If you’ve ever found yourself feeling lost or confused as to what could be ailing you…maybe you have stomach issues that never seem to go away, experience skin flare ups or breakouts randomly, or have a digestive system that barely allows you to sleep through the night – it’s possible that an elimination experience is right for you.
An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan designed to eliminate potential “trigger” foods that could be causing allergies or other uncomfortable reactions. After a short period of cleansing your body’s system, these triggers are then reintroduced slowly, one at a time in order to determine which could be not as well tolerated.
The first time I went through an elimination experience was almost a year ago, and the more I’ve thought about it over the past year, I think my reasoning for submitting to such a challenge was simple: I was curious. In my opinion, curious is always an okay place to be…as long as you are open to what your curiously may uncover.
So I took a large step toward better understanding my own body and health and it turned out to be so eye-opening, I decided to do it again.
Fast forward through a whole year of learning and growing and developing, and I’m more excited than ever for round 2! There are a lot of posts about my first experience, and what I ate, or didn’t eat, and how I felt from last year’s posts, so I will just cut to the chase here and start with what you probably want to know:
Which foods are removed during an elimination diet, and for how long?
There are 6-8 foods which most professionals consider to be “common allergens,” so these are always a good place to start if you’re not sure what to eliminate: milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat/gluten, soy, fish, and shellfish.
However, elimination diets can and should vary depending on what you personally want to identify about yourself. Here is what I plan to eliminate this year:
• Processed food/preservatives
• Refined/added sugar/sweeteners
I also have a hunch that even small carbohydrates in certain foods could be the culprit to some lingering digestive discomfort, so I will be sticking primarily to low FODMAP foods, excluding the above list. You can learn more about the Low FODMAP Diet plan here, an article shared by one of my sweet friends, Lauren Palm.
Most elimination experiences last a total of about 4-6 weeks, as it takes at least a few weeks for your body to rid itself of any antibodies which could be lingering due to a negative reaction (you read that right – so if you choose to never identify what your body could be negatively reacting to, you essentially run the potential of having perpetual antibodies just hanging out on your insides…ugh!). After this initial few week healing process, the next part of the experience is reintroduction.
How to do an elimination diet:
It’s really quite simple, and more than anything else I will mention, simply takes a little bit of extra focus and attention.
First, stop eating whatever foods you choose to eliminate. Maintain an otherwise healthy and fulfilling diet for 3 weeks, absent of these foods.
During this time, carefully read food labels to ensure you are avoiding even trace amounts of your triggers. It might seem like now, more than ever, is a good time for a cheat day but trust me on this one – you’d only be cheating yourself. The elimination diet WILL NOT WORK if you cheat even a small seemingly insignificant amount. The first step is allowing your body to heal, let it.
After three weeks, begin to slowly reintroduce one food group at a time. Don’t go wild and crazy, here. It might seem fun on the first day of reintroduction to make pancakes or go to a fancy Italian restaurant, but the point is actually to be pretty conservative through the reintroduction phase, introducing a single serving amount (1 cup or less, typically) of the food group in as simplistic and pure a form as possible. You want to introduce one food for 1-2 days before moving onto the next one.
This might look like a cup of whole wheat pasta on the gluten reintroduction day, or a glass of cow’s milk on the dairy reintroduction day. Pay attention to how you feel within about 20 minutes of consuming the trigger food, and be sure to record any symptoms or differences. If you calculate that one food or another left you with a negative experience upon reintroduction, you can confirm this food as a trigger food by eliminating it again. Essentially, the entire process is simple trial and error. The most important task throughout the experience will be to take notes, and listen to your body. If this is something you’ve never done before, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by pairing mindfulness with consumption.
What foods can I include?
So as mentioned earlier, I plan to follow (as closely as I can) the low FODMAP directory of foods, additionally eliminating any low FODMAP foods which are captured by my essential elimination list.
Previously, I ate about 70% vegetables, and 30% lean meat, with the occasional and unintentional sprinkle of healthy fats. Since last year, I’ve been on a mission to learn more about what other potential eating habits could be affecting my gut health, and leading to uncomfortable digestive issues. At a high level, foods that are considered high FODMAP foods mean they contain high levels of sugars and sugar alcohols, which if poorly digested, can ferment in the lower part of your bowel causing the intestine to stretch and expand. The result? Pain, bloating, and other related digestive issues.
