This week’s Dear Melissa & Friends guest just happens to be one of my besties in the food and wellness space—none other than Danielle Walker. And she’s here to help you save time in the kitchen during your Whole30 and beyond.
Danielle is a New York Times bestselling author (Against All Grain, Meals Made Simple, Celebrations, and Eat What You Love), health advocate, and self-trained chef. She has been a cornerstone of the Whole30 community for years, offering hundreds of Whole30-compatible recipes, shopping tips, kitchen hacks, and cooking tutorials through her website and cookbooks.
Today, Danielle helps you gear up for the September Whole30, diving into her wealth of experience cooking for her family of five as a busy entrepreneur.
MU: Let’s get right into it—give me your best “I don’t want to cook” quick dinners. Mine is Applegate hot dogs eaten cold with my hands, but you probably have something fancier.
DW: Who doesn’t love hot dogs? But I turn to my Instant Pot for the nights I don’t feel like spending too much time in the kitchen. I’ve converted some of my more popular recipes from my cookbooks into Instant Pot recipes for quick and easy meals that come together in under 30 minutes. My recipe for Orange Sesame Chicken and my Granny Sarella’s Meat Sauce are two of my personal favorites. Ryan and the kids also really enjoy my Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes so that is another easy weeknight option that I like to pair with my Pesto Power Meatballs. I keep these meatballs stocked in my freezer at all times, so putting this meal together is simple and uncomplicated. You can also never, and I mean never, go wrong with breakfast for dinner!
MU: Brinner is the best. What about meal prep—do you have tips to cut down time and effort on a Whole30?
DW: Picking one or two days for meal prepping and committing to it is key. My meal prep is sort of a two-day process—if I go grocery shopping on Saturday in order to cook on Sunday, I like to wash and cut the produce when I get home from the store. Chopping up veggies for me is the most tedious step of meal prepping, so I just like to get that out of the way. It makes the actual cooking day feel like a breeze when you’ve eliminated a step that can easily take up to an hour or more! If you don’t have time to spend batch cooking meals in advance, definitely create a daily menu for yourself so you stay on track and do what I like to call “mini meal preps” by knowing and planning the night prior what you’re eating the next day.
MU: Wait, chopping veggies is my stress relief! I’ll chop and you cook. Now let’s talk about kids—we know they can be hard to please. What are your go-to Whole30 kid-friendly meals?
DW: From my cookbook Eat What You Love my recipe for Shrimp Fried Rice from page 193, Spaghetti and Meatballs from page 204, and Pesto Power Meatballs from page 244 are all great kid-friendly recipes. From my cookbook Meals Made Simple, my recipe for Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Soup from page 86, Ginger Chicken and Broccoli from page 126, and Chicken Curry from page 132. My 15-minute Veggie Packed Fried Rice and Pepperoni Pizza Pasta (using spaghetti squash) from the blog are also some of my kids’ favorites!
MU: Let’s go back to breakfast. People lean real hard on eggs, but what are some of your favorite eggless breakfast recipes?
DW: I definitely find myself getting tired of eggs in the morning while doing a Whole30. My recipe for Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and my Egg-Free Paleo Breakfast Bowls are two of my go-to’s to break up the monotony of having eggs daily. I also like to heat up leftovers from the night before! I don’t think breakfast always has to be what we’ve come to accept as standard “morning foods.”
MU: You have a whole book (Celebrations) devoted to special events. If someone’s birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion falls during a Whole30, how would you recommend they celebrate?
DW: There are plenty of ways to celebrate special occasions while on the Whole30! Part of my journey as I was teaching myself to prepare foods I can tolerate was reprogramming my brain to learn that eating a specific way doesn’t automatically mean you can’t participate in the “fun stuff”—it just requires a bit more planning.
For example, if celebrating involves going out for dinner, you can check out restaurant menus beforehand in order to ensure they have something on the menu you can eat. It might seem like something little, but knowing what you can order from the menu prior to arriving at a restaurant helps keep you on track.
MU: We’ve also seen some incredible fruit-based birthday “cakes” from Whole30’ers! Do a Pinterest or Google search for “whole30 birthday cake fruit.” Maybe you need to create one!
DW: (Laughing) Yes, I probably should!
MU: Many folks are back in an actual office at least a few days a week now. What are your favorite lunch ideas on the days when you’re not working from home?
DW: Lunch might be my favorite meal. I typically like to make a big salad utilizing leftover protein from the night before, and just add a bunch of veggies and a hard-boiled egg. I have a recipe for Instant Pot hard boiled eggs on the blog that’s incredibly handy during a Whole30. I also have directions on how to cook a whole chicken in the Instant Pot on page 315 in my cookbook Eat What You Love that makes preparing my Curry Chicken Salad a breeze. Tuna salad is always a quick and easy favorite as well that never gets boring since there are so many ways to make it.
Use these tips to save time in the kitchen during your next Whole30
Thank you to Danielle for helping so many people find success with the Whole30, and providing you with so many delicious Whole30 recipes throughout your journey.
Another chance to put Danielle’s advice on how to save time in the kitchen—as well as her delicious recipes—into action is coming. The September Whole30 starts Monday, September 4th, and this year we have a very special offering!
You can take part in the Whole30 Community Cohort for more guidance, accountability, and connection this September. Our text messaging program is also back to give you the daily messages from me, Melissa Urban, to help you with your mindset and motivation on your Whole30 journey. Both are available for Original and Plant-Based Whole30’ers!
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Co-Founder / CEO
Against all Grain