On my last day of freedom, I ate everything I wanted and then some. I ate dark chocolate sea salt caramels before 10 a.m., white bread slathered in butter, chocolate chip cookies for lunch, and sweet potato chips. When I was not in a carb-induced coma, I managed to start meal prepping for Week 1 of Whole30.
Meal Prep and Planning Tips
A word on meal prep and planning. Unless you are funemployed and can cook three times a day, meal prep is essential to surviving Whole30. Whereas the normals can just grab a sandwich from the corner deli or a slice of ‘za when lunchtime hits, Whole30 followers must retrieve their tupperware of pre-cooked, home-cooked, all-natural meat and veggies cooked in compliant fats and oils. Sounds dericious, I know.
1. Get Inspired
First things first, get inspired. You do NOT have to eat grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli for the next 30 days. Whole30 meals take some planning and effort, but there are some truly delicious options. Check out some awesome Paleo or Whole30 blogs to get recipe-inspiration. For starters, some of the best blogs include Nom Nom Paleo, Against All Grain, PaleOMG, and Everyday Paleo.
2. Plan Before You Shop
To make things easier on yourself, give yourself 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week before and make a grocery list before heading to the supermarket. To save on time and money, try to pick a couple items that can serve a double shift. For instance, if grass-fed ground beef is on sale, buy extra and use some in a breakfast casserole and some in a bolognese sauce for lunch/dinner. Or if the local farmer’s market has beautiful cauliflower this week, buy a couple heads. That way, you can create two side dishes for the week: (1) “cauliflower rice” (see recipe below) and (2) cauliflower mash (or simply roast cauliflower florets in coconut oil and spices). In my meals for week 1, for instance, I roasted a bunch of winter squash (butternut squash, kabocha squash, and acorn squash) and used that for both my breakfast and lunch/dinner meals.
3. Opt for Pre-Chopped Items
To save on time, if your budget allows it, opt for pre-cut items, such as pre-chopped veggies or boneless cuts of meat. Yes, these items are a bit more expensive, but they cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen, and thus free up more time for you to enjoy life. Trader Joe’s has very affordable pre-cut vegetables and meats.
4. Pimp Out Your Pantry
Stock up on a few pantry essentials – they will go a long way in making your food taste a lot more flavorful. Aside from extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, kosher salt & freshly cracked pepper, my recommendations are a high-quality balsamic vinegar (it will transform your salads), Red Boat Fish Sauce (my favorite way to add umami to any dish), Coconut Aminos (soy-free alternative to soy sauce), and Aleppo Pepper (more flavorful than black pepper and beautiful for presentation). Some of my favorite spices to cook with are cumin, paprika, thyme, cinnamon, and coriander, but pick a couple of spices that you love and work from there. Again, my plug for Trader Joe’s – most of their spice bottles are only $2-3, compared to $5-8 at other markets.
5. Use Your Kitchen as a Resource
If you have a crockpot or slow cooker, you can save time on the actual amount of time you spend cooking. Make double or triple batches of recipes that freeze well and eat at a later date. If wild cod is on sale, stock up and freeze the rest for later.
Traditional breakfast options on Whole30 are fairly limited to eggs and sausage, eggs and bacon, eggs and avocado, and bacon and sausage. No yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, or even smoothies. Technically, smoothies are allowed if the ingredients are Whole30-compliant, but the good people at Whole30RUs would rather you didn’t. This is because drinking your food doesn’t send the same satiety signals to your brain as chewing food. I will probably ignore this guideline at some point in the next 30 days, just FYI.
After researching several options, I decided that a good old-fashioned egg casserole (minus the crust, minus the cheese) would be a hearty and quick option to reheat in the morning. Below I’ve included a recipe for the casserole I made, but you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand and customize it to your taste.
In my humble opinion, this recipe came out perfect and is definitely a keeper, even for non-Whole30 days. I made the casserole in a standard 9×13 pyrex pan and cut the casserole into 8 large pieces. If you’re not Whole30, I would definitely throw in some goat cheese to make it even more incredible.
