Paleo vs Whole 30 vs Keto: How To Pick The Best Diet For You

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Diets are overwhelming! You try to do all the research, read the pros and cons for each diet. Maybe you have a sticky note (or a spreadsheet) about Paleo vs Whole 30, Paleo vs Keto and Whole 30 vs Keto. Weighing the pros and cons side by side…trying to pick which one is best for you.

But you’re still stuck.

Whether you’re trying to heal your body, get more energy, or you’re just trying to lose that stubborn 20 pounds that didn’t “fall off” after the baby, changing the way you eat can have a significant positive effect on your health.

The funny thing about diets is that there’s about one hundred different diets out there. Some were fads long ago, and have since been proven to be quite unhealthy.

And some are backed by science, and popular for a reason.

But here’s the thing…

There isn’t just ONE right way to eat that works for everyone.

It depends on YOU and YOUR BODY.

If you’re at all like me, that’s both frustrating and freeing at the same time.

If you can commit to taking steps towards health and pay attention to what your body is telling you, you’ll get where you want to go eventually. It will take discipline and time, but you’ll get there!

Yes. You read that right.

It WON’T be easy.

It WILL take effort.

But, in case you didn’t know (hopefully you did) you’re worth the effort!

Keep reading to see how Paleo, Keto, and Whole 30 compare.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

Paleo Vs Whole 30 Vs Keto

Whole 30, Keto, and Paleo are three of the big diets out there right now. And while some people might tell you they’re extremely different, I honestly think all three have a LOT in common.

Take a look at this image. As you can see, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the middle section (the section they all have in common).

None of the three diets allow grains, refined sugar, or junk processed foods. And they all encourage you to eat plenty of nuts & seeds, meat & seafood, vegetables, natural oils, and eggs.

The diagram above is meant to be a simple representation of the diets and how they overlap. Obviously I couldn’t fit EVERYTHING about each diet into their circles and still be able to read it without a magnifying glass, so just use it as a guide.

Related: How to Stick To Your Diet During The Holidays

Which diet is best for you?

So which is best for you? By the end of this article you should have a pretty good idea which of the three will work best for you.

Below I’ll explain the basic premise of each of these diets, along with what restrictions each diet has, and why it may or may not work for you.

Jump to a specific diet here, or scroll down to read them all.

After that all you need to do is make a decision! I don’t think there’s one right answer that works for every single person. Try one for a while, and if it doesn’t work, you can always change directions later.

special diet power pack digital product

Stick To Your Diet By Making a meal plan

If you’re about to embark on a new diet, making a weekly meal plan will GREATLY simplify your food decisions throughout the week.

Related: 6 Amazing Meal Planning Apps To Make Eating Healthy Meals On Busy Weeknights A Reality

Check out this meal planning service that provides weekly meal plans for your diet (and gives you time back in your evenings).

Related: 20 Helpful Meal Planning Templates To Melt Away Dinner Time Stress

Meal planning has been a HUGE help for my family as we’ve navigated diet changes and food allergies/sensitivities. In my experience, simply making a meal plan reduces the stress throughout the week.

Sign up below to get my whole collection of meal planning templates with different styles and colors.

Paleo Diet basics

The word “Paleo” comes from the idea that we should eat how our bodies were designed to eat. Contrary to popular belief, it’s NOT a meat-only diet, and it’s not as weird as “eating like a caveman”.

The Paleo diet encourages eating a variety of nutrient dense whole foods that work with our bodies instead of against them. Avoid empty calories, processed foods and other food our bodies weren’t designed to eat.

Along with changing your diet, make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, keep your stress levels down, and incorporate more movement into your day to day routine.

But really, Paleo is more than just a set of Paleo diet rules you need to follow.

“NO” Foods on the Paleo diet

  • Grains
  • Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
  • Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners
  • Dairy (sometimes on the “yes” list)
  • Refined oils
  • Processed foods

“Yes” Foods on the Paleo Diet

  • High quality meat & seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grass-fed dairy (sometimes)
  • Eggs
  • Natural oils (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, tallow)
  • Organ meats
  • Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup) occasionally
  • Nuts & seeds

Check out all the Paleo recipes on the blog and see how simple and delicious Paleo cooking can be.

