Perhaps you’ve just found out you have to go gluten-free and/or dairy-free. Or maybe you want to try eliminating foods that you suspect may be causing you to lose your glow. You may feel unsure of where to start and overwhelmed or confused. What do you eat? How do you transition to a whole new lifestyle?
1. Do your research – It is so important to educate yourself on what foods you need to omit. Information is power. If you know what is safe to eat, you’ll have an easier time transitioning. See the links at the bottom of this post for more information.
2. Give yourself some love and compassion – Try to be patient with yourself as you adjust to this new lifestyle. Food is a big part of our culture and when our normal food routines change, especially for a health reason, we can feel a little out of whack for a while as we adjust. Be compassionate and give yourself some extra self-care (go for a walk, call a friend, get a massage, dance it out, etc) so you have more patience and determination to maneuver this change. And, I’d recommend keeping a journal (or even keeping notes in your phone) to record how you feel after eating certain foods, your energy levels, and so forth. It will help you become more aware of what makes you thrive and what brings you down.
3. Focus on what you CAN eat and start the healing process – Greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are naturally gluten-free and dairy-free (as long as they are in their pure, nothing added, unprocessed form.) Focus on these foods! Increase your intake of these foods, especially the greens, veggies, and fruits, so you don’t feel deprived. Good fats like avocado, coconut, olives, seeds, and nuts can also help to satisfy you so you won’t feel like you’re missing your old off-limits favorites. And, by increasing the amount of nourishment you’re getting, you’ll start to heal that gut lining that may be damaged from eating foods that you weren’t able to tolerate. This is very important to getting your glow on. Plant power!
4. Eat out less and start cooking your own meals – The problem with eating out is that you aren’t able to see what ingredients are put into your dish or how it was prepared. If you do eat out, call ahead, research restaurants that have allergen-free menus, and most importantly, check with your server to be sure about your dish. Some types of cuisines are more likely to have naturally gluten or dairy-free food, for example Mexican and Thai. Usually you can find at least something – maybe a salad or plain piece of chicken or fish – almost anywhere. Most servers are knowledgeable about different diets, but others are clueless, so if you’re uncomfortable ask to speak to the manager. Also, remember to be assertive about what you need, of course, but also be polite. If a server is attentive to my needs, I make sure to thank and appreciate them so that they’re more willing to treat others like me the same way.
What if you can’t cook? It’s time to learn. Yes, I know it’s daunting but you don’t have to be the next Top Chef, you just have to feed yourself nourishing meals. You’ll find that you discover new ingredients and cuisines and develop whole new taste buds! I’ll be posting cooking tips and shortcuts in the future so keep your eyes out for them.
5. Be prepared and empowered – I can’t emphasize food prep enough. Take time to plan your meals and grocery shop. Once you’re home, wash, chop, and prepare your produce so it’s ready to eat anytime. It makes life so much easier. When you cook, make enough food so you have leftovers and stock your freezer. My husband teases me because it looks like our freezer is going to explode, but it’s worth it when we can come home at the end of along day and quickly heat up a wholesome, home-cooked meal.
6. Bring snacks with you and eat before you go places – I always have a snack with me in case I get stuck somewhere that doesn’t have any food I can eat. I’ve even been known to whip out a banana or apple to eat at the bars late night! And, if you’re going to a party or event, try to eat beforehand just in case there is nothing there that you can eat. If you know the host, ask them beforehand if you can bring a dish or if there will be food that you can eat – most people are very understanding.
7. Keep your place stocked with yummy food that you can eat (and get rid of any temptations) – I’m a bit obsessive about making sure I don’t get stuck without any food that I can eat so I make sure I always have tons of fresh produce, lots of ingredients to make quick meals, and some gluten-free, dairy-free comfort foods on hand. And just get rid of any foods that you’re trying to stay away from… you don’t want any temptations lying around. Trust me, keeping that box of cookies for ‘times of weakness’ is not worth getting sick over. I have no desire to eat any food that makes me sick because I know it will set my immune system off and I’ll be ill for weeks. But, I know it can be hard especially in the beginning of transitioning to a new diet. There are so many dessert recipes for different allergen-specific diets and you can find lots of gluten-free and dairy-free treats nowadays… like my favorite, Babycakes, who made the cutting cake at my wedding!
8. Use substitutions to make it easier in the beginning – Gluten-free bread, dairy-free yogurt, and so forth can ease you into a new way of eating. However, some of these substitutions can be pretty awful for you. I’d recommend looking for substitutions that are as minimally processed and as high in nutrition as you can find. Do a little asking around to find out what products people like best (I’ll highlight my favorites in future posts as well.)
9. Read labels on everything – Again, because gluten and dairy can be hidden in so many different products you have to read labels. You can even find gluten in toothpaste and body products! At first it may be daunting because labels can be confusing and misleading, but once you get the hang of it you’ll know what to look for and call the manufacturer if needed! For more information, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
10. Experiment and have fun trying new food – If you need more guidance, consult with a nutritionist (one who specializes in food allergies or intolerances) or health coach (like me 😉 )
Stay tuned for posts to further help you navigate this transition. I’ll cover topics such as gluten-free, dairy-free baking, shopping on a budget, how to go to events where meals are served, my favorite products, the best snacks, gluten-free lunch ideas, and many more.