The Difference Between Paleo and Whole30

After discussions with a friend of mine one day last month about the difference between Paleo and Whole30, we both were a tad confused.

We must have flipped through dozens of articles and information out there, and both decided an ‘all in one place’ reference was greatly needed. There’s a lot of information out there, but so much of it is very confusing!


The Difference Between Paleo and Whole30

I hope this comparison helps for those looking for clarification as well! We did our best in compiling all the information, though not that we aren’t nutritionists or ‘experts’.

The Difference Between Paleo and Whole30

What is Paleo? The Paleo diet has been around for quite a few years though picked up a lot of steam in 2014. Many athletes who do CrossFit exercises found that eating the way our ancestors did through the Paleo diet, enhanced their performance.

Mainstream society then started to take notice of this way of eating, but it is more a lifestyle, really. Basically, when eating Paleo, you can eat anything that our caveman ancestors would have had available to them back then.

What is Whole30? Much more recently Whole30 came onto the diet scene. In basic terms, it is the Paleo Vegan diet, or so many have called it. It eliminates out even more foods than Paleo, most specifically dairy, grains, sugars, and alcohol.

Here is a weekly Paleo meal plan and a weekly Whole30 meal plan.


How are Paleo & Whole30 Similar?

Both programs focus on clean eating with real food, eliminating anything from your daily diet that has been processed. If it comes in a box or can with ingredients you can’t pronounce, toss it out! Both focus on getting people healthy, not necessarily to lose weight, but that is often an added side effect.

Making the body perform at its best is the primary goal of both programs. They each want to eliminate grains, legumes, and dairy. On Paleo, you can drink tequila, but on Whole30 they recommend steering clear of all alcohol.

How are Paleo & Whole30 Different?

Whole30 doesn’t allow sugar of any kind and Paleo rules out just refined sugar. Paleo suggests only eating grass-fed meat as it is more sustainable and closer to the meat that our ancestors ate. With Whole30, that isn’t as big of a deal.

Lastly, when eating the Paleo-way, they suggest using approved ingredients to recreate your favourite processed foods. Whole30 on the other hand strictly advises against this.

A group of fruit and vegetables


Paleo Food List

You CAN Eat This On Paleo:

  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood
  • Fruit
  • Meats
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables

You CAN’T Eat This On Paleo:

  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Flour
  • Gluten
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Refined Sugar

** Here is an easy to follow Paleo Meal plan.

Vegetables, fruit, fish, milk and meat on wooden background. Balanced diet. Healthy eating concept. View from above


Whole30 Food List

You CAN Eat This On Whole30:

  • Clarified Butter or Ghee
  • Eggs
  • Fats from nuts, seeds, oils, and fruits
  • Fish and seafood
  • Some fruit, but not all
  • Meat
  • Vegetables

You CAN’T Eat This On Whole 30:

  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Sugar – real or artificial

Here is an easy to follow Whole30 Meal plan.

Are you following a Paleo or Whole30 eating lifestyle?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this eating plan, and what are some ways that have found which make it easier to follow it.

After all, learning about a program is only half the battle. Then we have to get into the groove of following it.

A plate of food with asparagus, with Whole30

I have introduced some Paleo meals into our regular routine, many of which I’ve shared here on My Organized Chaos. A few examples of delicious Paleo recipes are: Roasted Maple Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Lemon Pepper Asparagus, and Slow Cooker Honey Apple Pork Roast.

A close up of a plate of food, with Cinnamon and Squash

Yet it can be especially tricky if not everyone in your household follows the same eating plan.

How do YOU manage this chaos? Let me know in the comments if you have nay favourite recipes that follow either of these meal plans.





  1. I have seen quite a bit about paleo and didnt know what it all meant.. thank you for the explanations. I definitely need to try and eat better foods

  2. It seems very similar to the diet I follow, which is the Keto diet. Keto allows dairy and sweeteners though, but high sugar fruits banana are off limits as it is 20g carbs a day or less. It mostly focuses on high fat.

    I am very interested in trying the Whole30 though as I think the reduction in dairy may help some of my hormonal issues.

    I’d never be able to do Paleo with grass-fed anything, we just don’t have grass-fed beef in my area and the grass-fed butter is only available here in the summer months.

    1. You can buy Ghee and salad dressing without the processed stuff, even avocado mayonnaise on a website.
      Hope it helps. I like an avocado mayo made by Chosen, even better than the Primal Kitchen brand on that site.

      1. You can make your own ghee, mayo, and dressings. Its not difficult and the results are delicious!

  3. that’s all fine and dandy but our ancestors did not live that long and I am sure their paleo diets had something to do with it.

    1. I doubt clean eating had anything to do with shorter life spans… lol Likely, being poor and lacking enough clean food along with poor sanitation that perpetuated rampant disease were the cause.

      Today we have a different problem… people prefer fake (processed) food – that’s cheap and convenient… which causes disease and death as a result of ignorance and laziness.

