Dietary restrictions are a hairy beast to deal with when you have food allergies or other medical situations. They are especially hairy when you go out to eat anywhere in the world! Whether it’s over to a friends and you’re offered a snack, holidays with family, or out to a restaurant …every ingredient sometimes has to be reviewed! I feel like a pain in the rear all the time, but I also do not want to feel the ill effects of a polite choice and be doubled over in pain or hit by a train within hours later.
Even as recently as this week, my husband was going to make a new Chicken Alfredo dish he came up with that used cream of chicken soup. He picked up a can at the store and didn’t think to check the label. Luckily, right before he added it to the dish I asked to just double-check, since I know cream of chicken is a product that unless it’s labeled gluten-free always has wheat flour in it. Sure enough, I saved myself from a week of ill effects and he realized unfortunately, he’s going to have to check labels just as much as I do when it comes to processed ingredients if he shops for any food he’s going to make me.
My list has grown over the last few years to clear out the foods or additives that make my muscles and joints inflamed, my skin red and itching with rashes, and my mind foggy and anxious. Or you know, the things that inflame my intestines or cause them to turn on themselves.
Some are the more obvious things I’ve come to avoid for years, but there are a few new ones I’ve recognized that hit me hard just as much as gluten because their proteins behave similarly in the digestive tract.
Luckily, all the healthy foods are still on my list! From fresh vegetables, to fresh fruits, to organic chicken and beef. As much as I’d personally love to be a vegetarian, with the restrictions I currently have, I just have chosen to eat more humane and healthier cuts of meat (which do come at a higher cost).
Here’s a list of major foods I avoid:
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye) | This protein just eats me from inside out (hi, Celiac!). It hits me hard and fast, and while I’ve escaped some harsher punishments from it at times of possible cross contamination, the lifelong effects of consumption could lead to some devastating effects on my intestines and other areas of my body.
Tree Nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc) | I had noticed some issues with this during my elimination diet, but I sought out more medical information awhile later and found I may have an allergy to certain tree nuts. While it may not kill me just that one time, it could cause the same breathtaking effects that penicillin had on me over a year ago. I carry an epi-pen for this now. Go me!
Update 2021: I found through other changes I am able to tolerate nuts now!
Eggs (egg whites, yolks, and all in-between) | Often I’m asked about the possibility of eating eggs cooked in a baked good. Nope, no go. I tried that early on and suffered the same arthritic debilitating joint pain from even the slightest bit of egg in a product. Unfortunately, a ton of gluten-free products use egg in place of the gluten as a binder. Fortunately, these are foods I should probably avoid anyway, so they save me from eating too much junk!
Soy | While I don’t have an allergy to soy, it really bothers my skin. Eczema pops right up and my skin flares after a good dose of soy. At one point in the last few months I attempted to drink soy milk instead of regular milk and wham, inside of one cup I was reminded why I avoid it. Soy for me is allowed in small doses in say a gluten-free bread, but I don’t eat that too often, so it doesn’t overwhelm my system. All soy unless states Non-GMO is not a good idea to consume anyway due to the use of RoundUp, so this isn’t such a bad thing.
Oats | While oats are inherently gluten-free, they are often grown in fields next to or processed on the same equipment as wheat. (I got sick a few times from regular oats before I learned that doozy). I used to consume only gluten-free oats, but have found – – surprise! – – they affect me similarly to gluten. The proteins in oats are similar, so they can have a similar effect on the body when you’re healing your gut. So, I just avoid them now and haven’t looked back.
Update 2021: I found through other changes I am able to tolerate GF oats now!
In addition to the list of foods, I’ve learned about various additives/chemicals in processed foods that have an effect on my body as well! The list keeps growing, but I’ve learned quite a lot of what affects me and what to buy or avoid on the store shelves via the FlavCity channel. I’ve researched everything he’s said (natural flavors, maltodextrin, etc) because I take no one’s opinion’s at face value. This led me down the road of reading The Dorito Effect and other books that deal with all of the additives in the Standard American Diet.