Egg, Sausage and Veggie Casserole
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee*
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 cup roasted winter squash (butternut, acorn, kabocha, etc.) (I already had leftover squash from dinner, so you can omit this if the extra work is daunting, and/or add an extra sweet potato)
- 3 cups organic baby spinach (or kale, arugula, etc.), roughly chopped
- 24 oz (1.5 pounds) chicken sausage**
- 13 eggs (I had one leftover egg from an old carton, but 12 eggs would be just fine and the more normal option)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- cayenne pepper, if you like it spicy!
- any other seasonings you want
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Heat cooking oil over medium heat. Sauté sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes. Then, add onions to pan. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper if using and any other herbs/spices. Saute for another 10 minutes until sweet potato is slightly softened. Remove from heat.
- Dice pre-cooked chicken sausage. Scatter over bottom of baking pan.
- Top sausage with onion/sweet potato mixture and roasted squash.
- Then, top with chopped spinach.
- Whisk eggs in large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and any other herbs if using. Add beaten eggs to casserole, and smooth out ingredients with spatula for even cooking.
- Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until eggs are set in the middle. Mine took exactly 30 minutes in an old oven.
- Cool. Cut into 8 servings.
For the first half of Week 1, lunch and dinner is going to be the same meal because I made a lot of it and it’s delicious. This meal is one of my staples for a hearty, healthy and satisfying meal. It’s Thai chicken curry from Nom Nom Paleo. Nom Nom Paleo was started by Michelle Tam and is one of the best Paleo food blogs out there; it even has Whole30 versions of items like Sriracha and mayonnaise.
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cayenne pepper, optional
- 2-3 TBSP coconut oil or ghee
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 5 TBSP Thai curry paste**
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 32 oz frozen veggies***
- 4-5 cups roasted winter squash****
- Basil leaves, chiffonaded, for serving
- Cut the chicken into medium-sized chunks and season with salt and pepper and cayenne pepper if using.
- Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven.
- When the oil is shimmering, brown the chicken. Make sure you wait enough time for the pan to get really hot and don’t overcrowd your chicken. Otherwise, you’ll get white chicken instead of browned chicken. Which is fine, but it’s not as tasty.
- Transfer browned chicken to a plate.
- Add the onions to the saucepan and sauté until translucent
- Return the chicken and juices to the pot, and add the curry paste to taste.
- Stir-fry until you can smell the rich aroma of toasted spices.
- Pour in the coconut milk, toss in the frozen veggies, and squash.
- Raise the heat to high and bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Then, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the curry for 10-20 minutes or until the veggies are warmed through and the flavors meld. When I’ve made this recipe for 4 servings, 10 minutes has been enough time, but you’ll need closer to 20 minutes for a large batch.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. I usually add more cayenne pepper at this point because I am brown and I like it spicy.
- Add the basil chiffonade when ready to eat
- 1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets
- Olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee
- Garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Any other seasonings you like (cayenne, cumin, thyme, oregano).
- Place cauliflower florets in a food processor or high-powered blender such as a Vitamix. Pulse until cauliflower is broken down into couscous-sized pieces.
- Heat a tablespoon or two of oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add several cloves of minced garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add cauliflower and cook for 4-7 minutes until slightly cooked but not soft. Add salt, pepper and any other seasonings to taste.
As I mentioned in my first post, snacking is not encouraged on the Whole30 regimen, but sometimes hangry Nisha needs snack time. So I whipped up an easy yet tasty batch of savory nuts for the week.
I haven’t been able to find too much information on this point, but Whole30 guidelines favor cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts over all other nuts. Almonds, pistachios, pecans, and Brazil nuts are to be eaten occasionally, and walnuts and pine nuts are to be limited. Because I can’t find any good reason for these limitations, I am currently in favor of eating all of the nuts. You could use any combination of nuts for this recipe, but I used cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds to be as Whole30 compliant as possible.
Savory Spiced Toasted Nuts
4 oz almonds
4 oz hazelnuts
4 oz cashews
2 tsps chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if you like your nuts hot and spicy)
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
- Place nuts in a large skillet over medium heat and toast until lightly browned. Alternatively, toast nuts in a preheated oven at 350 F for 10-15 minutes, tossing halfway through.
- Combine all spices in a bowl, add in olive oil to make a paste.
- Coat nuts with spice/oil mixture evenly.
Was that enough meal prep for you? I’m exhausted.