If you’re looking to change your eating habits and step away from the typical Western diet, then you might look to Whole30 or Paleo for guidance. These diets are actually quite similar in many ways, but they do have a few differences.
Whole30 is meant to be a short-term elimination diet followed for 30 days to help you “reset” your eating habits. Paleo, while slightly less strict, is meant to be followed long-term without re-introducing any of the restricted foods after the initial 30-day period.
We’ll explain the ins and outs of both of these diets and compare them head-to-head below!
Whole30 is an elimination diet that’s meant to be followed for 30 days – it’s also thought of as a “reset” for your diet. During these 30 days, you’ll need to avoid several types of foods and ingredients (we’ll list them next), and then gradually re-introduce certain foods for a period of ten days after you’re done with the first 30.
The intention behind the Whole30 diet is to identify potential foods that might be negatively interfering with your digestion, weight, or any other aspect of your quality of life.
Once you’ve identified any problem foods, the idea would be that you continue to avoid or limit those as a consistent lifestyle after finishing Whole30.
Some of the foods & ingredients avoided during your time following Whole30 are:
- Added sugars and sweeteners, both “real” and artificial. This includes table sugar, honey, coconut sugar, Splenda, and anything that is used to add sweetness to your foods and drinks
- Alcohol in all forms
- Grains in all forms, including grain-based flours, gluten-free flours, and pseudo-grains like quinoa
- Legumes, including peanuts, soy, lentils, etc.; the only exceptions are green beans and most types of peas
- Dairy, except for clarified butter/ghee
- Desserts & baked goods made with “allowed” ingredients
- Carrageenan or sulfites (types of food additives)
What is Paleo?
A Paleo diet (short for Paleolithic) is an eating style that is meant to mimic what people were able to hunt and gather thousands of years ago before farming began. Also called the “caveman diet”, Paleo is meant to mimic what people ate in the Paleolithic era, which occurred from around 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.
The Paleo diet aims to help reduce chronic diseases that can be linked with today’s modern Western diet, e.g. a diet high in refined sugars and processed foods.
Paleo is quite similar to Whole30 in many ways; the types of foods that are avoided on a Paleo diet include:
- All grains, including gluten-free and “ancient” grains
- “Pseudocereals” like quinoa (though some Paleo dieters eat them; it’s a somewhat controversial topic)
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar/sweeteners, as well as artificial sweeteners
- Legumes (beans, peanuts, soy, etc.)
Paleo vs Whole30 – similarities and differences
Paleo and Whole30 share many similarities. The main difference is that Whole30 is meant to break unhealthy eating habits (like leaning on “comfort food” for non-hunger reasons) and identify foods that might be negatively impacting your health. That means that after the initial 30 days, you can re-introduce foods like legumes or dairy, whereas you’d continue to eat them on Paleo.
|Avoids refined sugars||Yes||Yes|
|Avoids artificial sweeteners||Yes||Yes|
|Avoids natural sweeteners like honey||Yes||No|
|Avoids grains and pseudograins||Yes||Yes|
|Avoids dairy||Yes, except ghee||Yes|
|Avoids certain preservatives, e.g. carrageenan||Yes||No|
|Allows “comfort food” made with allowed ingredients||No||Yes|
|Intention||Short-term “reset” diet to help identify potential long-term diet changes and help change eating habits||Long-term diet aimed to reduce the prevalence of chronic disease from a typical Western diet|
Whole30 vs Paleo – which is better?
Whole30 is meant to be a short-term “reset” diet to help you identify foods you were eating that might be negatively impacting your health, both physical and mental. It’s a bit stricter than Paleo in some instances, such as avoiding alcohol, any type of sweetener, and any food that is trying to mimic a food not allowed, such as making coconut flour pancakes.
The Paleo diet is meant to be followed more long-term than Whole30. While it excludes many foods that aren’t considered nutrient-dense (like refined sweeteners and refined grains), it also avoids foods that have nutritional benefits, like legumes and dairy.
If you don’t intend on following a diet for very long but want to find specific ways to improve your eating habits, then Whole30 might be better for you. If you’re looking for a diet to follow long-term that’s similar to Whole30, then Paleo would be a closer fit.
Fruit is allowed on Paleo as long as it doesn’t have any sugar added to it, and that includes bananas!
Since dairy products didn’t exist in the Paleolithic era, ghee technically isn’t allowed on Paleo. However, some Paleo dieters debate this topic and say that ghee in small amounts is okay on Paleo.