Related: Check Out My Two Week Paleo Meal Plan

two week paleo, gluten free, dairy free meal plan

Possible benefits of the Paleo Diet

  • Weight loss
  • Feel more energetic
  • Overall happier and better mood
  • Change lifestyle habits and take steps towards wellness

Why The Paleo Diet Might Be the right choice for you

Do you think Paleo might be right for you? The Paleo diet is more of a lifestyle. Daily frequent movement is encouraged, as well as healthy relationships and overall wellness.

Give the Paleo diet a try if you’re interested in discovering how your body feels when it’s fueled with food your body was designed to eat. With a focus on whole foods, and nutrient dense meals, you might get exactly what you need from Paleo.

With the Paleo diet, you decide how many carbs you eat depending on your goals and activity level. The occasional Paleo-approved desserts are allowed (encouraged if you ask me).

Paleo Diet Resource

If I was just starting out on the Paleo diet, I would buy this book on Amazon. I like that there are meal plans, there are easy recipes, and answers to commonly asked questions.

Whole 30 Diet Basics

What’s the deal with The Whole 30? The idea is…certain foods could be having a negative effect on your health and you may not even realize it.

I am very familiar with elimination diets (which is what this basically is). An elimination diet is where you eliminate certain foods from your diet for a period of time, then you slowly reintroduce them and make note of any bad reactions.

Through this process you might learn that sugar makes you really angry, or that beans make you bloat almost instantly. Or you might notice it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning when you have grains the night before.

If you choose to do the Whole 30, food groups like sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes are eliminated completely from your diet for 30 days to let your body heal and recover from whatever ill effects those foods may have been causing. 

After the 30 days are up, you reintroduce them one at a time.

“NO” foods on Whole 30

  • Sugar (of any form)
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Junk food

“Yes” foods on Whole 30

  • High quality meat & seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Eggs
  • Natural oils (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, tallow)

Here’s my collection of gluten free and dairy free recipes.

Possible benefits of the Whole 30

People report amazing benefits from taking a month to do Whole 30. You might notice:

  • Weight loss
  • You feel more energetic
  • Overall happier and better mood

Paleo vs Whole 30

Paleo vs Whole30 diet

The Whole 30 was designed to be a temporary thing. It’s 30 days of a super strict elimination diet, with the idea that you add foods back in one group at a time (and make note of how you feel).

When you look side by side at Paleo vs Whole 30, you’ll see there are a lot of similarities between the two. The difference is that Whole 30 eliminates all sweeteners and dairy. And the Whole 30 was designed to be a short-term elimination diet.

If you’re looking to jump right in to an elimination diet, Whole 30 is a great option to “reset” your body.

Recommended Whole 30 resource:

If I were buying one (and ONLY one) book on The Whole 30, I’d pick this one, it has awesome reviews. Read them here!

Keto Diet Basics

So what’s the deal with Keto? It’s simple really.

Eat VERY low carb and high fat.

By severely restricting your carb intake, you put your body into a state called ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, it’s incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. Instead of relying on carbs for energy, your body is able to convert fat into energy. You can read this article for more information on the health side of Keto.

Suggested Macro Breakdown for the standard keto diet

Instead of a strict “yes” list and “no” list, the Keto diet focuses more on a certain ratio for macro-nutrients. The macro breakdown for the standard keto diet is:

  • Fat: 75%
  • Protein: 20% 
  • Carbohydrates: 5%

Instead of stressing about calculating your macros for each meal, grab this 28 day keto meal plan that’s personalized JUST for you! Follow the plan and you won’t need to worry about whether you’re staying in your target macros or not!

keto “no” foods

The focus in Keto is on the macros, but there are a few foods that are on the “no” list.

  • Foods high in carbs (starchy vegetables, pasta, rice, etc.)
  • Refined oils
  • Sugar

Keto “Yes” Foods

Here is a list of foods you can eat on the Keto diet. Remember, though, the Keto diet is all about the carb count, and fat intake. So while these foods are Keto friendly, you need to be careful of the amount of carbs you eat in order to stay in ketosis.

