Food habits can be challenging to give up. The Whole 30 diet menu offers something unique: It is not a diet or a weight loss program. The Whole 30 meal plan is a way to change your life by using food to alleviate cravings, balance hormones, and boost energy. It focuses on removing certain “trigger” foods to purportedly improve overall health and well-being. Proponents say it’s like a reset button for the bad eating habits that you accumulate during your life. The challenge lasts 30 days. Also, unlike a number of other well-known diets, the Whole 30 diet menu doesn’t restrict calories or require exercise.1,2
Whole30 consists of a list of foods that you should eat and a list of foods to avoid. Therefore, a key tenet of this diet is to read ingredient labels rather than nutrition labels. The ingredients should be recognizable.
Also, if the food is whole and unprocessed, it may not even have an ingredient list. Think meat, seafood, and eggs, vegetables and fruits, spices and seasonings, and natural fats.
Read on to learn the specifics of the Whole 30 diet menu and meal plan.
Foods To Avoid On The Whole 30 Diet: Processed Foods, Sugar, Dairy, Grains Legumes, And More
On the Whole 30 Diet, it’s crucial to be aware of the main categories of foods to avoid when you meal plan. Here are some examples.
Added Sugar (Natural Or Artificial)
The Whole 30 Diet eliminates sugar and sweeteners in all forms, including natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, monk fruit extract, and stevia), sugar alcohols (xylitol), and artificial sugars (Splenda, Equal, and Nutrasweet).3
The Whole 30 diet eliminates the entire category of grains, regardless of the level of processing. These foods include wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, and sprouted grains. They also include all gluten-free pseudo-grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. Finally, any processed versions of these foods are prohibited, such as bran, germ, and starch.4
Avoid all commercially-raised processed meats, like bacon, sausage, and deli meats on Whole 30.5
All Dairy (Except For Clarified Butter And Ghee)
Under this diet, all forms of dairy are prohibited. These include dairy products made from cows, goats, and sheep. Milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, and frozen yogurt are specific foods in this category.6
Clarified butter and ghee are the exceptions. These are allowed on the Whole 30 because the water and milk solids have been removed. Ghee is similar to clarified butter except that it has been cooked longer.7
Alcohol (In Any Form)
This includes all forms of alcohol, including alcohol used for cooking purposes.8
This includes all types of beans, from black, red, pinto and navy, to chickpeas, lentils, mung, and black-eyed peas). It also includes all processed forms of legumes, such as soybeans (including soy sauce), tempeh, miso, soy milk, and peanuts (including peanut butter and peanut oil).9
Carrageenan, MSG, Or Sulfites
The main additives that are off-limits are carrageenan, cornstarch, MSG, sulfites, and soy lecithin. However, the Whole 30 guidelines encourage you to avoid as many additives as possible.10
Baked Goods, Junk Foods, Or Treats With Approved Ingredients
This category also includes pancakes, waffles, bread, cookies, muffins, cereal, and pizza crust and pasta made with alternative ingredients. Commercially-prepared chips and french fries are also included.11
However, there are exceptions to these rules, as you can find in the next section.
With so many foods eliminated from contention on this diet, what can you eat? Whole, minimally-processed foods, of course. By eating these foods you can provide your body with a variety of benefits including immune support, energy support, a reduction in cravings, and setting yourself up for success when it comes to meeting your fitness goals.
Foods To Eat On The Whole 30 Diet Menu: Protein, Healthy Fats, Fruits, Vegetables, And More
Grocery shopping on the Whole 30 Diet is pretty simple: Shop for protein, produce, and healthy fats. The best foods to buy at the grocery store are oils, nuts, and seeds. To do this right requires a well-thought-out meal plan with compliant recipes.
The most valuable part of this diet is the high-quality sources of animal protein from meat, fish, and eggs. Ideally, look for wild-caught fish, grass-fed and -finished beef, and pasture-raised chicken and eggs.12
Load up on fruits and veggies. Ideally, opt for produce that is both local and seasonal. They are often the freshest, most nutritious, and most affordable. Frozen fruits are okay too but in moderation. So are sweet potatoes. Refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists to determine what should be organic vs. conventional.13,14
Healthy fats are an integral part of this diet. Permitted fats include avocado, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, canned coconut milk, clarified butter, and ghee. Look for raw or dry-roasted nuts to avoid consuming unhealthy oils. But remember, you should avoid peanuts or peanut products on the Whole30 diet.15
And while unsweetened nut-based beverages like almond milk are allowed, eating nuts in their whole form is considered healthier when following Whole 30.16
Delicious and Easy Whole 30 Meal Plan Ideas: Recipes, Steps, and Ingredients (Plus a Bonus Vegan Recipe)
The key to the Whole 30 diet is having a good meal plan. Taking the time to write a good meal plan may help save time, money, and the stress of wondering what to make for dinner.17 If you have the time, many Whole 30-compliant recipes can be made in your own kitchen.
If you want meals made for you, a wide variety of supermarkets, online markets, and meal delivery services offer meal plans tailored to Whole 30-compliant recipes.18
Breakfast Recipe: Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs are a breakfast staple of the Whole 30 diet. Hard-boiled eggs are easy to make, but there is a trick to doing them well.
- Use older eggs with a little baking soda added to the water.
- Poke a pinhole into the bottom of each egg prior to cooking.
- Boil the water after putting the eggs in the pot.
- Immediately remove the eggs from the heat once the cooking time is done.
- Place the eggs into an ice bath for a few minutes to help them cool.19
When this recipe is followed, the eggs do not overcook and the shells may peel more easily.
Dinner Recipe: “Breaded” Chicken
This “breaded” chicken dinner recipe replaces the traditional bread crumbs or crushed corn flakes with blanched almond flour, which is permitted under the Whole 30 rules.20,21
- Avocado oil
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp dill weed
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 2 pre-cut boneless, skinless, pasture-raised chicken breasts (or schnitzel cuts
- 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and grease with a bit of avocado oil.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (almond flour, garlic powder, dill weed, and sea salt) and mix well.
- Prepare the chicken breasts by slicing them lengthwise with a sharp knife.
- Lightly coat each piece of chicken with arrowroot starch.
- Dip each piece of chicken in the beaten egg, then coat with the dry ingredient mixture from step 3.
- Place the breaded chicken pieces on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly crisp.
- Remove from the oven and serve the chicken with sliced lemon wedges.
Bonus Vegan Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato
This grain-free gluten-free roasted sweet potato recipe is simple, delicious, and vegan. It pairs well with almost any dinner.22
- 3 large garnet sweet potatoes (opt for ones that are longer instead of thicker)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Slice a sweet potato in half lengthwise.
- Place potatoes in a baking sheet pan and lightly cover with coconut oil.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Place potatoes cut side down on the sheet pan and place in the oven.
- Bake potatoes for 35-40 minutes.
- Pierce with a fork to see if they’re tender or a fork can easily pierce through the middle.
Make A Meal Plan: Change Your Eating Habits For Better Health And Well-Being
With all the popular diets in the marketplace, it is important to get up to speed on what they mean. The idea behind the Whole 30 diet is
to eat real food, to break food habits, and to reset your emotional relationship with food.23 With the right meal plan, a breakfast, lunch, and dinner based on the Whole 30 Diet can be delicious, satisfying, and nutritious.
Note: This is not a recommendation or an endorsement of this popular diet. If you want to know more about how it works and whether it’s right for you, talk to your physician first.