Are you tired of being out of shape?
Have you been slowly putting on extra pounds over the years and are at point where you want to make a change and improve your health?
Maybe you have tried to make a change but the diets you’ve tried have all failed you.
Have you heard of the Whole30 diet?
This diet burst onto the scene a few years ago and while some thought it was just another fad diet, it is far from it.
In fact, the Whole30 movement has been growing in size every year.
In this post, we will introduce Whole30 for beginners and walk you through how to be successful long term with this diet plan.
We will even offer you some incredible tips to do the Whole30 diet on a budget and offer some amazing alternative diets too, just in case Whole30 isn’t up your alley.
Your Complete Whole30 Guide
What Is The Whole 30 Diet?
The Whole 30 diet was created by co-founder Melissa Hartwig Urban and Dallas Hartwig and started to go mainstream back in 2009.
The idea behind the diet is the same as an elimination diet.
You remove processed foods from your diet and you will begin to see massive changes to your life.
What kinds of changes? Here are just a few examples.
- More consistent energy levels
- Easier time losing weight
- Healing of stubborn aches
- Relief of chronic pain
- Clearer, healthier skin
- Less bloating, gas, and belching
- Better sleep
- Allergy relief
- Healthier bowel movements
These are just a handful of the benefits of Whole30 you can achieve by cleaning up your diet and heating healthier.
You see these benefits because when you begin clean eating, you stop eating inflammatory foods, mostly processed foods, that your body has a hard time breaking down.
Plus they are added with so many chemicals, your body gets confused and stops running at peak efficiency.
The program has you give up on certain foods for a month and during this time you will begin to see changes to your health.
For me, the changes were eye-opening.
But to be honest, at first I didn’t notice any changes at all.
It wasn’t until after about a week I took notice to everything that was happening.
For starters, I no longer crashed in the afternoon.
You know what I am talking about here.
Sometime around 2pm or 3pm, you suddenly get super tired and lack motivation.
On the Whole30 plan, this was gone.
My energy levels stabilized and I had the energy to do things all day long.
Related to this was my sleep.
Before starting the program, I would wake up 4-5 times a night.
I had no problem falling back asleep, I just would wake up a lot.
But on this plan, I would sleep the night through more often.
Yes there were nights I still woke up, but now it was just 1-2 times a night.
And I was awake when my alarm would go off in the morning.
I never felt like I needed to hit the snooze button 10 times.
Also, my food cravings went away.
I wasn’t craving junk food and I was never feeling hungry. The diet helped me to feel full longer.
Added to this, I never had that bloated feeling after I ate.
The best way I can describe it is this.
You know how after Thanksgiving dinner you feel like crap because you ate way too much food?
You might want to put on sweatpants or unbutton your pants because you feel so full?
This never happens with the Whole30 diet.
You eat to refuel your body and nothing more. It’s incredible.
After the first 30 days, I was feeling amazing.
I was able to focus more, had more energy all day long, and slept better.
And I didn’t even mention weight loss!
Over the 30 days, I lost close to 15 pounds.
Understand I am a taller male, so there was more to lose.
My wife lost close to 9 pounds.
Those were the major things I noticed while on this plan.
The reason so many people love it is because it is simple.
You don’t have to count calories or weigh yourself.
In fact, weighing yourself during the first 30 days is one of the Whole30 diet rules.
You don’t weight yourself.
This is because the program isn’t intended to be a weight loss plan. It is a nutritional program.
By no longer eating problematic food and making smarter food choices, you will experience a positive health impact to your life.
Your body composition will change. You will begin to develop health habits outside of food.
You learn to listen to your body.
You learn when you are hungry and when you are not.
You learn when you are full or not.
During the 30 days, it does help to keep a journal so you can track how you are feeling.
Take the time to note how your sleep or energy levels change. What about your skin or how you look in the mirror?
Again, don’t weigh yourself, but notice how your body is responding to the diet.
If you truly want to get an idea of how your body is changing, you can consider taking body measurements with a soft tape.
Measure your waist, hips, thighs, chest and arms and try to measure the same day and time of day going forward.
What Can You Eat On Whole30 Program?
Now that you know a little more about the Whole30 program, let’s talk about what foods you are allowed to have.
Here is a list of the food groups you can consume while on the diet.
Basically it is all about eating healthy foods.
Here are some more details about each food group.
Fruit. All fruit is OK, but try to keep it in moderation. Fruit contains sugar and you don’t want to go overboard with it.
Fish. You can consume all fish, including shellfish.
Eggs. Some people confuse eggs and put them on the dairy list, but you are encouraged to eat them.
