Last Wednesday, J and I started an Elimination/Challenge Diet prescribed by his doctor. We’ll be participating in this adventure together for about 12 weeks, considering there’s a lengthy list of forbidden foods to challenge to isolate/reduce symptoms from food allergies. Jason had intended to “go it alone” but I offered to join him since I do the meal planning, shopping and cooking. Plus I figured it would be good for me, too. To tell you the truth, it’s been mostly fun stirring things up around here.
I decided to dedicate part of my blog to this subject because we weren’t given much guidance as to WHAT WE COULD EAT. I hope my few posts on the subject can provide some insight helpful for others considering the same plan. The doctor recommended buying a book from Whole Life Nutrition for recipes for the elimination diet. I haven’t used it but may look into it later if I get bored. I conducted my own research (with help from my mom- thank you) and then sent the doc some links to share with other patients. One of my favorites is a PDF called Comprehensive Elimination Diet available at Functional Medicine.org. It allows more foods than our prescribed plan, but it’s been a huge help to this newbie.
This diet is not just gluten-free, this approach to eating has made us restructure how we eat, not just what we eat. It deconstructs our regular patterns and most foods we consume in our household on a regular basis. We find ourselves eating cherries instead of chips throughout the day (I sometimes skip snacks and eat too much at meals), and snack on fruit with nut butter instead of protein bars. Take breakfast, for example: Our typical normal breakfast includes: granola, organic skim milk or soy milk, banana or berries, orange juice and a cappuccino. On the Elimination Diet, we can keep the fruit – all else is forbidden.
So here’s the deal. By following the Elimination Diet we’re making a commitment to avoid the following foods completely for 2-3 weeks:
This means ANY product with wheat in it…. bread, crackers, cereal, pasta. Oats, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, triticale are also blacklisted.
Yes, you got it, cheese, yogurt, milk… I love cheese.
That’s soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, soy oils, edamame, even soy lecithin- All food must be soy free which is not as easy as you’d think
This is a biggie since we love Mexican food, and most gluten-free products and whole grain cereals are corn-based, so detailed attention to ingredient labels is required
Seriously. Orange juice, limes, grapefruit, lemons—even citric acid and dried lemon in spice rubs
Especially sad because my CSA share includes a half dozen eggs each week
Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger
Contrary to popular opinion, chocolate is easy to avoid
Includes concentrated fruit, brown rice syrup, fruit sweeteners, molasses, refined sugar, white/brown sugars, succanat, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice.
Borderline unacceptable, but we’re doing it. The lack of coffee leaves me bitter and resentful.
OK, as long as I can have almonds and cashews.
(….sound of crickets….)
FRUIT JUICE or DRIED FRUIT
Any juice or fruit product containing concentrate- even canned fruit.
According to the Doctor, “We don’t leave out shellfish because the types of allergies we are dealing with when we do the elimination diet are occult allergies, and shellfish is not an occult allergy – people KNOW if they have it. However, it certainly won’t hurt to leave out, and if there is any question, I’d rather do so; I don’t want to waste your effort or time.”
Non-gluten grains: brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, and buckwheat
Fresh and frozen fruits
Cold pressed olive and flax seed oils, expeller pressed safflower, sesame, sunflower, walnut, canola, pumpkin, and almond oils
Fresh ocean fish, wild game, lamb, duck, organic chicken and turkey. Limited quantities of grass-fed beef is OK.
Dairy substitutes: rice and nut milks such as almond milk, coconut milk (unsweetened without soy or corn)
Any type of bean, pea, legume – not soy.
Nuts and seeds: walnuts, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, nut butters such as almond or tahini (cannot contain sugars or soy)
Two sweeteners but it doesn’t matter because I hate them both: Stevia and chicory root. Bleh!
Water and green and herbal teas are acceptable.
Vinegars such as brown rice, sherry and balsamic vinegars
All sorts of herbs and spices, including sea salt (thank God!)
It’s now Day 4 on the diet and I’ve made a few discoveries:
- Breads advertised as gluten-free contain corn, oats, spelt, kamut, and rye
- Many quinoa, amaranth and millet flake cereals and pasta also have oats or corn
- Multi-grain rice cakes are not just rice. Many brands of gluten free rice crackers are made potato flour or corn or contain tamari flavoring. It’s best to read through the labels to make sure you’re not mistaken
- Yerba Matte is my new morning helper
- Rice pastas have improved in the last 15 years
- Nuts are sweet- especially pecans
- Pears and cashews go really well together
- Instead of soy sauce, tamari or Braggs I found this cool new product called coconut aminos
- Rice can be made into anything (see below)
- Bananas make puffed millet and rice cereal with unsweetened almond milk taste fine (J says puffed rice cereal looks and tastes like packing peanuts)
- Kraft makes a delicious cracker I can eat on this diet. I’m astonished.
Here’s a sampling of some dishes I’ve made so far:
- Vietnamese salads and rolls grilled chicken with cashew sauce (instead of peanut)
- Mexican style rice and beans, big lettuce salad with lots of veggies like red radish, cucumber, squash, cilantro, avocado and homemade hot chile salsa (without citrus)
- Grilled short-ribs with black salad (black quinoa, black bean, etc)
- Stuffed squash with ground lamb
- Burgers made with salmon (for J) and turkey (for me) over rice pilaf, ginger garlic sauce and sautéed greens
- Rice spaghetti with walnut pesto (without parmigiano and lemon)
- Black-eye peas and chard over rice (red wine vinegar instead without the lemon)
- Pinto bean dip with pickled jalapeno, cilantro and garlic
- Cajun rice with leftover beef spare ribs meat (instead of shrimp and sausage)
- Mixed fruit salad made with pears, pecans, strawberries, cherries and blueberries
- Smoothie made with frozen mango and blueberries with unsweetened coconut milk
- Watermelon and mint agua fresca
- Gazpacho (without any citrus- will use sherry vinegar)
- The Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville has an Elimination Diet friendly entrée on their menu…ok ok…I went to a brewery with friends visiting Seattle from Houston. I didn’t drink. I had sparkling water and ate grilled balsamic portobello mushrooms with steamed broccoli and rice.
After 2-3 weeks, we’re going to introduce one “forbidden food at a time” in any order EXCEPT we’ll save wheat and dairy for last. Here’s how it works:
- Eat the food 1-2 times on the same day. Eat a good serving portion of the food, for example, 4 oz of orange juice.
- Wait two days (we’ll be back on the elimination diet at this time)
- If we notice no reaction within those two days (e.g. increase in constipation, gas, fatigue, congestion, headache), it’s Ok to go back to eating this food. We can now challenge the next forbidden food.
- If we do have a reaction like the ones mentioned, we’re supposed to stop eating that particular food again (or suffer:)
- We’re also keeping a diary, but I decided to write a few blog posts about my experiences.
On this blog, I may even post some recipes I make up along the way. As you know, I’m a cook and I value good food . My weekly CSA share this summer will be particularly helpful by providing these nontraditional recipes with seasonally delicious and fresh produce. And it’s only taken a few days to acclimate to no sweeteners.
This mornings breakfast?: A plain rice cake smeared with cashew butter and topped with sliced pears, and washed down with a cup of Yerba Matte without sweetener. A week ago I would have balked.
I can do this.
Almost forgot! My fourth CSA share from Growing Things Farm included:
- 1 giant head of lettuce
- bunch scallions
- 1 giant bunch green kale
- 1 lb peas
- 1 lb broccoli
- 1 lb. summer squash
- 1/2 dozen eggs