What’s the Difference: Comparing Whole30 and Paleo

Whole30 vs paleo

Over the past few months I’ve had a lot of people ask me what the difference between Whole30 and Paleo diets are, what are the various advantages and disadvantages to the two, and how to pick which one to try. First, I have to say that I’m not a Whole30 expert, just a follower of the plan! We do stick to a mostly Paleo lifestyle when not on Whole30, but we indulge every now and then..and that’s where the differences of the two start to emerge.

All Whole30 recipes are also Paleo but not all Paleo recipes are Whole30 compliant. This for 2 reasons:

1.Paleo allows for “recreations” of foods that aren’t on a Paleo Diet while Whole30 expressly prohibits recreating food that isn’t allowed on the program.




    On the Paleo diet, you can create a Cauliflower crusted Pizza or decadent dessert and still be adhering to a Paleo lifestyle. However, while on Whole30, we are meant to physically, psychologically, and emotionally break off our relationships with the food groups we are abstaining from – grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, sugar- and to do that requires not recreating them out of compliant ingredients. The thought is that, while on Whole30, making a cauliflower crusted pizza is giving in to our mind in that we can’t live without pizza (or something that resembles it). 

2.Paleo allows for added sweetener in the form of honey, agave, etc. while Whole30 does not

  The Whole30 Program is completely without added sugar or sweeteners whatsoever for 30 days. Again, this is to reset your system and the “need” we believe we have to sweeteners.  Paleo just prohibits refined sugars so you can add sweetening agents like honey, sap, molasses, and Stevia to foods and recipes while still following a Paleo Diet.


So, the majority of Paleo recipes are Whole30 Compliant just make sure that you aren’t recreating a meal based on foods that aren’t Paleo or Whole30 Approved and not adding sweeteners to the recipe. Most paleo recipes with sweeteners list alternatives like natural fruit juice to make the recipe Whole30 Compliant.

A Lifestyle Vs. A Cleanse

While some people do completely adopt a Whole30 way of life, it is generally used as a 30 day kick start to a more clean, Paleo way of life. Paleo seems to be easier to stick to long term for people because of the slight differences mentioned above. For some of us, never eating another dessert or pizza is impossible to commit to. But hey, we can do anything for 30 days, right? I’ve met people who have successfully completed a round of Whole30 without having found any GREAT physical benefits from it- their gut health is still great, they sleep well, skin looks good, etc.- so for them, the incentive to never eat grains or sugars again just isn’t there. The vast majority, however, find that they have SUCH great benefits from a clean eating way of life that after the initial Whole30 cleans they continue a Paleo Lifestyle to sustain these benefits. 

If you’re looking for reasons to give a Whole30 Round a shot, check out this post from Mel Jouwan. She’s written two cookbooks full of Whole30 Compliant recipes and is a great resource for anything looking to start eating clean: 30 Reasons to Do a Whole30




An indulgence Vs. A Reset

While adhering to a Paleo Lifestyle, a night out indulging in typically off-limits food doesn’t require a “reset” the next morning because most of us believe that moderation is the key to the long term success of this lifestyle. Allow ourselves a breakfast taco (hey, I’m from South Texas) every now and then isn’t something to be ashamed of. Contrarily, while on Whole30, consuming anything off the plan requires a reset- meaning your 30 days starts over. Again, this is to break the psychological bonds we have to food as well as give our bodies an entire 30 days to process out all of the foods we are abstaining from. 

Fluid Guidelines Vs. Black and White

These days, definitions of Paleo vary…a lot. Some people believe certain natural sweeteners are okay while others arent, some people think all natural sweeteners are good to go. Some people eat every kind of potato under the sun, others will tell you potatoes are completely off limits. Some believe that fruit should be eaten in moderation, others believe that it’s a staple Paleo food group. The point is- paleo means a lot of different things and we have to distinguish for ourselves which foods we are better off without. However, Whole30 is very black and white. So much so that there is an entire page on the Whole30 website dedicated to “Can I have…” questions. 

Basically, Whole30 is a great way to introduce a new Paleo lifestyle or to detox your body every now and then from foods that might be causing your body undue stress while Paleo is a lifestyle that you can really make your own. I’m on the tail end of me first successful cycle through Whole30 and even though it’s not drastically different than my normal diet, I do feel less sluggish, sleep better, and have clearer skin! I’m going to keep it up and do slow reintroduction of foods that are not Whole30 approved to determine what needs to stay out of my diet forever and what can be handled in moderation. 

If you liked this you should check out my Facebook page The Hungry Mommy and Instagram @the_hungry_mommy for daily updates, recipes, and humor! If you’re thinking about doing a Whole30, join my Facebook Accountability Group! I will be posting meals and recipes, humor, and encouragement for those who need it!