How To Stick To Your Special Diet
Seven Tips to Avoid Slips
It can be beyond challenging to learn you’ve been newly diagnosed with a food allergy or intolerance, particularly when it means giving up foods you normally eat on a regular basis or enjoy indulging in. Although I had to give up gluten at a young age due to celiac disease, I must admit that cravings for gluten-filled cookies, cakes and other sweet treats have knocked on my door more than a few times. I’ve had to learn (sometimes the hard way) how to make good substitutions, and experimentation has always been the key.
Accept that some of your efforts will fail. Whether it is an upside down cake that ends up right side up, or a bread recipe that may as well be a bread crumb recipe—the learning curve requires trial and error. Eventually, the trials will go from error to success.
If you need to start the new year with a new diet, don’t fret. There are simple things you can do to help make your transition a smooth one, without breaking the bank.
1. Create a support system. With such a high number of people being diagnosed with common food allergens today, such as gluten, dairy and nuts, odds are you’re not the minority you may think you are. Talk to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbours about your dietary needs when the time is right and watch them open up to you about theirs. Once you’ve put together a small allergen-friendly group, plan fun events together, such as potlucks and shopping trips.
2. Experiment with new recipes. A new diet doesn’t have to be boring, nor does it mean you must give up foods you love. Today there are allergen-free replacements for everything from eggs to pâté. There are so many creative allergen-friendly and healthy cookbooks on the market. Visit the special diets’ section of your local book store or library and find the one calling your name. Your favourite recipe developers will likely have enticing recipes on their websites as well. A little research could lead to a surprisingly delicious homemade dinner. Keep your favourite recipes in a recipe box and refer back to them.
3. Speak with a nutritionist at a local health food store. Many health food stores have holistic nutritionists on staff as part of their team. You can ask questions about food products, cosmetics, skin care and supplements that are available in the store, and learn about what might be suitable for you. Ask about healthy choices, how to cut back on sugar and unhealthy additives and preservatives that are hidden in allergy-friendly foods in order to boost flavour and texture.
4. Keep a food journal. Whenever we start something new, there is always a learning curve. For example, ingredients that you are no longer able to tolerate may be hidden in various condiments or pre-packaged foods. It often takes research and detective work to figure it out. When you are embarking on a new diet, it’s a good idea to make a few notes each day about what you’ve eaten at each meal, along with how you felt during and after digestion. Reflecting back on your notes may help you learn about other foods that are not agreeing with you and may lead to additional diet adjustments, with the advice of your health professional. Food journaling could help you fine-tune your meal planning and dietary needs.
5. Make a commitment to ask more questions. Be inquisitive! Get into the habit of verifying the safety status of your food—be it at a restaurant, in someone else’s home or at the prepared foods counter of your grocery store. Never assume anything. This does not imply that you should be afraid. It simply means you shouldn’t be afraid to double check. A simple “Are you sure?” has saved me from falling ill many times.
6. Start a blog. Blogging can be a wonderful way to express your emotions, help you connect with others who are in the same boat via social media, and learn more about your diet and yourself. There are many food blogger groups and events, both online and in person.
7. Don’t deprive yourself. If there is something in particular that you crave, find out how to make it allergen-free or see if you can purchase it. And if that means you treat yourself to something less than ideal as far as nutritional value is concerned, that’s OK. We all deserve a treat once in a while.
Lisa Cantkier is a lifelong celiac, health and wellness writer, and holistic nutrition enthusiast. She is the founder of GlutenFreeFind.com