    2. It necessarily true. They also didn’t have access to healthcare and antibiotics, which have come about in recent history. Life expectancies only increases in 20th century. Also, humans back then didn’t have protection from natural disasters and predators.

    1. What is CALLED “paleo”, and “whole30”, are almost identical, their focus is just different. The goal of BOTH is to cut out grains and legumes (no wheat, corn, oats, tofu, beans, peanuts, flours etc), cut out processed, sugary, ready-made stuff and all artificial ingredients (no soda, no boxed meals, no fast food, nothing with food coloring or preservatives), no dairy except clarified butter (aka ghee), and no vegetable oil or hydrogenated oils (no soybean, canola, cottonseed oil, no margarine). The focus of what you CAN eat is lots and lots of vegetables, lots of “good” fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts), and all meats and eggs. Both diets are low carb, high fat, and moderate protein. As far as actual DIFFERENCES, “Whole30” is an actual diet plan that was created, with set rules, whereas “paleo” is a general idea of how to eat but is not a copyrighted diet plan, and -really truly- not even remotely accurate to “what cavemen had access to” (c’mon, butter and broccoli and vodka? Please, NONE of those things existed back then, not to mention MOST common modern vegetables) But in general terms, paleo is stricter about potatoes (which whole 30 allows), but the version of paleo “most people do” is less strict about alcohol, added natural sugar like honey, and “faked” baked goods or comfort food made with approved ingredients (like muffins made with almond flour or fake mac & cheese), which whole30 doesn’t allow.

  4. Wow! You did an awesome job of explaining the difference between Paleo and Whole30.I had no idea they were so indepth about what we should and should no eat.I think I would prefer the Paleo diet myself of the two and have been trying to eat cleaner and more healthier lately.Thanks for a great article!

  5. Thanks for the info…I’d heard the term Whole30 but had not idea what it meant.

  6. Thanks for the info. I have heard of both, but, never paid too much attention. I need to get a better diet, but, don’t think I can do something this extreme!

    1. My holistic doctor gave me the Whole30 food plan and I compared it to the Paleo Diet, and in my opinion, the Whole30 has more to eat, they allow foods and dried fruit and other things banned by the Paleo approach.
      Whoever says the Paleo is much easier, not seeing that at all..I haven’t done either, but have been researching them and have books with recipes and instruction, and the Whole30 appeals to me much more because Paleo seems more strict and boring..

  7. Thanks for taking the time to clarify this, I’m sure it will be helpful for some. I don’t think I could ever follow such a strict plan but I do try to use common sense when dieting. Mostly healthy with some room for treats!

  8. Thank you for the clarifications – all of these trends are confusing!

    Both diets sound great – very healthy and clean; but a little too restricting for me I think..

    1. As i follow the whole 30 I have found that I no longer want or desire most sweets. And prefer something like a potatoes with bussel sprouts, eggs ,and avocado. For “emergency meals I prefer the rx bars over the lara bars. There are ones you can and cannot eat in both. Thanks for listing the differences between the 2 different ways of eating.

  9. I just finished reading “It Starts with Food,” and I just wanted to add that ALL fruits are allowed on the Whole30. This may not have been the case when they first came out with it, but that is what they wrote in their book. Also, you didn’t mention anything about this, but white potatoes were not allowed on the original Whole30, but they are allowed now. Being able to eat sweet potatoes AND white potatoes makes the Whole30 much easier! 🙂 Thank you for this article. It was very helpful to me!

  10. Thanks for the break down, I’m trying to stare my family into a healthier lifestyle. I wonder how much damage I’ll do if I pull from both diets for meal planning?

  11. Why would anybody call Whole30 the “paleo vegan diet” if it specifically includes meat, fish, etc?

  12. It honestly seems like the food lists are just changed up a bit. Why not list Ghee for the Paleo diet, as that was one of the first foods I changed out when looking into paleo. I also found that alcohol was not suggested for Paleo as it is made from grains, sugars etc, and the same went for a lot of fruits because they are too sugary. I found all this per quite a few articles specifically speaking of Paleo, as i had never heard of “whole 30” when I was researching how to eat paleo. (I dont’ specifically eat paleo, as I gave up after needing a food processor to make quite a few recipes and at the time I did own one. Lazy)

    So I guess people just wanted to make sure everything has a name and a claim? Why does it seem like they are so similar, or originally were?

    Cutting out processed foods, grains, and dairy in general makes the most sense…and of course sugar. Though I’ll always eat something sugary from time to time. Do you think this is bad for the system?

      1. ** I’m in the process of updating this information thanks to all the help from my readers. Will do this ASAP!!!

