Deciding to go on a diet is one of the first steps along the path to a healthier life. Congratulations on getting started by doing a bit of research into Whole30!
Jumping into Whole30 is an exciting and challenging process, but by planning thoroughly on the front end, you can set yourself up for success. Your best bet is to get a good grasp on what is and isn’t available to you and then roll that into a specific meal plan and grocery list.
We’re going to give you everything you need to take a confident first step into Whole30. First, we’ll cover exactly what you can and can’t eat on Whole30, and then we’ll give you a one-week meal plan to kick things off.
Whole30 Diet Basics
Whole30 diet is about eliminating categories of food known or suspected of being harmful.
At its core, Whole30 is about eliminating harmful categories of food for 30 days and replacing them with whole foods. It’s not about achieving a particular physical state like keto or harkening back to roots of old like paleo. It’s about taking what food nutritionists think is harmful and firmly removing it from your diet for thirty days. The idea is that this will serve as a diving board into a healthier eating routine and change your relationship with food overall, even if you make a conscious decision to reintroduce some of your old vices.
It’s also worth noting that the science is still contested over some of the eliminations that Whole30 recommends, and how you will respond to Whole30 will depend upon your unique needs. That being said, we think the biggest benefit of Whole30 is the space to critically observe what foods make you feel what way and why.
Whole30 helps you analyze how foods make you feel.
By choosing to reintroduce foods methodically after your thirty-day elimination, you can take note of which categories of foods affect you and how. By cutting out foods and adding them back in one by one, you have the opportunity to identify negative triggers, while still experiencing food freedom. It’s a clinical approach, and it can certainly work[*].
Whole30 Foods You Can Eat
Fill your cart with meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings.
Whole30 prioritizes whole foods. If you fill your grocery cart with items mostly from the produce, meat, and seafood sections, then that’s most of the battle. Buy as many raw ingredients as you can and use those to cook with instead of canned and frozen meals.
This is a great time to learn more about cooking as well. It’s harder to diet when you aren’t confident in your cooking skills, but when you can whip up delicious meals that also check your Whole30 boxes, you will be winning in no time. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a wonderful book for getting started with cooking.
Here’s a master list of categories you can eat, and if you’re super curious you can see an even more exhaustive list here. Keep in mind that you still need to check the labels on anything packaged! Any additives or sugars are not allowed.
- All veggies: This includes potatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach — you name it. Aim for a variety of colors to get a balanced nutritional profile and to keep your tastebuds guessing.
- Fruit: You can absolutely eat fruit as part of a balanced Whole30 diet. Natural sugar is fine, just don’t go overboard on the sugar.
- Unprocessed meats: Butcher-fresh and without additives is the way to go. Avoid frozen meats as these are more prone to have preservatives. You want whole, untreated meats! Our go-tos include chicken breasts and turkey.
- Seafood: If you live on the coast, then we are jealous of how tasty your Whole30 journey will be. And if you don’t, you can still enjoy delicious shrimp, salmon, clams, etc.
- Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein and are arguably the saving grace of Whole30. Whether it’s scrambled eggs in the morning or poached eggs in a tomato sauce at night, pick up a dozen and you’ll never go hungry!
- Nuts: For the most cost-effective option, take a ride to Costco or Trader Joe’s and grab a big bag of almonds or cashews. These are calorie-dense, so if you’re trying to incorporate weight loss into your Whole30 journey, you’ll have to monitor your eating, but these are great snacks to have around.
- Olives: Fresh olives are the best. Just avoid cheese-stuffed ones since dairy is off limits!
- Avocados: The famed butter fruit is fair game on Whole30. Pair it with some salt and pepper with 2 eggs in the morning for a wonderful start to your day.
- Alternative milks: Watch out for added sugars in a lot alternative milk brands, but any alternative kinds of milk (such as coconut or almond) that don’t have additives and sugars are okay.
- Seeds: Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are nice ways to spice up a salad or get you through a road trip Whole30-style.
- Ghee, olive oil, coconut oil: Healthy fats are just fine. As long as you avoid dairy-based fats like butter, you’re okay. One big container of coconut oil should get you through your thirty days!
- Vinegar: A little bit of acid is a sure bet to a great meal. Distilled vinegar, rice vinegar, and red wine vinegar are all okay!
- Salt & spices: Salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, — essentially all pantry spices are fair game.
This may not seem like a lot, but the sheer variety of vegetables you have available to you is where you can get creative. Imagine roasted squash with chicken breast or slow-roasted salmon served alongside bacon-wrapped asparagus. You can absolutely make mouthwatering meals on Whole30!
Foods to Avoid on Whole30
Now that you know what you can eat, let’s take a look at everything that you need to avoid during your Whole30 journey.
- Dairy: That means no cheese, no butter, no milk, and no ice cream! Anything remotely dairy-based is absolutely off-limits on Whole30!
- Legumes: Legumes include beans, lentils, and peas.
- Whole Grains: Avoid any whole grain bread, oats, and cereals.
