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Whole30 Meal Plan: Week Three
If you’re heading into Week 3 of your Whole30®, congratulations to you!
I hope you’re feeling awesome and eating lots of great food. (And if you’ve followed my Week 1 and Week 2 plans, be sure to pay attention to #6 below!) If you missed them, here are my Week 1 and Week 2 Food Plans. You’ll find similarities between the two — that’s because eating during the Whole30 does not need to be complicated to be delicious. In fact, here’s a post dedicated to crazy-good meals that don’t require a recipe at all!
Before we get into the specifics of Week 3, here’s my rant and intro so you know just what you’re getting yourself into…
I really don’t understand meal plans. I mean, conceptually, I get it. When you’re starting a new eating plan, an expert tells you exactly what to eat and when to make it a little easier. But practically speaking, it makes no sense to me.
What if I don’t want to eat salmon on Monday?
However, I understand the desire to have a more concrete plan than “eat clean food,” especially for someone new to paleo or tackling a Whole30® for the first time. So this post is a description of what I’d do if I was going to do a Whole30 right now.
A few things to keep in mind:
1. This is a Whole30 Meal Plan… and it’s not. It’s more of a food and cooking plan. I’m not going to tell you what to eat when, but I have made recommendations for foods you’ll want to make sure you have in your kitchen and recipes I think make the Whole30 easy and delicious.
2. I haven’t specified things like breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. As I explained in Well Fed and Well Fed 2, I eat the same kinds of foods at all of my meals. If I want breakfast food at dinner time, I break out the eggs. And my breakfast is usually chicken, sautéed with sweet potatoes and collard greens, with a side of zucchini soup. I’m not suggesting that the Whole30 means you have to eat zucchini soup for breakfast. I’m just saying you’ll probably have more fun if you stop thinking of foods as appropriate for a particular meal. Eat what you want when you want it. (As long as it’s from the Whole30-approved list, of course.)
3. There’s no Week 3 shopping list. On weeks 1 and 2, I went through the recipes and made a list of everything you’d need to make the food included in the plan. This week, I’m encouraging you to spread your wings, based on what you’ve learned from the past two weeks. See #6 below.
4. You’ll probably need more food than you think. The Whole30 may limit how often you eat in restaurants, not because you can’t, but because eating at home is usually less stressful and more delicious. Below are some rough guidelines for how much protein and veggies you need to feed yourself each day; for more on this food math, you might want to check out my cookbook Well Fed or this post called “Stocking Up.”
Per person, per day, you need approximately:
3/4 pound to 1 1/2 pounds of protein
6-8 cups of vegetables
Think about the people you need to feed and adjust your shopping and cooking accordingly. I guarantee you that you’d rather have more food than you need (you can always pop it in the freezer until you’re ready for it) than to run out mid-week when you’re tired and hungry. If you’re cooking for ripped-to-the-max CrossFitters, they eat more of everything than a “regular” person. If you’re cooking for just yourself, you might want to cut quantities in half, or freeze half of the larger recipes below.
This might seem complicated and overwhelming now, but after a week or two, you’ll be a pro. Relax! You really can’t do it wrong. I promise.
5. Keep it simple. You don’t need to follow a bunch of complicated recipes to eat well, and I recommend that during your first week, especially, you make it as easy on yourself as possible. That’s why I encourage you to make Hot Plates (see details below) and a few simple recipes that yield large quantities so you have lots of useful, yummy leftovers. (Want more ideas for keeping it simple? This post has tons of meal ideas that don’t require a recipe.)
This Food Plan is based on two components: (1) Hot Plates, which are essentially meat+veg sautés you can make on-the-fly, and (2) Bulk Recipes that make scrumptious dishes in larger quantities so you have leftovers throughout the week. The combination of both means you can fight boredom and have your own personal menu of choices to choose from every day. Your fridge is about to become your favorite restaurant.
The info below lists the recipes I recommend you make for a week’s worth of meals, plus a step-by-step plan for getting it all done in about two hours. 3-2-1… GO!
