- Paleo, explained as healthy eating rather than ancestral eating.
- Eat high-quality meats / animal proteins, vegetables, fruits, and fats.
- Avoid sugars and sweeteners, alcohol, seed oils, grains, legumes, most dairy, highly processed foods.
- Eat 3 times a day, avoid snacking.
Get a copy of It Starts with Food for the reasoning and “science-y stuff” behind the recommendations, supplementation suggestions, meal maps, and some recipes
The reasoning behind It Starts with Food
The authors suggest that the food that we eat should follow their Good Food standards:
- Promote a healthy psychological response
- Promote a healthy hormonal response
- Support a healthy gut
- Support immune function and minimize inflammation
The foods they suggest avoiding fail their Good Food standards – the numbers next to them in the list below correspond to the reason for failure.
It Starts with Food – diet plan and food list
- Start by eliminating certain foods to clean your system
- Then reintroduce some foods to see how you respond to them
There are also recommendations for special populations, including people with diabetes, autoimmune diseases, IBS, IBD, and food allergies; also vegetarians and vegans, active people, and pregnant/breastfeeding.
The following changes were made from the original edition to the 2014 edition:
- White potatoes are now allowed, but you still can’t have French fries or potato chips
- Any kind of salt is fine, even iodized salt that contains dextrose
The Whole30 Program – Elimination
For 30 days, you eliminate certain foods to clean your system
Foods to eat in It Starts with Food – Whole30 Elimination
- Seafood (fish, mollusks (squid, octopus, scallops, clams, mussels, oysters), crustaceans (crab, shrimp, prawn, lobster, crayfish)): Best: wild caught + sustainably fished. Better: wild caught and/or sustainable. Good: farm-raised
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant, etc.): Best: pastured + organic. Better: organic. Good: store-bought, skin removed
- Ruminants (beef, buffalo, lamb, elk, venison, etc.): Best: 100% grass-fed + organic. Better: grass fed and/or organic. Good: lean, fat trimmed/drained
- Non-ruminants (pork, wild boar, rabbit, etc.): Best: pastured + organic. Better: organic. Good: lean, fat trimmed/drained
- Organ meats: liver, tongue, kidney, heart, sweetbreads etc.
- Bones: marrow, bone broth
- Eggs: Best: pastured + organic. Better: organic (omega-3 enriched optional). Good: store-bought. You can eat them every day – the number of eggs you can hold in one hand
- Processed meats (bacon, sausage, deli meat, etc.): Best: 100% grass-fed + organic. Better: organic
- Look for terms like grass-finished or grass-fed, pastured, certified organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and wild-caught
- Vary your animal protein sources
- Meal planning: Create each meal around your protein source. Each meal should include 1-2 palm-sized servings of protein – closer to 1 serving if you’re big and/or inactive, closer to 2 servings if you’re small and/or active. As often as possible, choose high-quality meat, seafood, and eggs.
- Best choice: acorn squash, arugula, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli/broccolini, brussels sprouts, buttercup squash, butternut squash, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, delicata squash, garlic, greens (beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens), kale, leeks, lettuce (bibb, butter, red), onions, shallots, rutabaga, spinach, summer squash, sweet potato/yams, swiss chard, tomato, turnip, watercress, zucchini
- Good/better: anise/fennel root, artichoke, broccoli rabe, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, jicama, kohlrabi, mushrooms (all), okra, parsnips, potatoes (sparingly if you want to lose weight, and make sure you don’t eat them at the expense of colorful veggies), pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, snow peas, sugar snap peas, spaghetti squash, sprouts
- Make raw fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi, a priority
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables
- Meal planning: Fill the rest of your plate (after protein) with vegetables – you can include some carb-dense vegetables but (especially if you’re overweight and insulin-resistant) should concentrate on leafy greens or other fibrous vegetables
- Best choice: apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit, kiwi, melon, plum, raspberries, strawberries
- Good/better: apples (all varieties), bananas, dates, exotic fruit (star fruit, quince, etc.), figs, grapes (green/red), lemon, lime, mango, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears (all varieties), pineapple, pomegranate, tangerines, watermelon
- Fruits are not as nutritious as vegetables. Don’t let them push vegetables off your plate just because they are more fun to eat
