whole30 vs paleo vs keto diet

I once read that the average woman will try at least 8 weight loss diets per year! That constant bouncing from one diet fad to the next can’t be good for the body. Each time you move from one diet to the other, sub-consciously your mind is probably interpreting this as failure. So it’s definitely not good for the mind. For each of these Whole30 diet comparisons, we dive into what each one is, the basic premise, science, and philosophies behind whole30 and the comparison diet we’re highlighting.

Now...everyone is probably wanting to know which diet is better. This post isn’t meant to endorse or tell you which diet is the best. Everyone’s body is different. That’s what makes us beautiful. We’ve tried A LOT of different diets in the past (and almost all of them on this list) and we’re biased towards Whole30 because of the success, results, and because of the ultimate determining factor when it comes to any diet, fad, or lifestyle: How we feel. Because of this last morsel of criteria, it’s nearly impossible for us to give the nod to any of the other diets. But there’s still a valid reason for comparing each one so that’s what we attempted to do below.

What Kind Of Diet Is Whole30?

Co-founded by Melissa Hartwig Urban in April 2009, the Whole30® is designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.

Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by overuse or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies or fertility issues) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff.

What Kind Of Diet Is Whole30

What’s Not Allowed On Whole30?

As noted before, Whole30 is not a diet. It’s not about losing weight. It’s not about some giant list of what you can and can’t eat on Whole30. It’s about wellness. But it’s still important to understand the underlying approach to Whole30 compliant foods and ingredients. You want the best results because that translates into better feels.

Let’s start with what you can eat: you’ll be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, with a moderate amount of organic and sustainable meat, eggs, fish, and nuts. Here's a quick list of some of our favorite Whole30 recipes:

Awesome Bacon Apple Chicken Salad – Whole 30, Paleo, No Added Sugar

Classic BBQ Ribs With Brussels Sprouts

Whole 30 Breakfast Sweet Potato Hash

What’s not allowed on Whole30? Sugar, grains, alcohol, dairy, legumes, desserts, additives, honey, syrups, anything processed, cornstarch, soy lecithin, sulfites (think preservatives), and MSG. Here’s is a super healthy guide to what is and what isn’t allowed.

Whats Not Allowed On Whole30

Can You Lose Weight On Whole30?

It’s important to note that Whole30 is not a weight loss program, but you may or may not lose weight. Remember: the goal is to pursue wellness and to NOT worry about your weight or fitting into a certain article of clothing, but there will be a day when you are going to want to tap out and eat a donut. It helps to have something to help you keep you focused on why you’re doing this.

Because of what we noted, it’s really important that you don’t weigh yourself during the 30 days. But you will begin to feel changes in your body so if you still have that urge to step on the scale, that’s okay ;) In some cases, individuals have lost weight with Whole30. In this instance, one woman lost 10 pounds on Whole 30.

Whole30 vs Paleo

If you’re researching Whole30, the chances of you stumbling across Paleo are pretty high. On the surface level, many people will mistake Whole30 for Paleo because there are a lot of similarities, they’re both extremely popular (think about how many influencers you know on social media touting each one), both focus on low-carb restrictions, protein, and are against processed foods. But there are some noticeable differences between each lifestyle.

whole30 vs paleo diet

Whole30 Explained

Whole30® is designed to change your life in 30 days. The lifestyle is a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. It’s focus is low carb, high protein, and zero processed foods. By eliminating foods out of your diet for a short period then slowly reintroducing them, you can hone in on which foods are doing what to your body.

Paleo Diet Explained

This is more popularly known as the “The Caveman Diet” which allows any and all food you would find in the Paleolithic era (about 10,000 years ago): fruits, nuts, seeds, veggies and of course...lots of protein. This also includes natural oils like olive, avocado, and coconut. There are some restrictions though: legumes, grains, sugars, artificial sweeteners, soybean oil, and potatoes are no-gos for this diet.

What Is The Main Difference Of Each Diet? 

There are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences with each of these. Depending on your lifestyle and personal philosophy of nutrition, one might be better than the other, one might be more restrictive than the other. There are subtle nuances which separate the two. With that said, both can aid in weight loss, both cut out the same food groups, both could be considered restrictive, and both have health benefits. The biggest difference is the timeframe and personalization. One is a lifestyle you will live for the rest of your life and is based on what cavemen ate 10,000+ years ago. The other is simplified because it allows you to understand your body more and which foods do what to your body.

Whole30 vs Keto

The keto diet (also known as the ketogenic diet) is another one that has gained quite a bit of popularity in the last decade (despite being around since the 1920’s). And yes...it is one that has its own list of what you can and can’t eat (Non-Breaking News: They All Do). The Keto diet is very popular right now and hasn’t seemed to hit its peak yet. There are similarities between the two: both aim to limit sugars and processed foods, both could be considered restrictive in nature, and both limit carbs to an extent. But there are some clear differences.

