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The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo & Whole30

What's the difference between the most common clean eating diets? Here’s an up-close look at what's on each menu.

Deliciously Ella

Photo by @deliciouslyella

If you’re plugged into Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or virtually any other form of social media, then you’re probably aware of clean-eating. Go online, and all you hear about is “vegan this” and “gluten that.” So, what exactly is the difference? When it comes to each of these health-conscious diets, what foods are allowed, and what gets you in trouble?

We're ready to demystify today’s top four clean-eating diets. Before we get started, we just wanted to clear something up - we understand that some individuals are required to follow these diet for medical reasons and others follow these diet for the general health and wellness benefits! For the purposes of today's article, we'll be focusing on the general health and wellness side of things. We're not health experts - we just love food and food trends! So with that, let's get started.  

What is a gluten-free diet?

So, the concept is pretty simple: no gluten allowed. Since this protein is an essential component in wheat, rye and barley, the regimen cuts out many popular mealtime staples. What should you avoid, exactly? Here’s a sampling of foods to skip:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Chips
  • Sauces
  • Beer


As limiting as the list sounds, a gluten-free diet is a necessary way of life for people with Celiac disease as well as those with a serious sensitivity to gluten. Eating certain grains can cause horrible stomach pain, constipation, rashes, bloating, fatigue, anemia and other gastro complications.

For those who can tolerate gluten, the decision to cut it out may help boost energy, regulate the tummy and even weight loss.

What can you eat on a gluten-free diet?

Despite the breadth of the ‘no-no’ list, many savvy dieters have adapted their own recipes for the aforementioned dishes without using gluten. More on that in a minute. Before you worry that there’s nothing left in the fridge, check out this list of acceptable ingredients according to a gluten-free diet:

  • All kinds of meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy such as milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Specific grains like rice, quinoa and oats (as long as they’re labeled ‘gluten-free’)
  • Potatoes and other starches
  • Nuts, seeds and spices
  • Butter, olive oil, vegetable oil
  • Most drinks including soda

From sandwiches and salads to cookies and other pastries, there are countless influencers out there with amazing recipes made sans gluten. Just be sure to check your labels, and your stomach will love you.

Recommended influencers to follow for some gluten-free Inspo? @deliciouslyella and @elanaspantry

What is a vegan diet?

Although it’s often followed for ethical reasons, the vegan diet is also great for processed foods, artificial additives, and controlling blood sugar, especially in type 2 diabetics. In a nutshell (yes, nuts are allowed), ‘vegans’ do not eat any animal or dairy products. That means you must avoid the following:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish or shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Honey (remember, the bee worked for it!)


Well, not exactly. The upside is that the vegan diet is relatively easy to follow (most people know what ingredients originate from an animal) and the variety of nuts and bean based flour, butters, oils, breads, and noodles are growing rapidly.

What can you eat on a vegan diet?

Help yourself to:

  • Vegetables of all kinds
  • Fabulous fruits
  • Legumes like beans, peas and lentils
  • Nuts and their ‘butters’
  • Seeds such as chia or flaxseed
  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Tofu and tempeh

One special consideration of the vegan diet is nutrition. When you eliminate most protein and calcium from your diet, you need to make up those essentials to maintain energy, stamina and healthy weight. Therefore, don’t do this on your own!

Be sure to check out some of Insta’s best vegan recipe curators. You’ll find everything from vegan-safe pizzas and fajitas to burgers and beyond.

Recommended influencers: @veganeatsoxford and @yesitsallvegan

What is the Paleo diet?

Perhaps the most ‘en vogue’ of the bunch, the Paleo diet is literally a return to the absolute and elemental bascis. With etymological roots in the ‘Paleolithic’ era, followers of the diet claim that many of man’s problems—heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, Crohn’s—are due to eating modern foods.

The theory is that if we skip the takeout and go back to our ancient roots, we can bypass some of these contemporary health issues (and get our beach bodies back in the process)! To hop on the train, eliminate the following ingredients:

  • All pastas
  • Bread and rice
  • Oats and quinoa
  • Legumes like beans and lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Dairy
  • Refined oils, sugars and sweeteners
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Most salty things
  • Soda
  • Wine and beer
  • Anything packed and processed!

Literally. What. Is. Left.

Pick your jaw up off the floor, and let’s look at the bright side of things. Folks who follow the Paleo regimen say the benefits abound. Not only will you lose weight, but you’ll also feel the difference. This is clean-eating at its finest.

What can you eat on the Paleo diet?

All things hunter-gatherer are fair game:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Cabbage, lettuce and spinach
  • Carrots and peppers
  • Basically all veggies
  • Onions
  • Pickles and olives
  • Most fruits
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Beef, lamb and pork
  • Bacon
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Shellfish
  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Eggs
  • Avocados
  • Olive and coconut oils
  • Bone broth
  • Herbal tea

The list goes on and on! The truly delightful part of the Paleo plan is that you’re not denying yourself life’s greatest pleasures—or precious calories. You just have to be careful with the kinds of foods you consume, especially when they are processed. And fast food? Forget about it.

Recommended influencers: @nomnompaleo and @eatdrinkpaleo

What is the Whole30 diet?

Of all the clean-eating diets we’ve discussed, this one feels the most like a weight-loss program. Still, Whole30 also focuses on nutrition, which is exceptionally important!

Here’s the premise: eat from the allowed list of Whole30 ingredients for one month (hence, 30 days), avoid the ‘no’ list, and watch the pounds melt away! You can continue the plan past the 30-day mark for even greater results.

By following this routine, your digestion improves, you feel fewer cravings, and can even help clear away acne and ward off allergies. The advantages sound amazing. So, what’s the catch? The diet resets your gut by forsaking the following:

  • Most dairy
  • Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Added sugar
  • Legumes
  • MSG or sulfites
  • Any fast food or junk food

This doesn’t look so bad. But at closer glance, you start to see the downsides. What are you supposed to put in your morning coffee? No bloody marys at brunch? Eek.

Well, you’re in luck. Since it’s not really a lifestyle, this tried-and-true ‘diet’ ends in 30 days. Just remember: you can do it!

What can you eat on Whole30?

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Potatoes
  • Unprocessed meats
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Coconut and olive oil
  • Coffee (must use almond milk!)

The upside to Whole30 is that there are a lot of yummy (everyday) recipes to enjoy—no fancy alternative ingredients needed. Still, you’ll definitely feel a void. Some staples like sugar and dairy are quite common in American diets. So, follow these creative Insta accounts for 30 days of inspiration.

Recommended influencers: @nocrumbsleft and @wholesisters

For more clean eating ideas, visit Made In more often!

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