There are a lot of restricted diets in my family. My dad is supposed to eat high fiber/pre-diabetic. I have Celiac Disease, so I can’t eat gluten. I’m also lactose intolerant. Critter can’t eat dairy, soy, oats, or pears. My mom has just started Low FODMAP. Trying to find something we can all eat and enjoy is a research project. Seriously, we need more sources to see if ingredients are safe for all of us than most grad school students need to write their thesis paper.
Food allergies, intolerances, and other special diets can be a hassle. I get it. Trust me, I get it. It can feel like you can’t eat anything! Over the years, our family has gotten adept at finding swaps and substitutes to keep everyone content. (Not quite happy, I would literally punch a man in the face for a slice of “real” pizza.) Throwing FODMAPs in the mix has just added another layer to the challenge. Luckily, we’ve developed a few basic tips over the years that will help us through this, just like it has helped us through every other food related challenge we’ve faced.
1. Find safe snacks first, and keep them on hand.
You know when you’re most likely to make a dietary mistake? When you let yourself get too hungry. One of the first things our family does whenever we’re facing a new intolerance, allergy, or diet change, is find a couple of safe snack foods. Having safe snacks on hand keeps me (and everyone else) from getting to the hangry stage when you’ll eat anything that isn’t nailed down. Having safe snacks to carry with you when you travel can also protect you from eating at unsafe establishments. Sure, it isn’t always fun, but neither is being glutened.
2. Stay hydrated!
Did you know sometimes, when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty? It can be hard to tell the difference, especially if you have IBS, POTS, or chronic nausea. Prevent this confusion by staying hydrated! I like La Croix sparkling water because I get bored of plain water.
3. Start with whole foods.
Its hard to read every ingredient in every item you buy. Until you become adept at reading labels, stick with fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats. Obviously, with diets like FODMAP, you’ll be limited to which fruits and veggies you can eat, but it’s still easier to go by a list of allowed vegetables than sit in the bread aisle for ten minutes trying to decipher a label.
4. Make a cheat sheet.
If you can’t do without bread, cookies, or whatever processed foods you lived on before your diagnosis, don’t worry. You don’t have to stand in the bread aisle for eight years. Do most of your research at home: look up brands recommended by other people with your diagnosis, find the labels online and read them, and make a list of safe foods. When you go to the store, you can just pull out your safe list and go straight for the food/brand you can eat. You’ll want to check the label at the store just to be safe, but this should save you a lot of time at the grocery.
5. Talk to others with your allergy, intolerance, illness, or special diet.
Obviously, your doctor or allergist is going to be your best source of information when it comes to what you can and cannot eat. But when it comes to recipes? Look for cookbooks or blogs written by other people with a diet similar to yours. Doctors aren’t paid to create recipes, they’re paid to keep you healthy. Used to, you would have had to do most of the legwork in finding recipes you could eat that didn’t taste like styrofoam. Now, you can do a Google search or download a cookbook to your Kindle with recipes that will require minimal tweaking for your diet.
Special diets can be hard, especially if you’re just getting started. Luckily, allergy friendly foods have come a long way, even since I was diagnosed five years ago! I remember biting into a gluten free waffle and crying because it tasted like cardboard. Even though the Internet was out there, it wasn’t filled with helpful tips and recipes like it is today. Hopefully, this post will be a great jumping off point as you (and your doctor) navigate through the great unknown of food allergies and intolerances.
Do you follow a restricted diet?