Beef, chicken, ham, and lean meats. Meat is OK to eat. The only issue is with deli meat. Some deli meats are OK, but most processed deli meat is not OK.
Nuts and seeds. All nuts and seeds, like almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, etc. can be eaten. Just know that peanuts are not to be eaten.
Vegetables. Have as many vegetables as you want. You will see that beans are on the list of foods to avoid. But you can safely eat green beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas.
Coffee. Yes, you can drink your coffee on this plan.
One key to remember is to eat as much as you want. As I mentioned earlier, there is no counting calories.
You have food freedom where you eat until you feel full and then stop.
What Can You Not Eat On Whole30 Program?
What are the foods to avoid on Whole30?
Luckily there are only 6 categories of off limits foods.
Here are some more details about each food group.
No alcohol. This one is pretty self explanatory. No beer, wine, hard alcohol .
No added sugar. You can’t add sugar to your meals and you have to read the ingredient list on boxes to make sure there is no added sugar. This one is tricky because food companies label sugar in various ways. Here are some of the most common terms for sugar. Honey, maple syrup, date syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, stevia, Nutrasweet, Equal, and xylito.
No dairy. No milk or milk products, cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream, or sour cream.
No grains. No wheat, oat, corn, rye, barley, rice, sprouted grains, quinoa, etc.
No legumes (beans). No peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts (including peanut butter), kidney, fava, lima, etc.
No baked or junk food. I don’t think you need any explanation on this one either.
As long as you don’t have anything on the list above, you are doing the Whole 30 diet. And this is what so many people love about it.
Sample Whole30 Meal Plan
To be successful with the Whole30 diet means creating a meal plan ahead of time.
I found that when I knew what I was having for each meal every day, it helped me to stay on track.
It also made it a lot harder to just quit when I got busy with work.
Now, there are hundreds of Whole30 meal plans out there.
What I am showing you below is just a sample of meals you can choose from for each meal, as well as some snacks.
To make these meals work best, take some time on the weekend and cook a few meals.
This way you have leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week.
Here is a chart of a sample Whole30 meal plan.
Below are the recipes for each meal as well.
Whole30 Breakfast Meals
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
By eating a healthy breakfast, you can reduce cravings throughout the day.
This will definitely help you avoid the donuts that one of your co-workers is sure to bring in!
Here are some meal ideas to inspire you.
Breakfast bowls. Add some eggs and veggies and you have a quick healthy breakfast. You can even add in some ham if you like.
Zucchini Oatmeal. This one might sound crazy, but it tastes amazing.
Sweet Potato, Bacon And Egg Muffin. This is a great option if your mornings are hectic. Just make them ahead of time and reheat in the microwave.
Coconut Egg Pancakes. If you enjoy coconut, you need to consider this breakfast meal. It’s so good, you don’t even need syrup.
Whole30 Lunch Meals
The lunch options for this plan are almost endless.
As long as you have a knack for cooking and stick with the allowed foods, you can make just about anything.
Even better, you can use lunch recipes for dinner and dinner recipes for lunch!
Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. I love pizza and this meal allows me to enjoy my favorite food without the guilt.
Ground Beef Taco Bowl. I love tacos but don’t miss the tortilla with this tasty bowl option.
Squash Chili. There is nothing better than hot chili on a cold day. Making it with squash is a secret trick that takes the meal to the next level.
Chipotle Turkey Burger. Who doesn’t love burgers? This alternative on the classic burger will impress you.
Whole30 Dinner Meals
Dinner is another important meal.
If you have a healthy dinner, it will help you to avoid late night cravings.
And you’ll sleep better at night too.
Here are my favorite dinner dishes, which can be used for lunch as well!
Turkey, Kale And Cauliflower Soup. I was hesitant to try this one as I’m not a huge soup person. But this one surprised even me.
Spaghetti And Meatballs. No grains but love pasta? No problem with a great spaghetti and meatball recipe Paleo style.
Spicy Thai Chicken Stir Fry. I love Thai food and this healthy chicken stir fry is one I make almost every week.
Baked Cauliflower Patties. I’ve substituted cauliflower for meat in a number of my meals and they all turn out amazing, including this one.
Whole30 Snack Ideas
Snacks are easy on the Whole30 diet.
In most cases, you don’t need to prepare anything.
Just get some baggies and fill them with some nuts, or even just grab a piece of fruit and some baby carrots.
With that said, here are some of my favorite Whole30 snacks.
- Protein bars. There are a handful of bars that are compliant with the diet, but my favorite is RX Bars, especially the blueberry version. You can buy them in most stores and get good deals on Amazon as well.
- Chips. You can’t have potato chips on this diet, but you can have coconut chips. And if you like coconut, you will enjoy these chips. The best deals are on Amazon.
