Surviving the Elimination Diet: 12 Tips & Recipes
Surviving the Elimination Diet: 12 Tips & Recipes
At Foundations Medical Center we highly suggest the elimination diet to figure out the causes of your gastrointestinal distress, physical, emotional and even behavioral symptoms. Although this is not a quick fix or easy solution to come by, it is the most accurate way to discover true food sensitivities and allergies and unfortunately, blood work does not always catch all of these.
When preparing for the elimination diet, you start realizing how much you can NOT eat. But don’t despair—there are plenty of delicious recipes and “safe” alternatives to things such as gluten and dairy, that hopefully will keep you from feeling like you have gone cold turkey on all your eating habits.
The elimination diet means saying goodbye to most of the things we crave, but with these helpful tips we hope to get you through the 21 (or 28) days without you realizing you haven’t had pasta in almost a month!
The elimination diet means saying goodbye, hopefully only temporarily, to alcohol, caffeine, corn, dairy, eggs, gluten, sugars, and soy. We highly suggest to also cut out other common culprit allergens, including beef, citrus, peanuts, pork, processed meats and shellfish. To help ease your stress we have put together a list of tips to get you through, plus we have complied a list of recipes and snacks that are elimination diet friendly for our members! (Below is a sneak peek!)
12 Tips to Survive The Elimination Diet
1) Stay Hydrated. When you are thirsty, your body sometimes will tell you that you are hungry. This leads to unnecessary snacking, which, when you are on the elimination diet can lead to eating quick snacks that aren’t approved! Make sure you are drinking 1/2 your body weight (in ounces) of water. So, if you weight 150 pounds you should be getting at least 75 ounces of water a day.
2) Plan accordingly. When you make the decision to start this diet, check your calendar. Starting this diet November 1st won’t work unless you just hate eating a delicious Thanksgiving feast. A popular time to start is in January as part of your New Year’s resolution, which works out well as most of your friends may be attempting a “Dry January” or “Be healthy year.”
Besides timing, we understand that you are all busy and that sometimes if you don’t grab a quick bite to eat, you won’t eat at all. One of the first steps to successfully completing this diet is cooking or meal prepping. Most restaurants and fast food places do not have Gluten Free, Diary Free, AND Elimination Diet friendly options. We recommend you plan your weekly meals out in advance and make 1-2 grocery runs/week to save time. Luckily, eating healthy doesn’t mean longer prep or cook times. Most of the meals we share take less than 30-45 minutes to prep and cook. If you really love a recipe, you can make extra and have left overs to make lunch a breeze.
If your colleagues are persistent that you join them for your weekly lunch date or after work drink, check out the menu ahead of time online. Salads are usually a safe option, once you take off the cheese and dressing. We even recommend asking the server to speak with the chef to see if they can grill chicken and vegetables (without butter). Keep in mind, restaurants want people to love their food, so they use a lot of MSG, sugars, butter, creams and other hidden culprits to make their foods irresistible. Let the server know you can not have dairy or gluten when ordering to be safe.
If you really just need a quick and easy meal check out Zoe’s Kitchen, they have multiple options marked on their menu. Juice bars are also usually a safe go to, just make sure they don’t add any sugar (including honey!) and that their added proteins are vegan friendly. (No red meat or PB2 powder)
3) Keep snacks on hand. The Elimination Diet is not calorie-restricted so don’t go hungry!
Common approved snacks include:
Hummus with Veggie Chips, Carrots or other Vegetables
Almond Butter with Banana or Apple
Homemade “granola” bars or trail mixes (There are so many on Pinterest!)
4) Know Your Ingredients. It is important that you are preparing the food you eat so you know exactly what is in each dish. You will see most recipes call for only a few ingredients, which is helpful when it comes to cost and time. Be cautious of any premade or shelf bought items. If you must use them make sure you read the ingredient list as they sometimes will have added sugars, preservatives or other no-no items. One of our favorite parts of the elimination diet is learning how to make things taste great without all the junk, like our favorite peanut sauce (without using any peanuts) for our Thai Chicken dish.
5) Consult a professional. Not all diets are created equally, and not everyone can live by the same “diet” so find what is best for you. Having a professional help guide you through this journey will make things easier. You will have someone to help keep you accountable and answer any questions you may have so you don’t have to spend hours searching the internet for answers that may be incorrect.
