The tenth (and last!) installment of the series on eating patterns is about the Whole30 Diet. Last month, we explored the Ketogenic Diet and learned the theory behind putting your body into a state of ketosis by restricting carbohydrates in order to promote quick weight loss. Ranked #38 out of 41 total diets in the U.S News Best Diet Rankings, the Whole30 Program isn’t as much a ‘diet’ as it is a ‘reset.’ The Whole30 program and its co-creater, Melissa Hartwig Urban, were recently featured on the cover of People magazine.
Whole30 Diet: While often touted as a ‘fad diet’ or ‘incredibly restrictive,’ the Whole30 is, at it’s most basic, an elimination diet designed to identify food sensitivities that could be causing hormonal imbalances, cravings, digestive issues and more. The ‘30’ in the name signifies the number of days the program lasts. The Whole30 is built on a ‘paleo’ framework, allowing the consumption of ‘whole’ foods such as meat, fruits, vegetables and fat sources. Grains and dairy, often foods that are problematic for those with sensitivities, are not allowed for the duration of the program. Also not allowed are added sugars, artificial sweeteners, soy, legumes, alcohol and various food additives. The ‘rules’ are black and white; no slip-ups or you have to start the 30 days over. The premise is that any trace of gluten, dairy, etc…may be enough to trigger a reaction. Additionally, weighing yourself isn’t allowed during your Whole30, as the reset isn’t about dieting or weight loss; it’s supposed to identify cravings, food sensitivities and bad habits around food. The program offers support through its social media channels, optional coaching and daily inspirational emails. There are multiple Whole30 books and cookbooks on the market to help participants prepare meals. After completing a Whole30, participants have two options to reintroduce the foods they eliminated for 30 days: a structured, 10-day period in which specific foods, such as gluten-containing grains, are consumed and then eliminated again to assess for sensitivities; or what they program calls the ‘slow roll’ reintroduction, in which participants only reintroduce foods they truly missed over time, without a structured plan.
Nutritional Considerations: Despite omitting grains and dairy, the Whole30 program meets all participants’ nutritional needs. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, often without the added sugars, fat and fillers found in grain- and dairy-based products. For example, dark leafy greens are sources of calcium, as is canned salmon with the bones. The program is not high-protein or low-carb, and the books/online resources offer guidance on appropriate meal sizes. The goal is to limit and/or eliminate snacking (except in some circumstances, such as pregnancy or someone who is highly active) and instead eat larger, more filling meals.
Target Audience: Anyone who wants to change their life! (At least that is what the books say.) In all seriousness, this eating pattern is incredibly restrictive and requires discipline, dedication and plenty of preparation in order to succeed. Participants will likely spend more time shopping and cooking their own food than previously, and going out to eat can be challenging without researching the menu beforehand. However, there is much to be gained by completing an elimination diet and reintroducing foods for those who think they may be experiencing food sensitivities. This author has successfully completed three rounds of Whole30 and can attest that with a little planning and label-reading, it’s not that hard. The whole-food, avoidance of processed foods approach is recommended for everyone.
Foods to Highlight: Ghee, or clarified butter, is allowed on the Whole30 program because the milk solids are skimmed out, leaving the butter fat. It can be made easily at home or found in grocery stores or online and is used for cooking. Extra light olive oil is used to make homemade mayo and countless other dressings on the program. Almond butter will replace your peanut butter (peanuts are legumes, not nuts), and jelly is a no-no. Sweet potato slices stand in for bread and buns, and a ‘meatza pizza’ features a meat crust topped with no-added-sugar pizza sauce and veggies. Spaghetti squash is an easy sub for pasta, and hard-boiled eggs are a staple.