The Biggest Mistake I Made During Whole30

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Two Januarys ago I embarked on my first round of Whole30, joined by several family members, friends, and a bunch of coworkers. Early on, even before getting started, it was clear that eating on Whole30 would require more cooking and prep than normal. But it didn’t deter me, and neither did any of the restrictions. I researched, planned, made a spreadsheet, and even drafted a month-long detailed meal plan with Whole30-compliant recipes.

I was ready and sure that my planning was the ticket to setting myself up for success. What I’d learn in the weeks to come, however, is that I was so wrong. I made one serious and critical error that made that first round of Whole30 much harder than it ever needed to be. Here’s what I did wrong and the biggest lesson I learned that that made it so much easier for me the next time.

My Biggest Whole30 Mistake

I devoted most of my planning energy into rounding up Whole30-friendly recipes — and others that could be easily modified to be compliant — for every meal. My thinking was that as long as the coming weeks were stacked with delicious meals I looked forward to eating every day, my time on Whole30 wouldn’t feel markedly different than what I was used to. Wrong.

What I didn’t account for was the sheer amount of cooking all of these recipes would require. To an extent, this comes with the territory when you decide to do Whole30. But my mistake was filling my meal plan almost entirely with recipes that required stovetop or oven hands-on cooking every single time. And, at most, these meals left me with enough leftovers for just one (and once in a while, two) additional meals. In short: It was a lot of cooking, for much less return than I was used to.

In the last week or so of that first round of Whole30, the cooking fatigue was real. Not once did I consciously think about leaning on my slow cooker or Instant Pot, and really digging in with some big-batch cooking.

The Simple Switch That Made Whole30 a Whole Lot Easier for Me

In hindsight, I learned that one of the best things I could do for myself during future rounds of Whole30 was to focus on batch cooking and rely heavily on low-prep slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes. While there are a number of factors that can make or break this plan, easy cooking is my secret to success. I learned that low-effort, high-yield recipes are the best tactic to avoid cooking fatigue — and a game-changer that would go on to make my second round of Whole30 much, much easier.

Here’s why: While batch cooking can require a fair amount of work, it all happens at one time. Put in the time and effort upfront, and you’re rewarded with meals for days, and sometimes even weeks to come. The slow cooker and Instant Pot are crucial for cooking these mostly hands-off, low-effort meals. And when comes to Whole30, and all the planning and preparation that can come with it, that can make all the difference.

My Favorite Slow Cooker & Instant Pot Whole30 Recipes