- Alcohol: You’ll have to say goodbye to the boxed wine and G&Ts for now. You may be surprised at how much energy you have by avoiding alcohol for thirty days!
- Added sugar: This means no Stevia, Splenda, Equal, or other sugar alternatives as well. Natural sugars in fruits are okay, but everything else isn’t. Check extra carefully on all labels for added sugar.
- MSG, sulfates, etc: MSG is found in lots of Chinese and Japanese food, so double-check that it isn’t there. And if you’re in doubt, you should probably skip the takeout and just make a version of what you want at home!
- Junk food across the board: No chips. No candy. No popcorn (try these Whole30 popcorn alternatives instead). This is covered in some of these other categories, but it’s worth reiterating that all guilty-pleasure snacks are not allowed.
- Desserts all around: The same goes for desserts. If you’re craving some sugar, sneak in some natural fruit instead!
What you can drink on Whole30
Drinks follow the exact same rules. As long as you aren’t violating any of the banned categories, then you’re fine. Here are a few big ones that are okay to have:
- Black coffee: Just don’t put in any sugar, sugar substitutes, or creamers.
- Unsweetened tea: Tea is just fine without sugar.
- Whole food juices and smoothies: Any drinkable item that exclusively contains approved ingredients is okay. Whole fruit and almond milk smoothies can be a great way to start the morning on Whole30.
- Sparkling water: LaCroix is officially Whole30 approved, so you can drink your seltzers to your heart’s content.
Healthy Whole30 Snacks
By eliminating many of your major carb sources, you may get hungry more often than you’d like. Here are a few of our favorite Whole30 compliant snacks to get you through those moments!
- Trail mix with almonds, raisins, and cashews
- Seafood crisps
- Kale chips
- Dried meats
- Deli meats
- Whole30 jerky
7 days of an easy Whole30 diet plan
The creator of Whole30, Melissa Urban, recommends eating 3 full meals a day. Here’s an easy Whole30 meal plan template to get your gears moving.
- Breakfast: 3 eggs over medium, one avocado, and some wilted spinach.
- Lunch: Roasted red peppers and onions alongside turkey slices and a banana.
- Dinner: Slow-roasted salmon with asparagus.
- Breakfast: Strawberry & banana smoothie with chia seeds and almond milk.
- Lunch: Cobb salad with eggs, avocado, and turkey.
- Dinner: Roasted cauliflower with steak.
- Breakfast: Spinach and mushroom omelet.
- Lunch: Spring salad with chicken, almonds, strawberries, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Dinner: Chicken in a tomato sauce with roasted squash on the side.
- Breakfast: Fried eggs with roasted red peppers and onions on the side. Top it with a spritz of lime and hot sauce for an extra kick.
- Lunch: Guacamole with carrots and celery and some sauteed deli meat.
- Dinner: Pork chops with a vegetable medley.
- Breakfast: Fresh blueberries and strawberries with a whole avocado on the side.
- Lunch: Salmon patties with sauteed spinach.
- Dinner: Chicken curry.
- Breakfast: Baked avocados with paprika and chili powder-topped eggs.
- Lunch: Power bowl with greens, chicken, and nuts.
- Dinner: Shrimp tossed in coconut oil served alongside broccoli and carrots.
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and a potato-onion hash.
- Lunch: Sauteed zucchini with spinach and shredded chicken.
- Dinner: Instant pot cashew chicken.
An Easy, One-Week + Essentials Whole30 Shopping List
If you feel a bit stuck, here’s an easy shopping list for 1-2 people! This should last you around a week. Some of the essentials will last even longer, and everything listed here is Whole30 approved. You can also use these ingredients to make many of the meals we suggested above or use them to meal prep some recipes of your own.
- 4 zucchinis
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 roasted red pepper
- 1 white onion
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 bag of whole carrots
- 3 apples
- 5 bananas
- 1 small bag of limes
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 bunches of spinach
- 1 small container of strawberries
- 1 small box of blueberries
- 2 Avocados
Meats & Eggs:
- 3lbs of white chicken breasts
- 1lb of sliced turkey
- 1 salmon filet
- 1 dozen cage-free eggs
Spices & Aromatics:
- Sea salt
- Smoked paprika
- Chili powder
- Chipotle powder
- Fresh garlic
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Almond milk (no added sugar)
- Canned whole tomatoes
- Vegetable broth
- Canned tuna
- Whole30 jerky
- Kalamata olives
- Kosher pickles
- One bag of cashews
The Bottom Line
Whole30 isn’t for everybody, but it can be a fantastic tool for reevaluating what you eat and why, and people are most successful when they buy everything they need upfront and cook from home as often as possible.
Focus on buying fresh and whole foods as much as possible, and be diligent with labels when it comes to additives and sugars. The more you can cook and know exactly what you’re eating, the better chance you’ll have acheiving Whole30 success. And once you finish your 30 days, remember to take stock of how you feel and reintroduce food groups one by one. Take notes and see what foods make you feel better or worse!
Use this article as your guide for what to eat and cook and just jump right in. You can do it!