  13. I really appreciate your comparison of the two eating protocols. I’m on my second Whole 30, and still need to return regularly to the internet for inspiration and new recipes. I didn’t read every word of your blog, but having printed out the two meal plans, I am concerned that they are not all actual “meals”. Perhaps I am missing something, but the Whole30 info I’ve read generally recommends a palm-sized protein, and then fill the rest of the plate with vegetables, for every meal. The “easy to follow” plan lists “meals” made up of only chicken, or only meatballs. Perhaps I missed an instruction about this being only an entree list, not a meal plan? I’m feeding a man and would need a massive amount of “Thai Lettuce Wraps” (for example) to keep him going to the next meal. I welcome your thoughts on this.

  14. I’m wondering if the concept of “meals” is technically a paleo thing ? Did they always or even usually eat meals or did they mostly “graze” and eat smaller amounts when availability and hunger moved them ? I guess it depends on the availability and the culture. But basically I think that “meals” are somewhat unhealthy in their size in terms of stressing the digestive system.
    I guess it depends on the society, the world location and the region etc but from what we know from more recent tribal cultures it seems like they might gather socially for one larger meal but except for hard times or necessity like when nomadic ate when hungry from food that was available at any time.
    Because of a health issue I am forced pretty much to eat small amounts throughout the day and before that since I was single and worked for the fire department it was my habit before as well.
    It seems like ones body would more easily extract nutrients a bit at a time than in one fell swoop but that’s my own theory.
    Thoughts ? Information?

  15. Great post. For those who haven’t read It Starts with Food, the Whole30 is a 30 day eating regimen that eliminates the food groups mentioned to allow your system to heal/recover then guides you to slowly reintroduce foods to gain an understanding of how each is affecting you. It’s a way to identify foods that are affecting your health but that you may not realize, perhaps a low grade intolerance for dairy or wheat. It’s not intended to be a forever plan but could be if necessary. You can use the same approach to identify other issues in your diet that may not be showing up as an obvious allergy or intolerance.

  16. I absolutely love whole 30! The no alcohol is hard. But I focus on all the foods I can eat – and there are truly a lot! I have never felt so fall eating vegetables meats and nuts before!

    1. Funny you said that, Kelly. I thought the “no alcohol” part would be the hardest part for me but it actually has rarely crossed my mind!
      Since I am cooking at home and not going out during my 30 days I eliminated the social drinking temptation. I typically go out every night. The only time it was even a question was when I made a pot roast and wanted to make a red wine reduction to drizzle over it.
      I love that I am not hungry on this diet. Sometimes I am not even hungry for lunch after my fabulous breakfast and then it’s a struggle to eat. They do say to eat all three meals though, so I am trying. Today is day 14! Still going strong!

  17. I had not heard of the whole30 until a couple months ago. Both my husband and son have wheat allergies so 3 weeks ago we decided to do the whole30 and see how we felt. So far we love it more and more. I think after 30 days we will continue our journey with the paleo diet. It has changed the way we look at food. It truly feels so good knowing we have eliminated processed foods. Best of all we don’t feel hungry like we did trying other diets or counting calories. We didn’t do this to lose weight and I’m not even sure how much we have lost we did this just to feel healthier but we have definitely lost quite a few pounds. My husband has dropped a couple pant sizes and my double boobs ???? are gone.

  18. Great Post! Thank you so much.
    The biggest thing for me to remember is that cravings last for less than 10 minutes normally.

    I was eating Paleo, and did okay on it, but not anything to write home about.

    I have done one round of the Whole 30 with the following results:
    gone from 7 allergy medicines, daily, to one with occasional 1 or 2 others
    lost 27 pounds
    never hungry
    Better/easier meal prep and plans
    easier shopping
    save money
    feel better
    sleep better
    reduction in blood pressure

    I think this says it.

    But…. I am really strict on the plan and it makes a difference. I call whole30 – paleo on steroids. And like steroids, you need to take breaks between rounds. I am in the middle of my second round and though it’s not as extreme, it’s still good.


  19. I have been on Whole30 for 15 days. I am at the half way point in my 30 days. The first week was hard, the sugar cravings were intense, I had no energy, I couldn’t sleep and I was having intestinal issues. But, after the first few days, i noticed my skin was brighter, my clothes fit better, I no longer had the joint pains I had been having. A rash that I had had for 3 months miraculously went away. I no longer had heartburn or acid reflux. My energy came back, I’m sleeping better. Now 2 weeks in, I put on a dress today that I haven’t worn in 2 years. Whole30 has given me the turn around I needed for weight loss and for overall health. I have been on blood pressure medicine for over 10 years and I would love to be able to go off of it. This plan has been eye opening for me. I had no idea how dependent I was on sugar, simple carbs and dairy. Just briefly reading about Paleo, I have figured that although Whole30 is not really meant to be long term in its strictest terms, Paleo may be an option for me. Paleo allows honey, agave and maple syrup as I understand. This may help me stay on a plan easier. I am definitely a believer in this Whole eating. It has changed my outlook on foods.

    1. Thanks for sharing Anne, wow! It’s amazing what a change can do. When I eat non-processed foods and focus on good things going in, it’s remarkable how much better you feel.

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