Whole30 FAQs

Whole30 FAQs

Tip: If you hear some Whole30ers using terms you’re not familiar with, start with the Official Whole30 Glossary. You’ll find lingo like AIP, SAD and Food With No Brakes.

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Q: Can I have [some food or drink]?

A: The Official Whole30 Can I have…? Guide covers just about every food that may or may not be Whole30 compliant, so always check this first.

COFFEE: The most common questions from my clients are related to coffee! For convenience, I included them here.

Q: Can I have coffee?

A: Yes! Coffee is compliant, but always check the ingredients, especially if it’s a flavored coffee.

Coffee is allowed on the Whole30

Q: Help! I can’t drink black coffee. What can I use in place of cream and sugar in my coffee?

A: Some replacements for cream are compliant almond and coconut milk, ghee, coconut manna, cinnamon, or Nut Pods (non-dairy, unsweetened creamers). Nut Pods come in a variety of flavors such as French Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice, Hazelnut, and Original. As always, read all labels to make sure all ingredients are compliant.

Also, a frother can make your coffee frothy and creamier. You can use a frother or an immersion blender.

Q: What do I need to look for on a label to know if it’s Whole30-compliant?

A: The short answer is that a food is Whole30-compliant if there are no added sweeteners, carrageenan, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites, corn starch or soy lecithin in the list of ingredients on the label. Of course if there’s no label, like produce, it’s compliant.

However it’s not always so easy. Additives and sweeteners can be sneaky and go by many names, especially sugar. As you read labels, you’ll notice sugar is in just about everything that has a label. If you see the word “sugar” or “syrup” on the label, it’s probably not compliant. Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS); it is a very common sweetener. All artificial sweeteners are off-limits, such as Truvia, Sweet-n-Low, Stevia, Splenda, Nutra-Sweet, and Equal.

Click here for a list of the sneaky names used for sugars. The only permitted sweetener is small amounts of 100% fruit juice added as an ingredient to a recipe.

Click here for the details on common additives. It includes various names for sulfites (off-limits for the Whole30) and common additives that are allowed. I take this list with me when I go grocery shopping.

WARNING: Also, periodically check labels because they may change. A food that is Whole30-compliant today may not be next week. This isn’t common but it has happened to some of my clients.

Q: Are snacks allowed?

A: The Whole30 has rules that you must follow 100% or start over. There are also guidelines which are recommendations but don’t require a restart if you violate it. Avoiding snacks is a guideline. For the first week or so of your Whole30, your body is adjusting to a different way of eating which may be a drastic change for some. While you’re adjusting to eating meals based on the Whole30 Meal Template, you may need snacks to keep you from getting hungry between meals. As you learn the best portion sizes for your meals, you’ll require fewer or no snacks. If you get hungry between meals, try adding more healthy fat to your meals to keep you full longer. Also, be sure you’re including enough protein. 

Q: Will I be hungry on the Whole30?

A: You shouldn’t be hungry, unless it’s approaching your next meal time. You’re encouraged to eat three meals a day (more if you’re active) and snacks are allowed. Based on the Whole30 Meal Template, meals should include a serving of protein, lots of veggies and a serving of a healthy fat. If you get hungry between meals, try adding more healthy fat  to keep you full longer. You may also need to increase portion sizes. If you need a snack, think of it as mini-meals that includes at least 2 of the following: protein, healthy fat, veggies, fruit to keep you from quickly getting hungry again.

Q: What fats are allowed on the Whole30?

A: Healthy fats allowed on the Whole30 include coconut, olives, nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut milk, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, animal fats for cooking; compliant mayo, pesto, tahini, sauces and salad dressings; and “butters” such as ghee, coconut butter and nut butters. Of course there are others, but these should get you started.

Q: How can I add flavor to bland foods?

A: Keep salsa, homemade sauces and condiments on hand. Try making your own dump ranch, mayo and other condiments so you know they are compliant. Also, experiment with herbs and spices for adding flavor. Some of my favorite Whole30-compliant blended seasonings at Trader Joe’s include: 21 Seasoning Salute, Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, and Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend.

Q: What’s with the “No Scale” rule?

A: We all know our weight according to the scale can fluctuate throughout the day, or even from minute to minute. Ever weigh yourself, not like the number and immediately weigh yourself again hoping it will come up with a lower number? Also, by focusing on your weight, you may miss all those Non-Scale Victories (NSVs) that say far more about your health than your weight. Finally, don’t let a number on a piece of plastic should control your self-esteem. It’s not healthy when your morning weight determines whether you have a good day or a bad day.

Q: Will I lose weight?

