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Looking To Lose Weight? Whole30 Might Hurt Instead of Help

Photo: Hinterhaus Productions / Getty

The latest and greatest dieting trend, Whole30 is becoming the new go-to method of weight loss for some. But this restrictive, in both food options and mindset, diet can lead to trouble. Learn why we're not sure how wholesome the Whole30 is. 

Those setting weight loss and healthy eating resolutions have undoubtedly heard of the newest dieting fad, Whole30. Known for being a month-long reset of eating habits, the diet is a restrictive one that focuses on eliminating "bad" food groups. 

Participants of Whole30 must eliminate grains, legumes, dairy, processed food ingredients (like MSG and sulfites), sugar, and alcohol. The rules are simple, don't eat these food groups, don't weight or measure yourself, and don't cheat. The touted results from the month-long program are weight loss, clearing up of digestive and skin issues, subsiding unhealthy food cravings, and overall higher energy.

The Whole30 mindset has little sympathy for those attempting to change their eating habits. If you slip up, by having a pat of butter on your sweet potato or taking a bite of that coworker's birthday cake, then you must start over the 30 days. You can't create Whole30 versions of your favorite foods either. Coconut flour pancakes or cauliflower pizza crust? Totally off limits because, despite using approved ingredients, you're still setting your mind up to crave junk food. 

Complaining isn't tolerated, with the program reading “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard."

This hard line method of "all or nothing" goes against what many of us at Cooking Light believe, that progress is more important than perfection. Whether it's an entire lifestyle overhaul or baby steps in daily choices, these decisions will eventually help on your journey to achieving your weight and health goals.

Along with this strenuous mindset, Whole30 eliminates plenty of healthy food options that we believe are part of a wholesome diet. Here's a break down of why you should keep these foods in your diet:

  • Legumes: This category, which includes beans, lentils, and peanuts, is packed with protein, fiber, and various nutrients. They can make for a nutritious, and affordable, plant-based protein option. For meat-eaters legumes can help lighten up traditionally calorie-heavy meals like chili, and vegetarians can benefit from featuring them as a main dish, like in Lentil Shepherd's Pie.
  • Whole Grains: Refined grains, often blamed for health crises like the rising rates of obesity and diabetes, shouldn't be confused with their more nutrient-dense whole grain cousins. Not only have whole grains been linked to weight loss, it has also been found that increased consumption could possibly lead to a longer life. Hearty ingredients like brown rice, bulgur, oats, and other whole grain varieties can be included in a healthy diet.
  • Dairy: While a dieter's first thought may be that lower-fat versions of dairy staples like yogurt or cheese would be the healthiest option, research is showing it may be best to eat full-fat dairy products. With less processing, more satiating power, and a tendency to taste better, opting for full-fat dairy can pay off in the end. While moderation is key, ingredients like protein-packed Greek yogurt, high-quality cheeses, and calcium-rich whole milk can be part of a nutritious lifestyle.

While the Whole30 diet may be a feasible option for those needing a stringent plan to keep them in line, it's not ideal for long-term changes in weight or eating habits. Instead, we recommend sticking with a varied diet of whole foods, being mindful of your eating habits, and not forgetting portion control to accomplish a healthy lifestyle.