Paleo vs Whole30 Comparison Made Easy

by Mar 26, 2018

It seems like everyone and their mother is talking about either Whole30 or the Paleo diet these days. So what’s the difference between the two? It can be confusing since they both share a lot of the same principles, but there are some major differences. We’ll break it down for you… and we’ll make it even simpler with a Venn Diagram so you can quickly compare everything.

Overall Philosophies:

Dr. Loren Cordain created the Paleo diet after studying how nutrition affected athlete performance. His philosophy is that humans should revert back to pre-historic times before the agricultural revolution that made rice and grains the largest staples of the human diet. Paleo is based on the hunter-gatherer diet with higher animal protein and non-starchy fruits & vegetables.

Whole30 is a program more focused on reconditioning people’s relationships with food and doing a 30 day reset. This program is meant to help people break unhealthy food addictions and eat more whole, natural foods. Whole30 can help you discover any foods that cause health issues by eliminating them and then reintroducing them back into your diet and noting how they make you feel.

Whole 30 & Paleo Similarities

  • Eat natural foods and avoid processed foods: both diets have the same underlying philosophy that processed foods are the main culprits causing obesity and disease. Cut out most things that come in packages and eat more meats, fruits and vegetables. No more artificial sweeteners, food additives, or anything that falls in the junk food category.
  • Eliminate grains, dairy, legumes: These food categories are highly controversial topics with studies supporting claims on both sides whether these foods are good or bad for you. Despite the controversy, both Whole30 and Paleo agree these food groups should be avoided.

Whole 30 & Paleo Differences

  • Whole 30 is a short-term program meant to shift your long-term habits and philosophy, while Paleo is meant to be an ongoing lifestyle diet.
  • Whole30 is more strict in general.
    • You can’t drink alcohol for 30 days (no wine… how sad).
    • Paleo allows you to use natural sugars like maple syrup and coconut flours to create paleo approved pancakes, etc. Whole30 does not allow you to recreate addictive foods like breads, muffins, pancakes etc.
  • Paleo focuses more on increased animal protein consumption than Whole30 does.
  • Paleo has a guideline about eating meals with a net alkaline load that balances acid. Whole30 doesn’t really get into this topic.


Here’s a diagram of what you can not eat based on Paleo vs Whole30. You can pretty much eat everything else that doesn’t fall into these categories on the diagram below. Whole30 is supposed to strictly follow the restricted foods list while Paleo is more flexible and meant to guide people on what to have less of versus never have.

Paleo vs whole30 venn diagram

Dairy includes anything made with:

  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Whey protein powder (it’s made from milk)
  • Yogurt

Legumes include:

  • Beans
  • Peanuts & peanut butter
  • Peas
  • Snow peas/sugar snap peas
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans and all soy products (tofu, soy sauce, etc)
  • Chickpeas (including hummus)

Processed Foods:

Most of the space in grocery stores is dedicated to processed foods so we can’t list them all here. You get the picture with these examples:

  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Muffins
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Most things that come in packages


  • Flour
  • All rice
  • Corn and corn products
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat

Starchy Fruits & Vegetables:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Bananas

Ultimately, it’s not an apples vs apples comparison between Paleo and Whole30. Both plans have the goal of shifting the way you eat forever, but they approach this very differently. Ask yourself what you’re goals are before picking one (if either) of these. If you want to break a sugar addiction then making paleo brownies isn’t going to do that for you.

Just remember not to lose sight of the big picture when trying Paleo. Many people will load up on red meat, nuts and paleo baked goods, but this negates the point of the diet. Paleo was originally developed with a focus on lean meat and reducing processed items. As with everything in life.. try to find a balance.

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