Since the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day, we haven’t been able to open our Instagram accounts without being inundated by posts of our acquaintances’ new Whole30 diet journeys. There are pictures and videos about why they’re going on the diet (to “detox” after a hellish 2017, of course), what they’re eating (or not eating), and how hard it is to stay away from cheese (can you imagine???). And so, just like Burning Man, it’s clear that the first rule of doing the Whole30 diet is to constantly talk about doing the Whole30 diet.
But what exactly is Whole30? What can people actually eat on it? And more importantly, is it even a good idea to do this diet in the first place? To learn more, we consulted some experts.
First of all, what is the Whole30 diet?
Whole30 is a 30-day program that eliminates certain food groups from your diet, with the goal of pushing “the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food” (according to its website). Or, as registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin explains to the Cut, Whole30 is intended to help you reevaluate how you eat and better understand how different foods make you feel. “But it is an incredibly restrictive diet,” she cautions, “so it is not a long-term lifestyle plan.”
So what does it cut out?
Eh … it cuts out a lot. On the Whole30 diet, you can’t have: dairy (say good-bye to cheese), legumes (so no beans, pea, chickpeas, lentils peanuts or peanut butter, soy sauce, tofu, and anything else soy-related), grains (wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, and even gluten-free grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth), added sugars (from Splenda to maple syrup), alcohol (no wine!!!!!), and junk foods or baked goods. The complete list can be found here.
But what can you actually eat?
A few things, apparently. The Whole30 diet wants you to focus on “real foods,” which means lean proteins like meat, seafood and eggs; vegetables; some fruit; natural fats like avocado; and herbs, spices, and seasonings.
Is it actually a good idea to go on this diet?
Well, it depends who you ask (and what your goals are). A recent panel of health experts listed the Whole30 towards the bottom of a new ranking of the best diets of 2018 by the U.S. News & World Report, saying it’s one of the “worst of the worst for healthy eating.” And Zeitlin told the Cut, “It’s an excessively restrictive diet and you might be setting yourself up for failure. Either you’ll give up mid-30 because it’s too hard to adhere to, or you’ll make it all the way through and then you’ll binge.” But registered dietitian Amy Shapiro said the diet could be a good idea for someone hoping to become more cognizant of their eating habits. “It’s a month of focusing on your food and having to cook a lot more,” Shapiro said. “It really makes you think about what you’re putting in your body.”
What sort of meals can I eat if I decide to follow Whole30?
According to Shapiro, an easy breakfast on the Whole30 diet would be eggs with veggies — spinach, onions, or tomatoes. Another option could be to make a plant-based smoothie, with almond milk, coconut oil, chia seeds, and Whole30-approved protein powder. Lunch could be a salad with a lean protein in it (and an olive oil-based dressing), and for snacks she recommends cut up veggies and guacamole, beef jerky, or some cut up nuts. For dinner, Shapiro says to focus on heart-healthy proteins — like grilled salmon — and lots of vegetables.
Isn’t there an easier way to do all this?
Instead of going gung-ho on Whole30 like the rest of your Instagram feed (and risking going on a donut-related binge at the end of the 30 days), Zeitlin recommends simply eating by adding more vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to your daily diet to stay healthy. She also says you should make sure to not skip meals — “By skipping meals your body is holding onto more calories and it has the reverse effect,” she explained — and most importantly, drink tons of water.