Have you been thinking of doing a vegetarian or vegan whole 30 or wondering if it’s even possible? Information about a vegan whole 30 or a vegetarian whole 30 tends to be a bit thin on the ground, but never fear, I’m here to sort you out. Read on folks.
The Whole30 craze you have been hearing about non-stop began in 2009 and was created by Dallas and Michelle Hartwig.
Although many people use the Whole30 for weight loss, that is not the aim behind the program. The Whole30 claims to “reset” your body by eliminating foods that are not optimal for your body.
However, social media is full of before and after photos showing off an impressive inch and pound loss, so while weight loss may not be the end game for those on the Whole30, it definitely seems to occur. Could this be the case for vegetarians and vegans who go Whole30?
What do you eat on the Whole30?
In general, there’s a whole boatload of food groups that are banned, and a shorter list of ones that are allowed.
The reasons for certain food groups being disallowed range from foods with negative psychological effects (so-called “food with no brakes”, e.g. food you can’t stop eating even though you may not be hungry, or that you can’t just have a little of – hello chocolate) and physical effects (hello inflammation).
Some banned food groups and products obviously make sense, such as no sugar being allowed. Others, however, will have your eyebrows raised so far they meld with your hairline; legumes and grains (even quinoa and whole grains), the mainstay of a vegetarian or vegan diet, are not allowed.
These exclusions obviously present some difficulties for those who lean more towards a plant-based diet.
On the Whole30 you cannot consume:
- Legumes (including soy, tofu, soy sauce, peanuts etc.)
- Added sugar or sweeteners of any kind (including honey, stevia etc.)
- Grains (including faux-grains such as quinoa, corn etc.)
- Alcohol (not even to cook with)
- Carrageenan, MSG, sulfites
- Junk food/SWYPO food
Junk food and SWYPO (the amusingly titled Sex-With-Your-Pants-On) food mean that you also can’t recreate your favourite fast food snack using compliant ingredients.
Some junk food (such as crisps or chips) may be technically compliant (potatoes and olive oil are compliant ingredients for example) but is far from healthy or has a psychologically unhealthy effect on you, and as such is not permitted.
SWYPO food are things like banana egg pancakes, paleo cookies, baked goods etc.
The theory is that your brain can’t really tell the difference between a technically-compliant paleo cookie, and the real thing – and if you spend your Whole30 continuing to indulge in the versions of foods that got you into trouble in the first place, eating cauli-pizzas and brownies and nice-cream, then chances are you’ll slip right back into eating the real thing once the 30 days are over.
You also can’t indulge in dessert, in an effort to starve into submission what the Hartwigs call your “sugar dragon”, and should try not to snack.
Things that you can eat include:
- All vegetables
- All fruit (in moderation)
I won’t sugarcoat it – the Whole30 looks extremely restrictive, because it really is. While you don’t have to count calories or track your food, there is an ideal meal template.
You’re also not allowed to weigh or measure yourself in any way during the 30-day period, in order to keep the focus on how you feel and not what you weigh.
And if you should slip up and accidentally lick that spoon while making a cake for a loved one, or eat anything non-compliant, even if it is just the tiniest of amounts, you’ll need to start over from scratch.
It is definitely not for the faint of heart. Vegetarians will be reduced to just eating eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds for 30 days. Vegans would have it even worse, with just fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Is a vegan Whole30 possible?
Yes and no. If your diet was reduced to just nuts, seeds, fruit, and veg, I’m sure you can see that there is at least one problem area, which is getting enough protein.
Before anyone jumps on me and pummels me with the vegetables-have-protein stick, they sure do, as do nuts, but not nearly enough in my experience.
In any case, a perfect and compliant Whole30 must follow the meal template, and without meat or eggs, that’s just not possible. In light of this, you could basically follow a vegan Whole30 compliant plan, but technically it wouldn’t be the “real” Whole30
The Hartwigs have said that they welcome vegetarians and vegans to the program, while recognising that some non-compliant protein sources such as dairy or legumes would probably need to be included.
Suggestions for veggies to be fully Whole30 involve going back to meat for a month if you’re reasons for not eating it are due to health concerns, or if you’re vegan or vegetarian for ethical concerns, then you can source some responsibly raised and killed (apparently) meat or animal products.
As someone who has been a vegetarian for over 20 years for ethical reasons, I really could not be convinced to go back to meat for a month even if it’s killed “humanely”, what with the “killing” being one of my greatest issues, but everyone has their own reasons for being vegan or vegetarian. You do you.
Why should you do the Whole30?
The Whole30 has developed a bit of a cult following, with devotees swearing it changed their lives forever. Benefits touted from following the Whole30 way of eating for 30 days include:
- Deeper more restorative sleep.
- Consistent energy – no more 3 p.m. slumps.
- Better skin and hair.
- No more bloating and goodbye digestive distress.
- A healthier relationship with food.
- Weight loss.
It’s also been claimed to cure or greatly improve conditions such as acne, allergies, diabetes etc. But will any of these benefits pan out for those following a vegan version of the diet?
I’m doing a vegan Whole30
As most readers of my blog know, I am a vegetarian, not vegan, although I do eat a mainly vegan diet. I am also allergic to eggs. So if I were to do the Whole30, it would need to be a vegan version…and I’ve decided I’m going to do it.
I have some stubborn weight that I haven’t been able to shift since I had my daughter (don’t think they’ll allow you to call it baby weight if your baby is three years old) and I’ve slid into some pretty unhealthy eating habits since starting a sedentary desk-job.
I could really use a diet reset basically. I’m also someone who does much better with black and white rules. It’s like crappy white carbs – I can’t do a serving size of half-a-cup, I need to either have none or a giant plateful of ALL THE CARBS. No halfway measures for me.
I’m also just plain curious about why everyone is going on and on about this diet. I’m going to pursue the pure vegan version with no non-compliant protein sources , as I suspect some food intolerance issues and want to see what is going on with my body.
I am totally skeptical about how I’m going to feel on such little protein, but we’ll see…
I’m going to start on the *17th of June and will keep you guys updated with how everything is going. I’ll also post weekly diaries on what I ate and how I’m feeling, so check this section of the website soon for updates.
*Full disclosure, I’m publishing this two weeks after I started the Whole30, as I wrote this article but was too busy to put it up on the website back then….
Check out how my first week of Whole 30 went (HORRIBLY), or head to my Whole 30 section to see the diary and menus for each week, and my results.
Wednesday 30th of December 2020
Just wanted to see how your vegetarian whole30 went! I’m thinking of doing it too but don’t know how I’ll feel with so little carbs
Wednesday 30th of December 2020
Hey Alexandra! It went really well, I must update this post with the links to my results. It wasn't low carb at all, I had fruit for brekkie and potato wedges with nacho style toppings kept me sane!