Elimination diets are hard. There’s your healthy dose of reality from me today. I’m not saying they are impossible but they take some elements of organization and planning. Sometimes it’s hard enough to step up to the starting line but then to actually force your feet to move when the starting gun is fired can be even more of a challenge. I wanted to compile a list of elimination diet tips and tricks that I feel like have helped me immensely since I started this journey. Take a look an use the following ideas to make your first phase a little easier!
1. Keep a food journal
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep a food journal through the entirety of your elimination diet. A food journal details all food/supplements/symptoms for each day of your elimination diet. This journal can help you identify culprit foods that might be hiding in your current diet. Even though you may have taken an IgG test to identify foods remember these tests are not always accurate. Through my food journal I realized I every time I ate a pork product it would send me into a spiral of symptoms even though on my IgG test pork was given the okay. The first month of my diet I didn’t follow this tip. I figured I could remember what I had eaten the past four days no big deal but it’s not just about remembering the past four days. It’s about remembering what you ate last month when your symptoms showed up and seeing if anything stands out as a commonality. There are many apps to help you keep a food journal but my personal favorite is the simple pen and paper. I keep a small notebook in my purse and attempt to write in it after every meal or snack.
2. Have a food prep day
Take a day or a night out of your week and get some food prep done. I work full time and sometimes when I get home during the week the last thing I want to do is cook. Having some staples already prepped for the week really helps me keep on track. My prep day is Sunday, in the morning I make my list for the week then I go to the grocery store and come home to start prepping! Prep days really come down to what you feel like would help you throughout the week. Having vegetables already cut up for recipes or salads makes cooking a breeze for me at night. Also if I have some type of side dish prepared I know all I have to do is cook the main item. Elimination diets are a 98% mental if you believe you can do it and set yourself up with the proper tools most days will be a breeze. Some think that if you commit to having a prep day it will consume your whole weekend this doesn’t have to be the case. I get all my prep done in about 2-3 hours. I’ll have a full post detailing how I try to make my prep day efficient and what types of recipes I prepare, stay tuned!
3. Get creative with food
There have been days in these past three months where I would have paid to not have to see/smell/eat another carrot again. Since your world can be very limited in your first elimination phase it’s important to get creative with food to trick your mind into thinking you’re eating something new. For example, take my current nemesis: the carrot. I eat carrot sticks raw or on salad, carrot rings roasted in honey, carrots shaved with a vegetable peeler mixed with zucchini and beets sauteed with some garlic basil and oregano, carrots grated into turkey burgers. By changing the look of the food it helps me feel as though I’m getting a lot of variety in my diet. If you feel yourself getting stumped about how to prepare foods remember the internet is a great resource to help you come up with new and exciting possibilities!
4. Know your quick eats
When you eat a raw food diet with limited packaged items you’ll notice that hunger strikes swiftly and all at once, like a ninja. No one likes a hunger ninja. Know how to keep the ninja at bay by knowing your quick eats. For me it’s dried fruit, seaweed chips, and toasted coconut. These are items that I can usually find in any super market and have mass quantities of in my pantry at all times. You don’t want to rely to heavily on these items since you want to make sure you’re getting lots of fresh food to heal your gut! It’s important to know if you get hungry you will have something to grab instead of thinking there’s nothing in the house or on your person and grabbing those Lay’s Wasabi Ginger Chips. Quick eats are also great for road trips, late night outings, or even between meals at work.
5. Know where to shop
When you’re eating on an elimination diet your food options will shift. Before I started this venture the only oil that went on my food was olive oil. Guess what I can’t eat right now? Olive oil. In the past three months I’ve tried sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, and avocado oil. All delicious, wonderful, and…expensive. There are certain grocery stores that offer some items for a better price, this is just the trials and tribulations of real life. There are foods I can find at Trader Joes for much cheaper than any other grocery store in my area. Sunflower oil at Trader Joes is $4 vs $7 at Publix. Those differences can add up quickly. In the first few weeks of your elimination diet it may be a good idea to venture out to the stores surrounding you and take a peek and prices to see where you might find things cheapest. If you have the capability/options it may be best to shop at one or two grocery stores during the week depending on what you need. I realize this isn’t always a good solution for everyone. For those who find their grocery store choices limited remember there’s always online shopping as well.
6. Be open to new foods
If you’ve checked out my test results you’ve seen how many veggies are in my no fly zone. The ones that are on my good to go list are not necessarily my favorite things in the world. I’ll be honest with you. I hate beets. I think they smell like dirt. Even though I really don’t like beets I know my body needs whatever nutrients it can get at this time. So I find ways to eat beets (aka hide beets in other foods). I had also never truly given fennel or sweet potatoes a chance before this elimination diet. Turns out I love them. So, be open to new foods. You may find something you really enjoy! (Or it could just solidify your hate for beets, who knows.)
7. Learn about substitutions
Food substitutions are a lifesaver. Many substitutions can be found on the web so be sure to do a little extra research. It’s important to not feel as though you are completely restricted from eating items you really enjoy. Can’t eat Mayo? Use an avocado. Can’t use citrus? Go for vinegar. Really like pizza crust? Quinoa or cauliflower make good ones. Baking powder off the table? Baking soda and cream of tartar will make a reliable substitute. Need eggs for baking? You can use flax meal, chia seeds, bananas, or applesauce to name a few. The world is your substitution oyster. Let the ‘interwebs’ be your guide. If you have a lot of interest in substitutions and would like to see a post about all the substitutions I use leave me a comment and I will surely oblige.
8. Travel with a plan
Traveling can be very difficult on this diet. I won’t sugar coat it. It can be stressful. Granted I get stressed traveling anyway, so maybe this is just me. I’ve traveled a couple times during my elimination phase and each time it’s cause quite a bit of stress leading up to the trip. The one thing that’s really helped me when I’ve traveled is to try and stay at a friends house or a hotel with a microwave/mini fridge. If at a friends a full kitchen will be available to you. If you’re worried about everyone wanting to go out for a night, offer to cook up a meal for all of you, that way you know it’s a safe bet for you. When you’re on the road/plane/train/boat remember to use your quick eats to keep hunger at bay! Create a food plan for the days you will be gone so you are prepared for the days you will be away. Go grocery shopping when you arrive and fill your friends/hotel mini fridge with safe happy foods that will make your tummy smile.
9. Don’t feel like you have to explain your choices to others
This is possibly the most important tip I can give you. I’ve had a long time to learn tip this with my phobia. There were a couple years of my life where eating out at restaurants was a pretty big challenge. I’ve gone out to restaurants on many occasions and not eaten anything while those I’m with have. I’ve dealt with the questions/comments/and concerned looks from others. I will tell you this from my own experience, you’re choices are yours alone and you shouldn’t have to explain them to anyone. If someone asks what you are doing or why you aren’t eating the pizza at the party it’s your choice what you want to tell them. If you need some ideas of options here are my favorites:
- I’m on an elimination diet, let me tell you about it…
- I’m on a medical diet.
- I’m not hungry right now.
- None of you business.
Depending on to whom you are speaking please pick the appropriate response!
Bonus Tip: Stay Positive and Have Fun!
The most important thing to do is not to focus on what you can’t eat. Focus on all the delicious things you can still eat and how great you’re going to feel eating them. Remember this isn’t forever. You can do it! I have faith in you.
What tips and tricks do you have to share? Did you find these tips helpful? I’d love to hear from you!