Elimination diets are hard. This is why most people don’t bother with them. Deep down they know they don’t feel as well as they should and they likely question food as the culprit, but they get too overwhelmed by the thought of such an extreme diet and the idea just washes away. That’s how I was for a long time.
Elimination diets are challenging, but so very worth it. It is how we finally determined most of my son’s eczema triggers and food allergies, which were causing head-to-toe severe eczema. Eliminating gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and some tree nuts finally helped us turn the table on his eczema.
If the idea of an elimination diet scares you, you’re not alone. I was in the same boat until desperation to heal my son’s horribly damaged skin took over. In addition to my son’s diet, my husband and I have been on two elimination diets trying to determine our own food sensitivities and intolerances. It is intimating, but I hope I can help put your mind at ease as someone that has been through it.
Let’s discuss some of the key concerns about elimination diets.
Is it more expensive grocery wise?
Usually yes, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. You may be able to find a few safe foods in your local grocery story, but the best selection will be at a local health food store such as Whole Foods or Earth Fare. And those stores are definitely not known for being cheap. Healthy food is more expensive – it’s a fact. The old saying, “You pay for what you get,” is 100% true in terms of food.
Tips: Just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean you can’t find some deals to help save money.
- Sign up for your health food store’s and favorite product’s newsletters – they’ll
send you great electronic coupons.
- Many retailers give 10% or more off if you buy in bulk, so don’t be afraid to ask
next time you go.
- Search online for coupons from your favorite product manufacturers, you’ll be
surprised what you find.
- Look into a buying coop in your area, where joining up with other consumers,
who are looking to buy similar products, you can get significant discounts when
placing your orders together. Many of these groups are on Meetup.com or
How much cooking is involved? I don’t want to spend all day, every day in the kitchen.
Completely eliminating the top 8 allergens (dairy, egg, soy, gluten, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish) means most processed foods are out – which is better for your health anyway. But, yes, this means you may have too cook quite a bit more, but not so much that you’re living in your kitchen.
- As mentioned above, you may be able to find some good, safe prepared food, so
stock up on them for recipe shortcuts.
- Don’t be afraid to cook meals in advance and freeze them for using on a lazy day
when the inspiration to cook never quite happens.
- Try the slow cooker – it is your friend and yes, you can cook almost anything in it.
And it saves so much time!
- Have a few last minute meal ideas on hand and don’t be afraid to use them
often. We keep canned tuna, nut-free/dairy-free pesto, and rice pasta on hand
at all times. Throw in a veggie and that is my go-to emergency meal.
- Plan your recipes one week ahead. Each Sunday night I sit down, plan out our
meals and create the shopping list. Mondays I buy everything I need for the
week. So much less stressful than having to plan a meal each day AND prepare it.
- Regarding preparation, you may want to consider spending an afternoon
chopping up veggies for more than one recipe, just store them a couple of days
and take out what you need as you need it.
Is it possible to eat out at the restaurant?
During an elimination diet, I’d say it’s best to steer clear of ALL restaurants. Also, it’s not a good idea to eat food at a party you’ve been invited to. If you cannot easily see a list of ingredients, do not eat it. Period. No matter where you are – home, a friend or family’s house, work, restaurant, etc.
Tips: Yes, it may seem a little weird at first, but you should bring food with you everywhere you go. Anytime my son is invited to a birthday party, we bring snack food, a meal, and a cupcake – all which I made and know is allergy free. It’s not worth the risk otherwise. This is probably the hardest part for most people and there is no way to sugar coat it. Your friends and family love you and will not think anything less of you for bringing your own food. After the diet is over, the food challenge is complete, and you know exactly what your allergies or sensitivities are, then it’s safer to eat out. But you’ll have to be a very conscious, label-reading consumer for the rest of your life. Never trust anyone but yourself and your own eyes.
What’s the deal with alternative food names? Milk is milk right?
Welcome to the world of food deception. If you’re avoiding milk, you’ll have to steer clear of casein, caramel color or flavoring, lactalbumin, and a lot more. Food is no longer so straight forward I’m afraid.
Tips: There is no way around it – you just have become educated on all the ingredients that are related to the foods being eliminated. Kids with Food Allergies has full lists available online of all ingredients to avoid for each of the top 8 food allergies.
About the writer:
Jennifer Roberge blogs about her family’s battles with eczema, allergies, and asthma at It’s an Itchy Little World. After battling and conquering her son’s severe eczema, she founded The Eczema Company, which offers specialty clothing and natural, non-toxic skin care for eczema.