The Whole30 is a restrictive and short-term diet "reset." For 30 days, participants commit to nonnegotiable food rules: no legumes, grains, dairy, alcohol, or added sugar. They go cold turkey on avoiding dietary staples like whole-wheat bread, oats, rice, peanut butter, beans, and milk. They eat only whole foods from a few food groups: vegetables and fruits, meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, and seeds. If they slip up, they start over—no exceptions. The creators' goal? That participants better understand how the banned foods affect them, while they overcome bad habits and cravings, lose weight, get energized, and cure unexplained aches and pains.
Pictured Recipe: Sheet-Pan Pork & Cherry Tomatoes
Pictured Recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp
A diet that demands plenty of whole foods, plates full of colorful vegetables, and a pantry clear of packaged snacks and desserts certainly sounds like a healthy plan. And, in many ways, it can be. "Plenty of fruits and vegetables, moderate meat consumption, no added sugar—these recommendations are similar to the ADA guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines put out by the government," says Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Ph.D., chair of the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the ADA's division of health care and education.
It's important to approach any fad diet with a healthy dose of skepticism. Grocery shopping for a diet this rigid can be unnecessarily expensive—especially when cheaper protein sources like beans aren't an option. Plus, if you use insulin or any drug with hypoglycemia as a side effect, it is important to monitor your blood sugar with extra care during a diet change this drastic.
Finding sustainable changes that you can manage and enjoy for a lifetime, not just 30 days, is what's really important. And a long-term eating plan can help lower your risk of complications of high blood sugar that can develop over many years, like neuropathy or kidney damage.
According to the ADA, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for managing diabetes. The best diet for each person is one that fits their own life, culture, preferences, and personal goals. For many people, that could be a diet that limits highly processed and packaged foods but isn't quite so rigid. "The most healthful diet is often the least restrictive," notes Weisenberger.
If clear-cut rules are what you're looking for, try making "rules with exceptions," suggests Weisenberger. One strategy she uses herself: "I never eat food that's left in the lunchroom … unless it's an unusual delicacy that I will never have the chance to eat again." Another proven technique? Get ahead of cravings with "if-then" plans: "If I eat out with my friends, then I will choose what I'm going to eat and drink ahead of time."
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Smoky Chickpeas & Greens
If you're still interested in following a plan, there are several research-backed diets that experts recommend for the long term. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet are both great long-term options to support healthy weight loss and help you manage your diabetes, says Rizzotto. Both eating patterns are available as books, and both come with robust support networks—one DASH diet Facebook group has over 25,000 members!
The DASH diet, which has been shown to promote weight loss and help lower high blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol, is also based on eating lots of vegetables, fruits, fish, and chicken, and limiting sugary beverages and sweets. Where do the Whole30 and the DASH diets differ? The DASH diet includes whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and beans. It also emphasizes lower sodium foods while limiting sources of saturated fat like beef and coconut oil.
In many ways, the Whole30 overlaps with expert-recommended healthy eating guidelines. And even though this diet cuts out major food groups, it's only for 30 days. But why not instead put that energy into making changes that last? Talk with your health care providers to figure out what your personal goals should be, and then work toward those goals. Because at the end of the day, it's not the diet that changes your habits, it's you.