Whole30 vs. Paleo: What’s the Difference?

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Whole30 and Paleo are two eating regiments that are very similar. In fact, in a nutshell, Whole30 is simply a more strict version of Paleo.

Whole30: A Stricter Paleo

Whole30 and Paleo are almost identical in their ideology. In fact, all Whole30 recipes are also Paleo friendly, but not all Paleo recipes can work on the Whole30 diet (although many can).

Both programs focus on consuming whole, clean, natural foods. Both Whole30 and Paleo ban eating:

  • processed foods
  • grains
  • dairy
  • alcohol
  • legumes

Logistically, Whole30 and Paleo are almost identical.

Whole30 vs. Paleo: On The Subject of Sugar

The major practical difference between Whole30 and Paleo is that Whole30 doesn’t allow any kind of added sugar, while Paleo only rules out refined sugar (so for example, you can have honey with Paleo, but not with Whole30).

As a side note, one other small difference is that Whole30 advises against trying to imitate your favorite baked goodies or junk food with approved ingredients (so imitation pancakes would be off the list). However, it’s common (and encouraged) for Paleo eaters to recreate their favorite sweets with ingredient adjustments.

Difference Between Paleo and Whole30: The Form

The biggest difference between Paleo and Whole30 is the form of how each diet is carried out.

Whole30 is designed to be a very strict 30 day program to cleanse and reset your body. While some of the habits you gain from Whole30 will hopefully be maintained, it isn’t intended to be a permanent practice. Most of the benefits from Whole30 diet come from learning about your relationship to food and discovering how to modify unhealthy eating habits.

Paleo, on the other hand, is a long-term eating lifestyle. Since it’s designed to be long-term, rules are a bit more relaxed. Many Paleo eaters also think of Paleo as a loose template – some will add in dairy or or alcohol here and there. Paleo is more a general mindset, and with so many modifications, people often define a Paleo lifestyle differently.

Many individuals use Whole30 as a launching pad into a more long-term Paleo lifestyle, or to reset their eating habits when they’ve strayed too far from the Paleo practice.

Ultimately, the two programs resemble one another very closely. The main difference lies in the diet’s form.

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about the author:
Meg Mars
Meg is a writer who is passionate about healthy eating. From Whole30 and South Beach Diet, to paleo and intermittent fasting, she's experimented with several healthy eating regiments and is passionate about helping readers find the perfect food plan match for their lifestyles.

10 thoughts on “Whole30 vs. Paleo: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Is fish allowed on Whole 30 or Paleo? Says Meat/Veggies/Fruit for Whole 30…looks kinda the same w/Paleo….so would like to know if Fish or Shellfish allowed.

  2. The biggest difference and most gut wrenching of the Paleo diet for me is that Paleo doesn’t allow potatoes while the whole 30 does for some reason

  3. This was really helpful. I was trying decide between the two and I love the fact that the whole 30 does the cleanse and gets your mindset where it needs to be.


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