First off, I’m really touched how many people reached out to me on the blog, via email, and on facebook to offer support as I tackle this whole food sensitivity thing head-on. So a big THANK YOU to all of you! (And I know you’ve been enjoying the food photos I’ve been plastering all over my facebook page.)
Second, while I may have been a little melancholy about ending my lifelong friendship with almonds last week, this has (so far) been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I’m not going pretend it’s been easy. It has turned my usual approach to food upside-down.
I guess you can say I’m normally a bit of a free spirit around food.
I’m comfortable in the kitchen, so grocery shopping and farmer’s marketing (yeah, yeah, grammar police.. just go with it) are always an adventure. I have my staple items, then everything else I grab is what looks good, what’s in season, and what I’m in the mood for. Yes, I read ingredient labels on new products to make sure they’re not complete junk, but other than that, anything’s fair game. I rarely make the same dish twice and I have a notoriously rebellious attitude towards recipes (sorry, die-hard bakers).
So when I started my LEAP elimination diet last week and was walking out the door to go shopping, reusable bag in hand, I stopped and realized, “Wait, I have to… like… make a list. Ugh…”
Now, the easy thing about the LEAP program, which by the way refers to how you go about this elimination diet and what’s in it, is that the focus is not just about avoiding reactive foods. The emphasis is on what foods you are eating. Based on my MRT blood test, I picked out 25 of the least reactive foods to build my initial diet. You eat nothing but those foods for the first week before moving on.
Only 25 foods?!
You heard me right. Hey, it beats the classic “lamb, rice & pears” elimination diet (which by the way, would have totally backfired for me because I’m reactive to fructose, which is highly concentrated in pears).
Why so strict? Because when your body doesn’t like a certain food or chemical, it sends out an immune response to those food antigens. These immune complexes hang out in your body (for up to 4 days!) causing inflammation that can lead to numerous symptoms, like bloating, gas, diarrhea, rashes, breakouts, sinus congestion, joint pain, foggy thinking, headaches, fatigue, etc. By following a diet of foods you have PROOF your body likes, it lets the immune system rest and allows reactive antigens and immune complexes to leave your body. It’s honestly best described as a detox.
During this “detox”, some people get withdrawal symptoms, like headaches. Think of it like having caffeine withdrawals. I honestly didn’t expect to have any symptoms, but boy was I wrong. More on that in a future post.
Ok back to my grocery store saga…
Finally, with list in hand, I set off to Trader Joe’s to hunt down my first items. I passed by the coffee and sample station (usually, a welcomed treat), and followed my list EXACTLY.
- Chicken. Check.
- Broccoli. Check.
- Mushrooms. Check.
- Lemons. Check.
- Heavy cream. Check.
It felt a little anti-climactic at checkout. I mean, that’s it?!
No last minute chocolate bars or chips or gum? Just what’s in my cart?
It almost seemed un-American. But, I stuck to the plan and left with my unusually light bag of groceries. Back at home with these ingredients laying out on the counter, I thought to myself “Ok Lily, just suck it up and cook.”
One of the tricky things about this elimination diet is that I’m limited with herbs and spices, especially since I’m reactive to a few chemicals that naturally occur in many spices. So it’s been trusty salt and pepper. (Honestly I couldn’t care less about living without bread, but spices? For God’s sake I will not tolerate tasteless food!)
At first, I kind of resigned myself to eating bland food.
But once I started cooking, things changed.
Instead of using spices, I find myself relying on cooking technique to get flavor. That means searing meat on medium-high heat to get brown (you know the delicious brown bits I’m talking about) and then using the same pan to cook my vegetables. Oh, and don’t forget butter. Everything is better with butter (literally).
So I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet, put in a hefty spoon of ghee (clarified butter) and pan fried the chicken breasts with salt and pepper until nicely brown. I took the chicken out and set it aside while I prepped the veggies.
First I sauteed the sliced mushrooms. Mushrooms soak up a ton of ghee, so don’t skimp. And if you think mushrooms are repulsive, it’s because you don’t cook them on high enough heat or in a single layer. If you crowd the pan, they are rubbery and awful. If the heat’s too low, they steam. Don’t do that! Take your time. Use tongs to flip them over one at a time to brown evenly. Then set them aside.
Now with the mushrooms done, I decided I couldn’t let all the brown delicious bits in the pan couldn’t go to waste. They would be my only hope for flavor! In went a big splash of cream, which quickly deglazed the pan. A squeeze of lemon juice and voila – a super flavorful cream sauce done in literally 30 seconds. Once I poured that over the chicken, my mouth started watering.
Finally, I sauteed the baby broccoli on medium high heat in the same pan for about a minute. Then added a splash of water, plopped the lid on and let them steam in the pan for another minute. Perfectly cooked broccoli that’s fork tender, vibrantly green, and most certainly NOT mushy.
All in all, it took about 10 minutes from start to finish.
Not only was this good, it was freaking delicious and I’ll probably be making it again.
Thankfully I was totally wrong about the spice thing. It’s surprising how good food can taste without a bunch of spices. They are kind of like a bonus, but you can easily do without them and make really tasty food.
And so the adventure continues…
If you liked this post and want to continue following my food sensitivity journey, sign up to receive my “30 Days to a Happy Tummy” ebook. It’s free! And check back for the next post in the series.
Maybe you struggle with some health issues of your own that you think are tied to food, or maybe you’re just curious how I can manage to keep this up for another 3+ weeks (heck, I am too!). All I know is I got through the first week of my LEAP diet just fine, and it gets easier as I start adding in new foods. Per usual, I promise not to sugar-coat anything. I’m blunt as the dullest knife in your kitchen (you should really get that sharpened, by the way), so you can count on me to tell it like it is. If you’re on my email list, I’ll see you in your inbox next Tuesday!
And if you just want to facebook stalk all the food porn I post, here’s my page. I’m re-posting a few photos below.
As always, words of encouragement and support are highly encouraged in the comments section! Between your comments, emails, and the facebook messages, I have enough social accountability to keep this up. You guys make me smile, so don’t be a stranger.
Until next week,