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Whole30 Diet

Whole30 Diet: Short-Term Plan for Long-Term Health?

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


DATE: 2019-02-18

There are a lot of trending diets right now, and they kind of blend together. Keto, paleo, and low-carb diets include avoiding carbs and dairy and encourage eating meat and vegetables. Another diet that definitely has its fair share of food rules but that is distinctly different and worth considering is the Whole30.

The big and important difference with Whole30 is that it lasts for just 30 days, no more. This is truly short-term. The ISSA doesn't necessarily recommend the Whole30 diet, but instead aims to make sure you're up to date on fitness and nutrition trends to stay relevant with clients and their unique needs and goals.

So, what makes the Whole30 diet unique and what are the projected benefits? For you or your client, it could mean discovering your own individual problem foods, losing weight, and changing your attitude toward eating.

What is the Whole30 Program?

The Whole30 diet was developed as a way to identify foods that cause health problems and to change your attitude to and relationship with food. You eliminate a long list of typically problematic foods for 30 days and then slowly add these groups back in, one at a time. By doing this you can pick out which types of foods—dairy, gluten, alcohol, sugar—cause you discomfort.

Benefits of the Whole30 Diet

Everyone is different and will respond in unique ways to eliminating the restricted foods. But, in general, there are several reported benefits that most people experience:

Discover Food Intolerances

This diet is considered a reset, not a long-term eating plan. You eliminate all the foods that cause some issues in some people. And this gives you the chance to find out what bugs your tummy, makes your skin itch, or triggers a binge. You'll know for sure what does it for you as you add foods back in after the 30 days.

Feel Better

As a direct result of the above, eliminating the most problematic foods, you'll feel better in a number of ways. People report sleeping better, feeling less bloated, being more regular, having more energy, and enjoying clearer skin and fewer headaches.

Weight Loss

You will inevitably lose weight in the 30 days, because try as you might there is only so much kale and eggs you can eat. When food options are limited, although there is plenty to eat, you will naturally eat less. This will lead to some weight loss, but keep in mind it could be temporary depending on how and if you reintroduce foods after the diet.

Change your Relationship with Food

If you read first-hand accounts of people trying this diet you'll find one of the biggest impacts is that it changes how people think about and relate to food. Expect to become more mindful about how you eat and what you choose after spending a month so carefully selecting foods and reading labels.

Check out this ISSA blog post on diet myths to learn more about why there is no single diet that works for everyone.

Foods Allowed on the Whole30 Diet

Whether you're trying this diet yourself or guiding a client through it, keep the focus on what you can eat. The diet seems restrictive until you list all the foods you are actually allowed. Of course, for anyone who relies on processed foods and avoids whole foods like the plague, this list will seem limiting:

  • Vegetables. All vegetables welcome, including potatoes.

  • Fruits. All fruits are allowed, but should be eaten in moderation to limit sugar intake.

  • Meats. Meats should only be unprocessed. Check labels for sugar and preservatives on things like deli meats and sausage.

  • Seafood. All kinds of seafood are allowed, including shellfish.

  • Eggs. Eggs will be key if you are trying the diet as a vegetarian.

  • Nuts and seeds. Enjoy all nuts and seeds and natural nut butters, but avoid peanuts, which are actually legumes.

  • Oils. Healthy fats are welcome here, like olive and coconut oils.

Grains, Sugar, Legumes, Dairy - No-No Foods

The list of foods not allowed on the diet is long, and daunting. This is why it's important to focus on what is allowed. For you or for your clients, it will be easier to stick it out for 30 days if you look first at the great abundance of so-called clean foods. Here's what's on the no-go list.


This is a tough one for most people. Eat absolutely no grains on this diet, not even those healthy whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. To get a carb fix when cravings hit turn to potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Added Sugars

Also very challenging for most people is to avoid added sugars. This means any sugar outside of whole foods like fruit. Read labels carefully, as sugar can sneak into so many foods, even spaghetti sauce and beef jerky.


Legumes are beans, like chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, and so on. This also includes soy. That means no soy sauce, miso, tofu, or any products that use soy as a meat substitute, as many vegetarian burgers and patties do.


Dairy is out on the Whole30, which means you can't have milk, cheese, yogurt, or butter. As with sugar, read labels. Dairy can be sneaky, so look for words like casein, lactose, and whey on ingredient lists.


As if giving up sugar and carbs wasn't hard enough, there is no alcohol of any kind on the Whole30 list. You have to abstain for the entire 30 days, and trust us, you'll find out why when you try to add it back in at the end.


In general it's best to avoid processed and packaged foods on this diet, but there are some specific additives you must eliminate for the month: monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites, and carrageenan

Junk Food

This may seem obvious, but the idea is to even eliminate so-called junk food substitutes. Don't try to recreate Whole-30-friendly pancakes and waffles or cauliflower pizza crust. The idea is to eliminate not just the specific foods but also the triggering types of junk foods that you crave. This is an emotional and psychological more than a physical elimination.

Educate your clients about the dangers of added sugars in the diet by reading this ISSA blog post on counting sugar.

The Whole30 Diet and Working Out

This can be tricky. As a trainer the last thing you want to do is stop working out or tell your clients to avoid exercise, but being your usual active self on a restricted diet can be challenging. Most importantly, you should do what feels right.

The most difficult time will be in the first two weeks, as your body adjusts. If you feel like you're lagging during workouts, take it easy. Substitute yoga or walks for more intensive training sessions. For any clients who are just starting out with training, take it very easy during the 30 days. But if your client is already fit and used to working out, let them guide intensity and frequency of workouts.

30 Days Are up, Now What?

Once the difficult 30 days are behind you, it's not time to indulge in everything in a one-day binge. Instead, you're supposed to add each of the banned food groups in one at a time, about every three days. This slow reintroduction helps you figure out which foods cause you issues.

Let's say you add in dairy first and get terrible stomach upset. Guess what? Dairy is likely a problem for you. So, as you determine which foods don't work with your body, consider keeping them out of your regular diet going forward. The goal of the Whole30 diet is to improve your overall health.

Does building a health life through nutrition catch your interest? Are you ready to up your personal trainer game and offer clients more services? Get invested with ISSA's Professional Nutrition Coach course.

Whole30 Client Handout

Click HERE to download this handout and share with your clients!

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