**Note before we get started: I am not a doctor. The content in this post is not to be taken as medical advice, but additional guidance to supplement diet recommendations from your doctor. If you suspect a food is negatively affecting your health, get tested or speak with your doctor first.**
How to Survive A Diet Transition
When I say “diet” here I don’t mean you decided to try South Beach or Whole30 (although technically these tips work for that transition too). I use the term “diet” to mean the food you eat on a day to day basis, not the act of restricting what you eat to lose weight specifically.
Say you’ve discovered an allergy to a food you usually eat. Or your doctor has told you to lay off the dairy. Or you want to reduce your refined sugar consumption for health reasons. Being told you can’t eat something that was a part of your normal diet is jarring. It may seem completely impossible. Believe me, I’ve been there!
In November of 2013, at the urging of a nutritionist, I took a blood test that indicated several food allergies. I was then told to eliminate these foods from my diet. Ok no problem, right? WRONG! The problem foods (avocado, banana, wheat, gluten and baker’s yeast) were all present in my daily diet. No more avocado on my tacos? No more BREAD?! No more banana “nice cream”?! These were some of my favorite foods! How would this be possible?!
Well I’m here to tell you that I survived the transition and am now thriving on a diet that doesn’t include any of my problem foods. That is not to say that it was always easy and I didn’t make any mistakes on the way (I am HUMAN, after all) but I learned some things that I’d like to share with anyone who may need to make a transition like this.
1. Educate Yourself. Many allergens hide under different names. Learn all the words the food industry uses and start reading labels! For example, gluten is in soy sauce and Twizzlers. Corn is in many products as maltodextrin. Dairy can hide in hummus and bread and other products you wouldn’t imagine. Familiarize yourself with what is now off-limits and learn where it hides! Also, the FDA food allergen label law requires foods to disclose if they contain a top 8 food allergen (milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish). So if you need to avoid any of these, it is usually noted in bold font at the end of the ingredients list.
2. Think about all the things you CAN eat. If you were told you need to stop eating dairy, your natural reaction is to freak out about all the things you won’t be able to eat anymore. But there is A LOT OF FOOD out there, and so much of it doesn’t contain dairy. Think about the other food groups and other foods you love.
3. Research and experiment with alternatives. Eventually, you may find you don’t want or need alternatives in your diet, but during a transition they can be very helpful. In the case of dairy, there are tons of non-dairy milks, butters, cheeses, chocolates, and ice creams out there that you can try! If gluten has been giving you trouble, there are gluten-free breads, pizza crusts, cereals, baking mixes, and all kinds of alternatives. You may have to find them in a different section of the grocery store, but they are there waiting to become your new staples!
4. Try New Things. You will most likely need to expand your food horizons and incorporate new foods in your diet that weren’t a regular part of your routine before. I never liked cauliflower, so if you told me 5 years ago that I would be eating (and ENJOYING) cauliflower pizza crust I would never have believed you. But not being able to have certain foods has really pushed me to experiment with other foods and I’m liking what I discover! Try to be adventurous and play around with new options!
5. Be Prepared. Dining out, holidays with family, and going to dinner parties can be tricky during a transition. Your usual menu order may be off limits. Your friends and family may not know to have a dish that you can eat. It helps to look at the restaurant menu beforehand and investigate what you can have. If there is NOTHING, suggest another restaurant! Call ahead if necessary to make sure they can accommodate you (especially if you are uncomfortable talking to a server in front of a large group of friends). When you eat at other people’s houses, always offer to bring a dish that you can eat. And many friends and family members want to be able to accommodate you so explain clearly what you can and cannot eat for next time!
6. Be Positive. Don’t worry, it gets easier! Once you identify new go-to foods for daily meals and eating out, you won’t have to think about it anymore! You won’t have to wander aimlessly through the grocery store having to check the ingredient lists of EVERYTHING you pick up, and you will discover new favorite restaurants to frequent that easily accommodate your necessary diet. It may seem impossible (and so energy-draining) at first, but it will become second-nature soon enough and you will handle it with ease!
Even if you do continue to miss some of your favorite pre-transition foods, I promise you will have new and more delicious favorites to enjoy!
Most importantly, know that you are doing your body a favor by avoiding foods that essentially, it doesn’t like. By not consuming these foods your body doesn’t have to react or fight against them, leaving it to heal and function its best for YOU! It is possible that consuming even a little bit of your off-limits foods can cause a reaction, so having a “cheat day” could actually be harming you. If a doctor has told you to avoid those foods, it is worth it to NOT consume them! There are always other options!
If you have any questions or want one-on-one help during a food transition,
connect with me here and I can help!