When a friend tells you she's addicted to carbs, she's probably talking about cupcakes and bagels . . . not quinoa. But if you choose to try the Whole30 diet, you're going to have to temporarily say goodbye to a wide range of good and bad carbs. (That's one reason the plan is somewhat controversial.) So, is Whole30 just another low-carb diet in disguise? POPSUGAR spoke with Mary Claire Shurina, MS, RD, LD, to find out.
"The Whole30 does emphasize the elimination of certain carbohydrate-rich foods like grains, sugars (natural and artificial), dairy, and legumes," Mary Claire told POPSUGAR. "Vegetables, however, are allowed on this diet and can be consumed freely. Fruit, while more limited, is also Whole30-approved and classified as a carbohydrate." Because of this, Whole30 may seem to be lower in carbs than other diets, but you can easily tailor your intake to meet your specific needs.
That's a good thing, since healthy carbs are an essential part of any diet. Carbs serve as the body's primary source of energy, Mary Claire explained — they fuel your brain and internal organs, while aiding in digestion and helping to regulate cholesterol.
To make sure you're getting enough of the good stuff, Mary Claire recommends eating lots and lots of vegetables. "They are carbohydrate-rich, but they have little effect on blood sugar, thanks to their fiber content," she said. You should aim to have at least one serving of veggies at each meal. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are going to have more carbs than nonstarchy varieties like leafy greens, asparagus, and mushrooms — but they all deserve a place on your plate.
The Whole30 guidelines don't exactly advocate for snacking on fruit all day long, but fruit is also A-OK and encouraged. Mary Claire suggests starting with two servings per day, eaten with meals. Berries are her Whole30-friendly fruit of choice because they're higher in fiber and lower in sugar than some other fruits. If you need a quick breakfast or between-meal snack, "a few fruit and nut snack bar brands like RXBAR and LÄRABAR are also Whole30 compliant," she said.
So, how can you tell if you are eating enough carbs for your lifestyle and activity level? "Ideally, a person should be able to go a few hours between meals feeling satisfied and energized. If you are feeling fatigued or have low energy, it might be a sign that you aren't consuming enough carbs or calories," Mary Claire said. Because Whole30 places no restrictions on macronutrient intake, you can eat as many carbs as your body needs, so try adding in more fruit or starchy vegetables. If you're struggling to land on your body's ideal carb intake, Mary Claire suggests working with a dietitian to determine exactly what you need to feel your best.