Both popular diets cut out grains, dairy, legumes, and artificial ingredients. So what exactly is the difference between paleo and Whole30? I like to think of the Whole30 as extreme paleo. Here's a breakdown of the specific differences between the two:
1. Meant to be a lifestyle. Not a short-term fix or crash diet, paleo is intended to be a way of life. In addition to diet, central tenants of a paleo lifestyle include engaging in active play, getting quality sleep, and avoiding environmental toxins.
2. More guidelines than rules. There are more than 31 flavors to paleo. Because it is meant to be a lifestyle, it is not intended to be stifling. In fact, many paleo adopters take an 85/15 approach (more on that here), which means If you eat your grandmother's apple pie, the paleo police will not come knocking. It's up to you to figure out how you do your paleo life. For the basics, check out Paleo 101.
3. Unrefined sweeteners are allowed. Honey, molasses, coconut sugar, and the like are totally paleo. However, none of these extracted sweeteners is nutrient dense, so they should all be used sparingly.
4. Baking with paleo ingredients is allowed. Paleo pancakes, donuts, muffins, and waffles are staples on our breakfast table. I try to rely on nutrient-dense flours like almond and coconut more than starchier varieties like tapioca or arrowroot. I like to add fruit or veggies (sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, banana, pears) for nutritional diversity and to keep extracted sugars to a minimum.
5. Checking your weight is allowed.
1. Designed to be a short-term dietary re-set. While many people do elect to extend their Whole30 to a Whole60 or Whole90, the program is intended to get your body to a clean-slate state so you can figure out which foods fuel you and which foods mess you up, while also resetting your habits/psychological relationship with food. An intentional re-introduction period after the 30 days of elimination is an important part of the plan. Even if you feel so good that you choose not to re-introduce some foods, chances are you won't follow the rules to the letter for the rest of your life.
2. RULES. While there are exceptions here and there (and even a vegetarian version for those with ethical or religious aversions to meat), 30 days of strict compliance is an essential part of the Whole30. If you are having "cheat days" or casually cutting out some of the things the Whole30 bans but still indulging in others, you might be paleo, but you're not on a Whole30. If you are considering doing a Whole30, you will want to read It Starts with Food.
3. No added sweeteners of any kind. This means no honey, no agave, no monkfruit, no xylitol, no stevia, etc. One of the goals of the Whole30 is to sever sugar's psychological vise-grip. Your mind still gets that addictive hit of "SWEET!" no matter how "natural" a sweetener is and whether it contains calories or not. Fruit and 100% fruit juice may be used to add complexity to savory dishes.
4. No baking/trying to recreate banned foods with approved ingredients. The Whole30 famously bans paleo pancakes--even if they are made from banana and egg and nothing else. Again, this has to do with the psychological attachment we have to these kinds of foods. The Whole30 cannot successfully detach us if our fingers are all sticky with baked goods.
5. No weighing in for 30 days. Because the Whole30 is meant to be about much more than weight loss, checking your weight can be distracting from the full picture. Over the course of 30 days, weight loss may occur in chunks and plateaus, and a preoccupation with progress in this one area could drag down morale--better to focus on the intangibles (improved sleep, mood, energy, etc.) till day 31.
I'm the Monster Momma.
I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and
paleo food fiend.
Join me and my family on our paleo journey!