Paleo vs Whole30 – What’s the difference?

Last week we talked about what the Whole30 is and why we at PICK + PALEO love it (missed it? Click here to read). The Whole30 is great for a nutritional reset (two or three times a year works well for us), but for day-to-day living we follow a paleo lifestyle. What’s the difference between the two then?

What is Paleo? 

Paleo is a way of eating that focuses on real, whole and minimally processed foods. Meats, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruit and healthy fats. These foods all support your gut health, hormonal balance, give you a stable energy and a lean body mass.

The “no’s” in a paleo diet generally include grains, legumes, dairy, added sugars, and processed foods. Paleo is a bit more flexible in definition, it has some grey areas – some people allow dairy into their diet/recipes, and others are ok with eating a plethora of baked goods so long as they are made with paleo ingredients and are still “technically” paleo.

Some individuals may find specific food items that are paleo actually worsen their health (like fructose) – which is why it’s important to learn about yourself and your own relationship with food – which is where the Whole30 comes in.

Paleo vs Whole30

The name paleo refers to what people might have eaten during the paleolithic age and is sometimes referred to as a caveman diet.  The Whole30 doesn’t refer to this history at all – it’s a science based 30 day program with strict guidelines to follow (read It Starts With Food for a fantastic breakdown).

The goal of Whole30 is to eliminate all the foods which might be having a negative impact on how you look, feel and live – whether that be a psychological or a physiological response.

The differences between a typical (because there is no “standard”) paleo diet and the Whole30 program are:

  • No added sweeteners (not even honey, agave, stevia, pure maple syrup)
  • No carageenan, sulfites or MSG
  • No dairy. The only exception is clarified butter, or ghee

Whole30 is squeaky clean paleo, or paleo-plus. It’s based on the paleo framework, but it restricts your diet even further – in order to help you completely reset and learn about your body. Completing a Whole30 will give you personalised feedback about which exact foods affect you either positively or negatively – which allows you to modify your paleo diet accordingly.

Two examples of the differences between paleo and Whole30 are below:

  • You are making a salad dressing – paleo will allow you to add natural sweeteners like honey to olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A Whole30 would eliminate the honey, as any sweetener is not allowed
  • You are making a sweet treat recipe out of paleo ingredients – think paleo pancakes with banana and eggs. While these separate ingredients are on the approved list, Whole30 would not allow this due to the emotional and psychological response you are trying to break between yourself and baked goods

paleo vs Whole30

In Summary

Whole30 = a short-term strict programme for 30 days, where you learn specific and personalised information about what foods may be problematic for you.

Paleo = the long-term nutrition and lifestyle where nutrient-dense foods are encourages and inflammatory, nutrient-poor foods are avoided

Any questions? Feel free to ask us in the comments!