Whole30 vs Keto

Whole30 Explained

This bears repeating, Whole30 is a nutritional reset where low carbs, high protein, and zero processed foods are allowed for a period of 30 days to help you determine which foods are causing effects to your body. Whole30 is helping you identify food intolerances to improve your relationship to food and overall wellness.

Keto Diet Explained

The objective of the Keto diet is to significantly limit the amount of carbs you intake (less than 10% of your calories) while increasing your fat intake to more than 70% of your daily calories (the remaining 20% of your calories come from protein). Simple to understand? Sorta. Breads, pasta, pastries, sugars, even some fruits and basically anything carb-laden are not allowed. Fish, eggs, healthy fats (olive, avocado, butter), lean meats (chicken and organic beef), leafy greens and non-starchy veggies are good to go. Think of it this way:

Fats: 70%

Proteins: 20%

Carbs: 10%

The logic behind keto is carbs break down into glucose and act as an energy source for our bodies. When those carbs are not readily available, the body breaks down fats for energy and produce ketones, which act as an energy source for the body. When the body reaches ketosis, fat becomes the main fuel for the body...not carbs.

What Is The Main Difference Of Each Diet?

Sustainability. There’s still not a lot we know about keto. Yes, you will see short-term weight loss, but the research is sketchy on long term viability of the keto diet (especially compared to Whole30). Furthermore, keto is more restrictive than the Whole30 diet which suggests that the keto diet may lead to individuals reverting back to their old ways of unhealthy eating. The biggest difference between Whole30 vs Keto is the fat intake. Keto demands 70% of calories derived from fat. Whole30 comes nowhere near that much. Other key differences include:

  • Major differences in fat intake
  • Whole30 doesn’t allow alcohol whereas Keto does
  • Whole30 allows fruits (encourages it) and keto limits fruits because of the carbs
  • Some starchy veggies are allowed in Whole30, Keto wants you to limit these
  • Whole30 is a 30 day timeframe with a post Whole30 plan, Keto is a plan that never changes
  • Keto is perfectly fine with dairy and Whole30 dairy is off-limits
  • Artificial sweeteners are okay on Keto (this is debatable among professionals though) where as they are off-limits on Whole30

Whole30 vs Vegan

There is much to be said about comparing nutrition lifestyles and diets. A couple of things I noticed while compiling all this research is 1) most of these diets aim to offer a better alternative to doing nothing and having zero awareness about what you eat and 2) these diets’ aim is to make you feel better and live a healthier life. As is the case with vegan though, it ventures into the realm of ethics when it comes to eating food, which is clearly the biggest difference between Whole30 vs Vegan. We don’t want to make comparisons political or an opining voice of moral authority. Choosing one over the other doesn’t mean endorsing the cruel punishment of animals. This is hardly the truth. Most individuals concerned with healthy living strive to eat the highest available nutritional standards out there. Most of the time this hovers around whether foods are organic, and yes...this also means ethics in the treatment of the animals we eat. With that said...

Photo Credit: Fresh N Lean

Photo Credit: Fresh N Lean

Whole30 Explained

Whole30 is a nutritional reset where low carbs, high protein, and zero processed foods are allowed for a period of 30 days to help you determine which foods are causing effects to your body.

Vegan Diet Explained

Simply explained, the vegan diet is based on eating ZERO animal products of any kind: no meat, no dairy, and in some vegan-circles no honey. It is not a “only eat salads” diet. There are plenty of food options with veganism. Some sugars are allowed.

What Is The Main Difference Of Each Diet?

As mentioned above, there is zero moral equivalency in the Whole30 diet. It’s not about eating something because of the ethics behind it. It’s all about living a healthier life as a result of the relationship you have with food. Aside from that, the biggest difference is obviously the source of proteins when it comes to Whole30 vs Vegan diets. Both diets are restrictive and both disallow dairy. Other than that, these two are vastly different in what you can and can’t eat.

Whole30 vs Atkins

The most popular comparisons with Atkins almost always lands on Paleo and Keto. They are closely related in philosophies and nutritional makeup. But given their subtle similarities, it is worth taking a closer look at Whole30 vs. Atkins despite their being major differences between the two. Let’s clear the confusion once and for all.

Whole30 vs Atkins

Whole30 Explained

Once again, Whole30 is a nutritional reset where low carbs, high protein, and zero processed foods are allowed for a period of 30 days to help you determine which foods are causing effects to your body.

Atkins Diet Explained

Created by Dr. Robert C. Atkins in the 1960’s, the Atkins diet promotes weight loss by having individuals track their net carbs (a clever formula where you subtract the difference between carb content and fiber content of food). Sugars are severely limited as is other food depending on which phase you are in. The Atkins diet is centered on four phases:

  • Phase 1 is Induction which lasts about two week where the individual consumes around 20 net carbs per day. During this phase, processed foods, sugars, starchy foods, grains, nuts, and alcohol are to be avoided.
  • Phase 2 is Balancing where carbs are cut to 12 to 15 net carbs per day and those need to come primarily from vegetables. Individuals can begin to incorporate berries, seeds, and nuts back into their diets but still need to be cautious of that net carb count.
  • Phase 3 is Pre-Maintenance where your main objective is to hit your ideal goal weight with what you’ve incorporated in Phase 1 and 2. You can begin to broaden the range of what you eat here and can add 10 net carbs back into your diet.
  • Phase 4 is Lifetime Maintenance where you continue to operate from what you learned and added to during phase 3.