- Sliced carrots. A simple standby, you can just get a baggie of baby carrots or you can slice some carrots and eat them this way too.
- Apple and almond butter. I love eating some peanut butter with my apples, but peanut butter is not approved on this program. But almond butter is! Here is my favorite.
Advantages And Drawbacks
No guide would be complete without giving you a run down of the benefits of Whiole30 as was as the drawbacks.
Here are the biggest for each.
No counting calories. One of the biggest benefits to Whole30 is that you don’t need to count calories. Just eat and enjoy life.
Simplicity. This isn’t a complicated diet. Just consume the Whole30 approved foods and avoid the rest.
Fast results. You will start noticing the benefits by the second week and they will continue as long as you stick with it.
Cost. The reality is, eating clean, wholesome foods is more expensive than eating junk food.
Hard first week. The first week is brutal as your body is mad you aren’t feeding it tons of sugar and carbs. You will get irritable at some point, but it quickly fades.
Need to be present. Since you don’t count calories, you have to listen to your body when eating. Too many people will stuff themselves instead of eating slowly and stopping before they are full.
Alternatives To Whole 30 Diet
I know that for some people, the Whole30 diet just isn’t their cup of tea.
It could be for a handful of reasons.
- It’s too restrictive
- It’s too expensive
- It sounds too hard to follow
Regardless of the reason why you it isn’t for you, do not lose hope.
There are other options out there that allow you to eat healthy while watching your budget and still lose weight.
Here are two of our favorites.
When you eat the right foods, the fat melts off of your body.
But too many people eat the wrong things at the wrong time of day.
Worse, they follow “healthy” cookbooks that have them add in bad ingredients that are not healthy for you.
The result is never achieving your fat loss goals.
This approach to food tells you what you can eat and at what time during the day to help your metabolism run at peak performance.
And just as great, the meals are simple and easy to prepare.
You can learn more by clicking the link below.
The Mediterranean Diet is the pinnacle of healthy diets.
In all of the studies focused on dieting, this one always comes out on top.
What does it consist of?
Mostly eating fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. You avoid processed foods and unhealthy fats.
Over the long term this diet works.
But the catch is you have to enjoy fish to some degree.
If this sounds like a diet for you, here is the ultimate Mediterranean cookbook from Amazon.
11 Tips For Doing Whole30 On A Budget
If the Whole 30 diet sounds like something you want to try, I have one word of caution.
It can get expensive. I found this out when I started it.
I didn’t have a plan and visited the grocery store at least 4 times the first week!
I quickly blew past my grocery budget for the month during this time.
But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
Once I had a plan, I was easily able to complete Whole30 on a budget.
Here are my tips to help you save time and money while on the diet.
#1. Forget Organic
Many people make the mistake of thinking that in order to do the Whole30 diet, you need to only eat organic.
This is not true.
To follow the diet, all you need to do is eat, healthy, unprocessed foods.
If you want organic foods, then you can, but it is not a requirement.
This tip alone can help you stay on budget.
When I followed the diet, I only bought organic for the foods on the “Dirty Dozen” list seen below.
For meats, I didn’t buy organic, but made sure to buy meat that was grass fed and didn’t have antibiotics or hormones added.
#2. Shop Around
This is a great tip regardless of your eating habits.
You need to shop around to find the best deals in your area.
Make a list of the foods you regularly buy and then visit a couple grocery stores in your area to compare prices.
When you do this, be sure to compare unit prices.
This is the smaller number on the price tag.
Doing this prevents you from miscalculating based on various sized containers.
And when shopping, don’t overlook the warehouse clubs.
I buy a lot of things from Costco and save a ton of money doing so.
For example, I buy chicken breasts in bulk to save money.
When I get home, I portion them out and freeze what I won’t use right away.
But not everything is cheaper in bulk. Again, you have to check prices.
#3. Plan Ahead
Related to the tip above is to meal prep and plan out your meals.
You can do this by looking through the sales ads at grocery stores and only buying what is on sale.
Or you could look at various dishes you want to make and try to pick those with many of the same ingredients so you aren’t buying a lot of different things.
#4. Learn To Read Food Labels
Learning how to read food labels and the ingredients list is critical for success.
Many times artificial sugar and other artificial sweeteners will be hidden in the ingredients list and not broken out on the nutrition label.
Make sure reading labels on everything you plan to buy and you will start making healthier eating choices.
#5. Skip Meat
I love eating meat and I typically make it a cornerstone of my dinners.
But meat is only getting more expensive.
To help lower the cost, I skip meat once or twice a week.
When I do this, I have a salad or make a vegetarian dish.