6) Be Patient. Once you finish the elimination period we want to make sure you don’t rush back in. You worked hard to clear your body of food antigens that may be causing problems, so don’t throw away your results by splurging on alcohol and pizza! The only way to know which ingredient is causing your symptoms is to reintroduce each food individually. If you add dairy back first, try to eat it at each meal, then eliminate it again for 48 hours. After the 48 hours back on the elimination diet, if you haven’t noticed any changes in the way you feel, then you probably do not have any sensitives or allergies to dairy. You can then add another item, like gluten back. Repeat this process until you have added each of the items back. At the end you can start enjoying all the items together if you did not show sensitives.
7) Find an accountability partner. Some people have their significant others, while other people have coworkers, best friends or their family. If you feel you may struggle or try to cheat on this diet, we suggest you have someone at work and home. Having a professional is an added bonus that provides perks such as ways around those cravings and helpful tips.
8) Stay open. Part of being healthy is having a balance in the food you eat. Don’t try a recipe and decide that it is good enough so you will eat it everyday. We suggest you have 3 pr 4 go-to items for each meal. Then, if you have extra time or feeling spontaneous you can try a new recipe and add it to your rotation.
9) Be creative. Luckily, there are so many substitutes for gluten and dairy that you may not even miss it. If you drink alot of milk or eat alot of yogurt we suggest you try Unsweetened Almond, Cashew or Coconut Milk. Depending on the dish, the flavor may enhance the food or blend very easily. Most groceries carry almond and coconut yogurt as well—just check the sugars! A fan favorite is the Kite Hill Plain Unsweetened Greek Yogurt.
10) Shop Fresh & Local. Finding fresh foods from places like farmer’s markets and local grocers not only helps your local community but is usually much better for us. So, stock your fridge with fresh, label free, whole foods instead of processed, packaged options. With less pesticides and longer shelf life, farm to table has become a huge necessity for many areas.
11) Log everything. A great way to keep yourself accountable and also notice different culprits is by logging your food. Some people prefer pen and paper while others like the on-the-go apps. MyFitnessPal is free and a great way to keep up with everything that goes into your body. This is extremely important as you start adding foods back in. If you know what you ate, symptoms you had, and time frames you can use this to determine which items may be the culprit. Plus, you can share this information with your doctor who will be able to shed more light into the cause and effect.
12) Stay Positive. This diet may not be the easiest challenge you take on but it is very rewarding and remember that it is temporary. You may even discover new foods you had never tried or recipes you will add to your cookbook. We understand it may not be feasible to live this life forever, but more times than none, our patients learn of substitutes for their favorite meal and continue using them long after finishing this diet. When you eat clean, you feel better.
Week 1 Recipes
Let’s be honest, Pinterest is our answered prayer when we are looking for anything DIY. The Elimination Diet has been around long enough that people have experimented with foods and put their results out there, saving us lots of time in the kitchen. However, depending on your eating habits, beets may not be as tasty for you as it is for others. So find what works for you, and learn to improvise! After trial and error we have found 5 home-run recipes that are great for your first week (and great for leftovers, too):
1) Thai Chicken with “Spicy Peanut” Sauce (From our friends at PreventionRD)
Recommendations: We keep the ingredients the same except use Coconut Oil instead of Sunflower Butter.
2) White Chicken Chili (From the lovely ladies at The Real Foods Dietitians)
3) Sweet Potato Turkey or Chicken Nachos (Thank you to The Fed Up Foodie)
Recommendations: For the steak we substitute chicken or ground turkey.
4) Chicken Pot Pie (From our friends at Tasty-Yummies)
Recommendations: This one is alot of fun! You can add other vegetables to your liking, we recommend chicken as well! And, if you don’t have the time to make your own pie crust, Whole Foods has a great frozen crust that is Elimination Diet Approved!
5) P.F. Changs Inspired Lettuce Wraps (Best Recipe, thanks to 40 Aprons)
Recommendations: We use ground turkey (no pork!) or ground chicken.
After avoiding these allergens for at least 21 days you’ll slowly reintroduce one food at a time to determine what foods were responsible for your sensitivities or allergies.
Nutritionist Elizabeth Trapp, RD works with our patients to help make sure they get the diet right the first time. Since the Elimination Diet is a diagnostic tool, this is one time we ask you to be perfect. But remember it’s only temporary and once you start to see the results you will realize it is worth the effort. According to Elizabeth, “Many people don’t realize things like joint pain, headaches and skin rashes were related to food until they do an elimination diet and these symptoms disappear.”