If you’re familiar with the Whole30 program and community, you know that a huge focus is protein, protein, protein.
Good quality animal protein is emphasized as the center of every meal –on the original Whole30 program it’s pretty much a non-negotiable part of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, this may not be the most encouraging thing to hear. As a vegetarian, it seems like you’d be pretty much limited to eggs at every meal and doing Whole30 as a vegan may appear to be just plain impossible.
Don’t lose hope just yet, though! Luckily the creators of Whole30 have recognized the non-meat-eaters as a part of the community and added a version of the program that is more sustainable for these dietary restrictions.
Whole30 The Vegetarian Way: How It’s Done
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, there are still plenty of ways for you to do a Whole30!
For meat-less Whole30 programs, there are certain allowances such as some high-quality fermented dairy, a handful of soy-based proteins and other plant-based protein sources such as lentils and other legumes.
Fermented foods are often easier to digest, fewer anti-nutritive properties, and have other nutritional benefits compared to their non-fermented counterparts, making fermented dairy and soy both worthy additions to some plant-based Whole30 programs.
Soaking and sprouting beans before cooking has a similar effect, increasing the digestibility and reducing the gas/bloating effect that many people experience when they eat certain legumes.
Although these are not allowed on the original version of the program, these are certainly the best plant-based options for a no-meat Whole30!
Not Technically Whole30
While there is a Whole30 program out there for everyone who prefers to opt out of meat or animal products in their diet, the creators emphasize that technically, this is not the way Whole30 was intended to be done.
Some of the main food groups that are explicitly excluded from a traditional Whole30 (such as legumes, dairy and soy) are added into this version for the sake of giving those with limited diets more options.
There are many reasons that these types of food are left out of the Whole30 program to begin with–most of these foods have adverse effects on digestion, are possible allergens/irritants, or are otherwise not necessarily optimal for our bodies.
These food groups also happen to be important sources of protein and other nutrients for vegetarians and vegans–it would be near impossible (and probably not all that healthy!) to eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts and fats for the month!
Even though it is important to note that this version of Whole30 is not necessarily the Whole30 in its purest form, the community has embraced their vegetarian and vegan members regardless, stressing that the focus should be less about the differences in food and more about the similarities of this lifestyle overhaul whether you eat animal protein or not.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Whole30 for Vegetarians: aka, the “Vegetarian Reset”
This program for vegetarians is a little more straightforward, so let’s start here.
The “Vegetarian Reset,” as it is referred to, has all the same restrictions as the classic Whole30.
This means that sugar, soy, dairy, legumes, alcohol, grains, certain additives, and “junk food” is still totally off limits. (Need a refresher on what is and isn’t allowed on Whole30? Check out the Program Rules!)
If you still eat some animal products (such as eggs) or are a pescatarian and will eat fish, Whole30 strongly recommends that you stick to these items as your protein sources rather than turning to plant-based or dairy proteins.
This means that, even though the amended program allows for some dairy and legume consumption, ideally you would leave these out for the thirty days in order to reevaluate their effects in the reintroduction period. We know, eating eggs every day sounds like a whole lot of eggs. But in order to get the most out of your Whole30, this is the way to go!
Running out of ways to make eggs palatable? If you really need some different protein sources, you may add in others such as pastured and organic full-fat, fermented dairy or organic tempeh and natto as these are the originally banned foods that have the fewest adverse effects on our bodies. See the vegetarian shopping guide for reference.
Be aware, though, this starts to diverge from the original Whole30 a little more and will not have the same sort of intended results. If that’s not a concern for you, then go for it!
Need some more support? The Whole30 forums have an entire vegetarian section just for you.
Whole30 for Vegans
The Vegan Whole30, or “Vegan Reset,” is where things get even trickier.
Adhering to traditional Whole30 rules on a vegan diet would be impossible–we’re hungry just thinking about it! For this reason, there’s a vegan program that still leaves all animal products out, but is designed with calming inflammation, balancing hormones, and reducing cravings in mind.
Note that this still leaves out all the non-negotiable banned foods such as sugar, alcohol, junk food, etc. and only adds things like protein sources to make the diet more sustainable for people who choose to omit animal products. Just because beer is technically vegan doesn’t mean that you should be enjoying it on your reset!
On the Whole30 Vegan Reset, some lesser known plant proteins such as natto and organic tempeh are encouraged and other not-otherwise-allowed foods such as some properly prepared legumes, organic tofu and even pea or hemp protein powder are included as well.
Check out the vegan/vegetarian shopping list for how to stock your fridge in preparation for the program! Resources can also be found for the vegan program in the vegetarian forums if you have questions or need some extra help.
Want More Information?
If you want to delve a little deeper, we have some reading for you!
A few of the Whole30 books have great information about vegetarian and vegan takes on Whole30–try The Whole30: A 30-Day Guide to Health and Total Food Freedom (starting on page 120) and find a full write-up on the Whole30 Vegan Reset in Food Freedom Forever.
Are you a vegetarian or vegan Whole30 alum? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your experience in the comments below.