The Whole30 is an extreme paleo diet that claims to improve everything from joint pain to AHDH to sleep apnea. Regardless of how truthful that is, the diet itself is deceptively simple: it’s the food version of a juice cleanse. The end-goal of the diet is to break addictions to unhealthy sugars, carbs, and dairy products by following a cold turkey regime. The Hartwigs have made great efforts to avoid being just another fad diet, and have cultivated a strong and supportive community around the Whole30 over the years.
If it counts for anything, the Whole30 itself is not a terrible diet for people who eat too much pizza, pasta, and pancakes and want to quit. Despite the restricting regime, the Hartwigs are very accommodating for diverse lifestyles and medical problems. The book provides good advice for pre- and post-Whole30 undertakings, and the plan itself is amateur friendly. Most of THE WHOLE30’s suggested recipes and the complementary pairings suggested are designed to be flexible, leftover friendly, and prepared with optimal cost/energy expenditure.
While I did not undergo the Whole30, I did each sample day at least twice just to see how feasible the recipes were for a three-person household. The cost of groceries averaged to about $45—$65 per day*, depending on how many ingredients, spices, or coupons were already on hand. The book is canned food friendly, and few recipes require obscure or expensive items. Since most of the recipes serve 3-4 people, it’s easy to cut costs by downsizing the proportions of the meals if the dieter is flying solo. Recipe-wise, the only problem is that the authors give subpar and short-cut filled instructions—if following their recipes to the letter, the eggs turn out rubbery**, the sauces are runny, and everything else just feels thrown together haphazardly. It’s nothing a little trial and error won’t solve, but disappointing nonetheless.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend THE WHOLE30 as good introduction to their diet plan. The main issues with the book are the organization and content quality. The book is divided into three sections: a brief explanation of the diet plan, a lengthy FAQ, and recipes/further instructions on meal planning. In theory, it shouldn’t be a hassle to read, but the authors manage to turn it into a confusing mess. They frequently refer to other sections of the book instead of addressing the topics properly, only for those sections to refer back to previous sections, and so on and so forth. The Kindle edition is kind enough to interlink each mentioned chapter or recipe, but it’s still distracting nonetheless. Every now and then, a paragraph or two of text will be in a different color, which appears as a hard-to-read light grey on an older model kindle. The FAQ is particularly horrendous in this regard.
Throughout the book, the authors take every opportunity to plug their website and other published literature. As the Whole30 resembles real-life recovery programs, it’s no surprise that a support network is such a big component of the Whole30 lifestyle. The problem is that “go on the forum!” or “Google it!” is the answer to far too many areas of concern that can’t be answered by “go read IT STARTS WITH FOOD!” Nearly every scientific claim made by the back isn’t backed up with any substantial references, because the Hartwigs would rather advertise another book than include a bibliography. The information that remains seems shallow and repetitive in consequence, especially when I’m directed to go to their online shopping lists for the twentieth time.
Due to the lack of substantial content, THE WHOLE30: THE 30 DAY GUIDE is not worth the $30 cover price. Buy it used or borrow the book if you’re considering taking the plunge.
*Note: I live in a tourist trap and a food desert, so my food expenses cost a bit more than average.
**Just for comparison, I made some of the same egg recipes from THE JOY OF COOKING. The difference between quality is astronomical.