6. I’m putting you on training wheels. During the last two weeks, the food plan was basically me holding up your bicycle. Now we’re putting the training wheels on your bike. Instead of a detailed plan, I’m giving you guidelines to adapt the plan to be your own. You can do it!
The basis of cooking in our house is Hot Plates. Basically, I cook a pile of protein and bushels of vegetables to store in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Then I quickly sauté whatever I’m in the mood for and top it with spices and sauces to jazz it up. Easy! It’s like this:
Protein + Veggies + Fat + Spices + Sauce = Meal
Here’s my recommendation for what you’ll cook for Hot Plates during Week 1. The detailed instructions are below, but this gives you an idea of the quantity and ingredients.
Ground Beef: 2-3 pounds, browned in a skillet with lots of salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder.
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs : 2-3 pounds, roasted with lots of salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
Tuna, Sardines, Shrimp: Stock up on cans of tuna (my favorite is Genova Tonno, packed olive oil, no extra ingredients), sardines (my fave are Crown Prince, skinless and boneless), and shrimp (I defrost frozen, wild-caught in the fridge for last-minute meals).
Cooked Vegetables: Cook a bunch of veggies and store in the fridge. All of these (except the spaghetti squash and sweet potatoes), get a basic Steam-Sauté treatment:
Spaghetti Squash (how-to video for cutting spaghetti squash)
Greens: kale, collards, spinach, or chard
Raw Vegetables: These are great for salad plates, snacks, and as add-ons alongside a Hot Plate:
A drizzle of something luscious turns meat and vegetables into something you really want to eat. These three are very versatile and quick to make:
Sunshine Sauce: like Asian peanut sauce, without the annoying (anti-nutritious) peanuts
Olive Oil Mayo: so much better than store-bought, and perfect for salad dressings, tuna/chicken salad, or dolloping on top of grilled meat
Moroccan Dipping Sauce: fresh, a little spicy, and fast to make; excellent drizzled over Hot Plates and doubles as salad dressing
Another option for your cooked chicken and a can of coconut milk? Taj Mahal Chicken!
More Ideas for “No Recipe Required” Meals
You can find lots more detail and tons of ideas for Hot Plates in my cookbook Well Fed. The links below provide ideas, inspiration, and how-to advice:
In addition to Hot Plates, I think it nourishes the soul to have some home-cooked, comfort foods in the fridge. The great thing about many of my recipes is that they taste better the longer they sit, so you’re guaranteed delicious meals all week long. Things like stews, chili, soups, curries, and big hunks of meat roasted in a slow cooker are awesome for this. In the outline below, I’ve included lots of recommendations for you to choose from.
Cookup: The Plan
If you want to cook all of the stuff listed above and want to spend the minimum amount of time in the kitchen, there’s a plan below for how you can do it. This should serve 2-4 people for the better part of a week, give or take a meal or two. The recommendations included here are the way I cook for my husband (6′ 5″) and myself (5′ 4″) to keep us going through work days, strength training, walks, and yoga.
NOTE: This is pro-level cooking organization. It requires you to fire up the stove, the oven, and the slow cooker all at the same time. Put on some favorite tunes, get yourself a big glass of water, take a deep breath, and start chopping and stirring. You can do it!
On The Menu
Here’s the comprehensive list of what you’re making in this Cookup — items in BOLD CAPS require you to pick something yourself:
Roasted Chicken Thighs
Olive Oil Mayo
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
SOMETHING COOKED IN THE SLOW COOKER OR SLOW SIMMERED
SOME KIND OF STEW OR CHILI
Browned Ground Beef
A GREEN VEGETABLE
Moroccan Dipping Sauce
Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup
A word about your shopping list: A detailed shopping list is easy to make; you just need to calmly, methodically go through the recipes and your kitchen. You might start by dividing a piece of paper into 4 quadrants, then label the areas: Produce, Meat, Middle, Other. As you go through the recipes, write the stuff you need in the appropriate quadrant. Take your time and be sure to review your cabinets and refrigerator as you make your list. Remember: I think it’s better to over-buy and pop stuff into the freezer if you need to. It’s the pits to run out of food mid-week, when you probably need it most.