- Eat a wide variety of fruits, especially when they’re in season
- Limit dried fruit
- If you’re battling sugar dragons / sugar cravings, don’t rely on fruit as a crutch when you have sugar cravings – it may be better to conscientiously avoid the fruit, nut butters, health bars, or anything else that may prop up your sugar cravings
- Meal planning: Start with 1-2 servings of fruit a day – a serving is about the size of a fist. Feel free to add some fruit either with your meals or immediately after. Fruit should not take the place of vegetables. Don’t juice or make smoothies. It’s better to eat smaller servings of fruit throughout the day than a large amount in once sitting. If you find yourself reaching for more fruit in the summer, when it’s local, fresh, and delicious, that’s okay (as long as you’re not responding to sugar cravings)
- Prioritize organic fruits and vegetables: avoid “dirty dozen” produce, or buy organic if you can’t peel it
- Cooking fats: animal fats* including duck fat, goat fat, lard (pig fat), and tallow (beef fat), clarified butter*, ghee* (* – must be pastured or 100% grass-fed and organic), coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil (cook at low heat for a short time only). Unrefined red palm oil is also listed as good, but most people don’t like it as much as coconut oil
- Eating fats and nuts: avocado oil, cashews, coconut butter, coconut meat/flakes, coconut milk (canned), hazelnuts/filberts, macadamia nuts, macadamia butter, olives (all)
- Occasional nuts and seeds: almonds, almond butter, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio
- Limit nuts and seeds: flax seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, walnuts
- Don’t use nuts, seeds, and nut butters as your primary fat source
- Meal planning: Choose one or more fat sources per meal. Add in these quantities, per person per meal: Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, etc.): 1-2 thumb-sized portions. Butters (coconut butter, nut butters, clarified butter and ghee): 12 thumb-sized portions. Olives: 1-2 open (heaping) handfuls. Coconut (meal/flakes): 1-2 open (heaping) handfuls. Nuts and seeds: up to one closed handful. Avocado: half to one avocado. Coconut milk: between ¼ to ½ of a (14 oz.) can. Feel free to add more than these recommended quantities, but never add less – do not cut your fat intake below the low end of the range, even if you’re trying to lose weight
- You can have a cup or two of coffee – after your first meal of the day, and before noon
- A few shakes of salt is okay – alternate between iodized table salt (often the only source of valuable iodine in our diet) and sea salt
- Most varieties of vinegar, including white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine, and rice, are allowed – see exceptions below
- Minimally processed foods like canned coconut milk, applesauce, tomato sauce, chicken broth, or canned olives are acceptable
- Food choices and quality
- Making good food choices is the most important factor in your healthy-eating transformation. Focusing on food sourcing comes second, so think about it when you’re able.
- Buy organic, local produce as often as possible
- Priorities for food quality: (1) protein; (2) produce, (3) healthy fats
- Meal planning
- Eat meals at the table, in a relaxed fashion. Do not allow distractions like TV, phone, or email during mealtime. Chew slowly and thoroughly
- Eat three meals a day. Start with breakfast (or “Meal 1”), ideally within an hour of waking. This meal is best if it is focused on satisfying protein and fat and nutrient-rich veggies, and not overloaded with fruit. Don’t snack, if you can help it. a 4-5 hour break between meals is beneficial. Stop eating a few hours before bedtime.
- See above for meal planning for each type of food
- For the first few weeks, use the meal plan sizes as your baseline. See how you feel. If you’re hungry all the time, try making each meal bigger than the last / add more protein and more fat, and see if that quells your hunger – if it does, that’s your new baseline; if not, there’s something more than hunger going on. If you’re not hungry for the first few weeks, it’s part of the hormonal recalibration and you should follow the meal plan.
- Your own personal template will change over time – as your activity level changes and you lose weight or put on muscle mass, your nutritional needs will change too
Foods to avoid with It Starts with Food – Whole30 Elimination
- Processed food – especially if it contains MSG, sulfites, or carrageenan
- Sugars and sweeteners (fail Good Food standards 1, 2, 3, and 4)
- Regular sugar: brown sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, beet sugar, confectioner’s sugar, etc.
- Syrups: high fructose corn syrup HFCS, malt syrup, refiner’s syrup, rice syrup, etc.