What Is The Main Difference Of Each Diet?

There really isn’t any “phases” per se with the Whole30 diet. There is the initial 30 days where you are resetting your nutritional barometer to figure out your food sensitivities followed by your post Whole30 personalized plan. But...you don’t launch the Whole30 lifestyle in multiple, subsequent Whole30 phases like the Atkins diet.

Another important key difference is the amount of protein you consume. Typically in the Atkins diet, you’ll consume around 30% of your calorie intake as protein. Oftentimes, your body will treat that added protein as excess and convert it into glucose, which then in turn can result in glucose cravings. This is one of the major knocks against the Atkins diet. It is very hard to sustain this type of lifestyle. Notably, both lifestyles don’t allow sugars, processed foods, and heavily breaded fried foods.

So...what are the main difference between Whole30 vs Atkins:

  • Whole30 doesn’t allow dairy whereas Atkins allows it at every phase.
  • Whole30 allows some starchy vegetables and Atkins doesn’t until in later phases.
  • Whole30 is a little more strict on the types of fats. Atkins allows virtually all healthy fats
  • While both are centered on low-carb, high protein, the % differences of each are different between Whole30 vs Atkins. You will consume about 30-40% of your calories from protein in the Atkins diet (with most of those coming from meats). It’s not nearly that much in the Whole30.
  • In terms of cost, Atkins diet can be more expensive than Whole30 mainly because of the types of proteins and low-carb options you are limited to in the Atkins diet.

Whole30 vs Clean Eating

Clean Eating is not new. People have been eating this way for centuries. It’s just some smart individual decided to give it a label and explain the difference between the Clean Eating Diet vs all the other nutritional diets and lifestyles out there. And there are a lot. Although closely related, there are some major differences between Whole30 vs Clean Eating.

Whole30 vs Clean Eating

Whole30 Explained

Whole30 is a nutritional reset where low carbs, high protein, and zero processed foods are allowed for a period of 30 days to help you determine which foods are causing effects to your body.

Clean Eating Diet Explained

According to CleanEatingKitchen.com, clean eating includes real, whole foods, choosing organic and sustainable options whenever possible. Selecting foods that meet one’s individual needs. No sugar. No processed foods. Basically anything packaged. It’s 100% pure ingredients with no preservatives, sugars or added gums. Ketchup...nope. Mayo...nope. No salad dressings (generally speaking), no frozen foods, cereals are a no-go, no soda, no ice-cream. What about oranges? Yup...they are allowed. But some say only organic oranges grown without pesticides would really be “clean”. 

Can you understand why some individuals consider Clean Eating as a vague, indistinct lifestyle? Depending on who you ask, one ingredient or type of food might be okay but ask another person and they’ll tell you it is strictly forbidden. There’s a continuum where the rules, regs, and goal posts of what is and isn’t allowed, move. This can be frustrating for some because no one can really get a thumb on what is really “clean eating”.

In terms of the overarching objectives of Clean Eating. They’re noble. Sugar is bad for you, everyone knows this. Processed foods are doing something to our bodies that warrants more research and warnings. And who doesn’t want to eat farm-fresh eggs, organic veggies, ethically friendly nuts, leafy green smoothies?

What Is The Main Difference Of Each Diet?

As is detailed above, there are a lot of similarities between Whole30 vs Clean Eating. But what about the main differences? Here are a handful to make note of….

  • Clean Eating allows some consumption of dairy as long as it fits the “Clean” criteria
  • Clean Eating allows consumption of whole grains (brown rice, wheat, etc) and Whole30 doesn’t.
  • Whole30 prohibits legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils) and Clean Eating allows them.
  • Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc) are allowed with Clean Eating and Whole30 they are not.

On the surface level there are some major differences in allowable nutrition between Whole30 vs Clean Eating. We love the underlying root behind clean eating because it echoes from the same chamber as Whole30: finding that nutritional balance that is the best balance for our unique bodies. And let’s remember...this is the goal: Being aware of our relationship to food, how it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally is vital to wellness. 

The Mama’s Guide to Whole 30

Are you new to Whole30 or just completely confused by everything Whole30 entails? The recipes, the philosophy, the science, how it’s different from vegan, Keto, Paleo, the shopping lists, the things you can and can’t eat...we get it. You’re feeling overwhelmed. We’ve been there before too. And you’re probably wondering if Whole30 is even worth it! We’re here to let you know that it is! Here’s what every Mama needs to know about Whole30. The Mama’s Guide to Whole30 provides Whole30 recipes, tips, advice, resources, shopping lists and more!

Mamas Guide To Whole30

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