My Beloved Salads Have Never Betrayed Me!
If you have to eat any kind of a restricted diet, due to any of the following mood busters…
- Celiac Disease
- Heart Disease
- Food Allergies
- Autoimmune Disease
- Or any other condition that insists on being your meal planner
… you know that the challenges are very real, you know that occasional feelings of gloom WILL happen, you know that others who do not have to eat your restricted diet have ZERO idea what it is like, and you know that… well, let’s be honest… it kind of sucks.
Having said that, there are certain tips and mindset “tweaks” that can help keep a smile on your face while keeping your body healthier and, thereby, helping you stay around longer for this extraordinary ride we call life.
I’ve had to live without gluten and wheat for over 10 years. There’s a certain reality you face when you have to make the dietary restrictions as an adult… it’s actually much harder because you know what you’re missing for one thing and, for another, it literally involves throwing aside everything you know and embarking on a journey that has been planned without your consent.
I was recently reminded of this very fact when, on top of having to diligently eat gluten and wheat free, my body has decided that… while we’ve had a strained relationship for years… it needs a trial separation from dairy. Possibly permanent, but definitely trial. Seems it isn’t completely thrilled about its relationship with hamburgers or eggs either at this time.
Cool beans… No wait, I can’t eat beans either… let’s make that cool carrots… Cool carrots, time to restructure my meals and diet and to be even more mindful of everything I put into my face.
If this sounds like complaining, I apologize. I’m not angry and I certainly don’t feel sorry for myself, even remotely. It’s just kind of frustrating, that’s all. But, as I did many years ago, when I had to walk away from all wheat and gluten, including my absolute obsessions fried catfish at my favorite restaurant and onion rings from any restaurant, I will quickly adapt. In fact, I’m very blessed and grateful that plans and diets have already been laid out for me… I’m using a combination of the Paleo diet, the Bulletproof diet, and the Low FODMAP diet… in addition to my already firmly in place gluten-free diet. I’m unspeakably grateful that so many dairy alternatives exist on the market, as well as so many clearly-marked gluten-free foods. It makes cooking a lot easier when you simply have to make a substitution.. or, in my case, usually a couple of substitutions.
Cheese is going to absolutely be the hardest thing for me. I’m hoping that, once my leaky gut or IBS (whichever has been rough-housing me) has settled down, I can reintroduce it to cheese every now and then. If I can…. great! If not… well, that’s fine. As God reminded me recently, there’s a LOT more to life than just food. I mean, I always knew that, but one day (when realizing I needed to make yet another adjustment to my eating…which btw apparently will include stopping red meat for a while) I was driving through town, looking at all the cars in the fast food drive thrus and parking lots. I remembered the days when I could simply grab a burger and a diet Coke without thinking twice. I remembered when my husband and I could go out to eat anywhere we chose, instead of having the choice determined by my restrictions.
Just as a gorgeous day was becoming overcast with my negative thoughts, God reminded me (paraphrasing, here) to look at the beautiful blue sky, listen to the birds, think of my husband, daughters, sons-in-law, precious grandbabies, and cats. He reminded me to think of my flower beds I was already so excited about. He let me know that there is SO much more to life than food.
Truth be told, though, over the years, this was one of my only weak moments. I attribute this one to the ‘yet again” emotions – the fact that big changes had to be made. Seriously, y’all, if someone would just stop moving the goalposts, it’d be lovely lol.
It’s been a few weeks since that wake-up call and I honestly feel SO much better. In fact, implementing dietary changes has me feeling so much better, physically, that I’m kind of excited to see how it all plays out. I even lost 5 very stubborn pounds that had already become such a part of my life I had all but given them names.
A few tips for anyone who has new (or old) dietary restrictions they need to make peace with:
- Food isn’t everything. As a nation, we Americans pretty much make our lives revolve around food, don’t we. If we want to get out for a drive through the country on a beautiful day, we grab a quick hamburger and fries or milkshake for the journey. Every family get together (from Super Bowl Sunday to holidays) revolves around food. And while there’s no getting around it or really any reason to change things, we can be smarter. Maybe by grabbing a bag of snacks and large tumbler of tea from home before the ride through the country. Or having get togethers center around healthier options – a taco bar or even salad bar if you have enough vegetable lovers in your group.