- Processed sugar: dextrose, disaccharide, fructose ,glucose, galactose, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, monosaccharide, polysaccharide, ribose, saccharose, sucrose
- “Natural” sugars: agave nectar, coconut nectar, coconut sugar, date sugar, (evaporated) cane juice, honey, maple syrup, molasses, rice malt (extract), (sweet) sorghum, treacle
- Fruit juice – even if you make it yourself
- Artificial (non-nutritive) sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame-k/potassium, Equal, Nutra-Sweet, saccharin, Splenda, stevia, sucralose, SweetLeaf, Sweet ‘n Low, Truvia
- Sugar alcohols: arabitol, dulcitol, erythritol, glycol, glycerol, hydrogenated starch hydrosylate (hsh), iditol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, polyglycitol, ribitol, sorbitol, threitol, xylitol
- Alcohol (fails Good Food standards 1, 2, 3, and 4)
- All wines, beers, spirits; anything else containing alcohol
- Seed oils (fail Good Food standard 4)
- Canola (rapeseed) oil, chia oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, flax (linseed) oil, grapeseed oil, hemp oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil, rice bran oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean (soy) oil (also known as vegetable oil), sunflower oil
- Trans fats
- Grains (fail Good Food standards 1, 2, 3, and 4)
- Don’t include grains of any kind – no breads, cereals, pasta, rice, not even gluten-free grains or pseudo-cereals like quinoa; not even whole grains
- Seeds of plants in the grass family: barley, corn (maize), kamut, millet, oats, rice (including wild rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, teff, triticale, wheat
- Seeds that are not technically grains: amaranth, buckwheat, chia, quinoa
- Legumes (fail Good Food standards 3 and 4)
- Black beans, kidney beans, lentils, soy, and other above-ground legumes, whole or processed
- Dairy (fails Good Food standard 2)
- From cows, sheep, or goat milk
- Milk, cheese, cream, butter (unless clarified), yogurt, kefir, etc.
- Even if it’s pastured, raw, or fermented
- Processed meats that are factory-farmed, or those with added sugar, MSG, sulfites or carrageenan
- Vinegars with added sugar or sulfites; malt vinegar (which generally contains gluten)
- Do not try to recreate junk foods or desserts (pizza, pancakes, brownies, ice cream, etc.) by using “approved” ingredients
- Don’t cheat! One splash of milk in your coffee, one brownie corner… could short-circuit your “reset” button, forcing you to start the entire process over from day one
After 30 days (or more) following the Whole30 s guidelines, you’ve cleaned out your system, you can now check how you respond to some of the foods you excluded:
- Day 1 – reintroduce and evaluate dairy products, while keeping the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant. Have yogurt in the morning, cheese in the afternoon, and ice cream after dinner. Evaluate how you feel that day and the next few days – stomach, congestion, headaches, breakouts. Note that the easiest to digest and least likely to give you symptoms are unsweetened, fermented, pastured, organic, full-fat dairy – yogurt or kefir
- Day 4 – reintroduce and evaluate gluten-containing grains, while keeping the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant. Over the course of the day, eat a whole-wheat bagel, a side of pasta, and a dinner roll. See how you feel the next few days. Evaluate your experience and decide how often and how much to incorporate gluten grains into your regular diet – the authors recommend not at all
- Day 7 – reintroduce and evaluate non-gluten grains, while keeping the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant. Eat a serving of white rice, some corn tortilla chips, and a slice of gluten-free bread. Evaluate and decide how much to incorporate these foods.
- Day 10 – reintroduce and evaluate legumes, while keeping the rest of your diet Whole30-compliant. Try some peanut butter, a bowl of lentil soup, some tofu, and a side of black beans. Evaluate and decide how much to incorporate these foods.
- You can also test sugars and alcohols, but should only have them every once in a while even if you don’t have reactions to them
- If you don’t miss a particular food or drink that you know makes you feel less healthy, don’t bother reintroducing it
- Conscious eating – Once you’ve identified something you think might be worth eating despite being unhealthy, ask yourself a series of questions to help you decide if it’s really worth it. Do I have a specific desire for this particular food, or am I just emotional, hungry, or craving? Is it going to be incredibly special, significant, or delicious? Is it going to mess me up – negatively affect how I feel or the quality of my life?
- Don’t use the word “cheat” to describe your less-healthy indulgences. Enjoy the food to its fullest extent – pay attention to it, chew thoroughly, savor the flavor, smell, and texture, and make it last. Notice that the craving has been satisfied, and when it has, stop eating.