With this added knowledge, this time around the goal will be to aim for about 30% fresh vegetables, 30% clean protein, and about 40% healthy fats. Notice this leaves no intentional room for grains or carbohydrates…lending to another topic I’ve been continually researching as of late, but I won’t go into that too much now…
Vegetables, especially leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like Brussel sprouts and broccoli, mushrooms, squash, radishes, and sprouts are all good for healing your body! In addition to avocados, some other healthy fat sources include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
If you can’t imagine going without any source of grains, try to keep them at bay by only including them as about 10% of your food intake, and stick to gluten-free lighter grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and gluten-free oatmeal.
What else can I eat, and how about some recipes?
So the real juicy inside info I know many of you have been waiting for – my shopping list, and recipe book to meal prep for the diet.
To preface, I’ve always imagined this could be a bit of a letdown if your expectations thirst for flare and excitement. The honest truth: this experience is very plain when it comes to ingredients. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – that does NOT by any means lead to tasteless, boring, or repetitive meals. I just mean to be upfront that what you see is very literally what you get, and you’ll notice the recipes are just as simplistic as the ingredients. Surely you can hit up some other spaces on the internet to find more shazam for your kitchen, if that’s what you’re into. For me, however, I find it easier to stay motivated as long as my food taste good, and minimal work is involved.
So without further ado – my shopping list:
Some other staples include plenty of spices, herbs and other flavor adders such as Salt, Pepper, Turmeric, Coconut Aminos (taste exactly like soy sauce), Avocado Oil, Red Chili Flakes, Everything Bagel Seasoning (from Trader Joes), plus I drink pretty much allll the herbal tea – just make sure to read the ingredients and especially watch out for soy letchin.
So what do you plan to eat?
Like I said – to me, simple is key. I plan to stick to a protein smoothie for breakfast, using vanilla Garden of Life plant-based protein. The ingredients might look something like this:
1-2 scoops vanilla protein
10 frozen berries
bunch of spinach, kale, or other green
1/2 – 1 cup almond milk or water
handful of seeds, if desired
I typically will pack snacks for at least the first few days, in case I find myself hungry between meals. I will plan to share some fat-ball recipes later this week! In my experience, however, this lingering hunger between meals will go away as my body starts to heal, so snacks will become less necessary overtime.
5-10 Sprouted and roasted almonds
1-2 Small kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 Medium clementine, mandarin, or orange
Couple slices of pickled beets
1 Cup fresh grapes
In my opinion, lunch should be especially easy since it typically has to be prepared ahead of time. I tend to stick to salads, or take leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. My first week lunches will probably be something like the following:
1 Cup of chopped romaine
Unlimited amount of kale, if more greens desired
1/4 – 1/2 Medium avocado, chopped
1/2 Lb plain boiled chicken, shredded or cubed (I love the Simple Truth chicken selection from Kroger)
1 Slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1-2 Anchovies, if desired (excellent added low carb source of protein!)
Avocado oil + balsamic vinegar
Everything Bagel Seasoning, if desired
I also like adding pickled beets to my salad, and you can pretty much add any vegetables you want! Carrots, celery, bell peppers? Salads are an easy way to easily and quickly experiment while you food prep. Just be careful to stick to clean dressing options, like a fat-based oil, and natural herbs or spices to add flavors.
Egg Roll in a Bowl (Recipe makes 3-4 servings)
1 Lb ground pork
16 Oz bag of coleslaw, cabbage and carrot mix (avoid preservatives and artificials!)
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
Green onions, for garnish/topping
In a small bowl, combine the ginger, coconut aminos, and oil – set aside. Brown the pork in a large skillet, then add in the cabbage/coleslaw. Add the sauce mixture to the meat and veggies and stir to combine, cooking for about 3-5 minutes until the veggies are wilted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.
When it comes to dinner, we tend to stick to just simple meat and veggies. This week we will likely enjoy salmon and cooked Brussel sprouts or carrots a couple of nights, then maybe make a soup to last the next couple of days. Brenen has been talking about curry a lot lately, so here is what my soup recipe may look like:
Chicken Curry Soup
14 Oz Chicken Broth (Pacific, found at Kroger, is a great brand!)
14 Oz unsweetened full fat coconut milk
1/2 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Jalapeno chili, seeded, minced
4 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-3/4 inch pieces
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 Cup chopped green onion
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and chili and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the chicken and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Mix in the lime juice, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add in the lime wedge, green onion and cilantro as a topping right before eating. This soup is also excellent with cooked white rice, but we will be avoiding rice, personally!
I know this was a longer read, but I hope you find the information and recipe/shopping ideas helpful. I am so excited to begin this journey (again) with some awesome friends joining along, so please feel free to share any other ideas you might have, questions I can answer, or just general thoughts on how things are going along the way. 🙂
I will be back with more updates soon! Good luck, and have fun!