8 Tips for Starting a Therapeutic Diet

By: Hillary Givhan, Contributing Writer

Low FODMAP, histamine-free, gluten-free, anti-candida, nightshade-free, dairy-free, sugar-free — the list goes on and on. There are numerous therapeutic diets, and with more and more people facing food sensitivities, digestive troubles, and autoimmune disease, the need for these specialty diets is rising.

For some, staying gluten, dairy, or sugar-free may be a permanent lifestyle choice or need. But for the more rigorous dietary guidelines, they are likely only necessary for a season of healing. Whatever the case, it can be daunting and even downright depressing for anyone to open their cabinet and realize their lifelong staples are no longer allowed. It can also be challenging if you find yourself unable to eat prepared foods or items you are used to using in your meal prep (flavorings such as onion and garlic, sauces, deli meats, canned soups, frozen meals, breads, etc.)

However, with patience, experimentation, and perseverance, these therapeutic diets can be tasty, varied, and dare I say, a little fun. Below are 8 tips for making a big dietary shift a little easier:

1. Glass Half Full:
Write a comprehensive list of things you can eat. Rather than focusing on what you “can’t” have, adopt the glass half-full mindset by focusing on all that is still available to you.

2. Make the Cut:Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Mark down the things you have that fit within your diet. If anything doesn’t fit the criteria and will go bad or tempt you, get it out of your house. Aside from throwing it away, you can give it away, put it in the freezer (or a friend’s freezer) for when you can eat it again, etc. This may be difficult, but it will help you stick to your goal.

3. Gather Meal Ideas: If you’re working with a nutritionist or dietitian, ask for meal ideas. With specialty diets on the rise, there is a likely chance you will find recipes and food blogs specific to your needs online as well.

4. Simplify your Meals: One way to make meal planning and prepping easier is to view meals as containing three categories: starch/grain base, protein, and veggies. This will help you break down your allowed foods list into meal pieces that can easily be combined.

5. Take the Guesswork Out:Create a list of several breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you think you’ll like. Underneath each meal, list all of the ingredients you will need. Each week, you can choose what meals you will make from here. This can act as your go-to shopping list, and it will take the headache out of figuring out what to eat every week.

7. Take Notes: It’s likely you’ll have to do a lot of cooking at home on a therapeutic diet. If you aren’t used to cooking at home, or if your new protocol is unfamiliar, be sure to take notes as you make these recipes so that you know what you might want to change next time.

8. Go Easy on Yourself:Know which foods are the top priority to eliminate and start there if it’s too overwhelming. You can continue to refine your food choices as you go, but the key is to think of making progress, not perfection. Changing eating habits affects many areas of life- physical health, social habits, sense of normalcy, etc. It takes a lot of willpower to effectively practice a new way of eating. Remember that you are doing something hugely beneficial for yourself and your loved ones in the long-term. It will be worth it. If you slip-up here and there, it’s okay; just get back up and try again. The occasional mistake will do less damage if you are daily making consistent, positive decisions for your health.

Therapeutic diets can be stressful, but they also push the bounds of creativity and skill in the kitchen as well as expose our taste buds to new worlds of flavor. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the greater the necessity, the more inventive you’ll become! We hope these tips have been helpful to you! Let us know if you have any tips you can add.


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