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Can You Have Rice on a Whole30? Everything you Need to Know

Considering a Whole30?

If you've landed on this page, it's likely because you are interested in doing a Whole30 and want to learn a little more about what that entails--specifically, can you have rice?

The very quick answer to that question is no. You cannot have rice on a Whole30. 

But don't let that scare you off! Stick around and learn a little more about what this whole Whole30 thing is all about, including why rice is off limits and what you can have instead.

What is a Whole30 diet?

Based on real food, the Whole30 is an elimination diet geared not specifically toward weight loss, but rather toward resetting the relationship between food and eater, with the goal of improved overall health and wellness. 

The Whole30 protocol calls for 30 days of eliminating specific foods/additives, followed by a 10-day reintroduction period. 

During a Whole30, the focus is on improving your total health by eating whole foods including meat, eggs, and seafood, fresh fruit, lots of vegetables, and healthy fats. 

During reintroduction, the focus is on paying very close attention to how your mind and body are affected as each eliminated food group is reintroduced.

​What foods are eliminated on a Whole30?

​Several categories of foods are eliminated on a Whole30. These include:

  • Added sweeteners of any kind, whether natural or synthetic. This includes everything from coconut sugar to agave nectar to maple syrup to monk fruit extract. Just because a product claims to have "no added sugar" does not mean it is allowed. Calorie-free, non-nutritive sweeteners, including natural and artificial sweeteners are eliminated. Whole fruits and fruit juice (in moderation) may be used to add depth of flavor to savory recipes.

  • Dairy of any kind, with the exception of ghee (butter from which the milk solids have been removed)

  • Carrageenan 

  • Sulfites

  • Alcohol​ of any kind, even for cooking, with the exceptions of wine-based vinegars and botanical extracts (per a 2019 rule change)

  • Legumes including soy, peanuts, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc. Green beans and most types of peas are, however, allowed. 

  • Grains-- yes, this includes everything from milled, bleached, starchy flours to whole grains like brown rice and corn on the cob. Pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth are eliminated as well. So for rice specifically, this would include everything from white rice to brown rice, risotto to rice paper to gluten-free flour blends that contain rice flour, or anything with any form of rice in its ingredient list.

The Whole30 rules also include a guideline lovingly referred to as The Pancake Rule that prohibits recreating baked goods, junk food, or treats like ice cream with Whole30-compatible ingredients--even pancakes made with just bananas and eggs! These seemingly strict rules help break the emotional ties we have to the types of foods that tend to trigger a negative impact to our health and well being.

For more details and the official Whole30 Program Rules, click here

Benefits of a Whole30

Critics of the Whole30 (and paleo diets in general) argue that it is too restrictive, that people will not be able to stick to it, and that it eliminates entire food groups that should be part of a healthy diet. 

However, it is important to remember that the Whole30 is modeled after elimination diets that have long been recommended by doctors to identify food sensitivities. In fact, according to the website Nursing Clio, the concept of elimination diets was first introduced by a physician in California about 100 years ago!

As such, the Whole30 is designed not merely to help you like the number you see on the scale, but rather to reveal potentially problematic foods in your diet and re-wire your eating habits to help you find food freedom. 

After completing a Whole30 and evaluating how each group of eliminated foods affects you during the reintroduction period, you may decide to go back to certain foods and continue to eliminate others.

Whole30 testimonials tout benefits such as . . .

  • better sleep

  • improved mental clarity and ability to focus

  • improved motional well being and mood-regulation

  • reduction in symptoms of allergies, migraines, and even auto-immune diseases

  • improved energy

  • improved performance in physical activities/exercise

  • clearer skin

  • and, oh yeah, looser waistbands!

Whether you are looking for a way to improve your physical or mental health, perhaps a Whole30 could help you identify which foods might be helpful and which foods might impede your progress.

Why are rice and other grains eliminated?

​Aren't whole grains an important part of a healthy diet? Some of them are even called superfoods. So why does the Whole30 prohibit them?

It basically boils down to two key issues: intestinal permeability and poorly controlled blood sugar, both of which can increase systemic inflammation and lead to health problems.

While whole grains may contain many beneficial nutrients, many of them also contain compounds that have been found to increase intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut. This is a condition that disrupts the digestive system and may increase the risk of (or worsen the symptoms of) chronic diseases. 

As for the blood-sugar bit, refined grains with higher glycemic indexes are particularly problematic, as they are extremely easy to over-indulge in and can cause more dramatic spikes in blood sugar. 

In my experience on and off of several Whole30s, I have found that eliminating grains is hugely beneficial, if for no other reason than it forces you to rethink the way you fill your plate. Additionally, I find that grains, more so than fruit or non-grain starches, trigger my compulsive sugar cravings and make it harder for me to remain satiated. But that's just me.

For more on the science behind the Whole30 click here.

Whole30-compatible alternatives to rice

While you might be wondering how you'll survive 30 days (or longer) without soy sauce, peanut butter, red wine, sour cream, and rice, I promise you've done (and will do) much harder things. 

When it comes to grains like rice, many of us are used to filling up our plates with these less healthful items, while neglecting more nutrient-dense items like leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. On the Whole30, the idea is to replace all that grain-space with a variety of veggies. However, if you'd rather have an empty plate than a plate full of kale and brussels sprouts, fear not, for there are many options for a gentler transition away from grains.

Try sweet potatoes! They're beautiful, delicious, and full of nutrients like Vitamin A. For that matter, all potatoes will do! White potatoes get a bad reputation because we tend to associate them with junk food and starchy carbs. The truth is that, while they are indeed heavy in carbohydrates, they're also full of potassium and vitamin C and have significantly more fiber per serving than white rice. 

Potatoes can be prepared in all manner of ways, from baked whole and loaded with meat and veggies, to diced up, tossed with melted coconut oil and roasted till crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, to steamed and smashed up with chicken broth, ghee, and roasted garlic--all kinds of yum! Just don't go making potatoes the bulk of your diet, as that's probably not going to do you a lot of favors in the blood-sugar department. 

Of course, if you're ready for something a little less carbohydrate-dense, cauliflower makes a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes and cuisines. Try pork-fried cauliflower rice, cauli rice with chili powder and calabacitas, or garam masala-spiced cauli rice with dairy-free chicken tikka masala!

And riced is not the only way this versatile vegetable can be prepared! It can be steamed and mashed like potatoes, or--my absolute favorite--tossed with lots of salt, pepper, and olive oil and roasted till golden all over with little crispy bits! I could eat an entire pan of cauliflower roasted like this, but I try to save a few bites for the rest of the family, haha. 

So what do you think?

Some people elect to turn their Whole30 into a Whole60 or Whole90 as they begin to see their health improve, and some decide to adopt a paleo/Whole30 lifestyle.

My family typically does at least one Whole30 a year as a dietary reset.

You may find that with each Whole30 you do, you get a better sense of what foods fuel you best.

Wherever you are on your paleo or Whole30 journey, we have plenty of recipes to help and inspire you along the way! Here are a few of our favorites to get you started, and be sure to check out our Whole30 page for boatloads more!

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Hey Y'all!

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!

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