A: The Whole30 is not a weight-loss program. It is not a diet. It is a temporary elimination of commonly problematic foods followed by a systematic reintroduction of the eliminated foods. The goal is to learn how foods affect YOUR body since everyone’s different. Going forward, the information you learned is used to help you decide if a food with a known negative impact is worth the consequences at this point in time. It’s like a science experiment. There is a long list of Non-Scale Victories (NSVs) or benefits commonly reported by Whole30 “graduates”. These “non-scale” results are celebrated to emphasize the rewards of eating healthy and changing your habits and relationship with food.

Q: Do I need to count calories/points/macronutrients?

A. Good news – no counting! Whole30 meals are based on the Whole30 Meal Template. Meals include 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein, then fill the rest of the plate with veggies and  include a serving of healthy fat. Fat portions are based on the size of your thumb or open- or closed-handful.

Q: Do I have to eat only organic food? Do I have to buy special food?

A: No, you can complete an entire Whole30 without buying organic or special foods. Just read labels and avoid eating any non-compliant ingredients. If your budget allows, you may want to consider buying foods that are organic/ grass-finished/ cage-free/ wild-caught. It’s generally recommended that you buy higher quality protein food sources over, say produce or fats, if you are limited. Click here to learn more about the terms associated with animal protein sources..

Q: What’s the difference between the Whole30 Rules and Recommendations or Guidelines?

A: The rules must be followed 100% for the entire reset. If you break a rule, you start over. No sugar or added sweeteners is a rule. Therefore, eating sugar invalidates your Whole30 and tomorrow starts over at Day 1. Recommendations or guidelines are suggestions to get the most from your Whole30 experience, but violating a recommendation does not require you to start over. No snacks and smoothies are examples of recommendations. You are discouraged from consuming them, but they are allowed. You are still 100% compliant.

Q: Why can’t I eat baked goods or junk foods that contain only compliant ingredients? Do I need to start over if I do?

A: The Whole30 is about so much more than the food. While technically compliant, these “Foods With No Breaks”, aka SWYPO (“Sex With Your Pants On”), are not in the spirit of Whole30. You need to change your habits, break your cravings and change your relationship with food. Your Sugar Dragon (those out-of-control cravings) will not be tamed. The only way to tame your Sugar Dragon is to starve it. For more information, see Just Say No to SWYPO and Not Even Egg & Banana Pancakes.

Q: What is SWYPO?

A: “Sex With Your Pants On” (SWYPO) is a Whole30 term for baked goods, junk foods and treats made with compliant ingredients but prohibited on the Whole30 program. For more information, see the answer to the previous question, Just Say No to SWYPO and Not Even Egg & Banana Pancakes.

Q: Is the Whole30 the same as Paleo?

A: On the surface Paleo and Whole30 may appear quite similar. Both focus on eating whole, nutrient-rich foods, and avoiding foods known to be problematic to your health. They both promote eating minimally processed foods, such as meat, seafood and eggs, vegetables and fruits, nuts and healthy fats. Both programs avoid processed, nutrient-poor foods; both eliminate refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemical additives, grains, and legumes.

However, the intents are distinctly different. Differences include:

– Paleo is a long term lifestyle, while Whole30 is a short term reset – a temporary 30-day elimination of foods known to cause health issues followed by reintroduction of those foods so you know how the foods affect you.

– Paleo has more loosely defined “guidelines”. With Whole30, is all-or-nothing with clearly defined rules; you’re 100% compliant or you’re not. After all, the Whole30 reset is only 30 days.

– In addition to what Paleo avoids, Whole30 is more restrictive and also specifically eliminates all forms of dairy (except clarified butter/ghee), sweeteners (except 100% fruit juice), alcohol, and specific food additives.

– Perhaps the most powerful, significant difference is that Whole30 also addresses mindset, habits and routines, while Paleo if focused on the food composition. For example, desserts made with Paleo ingredients are acceptable. Whole30 is strict about not eating baked goods, junk foods, or treats even if they’re made with Whole30-compliant ingredients. The spirit of Whole30 is that you need to change your habits, break your cravings and change your relationship with food. Your Sugar Dragon (those out-of-control cravings) will not be tamed by eating “Foods With No Brakes”, aka SWYPO (“Sex with your pants on”). The only way to tame your Sugar Dragon is to starve it.

– Whole30 prohibits weighing yourself or taking body measurements, because a couple numbers do NOT accurately indicate your health and your entire mood may change based on a number. Whole30 celebratesNon-Scale Victories (NSVs) to emphasize the full gamut of benefits of eating healthy food, not just whether you lose pounds or inches.

So, while at first glance they may appear very similar, Whole30 addresses your habits and relationship with food, and is a temporary reset. It includes reintroducing the eliminated foods so you know how they impact your body going forward.

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