30 is an elimination diet, and the goal of elimination diets is to figure out your food intolerances to determine what does and doesn't work for your body. This helps manage inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, and nurture your gut.

For 30 days, Whole30 works to "reset" your diet and your relationship with food through whole, minimally processed ingredients (hence the diet's name). At the end of the 30 days, you begin to reintroduce eliminated ingredients and monitor how your body reacts to them.

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2. It doesn't require measuring food or restricting calories.

Urban actually refers to Whole30 as the diet for people who hate diets. It's not all about weight loss but rather figuring out what a healthy diet looks like for you. In fact, you're not even allowed to weigh yourself during the 30 days, but instead you take note of improvements in your sleep, energy levels, mood, athletic performance, digestion, and lots more.

The diet also doesn't require measuring food or restricting calories, just following the guidelines of what you can eat; you'll be eating a lot of vegetables, some fruits, lean meats, healthy fats, and herbs and spices. "Eat foods with very few ingredients—all pronounceable ingredients," Urban says. "Or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they're whole and unprocessed."

3. You'll read a lot of labels.

The list of no-no's for Whole30 is detailed and lengthy, and that means you're going to need to get acquainted with food labels. First and foremost, there's no sugar allowed on this diet, including natural sweeteners like maple syrup and artificial ones like stevia.

Alcohol isn't allowed either, even if you're just cooking with it. And neither are grains, legumes, or dairy. Carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites are on the list of foods to avoid too, so making a habit of double-checking labels will help ensure you're not missing anything.

For a deeper look into what can and can't be eaten during Whole30, check out our in-depth list.

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4. Yes—vegans and vegetarians can do Whole30.

Without grains or legumes, vegans and vegetarians might be wondering if this diet is even feasible for them. The answer is yes, but it will require a little extra work.

Luckily for the herbivores out there, green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed on Whole30, despite being legumes. And that's good because they've got a decent amount of protein.

But ultimately, meat-free folks may have to tailor the diet to work for them to make sure they're getting enough nutrients, which might mean eliminating some of the food groups but leaving legumes and beans in the mix. For more on how to make Whole30 work if you don't eat meat, check out our full guide.

5. Here's what a day on Whole30 looks like.

So what does a day on Whole30 look like, you ask? Take it from the founder herself!

Urban often starts her day with eggs and berries, with the addition of spinach and walnuts for extra nutrients. She's also a fan of this cricket protein for her morning shakes. (Yes, like those crickets.)

For lunch, she's a fan of chicken, tuna, or salmon "salad" stuffed in a pepper, wrapped in a lettuce wrap, or over a green salad topped with almonds, scallions, and just a little sea salt.

And for dinner, Urban has some combo of "ground meat with stuff over stuff," as she calls it. Basically, ground beef, chicken, or turkey with vegetables over a base like zoodles, sweet potatoes, or baby spinach. 

For snack ideas and Whole30-approved recipes, you can check out the extensive list of recipes on the Whole30 website.

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6. Meal prepping is your new best friend.

When it comes down to putting all this information into action, meal prepping will go a long way toward helping you stick to the diet. A new diet is always an adjustment, so being prepared will make it harder to slip up.

Here are some of our expert tips to make meal prepping easier, along with solutions to the most common meal prep roadblocks

7. Remember—no slip-ups!

And speaking of slip-ups, if you do break the rules, you have to start over. This diet is effective only if you fully commit to eliminating "in order to accurately test how your body responds in the absence of these potentially problematic foods," according to Urban.

Be prepared to have to turn down plans and explain yourself to friends and family, but remind yourself why you started in the first place.

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8. The reintroduction phase is just as important.

And lastly, once the 30 days are up, foods have to be reintroduced slowly and mindfully, to figure out what works and what doesn't.

"If you skip reintroduction and start Day 31 with pizza, ice cream, and beer all at the same time, you'll be missing half the information you could have gained from the program," Urban says. "It seems wasteful to give up stuff you really like for 30 whole days and not learn which foods were contributing to your allergies, asthma, breakouts, bloating, etc."

If you're looking to kick cravings and inflammation with a new diet, this may very well be one to try. Keep these things in mind and you'll be equipped to make it through the 30 days without a hitch.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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