Thriving Outside the Box with Danielle Walker: An Author and Mom Who Believes Food Can Heal

Last Update: March 23, 2022

Thrive Market is more than an online grocery store; it’s a community of over 1 million members and 500 employees with their own unique stories. Our members are parents and teachers, first responders and climate activists, artists and athletes—all doing healthy their way. We thought it was time to celebrate them, so welcome to Thriving Outside the Box: a series that puts our members in the spotlight and shares the inspiring, real-life stories that bring us together.

When you discover something that really works, whether it’s a holy-grail beauty product or a how-did-I-ever-live-without-this-thing gadget, you share it. It’s just what you do.

You could say that’s Danielle Walker’s entire philosophy as a health and wellness advocate. After struggling with grueling autoimmune symptoms that landed her in the hospital more than once, she turned to food as a tool to heal her body. She learned about the importance of maintaining gut health and managing inflammation through diet and lifestyle. Then she took all that knowledge and turned it into easy, delicious, family-friendly recipes that earned her large and loyal following and now fill three best-selling cookbooks. “I deeply know the struggle and heartache of not being well enough to be there for your family and missing out on important life events,” she says. “My purpose is to give those who may be going through similar circumstances hope that there is healing ahead.”

As a busy working mom, Walker’s approach to wellbeing is refreshingly down-to-earth. “Being healthy doesn’t always have to be perfect…and it doesn’t have to be boring,” she explains. Her paleo, gluten-free, and non-dairy recipes often use shortcuts (she’s a big fan of the Instant Pot, sheet-pan meals, and batch cooking to stock the freezer), and she relies on Thrive Market to get healthy snacks and cooking staples delivered to her door.

We talked to Walker about what dealing with autoimmune illness has taught her about self-care, how to get picky kids to eat their veggies, and why true health isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor.  

Thrive Market: You’ve used food to help heal yourself from ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease. What are some of the dietary and lifestyle changes you made that helped the most? 

Danielle Walker: When I first started my journey using food as a tool to heal, I put myself on a strict SCD [ed note: specific carbohydrate diet]. Once I started to notice a significant difference and felt confident that I could begin re-introducing some foods, I began eating paleo. I still had to avoid some paleo-approved foods, including nightshades and natural sugars, but I definitely noticed such a difference. 

TM: What is a lesson you learned through that experience?

DW: One of the main lessons I learned is to listen to your body. Everyone reacts differently to food and their environment, so be in tune with your body and do what is best for you. What works for someone else may not be the best for every individual! 

TM: How do you teach your kids about healthy living?

DW: I think I got lucky with my kids! They definitely have their moments of being picky, but for the most part they enjoy eating healthy. I think what helps the most is that this is the food they know — they’ve grown up eating gluten-free and mostly paleo so they don’t have the “other” stuff to compare it to. However, on the occasions that they are hesitant about eating something, I’ve found that having them get involved in the process of cooking said undesired item will sometimes make them more adventurous in trying it! 

TM: What does a typical day of cooking and eating look like in your household?

DW: When I am recipe testing for a cookbook or blog recipes, we will have new recipes on a regular basis. When I am not in recipe testing mode, I typically batch-make recipes and keep them in the freezer and use them as needed. My kids’ schedules are so busy that I don’t always have time to cook a big dinner, so it is helpful to have some meals stocked in the freezer ready to go. I also love any recipes that can be made in my Instant Pot or sheet pan dinners. In my opinion, the fewer dishes to clean up after, the better! 

TM: What’s one thing you do every day that helps you feel and be your best?

DW: I like to make sure I get a form of a workout a couple times a week to help keep me mentally strong. We bought a Peloton bike during the pandemic, so I like to do those classes for an hour of cardio. My husband and I also really enjoy our OrangeTheory classes together. It brings a fun little competitive side to exercise. If I don’t have time to do either of those, I make sure to at least get outside on my lunch break and go for a short walk to keep me grounded and present for the rest of the day. 

TM: How do you strive to be a positive influence on your followers who are on their own health and healing journeys?

DW: I hope to be a beacon of hope that you can heal through food. I deeply know the struggle and heartache of not being well enough to be there for your family and missing out on important life events, so my purpose is to give those who may be going through similar circumstances hope that there is healing ahead. 

TM: “Healthy” means something different to everyone, and we’re on a mission to help people do healthy their way. So, what does “healthy” mean to you?

DW: Being healthy doesn’t always have to be perfect. I like to tell people to do the best they can. If you struggle giving your kids healthy foods like vegetables, there are plenty of recipes to sneak them in. Get creative! Being healthy doesn’t have to be boring. 

I also think emotional health should be made just as much of a priority. Whatever that looks like for you, whether it’s taking walks out in nature, making sure you get a workout in during the week, or simply spending time alone — it’s all important and collectively contributes to being the healthiest version of yourself! 

TM: What’s inspiring to you right now?

DW: I am constantly inspired by the online community that has formed over the last 10+ years. It is hard to believe that I am about to publish my fifth cookbook this fall! I am incredibly motivated and inspired by everyone who chooses to share their personal health journey with me, as well as those who tell me how my recipes are incorporated in their everyday lives. It motivates me to continue doing what I am doing and continue sharing my personal story in hopes of helping others find healing!

Danielle Walker’s Favorite Thrive Market Products

Add Danielle Walker’s dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo-friendly faves to your next order.

Thrive Market Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides

The New Primal Lightly Peppered Turkey Sticks

Thrive Market Pitted Green Olives

Organic Valley Farms Organic Ghee

Thrive Market Coconut Aminos

If you or someone you know would benefit from a complimentary Thrive Market membership through Thrive Gives, click here to apply.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Photo credit: Aubrie Pick. 

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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