What ingredient additives I avoid:
Maltodextrin | While this can be made from alternatives to wheat, it isn’t always labeled as to the source it is made from. This could be hairy when it comes to gluten issues. In addition, it spikes my blood sugar so high that my skin breaks out so I just avoid it altogether.
Update 2021: Unless it states it’s from corn, I avoid it!
Natural Flavors | These are extremely hard to avoid! I still consume them, as they are in 90% of the products at the store unless homemade, but I’ve significantly bought less items containing natural flavors. Natural flavors are nothing short of artificial, but they are derived from a natural original source. If you want to learn more about them, check out The Dorito Effect or numerous sites online. Bobby also has a great video explaining them, too!
Dextrose | While I don’t have any adversely correlated reactions to dextrose, I know it’s a processed sweetener that has the same effect as sugar on the bloodstream. I’m trying to limit my sugar intake, which dextrose is another one of those hidden ingredients that is basically the same for your body.
Canola/Safflower/Sunflower/Vegetable/Etc Oils | While these oils aren’t as awful as some other ingredients, I am learning about “expeller pressed” oils vs. hexane methods of extracting oils from plants. I’ve shifted to buying products that list expeller pressed oil and away from conventional oils if I can avoid them altogether.
Update 2021: Eating far less oil has felt so great!
Foods I love or have switched to:
- Organic Chicken (Non-GMO feed)
- 100% Grass-fed Beef (Grass-fed and Finished is amazing!)
- Organic Bacon
- Wild Caught Shrimp (if I do purchase any, pretty rare)
- 100% Grass-fed Dairy (Organic Valley Milk/Yogurt is awesome!)
- Organic fruits and vegetables
Update 2021: I am now switching to a 95% whole food plant based diet, so most of the above I no longer eat outside of fruits/vegs.
The avoidance list is what sits at the top of my mind when I go through any products at the food store. Luckily, when I do want to pick something up for a recipe, we use the Wegmans app which lists product ingredients on the items as I build my shopping list.
When I build my list, I go through ingredients with a fine toothed comb for anything outside my ordinary routine. Then, I can quickly look for the item and review the ingredients one more time before adding it to my cart; this saves me time in the aisle looking at 42 options for sauce and narrows it to one or two to review.
We are super fortunate that we have a Wegmans and a Whole Foods within a short 15-20 minute ride from our home in opposite directions. I have been able to get organic meats easily from Wegmans, a lot of products in their nature’s section, and Whole Foods fills in any specialized gaps for outliers to our menu plans.
Surprisingly, Walmart near us offers quite a few healthier products that have clean ingredients and I occasionally stop there on my food shopping journeys throughout the month. There are some great online shopping options like Thrive Market or others to get just as good options if we couldn’t find them in store.
It feels sometimes every time I turn around my skin is causing me pain, but in reality it’s becoming far frequent and less regular as I’m more stringent on what I’m allowing into my body (and on my body in the way of creams, soaps, etc). I’ve shifted myself from conventional meats to organic chicken, 100% grass-fed beef, and organic bacon.
For the rest of my family, I’d say 85% of their food is organic, or at the very least Non-GMO. They still eat junk I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, but I’m willing for their diet to be primarily healthy in the grand scheme of things.
The shorter the ingredient list, the more likely I am to buy something! I feel like a completely different and energized person than I was a few short years ago. I’m glad that I’ve been on this journey. While it’s been hard at times to explain myself to others (I shouldn’t have to), I am glad for my own psychical and mental health’s sake that I took this journey to a better me.
It’s had profound effects on all aspects of my life! From my body, to my mind, to my relationships with my family.
In addition, in the future I’m going to share more of my experience with the Peloton Digital App the last two and a half months. I’ve been able to shift to 5am weekday workouts to such a change in my mood and schedule!
OMG… here’s a hint: I love Peloton!