1. Sharpen your knife. Get out your cutting board, some baking sheets, and a non-stick skillet. Drag your slow cooker out of the cabinet. Dust off your blender. Fill your water bottle. Turn on your tunes.
2. Take an egg out of the fridge to come to room temperature for the Olive Oil Mayo.
3. Preheat the oven to 400F for the chicken thighs, roasted spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes.
4. Wash and cut the vegetables you are going to steam-sauté.
5. Collect an array of storage containers and jars for the finished food.
Let’s Get Cookin’
Here are the step-by-step instructions you need to make all of this food. Have fun!
1. Get your slow cooker/slow simmer recipe going. This takes almost no hands-on time and yields a pile of luscious protein. Good options include: 5-Spice Pork Ribs, Italian Pork Roast, Thyme-Braised Short Ribs, Deconstructed Gyro, Stovetop Pork Carnitas, or do-it-yourself: take a pork or beef roast, rub with your favorite spices (like chili powder+cumin, or rosemary+lemon pepper), and follow the cooking instructions for the Italian Pork Roast. You can also rub a lamb shoulder roast or lamb stew meat with cumin+mint+salt+pepper and follow the same cooking instructions. You might also like this Crockpot Turkey Breast from Stupid Easy Paleo or Kalua Pig from Nom Nom Paleo.
3. Start the stew or chili. Make the stew/chili all the way through to the end of the recipe so it can simmer on the back of the stove while you do the rest of the kitchen work. Good options include: Chocolate Chili, Greek Beef Stew, Beef Stew Provençal, Rogan Josh, or Vampire Fighting Pork Stew.
4. Get the chicken and veggies in the oven. Place the chicken thighs on a large baking sheet, sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. On another baking sheet, place the cut spaghetti squash and a few whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water around the squash. Slide both baking sheets into the oven and set a timer for 30 minutes.
5. Make some sauces. Homemade mayo takes about 5 minutes to make. How amazingly great is that?! Ditto for the Sunshine Sauce. [Olive Oil Mayo Recipe | Sunshine Sauce Recipe] If you have Well Fed 2, there are a bunch of delicious sauce options and eight recipes for dressings made with Olive Oil Mayo in its pages.
6. Brown the ground beef. Crumble the ground beef into a very large skillet — I like non-stick; you do what makes you feel comfortable. Season it generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink. Remove the meat to a storage container, but keep the pan where it is. Time to steam-sauté those veggies.
Did your 30-minute timer go off yet? Check the chicken and veggies in the oven. The chicken should be golden brown and sizzling. The squash should be tender to the touch. If yes, remove the chicken and squash from the oven, but slide the potatoes back in for another 20 minutes. If no, set the timer for 5-10 minutes and keep the chicken and squash in the oven.
7. Steam-sauté your veggies. Put 1/2 cup water in the hot pan, bring it to a boil, and add the first veggie. Let it steam-sauté for 5-7 minutes, then remove. (While it’s cooking, you can take a quick movement break. How about knocking out 50 air squats?!) When the veggie is tender, remove it to a storage container, add another 1/2 cup water to the pan, and cook your second veggie. While it’s cooking, make the Moroccan Dipping Sauce. [Complete Steam-Sauté Instructions]
Time to check the chicken, squash, and sweet potatoes again. How are they doing?
8. Make the Moroccan Dipping Sauce. While the second veg is steaming, whip up a batch of this sauce that doubles as salad dressing. [Moroccan Dipping Sauce Recipe] If you have Well Fed 2, you might replace this recipe with Go-To Vinaigrette.
9. Make the Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup. This is last because by now you might be sick of cooking. If you are, give yourself permission to skip the soup. But if you’ve still got gas in the tank, make the soup and let it simmer while you start to clean up the kitchen and pack away your food. [Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup Recipe] (You could also swap this out for Golden Cauliflower Soup or Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon.)
Are your sweet potatoes out of the oven? They should be finished by now.
Pack It Up
As your simmered and roasted dishes finish up, place them in BPA-free storage containers (like these) and pop them into the fridge. Remember: Despite what your grandma might have told you, it’s better to put freshly-cooked food in the fridge while it’s warm; let it cool slightly on the countertop then get it into the fridge. Your homemade food is safe to eat for about a week; for more on food storage safety, visit TheKitchn and TheDailyMeal.
