Whole30: A Clean Eating Paleo Diet

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

It Starts With FoodWhole30, a new, mostly Paleo diet plan and book called, “It Starts with Food”, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, gives us a truthful diet plan to follow.

Finally, this is a decent diet book that does not contain a load of misguided suggestions.

About the Authors: Melissa is a Sports Nutritionist (ISSN) and RKC-certified kettle bell instructor. She is currently getting her Masters. Dallas is a Physical Therapist. They both owned and operated their own gym until they started their own nutrition program, The Whole30.

The book has been getting rave reviews, so I decided to take a look!

Top 10 Principles of Whole30

  1. No added sugar of any kind (including artificial sweeteners). Even the artificial sweeteners may make us crave sweet foods! This is still a theory and not proven science… yet.
  2. No alcohol.
  3. No grains (including, but not limited to, wheat, oats, rice, corn, and even quinoa)
  4. No legumes (including peanuts, and soy)
  5. No dairy. There is such controversy over whether or not to consume dairy. For the sake of eating as clean as possible, might as well eat less dairy (and we are following a Paleo diet with this plan).
  6. No sulfites, MSG, or carrageenan. Some people are sensitive to these additives. A small percentage of the population reports headaches after consumption. Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that is used as a vegetarian gelatin. Research shows that we may not digest carrageenan well, and excess consumption can be an irritant, cause inflammation, or act as a potential carcinogen.
  7. No white potatoes. The white potatoes cause a faster insulin response than sweet potatoes, and therefore, are slightly less beneficial to weight loss.
  8. No replicating junk food or desserts with approved foods. This is for mental reasons, and helps to keep calories under control.
  9. Do not weigh yourself. The idea is that this will help you focus on how your body composition feels, and less on the number.
  10. Watch your portions. Proteins and fruits are palm-sized. Vegetables should fill up almost the entire plate. Oils should only be the size of a thumb. Coconut and olives can be a handful while nuts and seeds should be a much smaller sized handful.

Aren’t Heathy Foods Being Eliminated?

paleo dietMany of you might wonder why we can’t eat oats, legumes, or Greek yogurt on this diet. Most Paleo experts agree that if you were to choose a grain to eat, it should be oats with a small amount of fat or protein. Some will even continue to eat oats while following a Paleo diet.

Many believe that eating too many legumes will lead to a weak immune system and increased food sensitivities. I have been eating beans and peas for years, and do not have a single food allergy. But, on Paleo diets, they are out.

Overall, this diet is strict, but no-nonsense. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean (and clean) meats to create optimal lean body mass.

I am surprised that there are not more objections to this book. I would expect to see more vegetarian and vegan opposition.

What do you think, would you try this type of Paleo diet?

You can buy It Starts with Food here on Amazon.


  1. Carrie

    I started following a Paleo diet about 7 weeks ago. However, I am strict 100% Paleo Mon- Friday. Saturday and Sunday I give myself some leeway. If I want cheese, I eat it. Wine? Sure! I have never felt better. My energy is up and I feel naturally leaner and less bloated. I notice myself even on my allowed “cheat days” tending to opt for the lesser of the evils and really only cheating when at a restaurant I love. I’m way more aware of labels and what I am putting into my body, and I was very health conscious before. It’s been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be and there are so many wonderful and helpful recipe cites and blogs out there. A lot more planning and work than before, but totally worth it.

  2. julie

    I read some paleo blogs occasionally, and I’ve seen many of the same benefits, and I have NOT given up sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy, legumes, or grains. I HAVE given up most of the over-processed food that I used to eat, added a bit more meat (don’t much like the stuff), a lot more legumes, more roasted/baked potatoes and other roots, less bread but more whole grains. Fruit makes up a large part of my diet, and I eat lots of veggies, too.

    I’m way healthier and about 60 pounds thinner than I was about 10 years ago. i think they’re onto something by going whole foods, but I’m not giving up legumes, wine, or even the occasional slice of pizza or chocolate cake. But – and this is a big but – I am fairly active. Besides a bike commute (only 2 miles each way) and a few gym visits each week, I walk a lot at work. I think movement/activity affects hormones in ways not fully understood, and thus changes the workings of a body. Exercise is healing and healthy.

  3. kathy

    There is no “perfect” diet for everybody. This Mark Sisson crap has taken a toll on my damn Psyche. “Oh its all about insulin, sugar and carbs make you fat!

