The Key to Embracing Food Restrictions
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
There was a point in time when I swore I couldn't go without traditional bread and cow’s cheese, milk, and yogurt. These days - I eat none of those things.
What I do eat is mostly gluten, dairy and nightshade-free. I have also cut out eggs (on their own or in concentrated amounts like mayonnaise) and red meat altogether.
So, what do all of the foods I avoid have in common? They're all considered inflammatory to some degree. The way I eat is not identical to one specific to one approach but takes cues from the anti-inflammatory and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diets. When I began to suspect that I had an autoimmune disease, before I confirmed the diagnosis, I implemented an elimination diet and chose to continue avoiding the foods that caused a reaction in my body when I re-introduced them.
I often get asked how I do it. It's taken some practice, but I think the key that I focusing on how much better I feel when I eat this way. It has become a lifestyle choice that I'm committed to, as opposed to a diet.
Whether you have an autoimmune disease or are consider reducing your intake of some of the same foods for another reason, here are a few tips and recipes to help*:
In case you're unfamiliar with what they are, nightshades refer to a group of vegetables with a common nitrogen-containing substance called glycoalkaloids. Glycoalkaloids function as a natural insect repellent and are believed to contribute to health problems for people with autoimmune diseases. The most common nightshades are tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. If you enjoy these and don't have any issue with eating them, they pack quite a punch when it comes to vitamins and nutrients.
If you've discovered that your body doesn't love nightshades, I recommend turning to herbs to spice up your life. I love using fresh rosemary, dill, and basil in all kinds of recipes, including salads and dressings. I also have fun experimenting with different dried spice blends on meat and vegetarian alternatives.
Green goddess dressing
Lemon thyme chicken
Rosemary honey dijon glazed salmon
One of the main reasons going 'gluten-free' gets a bad rap is because substitutes are often processed and loaded with unnatural ingredients. Except for crackers and the occasional slice of bread, I generally avoid store-bought GF products, relying on alternatives instead. There is research indicating that even grain alternatives, like rice, oats and quinoa, aren't great for people with autoimmune diseases - but I choose to eat them in moderation.
Some of my favorite alternatives include GF oatmeal with fruit and a big scoop of nut butter and rice cakes with avocado or hummus. I often make bowls, switching up the combination of quinoa, veggies, protein, and sauces. I also love vegetable noodles made of sweet potato, zucchini and of course, the classic spaghetti squash.
Unlike the GF variety, dairy-free milk, yogurt and cheese tend to be a bit better for you and in my opinion, much more delicious. When choosing substitutes, I generally go for the one with the fewest ingredients, avoiding those that include things I can't pronounce. I love vegan cheese so much that I rarely miss the dairy variety and am starting to dabble in making it at home. It's worth noting that I still eat goat cheese, as it contains lower levels of casein than cow's milk and is considered less inflammatory. While it's not exactly healthy, vegan ice cream has come a long way, and I would argue that some types are just as delicious as the real thing.
Am I 100% perfect when it comes to the food choices I make? Definitely not. However, reason why this lifestyle works so well for me is that I've dropped any guilt related to what I eat. If I make a choice that my body doesn't appreciate, I don't overthink it or beat myself up, which is a refreshing alternative to the diet culture that is so common today.
Let me know if you try these tips and recipes, or have any other go-to's to share!
*Note that I am by no means an expert on nutrition and all information in this post is based on my personal experience