I also recommend you make a list of all the food you just cooked and make a list to hang on your refrigerator door. It’s an excellent reminder of how completely badass you are — and it makes it easy to review your home menu of deliciousness.
Congratulations! You now know how to plan your own Weekly Cookup.
If that’s too much for you, you could always repeat Week 1 or Week 2 — or choose some recipes from this list, or this list.
Just in case you need additional ideas, support, and motivation, here are a few more tidbits to help make your Whole30 as tasty and stress free as possible.
Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less
Bursting with vibrant flavors and foolproof recipes, the third installment in the best-selling Well Fed cookbook series puts 128 complete paleo meals on your table in 45 minutes or less. The recipes were inspired by takeout classics, food trucks, and cuisines from around the world. Basically, it’s stuff I’ve eaten—or read about—and wanted to recreate at home. All of the recipes are free of grains, dairy, legumes, and soy.
Every complete meal—a healthy serving of protein with plenty of veggies and luscious fats—is thoroughly tested and easy to make, with affordable ingredients you’ll find at your regular grocery store. And all of the recipes include the popular “You Know How You Could Do That?” variations, as well as Cookup Tips to help shorten meal prep time.
I’ve included instructions for a Mini Cookup with step-by-step instructions for cooking six paleo kitchen staples in under an hour. Cook once, and fancy-up your meals all week long with cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, homemade mayo, and more.
Debuting in Well Fed Weeknights are fun and flexible Food Court Recipes: blueprints of your favorite dinner themes, like Meat & Potatoes, Burger Night, Velvet Stir-Fry, The Ultimate Salad Bar, and more, all offering basic techniques and creative variations to satisfy your personal cravings.
Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat
My cookbook Well Fed is packed with recipes to make you want to smash in your face with joy and all but one of the recipes are Whole30 approved for use during your Whole30. In addition to recipes for dishes like Shepherd’s Pie, Scotch Eggs, Chocolate Chili, and Bora Bora Fireballs, Well Fed also includes lots of information for how to cook without a recipe — lots of ideas for ways to combine basic protein, veggies, and fats into something special that ensures you won’t get bored and you won’t spend all of your free time in the kitchen. (If you’re curious, the “offender” recipe is a fruit crisp that uses Whole30-friendly ingredients, but is too dessert-y to comply with the spirit of the Whole30. That recipe, however, is just fine for when your Whole30 is complete, and you want a sweet treat.) Help yourself to a free 30-page preview of Well Fed—or just go ahead and buy it now!
Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat
Well Fed 2 is packed with even more recipes and ideas to keep your taste buds happy and all but two of the recipes are Whole30 approved for use during your Whole30. In addition to recipes for dishes like Deconstructed Gyro, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Old School Italian Meat Sauce, and West African Chicken Stew, Well Fed 2 also includes tons more “no recipe required” meal ideas, 15 meatball recipes, 8 dressings and dips based on my homemade mayo recipe (the most popular recipe on my site!), and adaptations to make more than 100 of the recipes compliant with the autoimmune protocol (AIP) of paleo. Help yourself to a free 35-page preview of Well Fed 2—or just go ahead and buy it now!
Great Ingredients: No Recipe Required: a roundup of delicious meals you can make pretty quickly and without following a recipe
30 Reasons to Whole30: In case all this talk of cooking has stressed you out, here are 30 reminders why the Whole30 is worth it.
The Whole30 Daily: a kickass daily email subscription service that sends detailed info and helpful tips to your inbox every day of your Whole30 (Full disclosure: Dave and I worked on this with Melissa and Dallas, and it’s really, really good.)
Stupid Easy Paleo Whole30 & Guide To Clean-Eating Challenges: Steph of Stupid Easy Paleo is supporting the Whole30 on January 1. You can read her rationale here, get answers to FAQs here, and download her 14-page guide to make the Whole30 a little easier.
30 Days of Whole30 Meals from Nom Nom Paleo: she has excellent taste, so shamelessly stealing her meal ideas is an excellent idea