- Related: Learn how to become vegetarian
It might not sound like doing this will save you money, but it actually adds up!
#6. Use The Freezer Aisle
Another way you can do Whole30 on a budget is by shopping in the freezer aisle.
No, I’m not talking about getting the processed TV dinners that are a lot worse for you than most people think.
I am talking about vegetables.
You can get a good amount of frozen vegetables for cheap.
I buy our store brand frozen vegetables. A bag costs $1 each and I get 2-3 servings out of it.
And on a regular basis, they run a 2 for 1 sale, so I get them for $0.50 each.
This is when I stock up.
#7. Keep Snacks Close
Here is an inside tip.
The first week of Whole30 program is going to be tough. Mentally that is.
Your body is going to be mad that it isn’t getting the sugars and other carbohydrates that it is used to.
You will get cravings and you might get a headache or two.
To combat this, you need to eat. But you need to stick to your diet.
The best way to do this is to carry baggies around filled with nuts.
A small bag of almonds will fill you up and get rid of your cravings.
#8. Eat Eggs
Eggs are a staple of the program and you should make sure you are eating plenty of them.
Plus, they are low cost helping keep costs down.
But don’t stop at cracking a couple of eggs for a breakfast omelet.
Hard boil a bunch so you have them on hand for a quick bite.
#9. Canned Tuna Is Your Friend
Remember how I said meat is expensive?
Well you can get canned tuna for cheap. Add some to a salad or just eat it alone and you have a healthy meal.
A typical can has only 1 serving, but you can buy a larger can at a warehouse club.
Just keep it in the fridge and be sure to have it within a week and you saved yourself some money.
#10. Skip Commercial Products
With any diet come the companion meals, outfits, gear and more.
Most times these things are marked up and you spend a fortune on them.
As a result, this is where many fad diets make their money.
Skip these things and buy your own stuff.
Need protein powder? Buy your own. Need fitness bands? Buy your own.
Same idea applies to some of the food you buy too.
There are alternatives to many of the items you buy. You just have to put in a little effort.
You will save a lot of money going this route.
#11. Take Your Time
Finally, take your time.
With anything new in life, we get excited and jump in head first.
Most times this causes us to overspend on things we really don’t need.
See the above tip as an example.
Instead, take a step back. Think things through.
What do you really need to be successful? What can you buy on your own?
By taking your time, you not only increase the odds of success, but you save yourself money in the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a lot of questions that come up regarding the Whole30 diet.
Here are the most common ones that I don’t see a lot of people answering.
What are the Whole30 diet rules?
The great thing about this plan is there are very few Whole30 diet rules to follow.
The main rule to this program is to eat healthy food throughout the day.
There is no counting of calories, just be smart when eating and stop just before you get that full feeling.
After that, it is just to eat the foods on the list that are allowed and skip the rest.
What can you eat on Whole30 plan?
On this plan you can have as much eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and fish as you want.
You can even eat potatoes and drink coffee as well as almond milk.
Note that even though potatoes are OK, French fries are not OK.
In all, this plan is one of the least restrictive diets out there.
How to start Whole30?
The easiest way to start is to take the first step and decide to begin.
I do recommend that you go grocery shopping before you start so you have some of the food on hand.
The mistake I made was not doing this and having to run to the store multiple times the first week.
Also, if you don’t have the strongest will power, I suggest you hide or get rid of many of the sweet treats and processed foods you have in your house so you are not tempted.
You might think just one is OK here and there, but that is a slippery slope.
What are Whole30 side effects?
Most of the side effects you will experience the first week.
These include headaches, irritability, cravings, lethargy, and even poor sleep.
This is because your body is used to running on processed foods and overeating.
When you make the change, your body has to adjust. Luckily these side effects go away the first week.
After that, you will notice you have more energy all day long and you will get much better sleep.
And don’t be surprised if you wake up without that groggy feeling.
What are Whole30 constipation remedies?
Some people complain of less frequent bowel movements and hard stools on the program.
Luckily this is not too common and if you do experience it, there are simple remedies.
For starters, focus on eating more fiber.
You can get this in apples, especially the peel, carrots, broccoli, and almonds.
You might even consider buying chia seeds and adding them to a smoothie.
Additional options are to take a fiber supplement and to drink more water.
At the end of the day, the Whole30 program is a great diet to follow.
In just 30 days, you will see a major transformation in your body, sleep, and energy levels.
If you are looking for a diet that works, this is the one to consider.
Just be sure to follow the tips I outlined to ensure you have the greatest chance of success.
Finally, there are lots of Whole30 meal plans out there.
Don’t think you need to spend a fortune on exclusive cookbooks and the like.
Simple online searches will yield plenty of free options for you to explore.