Recommendations for special populations
- Work closely with your doctors to ensure that the powerful effects of these dietary changes are monitored and medications are properly adjusted
- Start with small modifications to meals, gradually substituting your “less healthy” foods for high-quality meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats
- Autoimmune disease – you may want to consider removing these additional items from your daily diet:
- Eggs – whole and egg whites
- Nightshades – white potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarillos, pepinos, and spices like cayenne, chili powder, curry powder, paprika, pepper sauce, pimento, crushed red pepper flakes – avoid for at least 90 days to evaluate sensitivity
- Dairy – including heavy cream, clarified butter, and ghee
- Nuts and seeds
- IBS and IBD
- Vegetables – make sure they’re cooked thoroughly and chopped into small pieces
- Fruit – be cautious with fruit consumption, as there are strong links between fructose malabsorption and IBS. Make sure you peel all fruit, avoid what you can’t peel (e.g. grapes and cherries), and eat your fruit as ripe as possible. Avoid fruits that have seeds and a rough exterior (like berries). Many IBS sufferers report increased symptoms after consuming citrus fruits, so avoid those as well. Avoid dried fruits and fruit juices as they pack too much sugar into a small package for people with serious GI disturbances
- Avoid all nuts and seeds
- Avoid coffee – even decaffeinated
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but not with your meals
- Other food groups may be potentially inflammatory or digestively disruptive – like FODMAPs, high-oxalate foods, or high-histamine foods
- Those with IBD – Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – should adopt the autoimmune protocol (above), especially with respect to eggs and nightshades
- Food allergies
- Don’t eat the foods you’re allergic to
- If you suspect that you have an allergy or intolerance to any one food, don’t test your limits during the Whole30 program
- Vegetarians and vegans
- If your primary reason for becoming vegetarian or vegan was for health, the authors hope you reconsider based on the evidence they present in the book
- If you’ll eat some animal products (eggs, fish, etc.), they recommend getting the bulk of your protein from these sources and supplementing with plant-based sources as little as possible
- If your concerns are largely ethical – animal welfare, sustainability, your local economy, or global economic factors – there are ways to responsibly, ethically source meat, seafood, and eggs and supporting these efforts sends a strong message to the large corporations invested in factory farming
- If dairy is a viable source of protein, they recommend putting pastured, organic, fermented sources like yogurt or kefir at the top of your list. You could also use whey protein powder from grass-fed, organic sources
- If you don’t eat any animal products, or if you find you still need to supplement your diet with plant-based protein sources, your best choices are minimally-processed, fermented soy products like tempeh or natto, or organic edamame (soybeans). You can also include nonfermented soy (like extra-firm tofu) and various legumes in rotation, making sure to soak them for 12-24 hours, rinse, and boil them for at least 5-10 minutes to reduce the anti-nutrient and inflammatory compounds. A hemp- or pea-protein powder is also an option for you
- Avoid all grains and grain products, including seitan and pseudo-cereals like quinoa
- There’s a vegetarian/vegan shopping list at http://whole9life.com/book/ISWF-Vegetarian-Shopping-List.pdf
- Active individuals
- If you participate in very high-intensity activities or longer-duration activities, you probably need to include more carbohydrate than the average person in your daily meal plans to maintain adequate glycogen stores – use carb-dense veggies and perhaps bump up your protein and fat and/or add an extra meal
- Eat 15-75 minutes before your workout, choosing foods that are easily digestible and palatable. Focus on protein and fat and avoid lots of fruit or carb-dense vegetables
- Your post-workout meal is a special “bonus meal” designed to help you start the recovery process faster and more effectively. Eat protein and carb-dense veggies. Eat a normal meal 60-90 minutes after your post-workout meal. There are guidelines in the book for the amount of carbohydrate post-workout, based on duration and health status
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Limit protein consumption to no more than 20% of total calories
- Consume enough calories – incorporate more starchy vegetables and healthy fats into your diet
- While breastfeeding, the same protein restrictions are not necessary. Make sure hydration and caloric intake are adequate for ongoing lactation – keep coconut milk or individual packets of coconut butter on hand, or snack on olives or avocado, always have a bottle of water on standby
Health benefits claimed in It Starts with Food
The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: acne, ADHD, allergies, alopecia, anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, bronchitis, chronic bursitis, cancer, carditis, cardiovascular disease, celiac disease, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, circulation issues, cirrhosis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, dementia, depression, dermatitis, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, diverticulitis, eczema, edema, emphysema, endometriosis, essential tremor, fibroids, fibromyalgia, food addictions, food cravings, gastroenteritis, gingivitis, gout, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, heart disease, heartburn/acid reflux/GERD, hepatitis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, infertility, inflammatory bowel syndrome IBD, inflammatory conditions, insulin resistance, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome/IBS, joint pain, leaky gut syndrome, lupus, Lyme disease, migraines, mood swings, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myositis, nephritis, osteoarthritis, osteopenia, osteoporosis, overweight/obesity, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome PCOS, periodontal disease, polychondritis, psoriasis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea, sarcoidosis, schizophrenia, scleroderma, seizures, sinusitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, skin conditions, spastic colon, stroke, chronic tendonitis, trichotillomania, ulcerative colitis, vasculitis, vitiligo
As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, and does not endorse it.
Get a copy of It Starts with Food for the reasoning and “science-y stuff” behind the recommendations, supplementation suggestions, meal maps, and some recipes