Sorry We Couldn't find anything

Paleo vs Whole30: Which One Should You Try?

With what feels like a never ending list of popular diets to choose from, the Paleo diet and Whole30 diet continue to remain strong contenders for weight loss and improved nutrition. 

Both paleo and Whole30 have some noteworthy benefits to consider. They each promote a similar whole foods approach to nutrition and may help you cut calories. But they differ in their approach, reasoning, and long term guidance. 

If you're interested in trying either paleo or Whole30 but not quite sure how to choose between the two, we’ve got you covered. Here’s your trusted source to understanding the basics of each approach, how and if they actually work, and what you need to do to actually see results. 

What is Paleo?

A paleo diet, aka the caveman diet, is a food specific approach that focuses on eating foods that were commonly consumed by our paleolithic ancestors. 

This means anything that was available to hunter gatherers is fair game and modernized dairy, grains, and convenience foods are out. The bulk of your meals will resemble a meat and veggie plate with the occasional sweet potatoes. 

A paleo diet also encourages you to choose high quality foods like grass-fed and pasture raised proteins, organic produce, and minimally processed foods. 

Paleo Diet Approved Foods

  • Meat, fish, and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Unrefined vegetable oils
  • Natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, and honey

Foods to Avoid on Paleo

  • Alcohol
  • White potatoes
  • Dairy products
  • Beans and legumes (including soy and peanuts)
  • All grains
  • Refined sugar
  • Processed foods

Because of the way paleo is structured, it is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and peanut-free making it an easy option for those with common food sensitivities and allergies. 

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is a 30 day elimination diet intended to change your relationship with food and reset your health by eating only whole foods and cutting out all junk food. 

Like a typical elimination diet, Whole30 encourages you to eliminate certain food choices for a 30 day period and then slowly reintroduce these options later on. The goal of this is to help you kick sugar cravings, reduce emotional and stress eating, and to essentially give you a healthy clean slate.

As items are slowly reintroduced you can more easily identify which choices are causing you to feel bad from the inside out and then remove those items for the long haul. 

Majority of the food restrictions on Whole30 are centered around added sugar and all processed ingredients. It strongly encourages choosing healthy, simple foods and zero “treat foods” - even baked goods made with approved ingredients are discouraged. 

Whole30 Diet Approved Foods 

  • Meat, fish, and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Natural fats like olive oil, avocado, and lard

Foods to Avoid on Whole30

  • Alcohol
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Ingredients like carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
  • All baked goods and treat foods (even healthy versions)
  • Dairy products
  • Beans and legumes (including soy and peanuts)
  • All grains

When doing Whole30, you also commit to not weighing yourself and instead focusing on non-scale victories that improve self love and your body image.  

How Are the Paleo and Whole30 Diets Similar? 

At first glance these two eating styles appear very similar. Both Paleo and Whole30 eliminate similar food groups and emphasize eating mostly whole foods. Neither diet allows grains, dairy, beans, legumes, and processed options. 

With the exception of the occasional natural sweetener, one could easily follow a strict paleo meal plan and stick to their whole30 diet goals. 

The goal of each diet style is to promote good health. Paleo advocates claim that following a paleo diet can reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and support improved digestion. And proponents of Whole30 make similar claims around reducing inflammation in the body. Although, many of these claims are not backed by science. 

Additionally, a paleo diet and Whole30 diets are both structured around food choices and not necessarily calories or macros like other traditional weight loss diets. With each diet claiming they can support weight loss without the need to count calories. 

Paleo Meal Delivery

How is Paleo Different from Whole30?

Where these two diets start to differ greatly is in their foundation, beliefs, and long term goals. 

Paleo is structured as more of a long term, lifestyle approach whereas as Whole30 is typically short term (only 30 days for most). Moreover, Whole30 is an elimination diet, whereas paleo eaters are suggested to eliminate non-paleo approved options for the foreseeable future. 

Additionally, paleo is built of an entirely different philosophy - since our DNA hasn’t changed much since Paleolithic times, our diet shouldn’t change that much either.

Paleo is also a stickler about choosing grass-fed and organic options, where Whole30 proclaims this is not necessary. 

Paleo vs whole30 diet comparison

Whereas Whole30 is designed around the philosophy that modern junk foods are to blame for our eating addictions and health issues. By eliminating these foods, it will help you reset your system and identify the “problem foods” in your life. Because of this, Whole30 is more centered around your relationship with food and your body, and uses a great deal of mindset coaching for those who commit to the 30 day program.

Which Diet is Better?

The first question to ask is whether or not either of these diets even work. Just because something is “trendy” doesn’t always mean its science backed or the right diet for you. It takes more than knowing a few people who found success on a diet to proclaim it's worth giving your commitment. And ultimately it boils down to personal preference and ease-of adherence. 

So, here’s how each approach actually stacks up when it comes to their common health claims. 

Is Paleo or Whole30 Better for Weight Loss?

The short answer is - both Whole30 and paleo can help you lose weight and improve your body composition. 

No matter how much the latest diet trend and internet wellness guru wants you to believe that sugar and processed foods are the root of all evil, the most widely accepted approach to weight loss in the medical community is calorie control - not food choices. 

With that being said, the types of food you eat can make controlling calories feel a lot harder or easier. It is much more painless to fill up on large portions of low calorie, nutrient dense foods than to eat small amounts of energy dense, empty calories. Not to mention a large plate of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables is going to support your energy, mood, and overall wellbeing much better than getting the same amount of calories from a donut or candy bar. 