  • Meat & seafood (especially fatty fish)
  • Natural oils
  • Vegetables (focus on vegetables grown above ground)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Cheese
  • Full fat dairy

Possible benefits of keto

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions

Paleo vs Keto

Paleo vs keto diet

In the Keto diet you can’t eat much fruit without crossing the carb threshhold, so it might not be a realistic option for you if you like eating summer berries and seasonal fruit like I do. If you think you can be really strict about your carb intake, give it a shot!

Recommended Resource for the keto diet

If I were buying one Keto book, it would definitely be this one because of the delicious recipes made with simple ingredients.

What do Paleo, Keto, and Whole 30 have in common?

One thing all these diets have in common is the elimination of processed foods and refined sugar (remember the venn diagram from earlier). If you’re looking to eliminate processed food from your diet, it’s possible, even though it might not seem like it. Use one of these diets or just start using simple ingredients in your cooking.

special diet cheat sheets - gluten free, dairy free, paleo

When Changing Your Diet feels Too overwhelming…

And in case you’re sitting there feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, I get it. I’m like you. Often overwhelmed by adding another “thing” to my to-do list, sometimes feeling like I’d rather crawl under a rock than face the list of things I need to do…it’s because there’s not enough structure to my life.

Sure, eating healthier will likely give you more energy, but what do you do right now when you don’t have any energy to think about paying attention to what’s going in your body and changing the way you eat?

Here’s an idea. Take a look at your daily schedule and see which parts you can delegate (to your kids or your husband) to take some of the weight off your shoulders.

When you’re able to have a routine surrounding your daily tasks, you’ll free up mental energy for some of these things that are essential to your health and wellness. Reach out on Instagram or follow along my coaching website here if you’re struggling with this and want one-on-one support.

Which is the right choice for YOU?

So what about you? Which is the path you want to go down? As you sit down to compare the three…Keto vs Paleo vs Whole 30…think about your end goal, and think about which diet sounds like it could work for you?

And who knows…maybe you end up doing something else all together!

Premise, yes foods, and no foods for Keto, Whole 30 and Paleo diets.

Pin this chart for later as you try and figure out what will work best for you. Try one diet for a few weeks, and if its just not working, make a change.

Honestly I feel like I fell into the Paleo diet. After months of elimination diets and plenty of trial and error, I’ve learned what works for my body. And since going gluten free, grain free, (mostly) legume free, and refined sugar free…I feel better than ever. Even my kids follow the Paleo diet (most of the time).

Whatever diet you decide, find out a version that works for your body by testing and keeping a food journal.

Whether you’re desperately trying to lose a few pounds or you just want enough energy to read a book to your toddler without falling asleep, changing the food you’re eating can help with your goals.

I’d love to hear what steps you’re taking on your path to wellness. Leave a comment below and let me know.

Don’t forget to pin this for later!

Paleo vs keto vs whole 30. Which is right for you?
Which diet is right for you? Keto, whole30 or paleo?

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  1. Whole30 is not just eating clean food – the restrictions on sauces etc make it that you need to buy compatible products which is expensive. Another example is if you like bacon you can only buy nitrae free bacon again more money less product, sausages are off limits too unless again you buy authoised whole30 sausages very expensive nad hard to source. I am on my 2nd time of completing the diet and find breakfast is the hardest meal as only so many omlettes etc you cna make, lots of alternatives but again either expensive product or needing prep. Sundays is prep day and shopping is much more planned, it is an expensive diet but well worth it – the first 10 days are the hardest but you have to just make the correct choices, I have found that most of my favourite meals are easy to make yu just have to think outside the box a little or be prepared to cook a lot. Coconut cream/milk is great for curry’s, soups, suaces etc I have made my own Mayo etc – give it a go but beware not for the week willed

    1. Marc – I agree! Meal planning and meal prep can go a LONG way to making a diet like Whole30 feel easy. For some, it would be a major change in all food areas, for others, it might just take a few modifications. I’m also a fan of making your own sauces, condiments, and, well…just about everything :).

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