- Look at what you CAN eat rather than what you CAN’T eat. This one may seem subtle but it’s so important I would have put it first, but there’s no way I’m leap-frogging over God’s advice. I made a list and printed it out of foods I can enjoy while eating Paleo – whether it’s for a specific amount of time or forever and ever, Amen. I didn’t even write down the ones I can’t touch – after all, I already know them, I don’t want to give them any more attention. I’m turning my attention to the many foods and drinks waiting to help me out. They’re my teammates now and I’m focusing on them. A word of caution when you research what foods are and are not on a particular diet. Whether it’s FODMAP, Paleo, Keto, gluten-free, or any such diet, there is a LOT of conflicting information online. For kicks (what can I say, it was a slow day) I Googled “are white potatoes high or low FODMAP” once and got at least a dozen different answers. Fascinated, I asked Google if white potatoes were on the Paleo diet.. again, different results! This bottomless pit of conflicting information led to the next tip..
- Do your research! If you’re embarking on a particular diet, please do a great amount of research first. Arm yourself with information or you won’t get anywhere. I would seek out the most reputable sources possible. I have a great number of books I’ve turned to for each of the three diets I’m pulling from the Paleo and Bulletproof diets are extremely similar, the Paleo one is simply more constructed and clearly-defined…. no “maybe this could be okay..” with Paleo – it’s more of a “don’t even put it in the cart,” which is the structured approach I frankly need right now. Having a great library of books will arm you with the information you need and help take a lot of worry and stress off of you. Let someone else do the heavy lifting with you! (Books I recommend are at the bottom).
- If you’re cooking for yourself as well as others without restrictions, take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay! One of the things I hear most people on restrictive diets complain about the most is having to fix several different meals instead of just one. Personally, I think of it as, “I GET to cook several meals instead of one” because (A) It means I have loved ones at my dinner table and (B) It means they don’t have to restrict their options.. good on them! I think most people aren’t setting themselves up for success. They’re making life way too complicated. For example, tonight I’m making Big Mac Salads for supper (one of my husband’s favorite meals in the world!). I’ll prepare the pickles, onions, romaine lettuce and other vegetables and throw them into a huge bowl. So far, so good. Then I’ll cook his ground beef in one pan while cooking my ground turkey in another (trust me, it’s delicious!).. each will be seasoned and placed in separate bowls to stay warm. When put together at the table, he’ll be able to add his meat, croutons, and dressing made with milk to his plate while I add my meat, gluten-free croutons, and dressing made with almond milk to mine. Easy peasy. Meal planning may take a little more thought, but half the battle is simply having your options on hand and in mind. More on that next..
- Have a shelf for your food in the refrigerator and pantry. It will make it a lot easier, and healthier, on you if you (after careful label-reading and research) have a designated shelf in the fridge for foods that are safe for you. I mean, who wants to go digging through the refrigerator – especially if they have to keep reading those cursed tiny ingredient lists each time. Set yourself up for success and make life easier on yourself. Do the same with the pantry. Hunting for “safe” foods is a headache and does nothing but add stress.
- If you’re on Instagram or Pinterest, search out reputable accounts that deal with your particular dietary needs. Instagram has been a wealth of both information AND inspiration to me and have made a huge difference in making the dietary transitions. HUGE difference.
Some books and cookbooks I highly recommend:
(All links are Amazon links)
*** PALEO and BULLETPROOF ***
Eating Paleo (Complete Idiot’s Guide)
Five Ingredient Paleo Cookbook
*** LOW FODMAP DIET ***
FODMAP Friendly: 95 Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Recipes
My next article will feature some of my favorite Paleo-Friendly snacks and foods, dairy substitutions, and favorite gluten-free foods. And remember, stay positive… you’ve got this! ~ Joi (“Joy”)