This is exactly why advocates for paleo and Whole30 promote it as a viable option for weight loss (even without having to count calories). By eliminating entire food groups and a great deal of empty calories from your food options, you tend to eat more nutritious foods and fewer calories overall (1,2,3,4). 

Because of the common food options promoted on each diet, both paleo and Whole30 also naturally cause you to eat more fiber and protein - both of which support weight loss in unique ways (5,6,). 

Higher protein intake is linked to reduced appetite and improved body composition. And higher intake of fiber can help you feel fuller longer. 

Regardless, weight loss is not possible unless you eat fewer calories than you burn each day. So no matter which diet style you choose, if you want to successfully lose weight and keep it off, learn your calorie needs and watch your portion sizes. 

It is also crucial to note that the more restrictive a diet is, typically the harder it is to stick to. And if you cant stick to your diet, you wont get results. Thus, both approaches may not be an effective weight loss strategy for anyone who has a hard time with too many diet rules and restrictions. 

Is a Paleo or Whole30 Diet Better for Your Health?

Paleo and Whole30 both make some arguably strong claims around improving gut health, reducing inflammation, and reducing the risk of diet related chronic disease. However, many of these health claims are shaky at best with little research to support them. 

That being said, it does not mean these two approaches do not support a healthy lifestyle in other ways.  

Eating a diet rich in nutritious plant based foods - like plenty of fruits and vegetables - has long been associated with increased nutrition intake and positive health impacts. 

Additionally, replacing heavily processed, high calorie options with nutrient dense whole food options, is thought to have similar advantages. 

There is also some limited research that suggest a paleo diet is associated with reduced cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improved blood sugar control (7,8,9,10). Specific studies looking at whole30 have not yet been done.

However, the things that make a Whole30 and paleo diet nutritious, are not radically different from what a generally healthy diet should look like. In other words, it is not the absence of grains, dairy, and certain food choices that cause these benefits, but the addition of generally healthy options that have been recommended by registered dietitians and trusted health experts for years. 

It is also important to understand that there is no research suggesting that the act of eliminating grains, dairy, or other nutritious options from your diet offers any additional health or weight loss advantages. 

How to Choose: Which Diet is Right for You? 

While ultimately we know there is no magic secret to a paleo diet or a Whole30 diet when it comes to losing weight and improving your nutrition, sometimes having a set of rules or structure to follow can be just what you need to kickstart your progress and achieve results. 

If you're interested in trying a whole food approach to dieting like paleo or Whole30, here's how to decide between the two diets.  

Who Should Try Paleo

A paleo lifestyle is ideal for those who want to change their eating habits long term and enjoy eating simple, minimally processed foods. Additionally, those who have a lot of food sensitivities or allergies would do well on this program. 

If you are new to dieting, this might be a drastic change and hard to stick to. Especially if you are a big fan of grains and dairy - as you would have to cut these out. 

Also, because of the grain restriction, paleo tends to be a fairly low carb meal plan which isn't ideal for all fitness types. 

However, it is important to note that not following this eating style perfectly wont hinder your results. Meaning, you can use a paleo program as a foundation and feel confident that the occasional cheat or even frequent cheat won't derail your progress. As long as you maintain calorie control 

A Paleo diet is best for people who:

  • Are looking to cut a lot of calories.
  • Are someone who has been on a diet for a while and needs an extra push to get past a plateau.
  • Aren't doing heavy training or exercise.
  • Prefer a moderate fat, lower carb, and high protein approach.
  • Love meat and fish with lots of veggies.

Who Should Try Whole30

If you're not interested in maintaining long term food restrictions and just looking for a way to clean up your diet in the short term, a 30 day program might be best. 

Whole30 is also better for anyone that struggles with cravings and junk food addictions - although this plan requires you to go cold turkey which can be quite challenging and require a lot of willpower.

Additionally, the focus on mindset with this program is good for anyone that wants to work on their body image and relationship with food. 

The downside of Whole30 is that it requires you to figure out how to reintroduce the restricted options and maintain healthy eating habits long term.

Jumping from a strict plan to a more loosely defined one can be hard for most. Thus, this option is likely not the best if you have a lot of bodyweight to lose and need continued coaching or guidance. 

A Whole30 diet is best for people who:

  • Are looking to reset your eating habits.
  • Struggle with cravings and emotional eating.
  • Struggle with body image issues and want to work on your mindset. 
  • Are newer to dieting and need help learning how what you eat impacts your wellbeing. 
  • Do well with a strict, time bound approach. 

Trusted Diet Advice to Live By

Finding the best approach for you and your personal nutrition needs depends on how you tick. Both of these diets offer a “set of rules” to follow which is ideal for some, but too restrictive for others.

Additionally, if you don’t enjoy eating a simple, whole food diet now, it might be a fairly tough transition for you to cut everything out all at once and smaller changes might be more beneficial to your long term success.

Remember the best diet for you is the one you can stick to. If you are looking to lose weight, calorie control reigns supreme, and if you want to improve your health find nutrient dense options you enjoy and start eating more of them on a regular basis.

Changing your health and your eating habits doesn’t have to painful work. 

Want to make switching to a nutritious whole food lifestyle even easier? Have our team of experts plan, cook, and ship a paleo meal plan to your door each week. All meals are made by hand and delivered fresh for optimal taste, nutrition, and convenience! 

Shop Paleo