You’ve heard of both the paleo diet and the Whole30 diet, but what’s the difference? And which one is better for you? In our next installment of Nutrition Plan Throw Down, we dive into the details on these similar, but slightly different, diets.


Both the Paleo diet and the Whole30 diet are crowd pleasers for their low-carb, high-protein, whole food approach to nutrition. They focus on eating real food and avoiding packages. They definitely come from the same school of thought. Could we call them sisters? Maybe cousins? In any event, they’re definitely related!


Paleo Diet


The Paleo, or Paleolithic, diet is often referred to as the caveman diet. The diet is made up of any foods our ancestors ate way back in the day. Think meat, fish, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. It also allows use of things like avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil and lots of herbs and spices for flavor. And while it doesn’t exactly follow the, ‘available when our ancestors hunted and gathered way back when’ rule, you can also have ghee, honey, distilled liquors like vodka and tequila or red wine, as well as bacon, salt and coffee. Sounds pretty good, right?


On this diet plan, you’ll say sayonara to anything processed – from chips and packaged cookies to even dairy or refined vegetable oils because they are also processed. You’ll also steer clear of all grains, legumes, refined sugars, salt and potatoes. So, no more oats, quinoa, brown rice, beans, peanuts, lentils, soy or any additives like high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners found in lots of processed foods.


Whole30 Diet


The Paleo diet’s cousin (or did we decide sister?), Whole30 also focuses on high-protein, low-carb and says processed foods are a no go.


Whole30 expands on the Paleo foundation by banning sugar in things like maple syrup, honey or stevia, soy or any soy products like tofu, edamame, or soy sauce, as well as MSG, carrageenan and other sulfites. With a strict time-limit and the elimination of anything that could cause cravings, gastrointestinal issues, rashes or skin reactions, and fatigue, the Whole30 diet helps your body rest and potentially reset.


In the Whole30 diet, you’ll stock up on protein, produce and healthy fats. Check out this list of approved foods here if you want to explore this nutrition plan. And while you’re at it, make sure you check out what you can’t consume here as well. It also suggests ridding your system of tobacco and alcohol products.


The biggest difference? Whole30 is all about the time frame – 30 days to be exact. Originally started as an elimination diet, Whole30 can help you identify any food sensitivities you might have. Definitely work with your doc if you’re having any digestion issues or reactions you notice to food you eat.


What’s better for you?


Now you know the ins and outs of both approaches to nutrition, but which one is best for you? That’ll depend on your goals. Whole30 lasts 30 days so it’s super strict. If you accidentally indulge in a donut in the break room, you’ll have to start your 30 days all over again. Since the Paleo diet is meant to be a way of life, it’s more flexible and even allows a few non-Paleo meals a week.


If you’re looking for a total reset or to discover any food sensitivities you might have, or even to change your relationship with food or your sugar addiction, Whole30 could be a great way to start. If you know your body doesn’t do well with lots of dairy or that you often feel fatigued after too much pasta, the Paleo diet could serve as a good guide to your daily plate.


The best part? Both of these plans believe in whole, non-processed foods. So, you can’t really go wrong! Focus on how you feel, and you’ll find the right plan for you.