Have you found that foods are not “sitting well,” the way they used to? You may have developed an intolerance or sensitivity over the years. You may want to speak with your doctor and determine whether you need to create and complete an elimination diet plan to figure out which foods are causing you discomfort.
While starting an elimination diet can be a fairly easy undertaking, you might find yourself suddenly wondering what to do next. Sure, you have a list of foods to cut out of your regular rotation, but suddenly your entire fridge and cupboards have become a giant waste land filled with potential hazards. You now need to reduce, restock and recreate new meals using foods you may not be used to. Depending on how regularly you use the foods that need to be eliminated, the task could become unexpectedly overwhelming. So where do you start?
Create a Plan of Action
Whenever met with a large assignment, it’s often helpful to divide it up in to smaller tasks. Start by putting together a game plan that includes smaller goals that are more easily attainable. First, remember to keep your list of foods to eat, and those to avoid, prominently displayed in your kitchen so you see it each time you prepare meals. The following tips can help get you started.
- Remove and Restock – Try to start by getting rid of, or at least putting out of sight and out of reach, any foods on the “avoid” list. Some of the most common foods to remove include:
- Dairy products
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Artificial sweeteners
Once all of the “avoid” items have been removed or re-shelved, restock with items on the “okay to eat” list, including:
- Brown rice
- Cooked or dried fruits – except citrus
- Cooked vegetables
- Sea salt
- Maple syrup and molasses
- Vanilla extract.
- Meat (other than red) including chicken, turkey, lamb and cold-water fish
- Cold-pressed, organic oils, like coconut or extra virgin olive oil
- Watch Out For Hidden Foods – When shopping to restock your kitchen, be sure to read labels to ensure any processed foods you might buy do not contain any of the items you should be avoiding. This could be tricky as most processed food contains wheat or gluten, soy, corn, corn starch, sugar or artificial sweeteners and other items you likely should be staying away from.
- Create a Menu – Since you may find yourself cooking with foods you don’t normally eat, it could be helpful to prepare a menu for the week, each week, ahead of time. You can create a menu and do food preparation on day one of each week. Then your daily meals will be easy to make. You might want to keep extra cooked rice and meats, like chicken and turkey, on hand to add to veggies and make salads or small meals quickly. Most elimination diet plans last about four weeks, so you’ll need a month’s worth of menus. Try to create the meals about a week ahead of time so as not to overwhelm yourself with a lot of decisions at once, to allow for changes in mood and the desires of your taste buds.
- Remember to Eat Regularly – It’s important to eat regularly and on a schedule if possible. This will help with ensuring you are receiving proper nutrition and fuel for your day. It will also help with journaling your meals and the changes you’ve made. Eating regularly can prevent mistaking fatigue or light headedness because you’ve not eaten for symptoms of ingesting a particular food.
- Keep a Journal – It’s critical to the elimination diet plan that you keep a journal. As you eliminate food it is crucial to write down how you feel each day. The same is true as you add foods back into your diet. After about three weeks, begin adding foods back one at a time and note how you felt after eating. If any of your symptoms return within a few hours to a day of reintroducing a particular food, it’s likely a food you have a sensitivity or intolerance to.
As with any change, starting an elimination diet could be challenging. The first few days are generally the hardest for most people as many experience cravings for foods they’re used to eating and/or withdrawals from certain items like caffeine. But after about the first week, many people experience an increased sense of well-being and less generalized pain.
Do you have any recipe ideas for foods included in an elimination diet? Please share with us in the comment section below your experiences with food intolerance, sensitivities and diet elimination plans.