I’m sure you’ve heard friends or co-workers say, “I can’t eat that; I’m doing Whole30”, or “I’ll pass. I’m Paleo”. Both are incredibly popular right now. On the surface, they look like pretty much the same thing. They’re definitely more alike than they are different. But they are different.
Let’s start with how they’re alike. Both forms of eating BAN:
- Processed foods
The BIGGEST DIFFERENCE between the two:
Whole30 BANS ALL FORMS OF SUGAR, while Paleo only rules out refined sugar (you can have honey and maple syrup and still technically be eating Paleo). So you can eat baked goods and still be within the Paleo guidelines, as long as the ingredients are on the approved list. Doing Whole30? No way. You’re allowed one or two pieces of fruit each day, but that’s it!
Short Term vs Lifestyle
Whole30 is a very STRICT 30-DAY REGIMEN and is NOT intended to be a permanent way of eating. It’s meant to be more of a cleanse or reset. In other words, you completely avoid foods on the banned list for 30 days, and once you’ve completed the 30-day program, you slowly start to reintroduce banned foods (one at a time).
In doing so, you’ll be able to determine which foods are problematic or inflammatory. For example, you might learn that dairy causes bloat or gas, or that when you eat grains you feel lethargic, or that gluten makes your joints feel achy.
Once you have that information, you can make food choices that support you feeling energized and healthy. And hopefully after 30 days you will have established some new healthy eating habits. ;)
Paleo is a LIFESTYLE, not a short term way of eating. Most people who eat PALEO MAKE A LOT OF MODIFICATIONS. It's a very loose “diet,” and is really open to a lot of interpretation. Most people who eat Paleo occasionally enjoy alcoholic beverages, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or a big bowl of Ramen. Very few people who identify as Paleo eat Paleo 100% of the time.
Rules vs Guidelines
And last but not least, Whole30 has very rigid RULES. If you’re doing Whole30, you CANNOT CHEAT. At all. No slips. No I’ll just have one tiny bite. You must follow it to the letter.
On the other hand, Paleo has GUIDELINES. It’s meant to be more of a template or lifestyle. In other words, the majority of people who eat Paleo follow the guidelines most of the time. Or at least some of the time.
Which is better?
Many people start with Whole30 and then transition to Paleo. Others primarily follow a Paleo diet and switch to Whole30 when they’ve strayed too far or just need a reset. Whole30 is definitely more challenging and requires more of a commitment, but both are very healthy ways of eating.