  4. Monica Elyse

    Trying to suddenly cut out this many things at once sounds like a good way to start yo-yo dieting. What works best for me is focusing on changing one habit at a time until you are used to it and then starting a new goal. This way you establish healthy habits and you will be less likely to regain weight.

    • Monica Elyse

      Also, doing each step one at a time would allow you to notice any differences it may make in the way you feel. I would think cutting out legumes would only be good advice if it made a difference in the way you feel.

  5. Joanne

    I am on day 17. Feel good. I find it not too difficult to follow after the first week. It certainly gets one to read labels and consider portion size. I do not have any medical conditions. I just wanted to restart good eating habits.

    • Jim

      Good effort. Write back on day 30 and tell us how you are doing.

  6. Seth

    It important to note that this nutrition plan is prescribed for 30 days. The advocate eating this way as much as possible but it’s mainly for people who require a repairing of their food-mind-body connection. This can be useful for people trying to lose weight, stop obsessing over counting calories, or getting out of the habit of eating 6 meals per day.
    I eat like this most of the time regardless but some people don’t at all. My mother just started the Whole30 and I honestly believe it’s going to be the only thing that she can manage to stick with that will help her toward her body goals.

    • Jim

      So what does you average days eating look like? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, etc?

  7. FitJerk | No BS Fitness

    This sounds like the most BORING diet ever created… specially when trainers everywhere who know what they’re doing have clients that are generally looking leaner and becoming stronger while still enjoying the occasional beer, wine, hot wings, pb&j etc.

    Following this is absurd.

    • Jim

      Aren’t Paleo diets the beloved diet of Crossfit folks? Who knows how strict different people are. But you’re right. looking at a diet like this makes me feel sad – yeah it’s clean and healthy and all, but one of my favorite foods is crispy roasted potatoes with all the right seasonings.

  8. Spectra

    I would love to eat totally paleo, but as of right now, I only eat about 80% paleo. I focus mainly on eating whole foods, mainly veggies and some fruits, and I don’t eat a lot of processed foods. If I could cut out alcohol entirely and stop with the Diet Coke and the few Skittles I eat a day, I could do it. But I don’t have to lose any weight and I kind of like the moderation of my current diet. I do think this plan is a good one–I myself don’t eat much dairy and I could give it all up if I had to–but some people would probably find it a tad strict. It works though. You can’t go wrong when you eat whole, non processed food.

  9. Rella

    “too many legumes will lead to a weak immune system and increased food sensitivities.” – I’m unfamiliar with this line of reasoning. The main argument I hear against them is about their high antinutrient content. Antinutrients like lectins and trypsin inhibitors (particularly in soy) rob the body of vital nutrients. It is possible to significantly reduce these compounds through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting but the process is so time consuming that most people don’t bother. I think the prep steps are worth it for legumes, particularly if you are vegan/vegetarian and the process becomes easier with practice. Prepping legumes is a tenet of Weston A Price Foundation/paleo hybrids rather than strict paleo but the coolest thing about this way of eating is that there is no one way to do it. Once you understand what is bad for the body and why, you can make more informed decisions that work for you, your health, ethics and lifestyle.
    The book “It Starts With Food” is about as strict paleo as you can find. But strict for a reason, and not necessarily permanent. I am middle aged but didn’t know I had a milk protein allergy until a year ago, when I eliminated it completely from my diet, then reintroduced. Congestion and respiratory issues I thought were congenital disappeared and reappeared with the casein consumption.

  10. Lisa

    #10 Watch your portions – vegetables should fill up almost the entire plate. This is something I would like people to do. Being a vegetarian, obviously I wouldn’t eat meat, but having people eat less meat and not hitting the fast food restaurants is a step forward to me.

    • Jim

      So what sort of vegetables would you fill your plate with? With this diet you can cross of peas and beans, so the list of palatable (IMO) gets smaller and smaller.

  11. Jessica

    “I would expect to see more vegetarian and vegan opposition.”
    Sigh… what’s the use to oppose it? I’m a vegetarian. I don’t see the point of ‘opposing’ different styles of eating.

    • Ted Kallmyer

      I think she meant because of the forbidding of legumes and grains which are a staple of many vegetarian/vegan diets.

  12. Laura T.

    im a huge fan of the hartwigs! ive been reading their blog/following the whole9 for a long time now, and have never been better!