Here’s What You Can and Can’t Eat on Whole30

updated Jan 9, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Are you considering trying Whole30 this year? We’ve got all the recipes you need if you are. But let’s start with the basics: What does Whole30 involve, anyway?

When it comes to what you can and can’t eat on this 30-day enterprise, the rules are pretty hard and fast, and there’s a lot (including dairy, added sugar, and alcohol, whether for drinking or cooking) on the no-fly list. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Whole30 temporarily eliminates “trigger” foods — the foods that (may) make you feel not so great.

The point of Whole30, as you might assume, is not to punish you for the excesses of your summer of fun by ridding your diet of everything good and tasty (which also include grains and legumes, plus anything that contains carrageenan, MSG, soy, and sulfites). Nor is the message of Whole30 that these foods are inherently bad.

Rather, the idea is that some of these foods might be triggers for you. Cheese may be behind your tummy trouble; soy may be the culprit when it comes to your runny nose.

The goal is to investigate how your body responds to certain foods, by first eliminating them and then slowly reinstating them after the 30 days are up. If they still work for you — great! If you find something that helps you feel better in your body, that’s great too.

To help you navigate your way through the dos and don’ts of what you can eat on Whole30, here’s a short guide to all the foods you can’t eat during Whole30 and, more importantly, what you can eat during those 30 days. (You can also always see the rules for Whole30 on the program’s website.)

Our Absolute Favorite Whole30 Snack

These tangy bars are so good for Whole30. Pick up a pack for breakfast and snacks. Not all Larabars are Whole30-compliant, so be sure to check the label before you buy. The Cherry Pie option is approved. Ditto for the chocolate coconut chew.

This stuff is out! (Image credit: Maria Siriano)

What You Can’t Eat on Whole30

This list may feel punitive, but it’s not. And it’s 30 days! You can do it!

1. Dairy

This means no cheese, cow milk, yogurt, cream, sour cream, kefir, and butter. The only exception to this rule is that you can have ghee.

2. Grains

This means no corn, rice, quinoa, wheat, rye, millet, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, or sprouted grains.

3. Alcohol

No alcohol for cooking or drinking is to be consumed while doing Whole30. This includes vanilla extract. You can have something like kombucha, however, which does include a very minor amount of alcohol (as long as there isn’t added sugar from outside of fruit juice). Read more about Kombucha restrictions here.

4. Legumes

For 30 days you can’t eat beans of any kind, soy of any kind (including tofu, soy sauce, miso, edamame), chickpeas, peas, lentils, and peanuts.

5. Added Sugar

Don’t consume sugar that is real or artificial during the 30 days. This includes honey, maple syrup, agave, Splenda, xylitol, and Stevia. When it comes to grocery store finds, this one might be the trickiest to avoid. Common household ingredients — like Sriracha — include added sugar. You need to

check the label

6. Carrageenan, MSG, and Sulfites

Avoid processed foods while doing Whole30. If you see these three things on any ingredient list, it’s out.

7. “Junk” Food

This means that you can’t recreate your favorite junk food or baked good recipes even if they use Whole30-compliant ingredients. This is less to do with your physical reactions to food, and more to do with the mental side of things. Don’t try to recreate “pizza crust” out of cauliflower, and don’t make “pancakes” out of eggs and banana.

Eat all this instead! (Image credit: Maria Siriano)

What You Can Eat on Whole30

After that pretty exhausting list of foods you can’t eat, it might seem a little daunting to start the program. But there’s still a bunch of delicious ingredients that can comprise a great meal.

1. Vegetables

Eat vegetables — including potatoes! — to your heart’s content.

2. Fruits

Fruits are allowed, in moderation. Remember that you’re trying to limit your sugar intake during the 30 days.

3. Unprocessed Meats

Sausage is still okay, but check for added sugar and other off-limit preservatives.

4. Seafood

Fish and shellfish get the Whole30 nod of approval.

5. Eggs

Eggs will become your new breakfast bestie.

6. Nuts and seeds

All nuts and seeds are okay, with one exception: peanuts, because they are a legume.

7. Oils (some) and ghee

Just say yes to olive oil and coconut oil. Ghee, which is a type of clarified butter, is also allowed.

8. Coffee

Yes, you can have coffee while on Whole30, but you can’t add any milk products or sugar to lighten it up. Try making your own almond milk instead (with no sweeteners).

Meals to Make on Whole30

The Golden Rule of Whole30

The most important thing to remember when doing Whole30 is to check the label on everything you buy. A lot of everyday condiments and prepackaged goods have added sugar or additives that you might not be aware of. When in doubt, choose whole foods, especially vegetables, but also fruits, nuts, meats, and seafood.