Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I can't eat WHat?!: What to do when you are diagnosed with allergies, celiac disease, etc.

You just got home from the doctor, who told you that you can no longer eat wheat, gluten, sugar, dairy, etc. You're mind is reeling and you aren't sure what to eat for dinner tonight... or ever! What should you do?

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I have been intolerant to a bunch of foods since I was 10 years old: wheat, sugar, chocolate, tomatoes, among other things. Last year I found out I am also gluten intolerant. While I don't have a serious disease like celiac, I do understand what it's like to feel awful and to feel way better when you cut out certain foods. It can also be overwhelming. Here are just a few ideas for getting started:

*It's fine to be sad. 
I remember making a list in my head on the way home from the allergy specialist as a kid ('I can't have spaghetti! I can't have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!'). It is a loss, so allow yourself to be sad for awhile.

*Be grateful. 
You now know what is wrong and will have the tools to be healthy. Be thankful for all the food you can still eat! Make a list of the things you can have.


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*Keep it simple. 
You just found you you're allergic to 10 things, or to gluten, and oh! gluten is in everything and you're feeling overwhelmed. And unsure of what to eat for dinner tonight. Especially at first, keep it simple.
Try to eat unprocessed foods. This will help you avoid having to read 20 ingredients labels before you have lunch. Can you still have vegetables? Make a big salad or a stir fry with chicken. Eat rice and beans. Have plain yoghurt with berries for breakfast. Don't worry that this is all you will eat forever. This is just to tide you over until you have time to do more research.


salad


*Do your research. 
I suggest not starting online, although in reality, you probably will (you're online now. Hmm.).
  • Friends. Think back: do you know anyone who has similar food issues? It doesn't really matter how well you know them- ask for their advice! They will remember what it was like when they first found out and be glad to help. 
  • Talk to your doctor/nutritionist. Obvious? Hopefully. 
  • Read some books. There are so many good books out there now: go to the diet/health section in your local bookstore and get reading!

*Eliminate the obvious first.
Bread, pasta, donuts, your morning glass of milk. You will have to be more detailed later, but my advice is don't freak out about it all at once!


*Collect new recipes. 
elm street life

  • Pinterest has lots of options! Just search for "gluten-free/sugar-free/dairy-free/vegan" etc. Be sure to double check that the recipe is really allergy-friendly. 
  • Cookbooks. There are some seriously great cookbooks out there. With a little ingenuity you will soon be back to eating things that taste normal. 
  • Friends. Again, ask your friends with food-issues for their favorite recipes. 

*Tell your friends. 

babycakes nyc: gluten-, sugar-free & vegan

This can be hard and a bit awkward, even for me now. But if someone invites you over to dinner or out to lunch, you have to tell them about your new diagnosis. For a long time, I felt awkward telling people or turning down an offered cookie and always regretted it when I was sick later.
Just tell them right off the bat and then offer alternatives (I can eat rice and chicken! How about we go to Chipotle? or I'll cook!). Trust me, it will be less awkward to say "I'm allergic to sugar" when they invite you then it is to say it when your host is offering you a piece of cake that she slaved over all morning.

These are just a few things I've learned over the years. Leave any questions you have in the comments!


2 comments:

Adrianne said... Reply To This Comment

Excellent post, Jenny! You are definitely a pro in this area. Thanks for sharing what you have learned. Definitely some good food for thought! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

christy said... Reply To This Comment

These tips are golden. :)

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