Those following the Whole30 diet give up sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 loooooong days. That means the vast majority of packaged foods—from cookies to ketchup—are out, as is your nightly glass of red wine. Foods that are typically considered pretty darn good-for-you, like quinoa, hummus, and Greek yogurt, are also no-gos.
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Why so strict? According to the diet’s founders, these are the foods that are most likely to cause inflammation and gut damage that can make you sick or just leave you feeling less than your best. They’re also the foods that the founders say destabilize blood sugar levels and lead to cravings. But it’s hard to say whether that’s true for everyone. In general, limiting sugar and alcohol is always a good idea. But dairy, grains, and legumes don’t trigger an inflammatory response in everyone, Haas says. (Need a workout to accompany your inflammation-fighting diet? Try this one.)
With sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes off-limits, here’s what those following the plan can eat:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (dried fruit is allowed in small amounts)
- Lean proteins, such as fish, poultry, beef, and pork (preferably grass-fed and organic)
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, or ghee
- Nuts and nut butters, such as cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds, and almond butter
Why 30 days? That’s the amount of time it takes for your body to reset and start the healing process, the authors say. It’s also enough time to change your tastes and improve your relationship with food, so you naturally begin to prefer whole foods to their highly processed counterparts. After the 30 days are up, you’re encouraged to slowly reintroduce off-limits foods to see what works for you and what doesn’t. (This is what happens to your body when you quit eating processed food.)
Of course, a month of clean eating isn’t enough to guarantee that you won’t boomerang back to your old ways. But it’s enough time to lay the foundation for new habits and reorient your taste buds toward healthier foods, Haas says.
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