Just a little something in honor of my 7-Day Dietary Challenge: Candida + mold-free + low sulphur. Sish! Here we go again! And still grateful to have something else to try. Squash anyone? Noooooooooooooo!
I have a real treat for you today (pun intended!). In the recovery of serious illness we need to get serious about our nutrition too. To assist us I introduce to you a dear friend who has helped me and many folks learn how to use nutrition as medicine. I am grateful for the expertise of Cindy Jakacki-Null: tenacious gluten-free and allergy-free food researcher, healthcare professional, and Foodie extraordinaire. Cindy talks enthusiastically about how she loves to cook, create in the kitchen, research and convert recipes, and share both her talents and tasty treats with friends and family. Her expertise has made a difference in the lives of countless individuals, most recently a loved one facing death until her sister’s diet changed.
Tell me a little about yourself and your special interests related to food.
I have always liked to cook and especially to bake. This is probably because growing up in our family’s household, sweets were off limits except for special occasions. My father battled Juvenile Diabetes. My Dad and Mom wanted to prevent any of us from getting it and were very forward-thinking for their time in their pro-health efforts. While baking in general was discouraged, I jumped at the chance to cook meals and bake for holidays and special occasions. My Mom cooked fairly plain foods for the picky eaters of the family and it challenged us to find suitable ingredients for everyone (even sneaking in some pureed veggies long before it was in vogue to do so!). I am grateful to have experienced fine dining and haute cuisine growing up which peaked my curiosity in all things food. I then taught myself how to cook.
2. What is a “Foodie” (or a better name if you have one)?
I looked up this definition because I always wondered what the specific “requirements” were; however, like anything else, they varied. Per Webster’s dictionary a Foodie is, “someone who has an ardent and refined interest in food.” Yet, it goes beyond that. The term, “live to eat” instead of “eat to live” comes to mind. To be a true Foodie is more than satiating the physical appetite in addition to the mental one, and a thirst for knowledge. A Foodie may not have all the culinary answers but seeks to find them out.
3. More seriously now, where are the best places for information for a person who needs to make major changes in his or her nutrition for medical reasons?
We have so many resources available now that we have the internet! However, it’s important to be cautious because anyone can have a blog or website and present themselves as if they are experts. I also think that the answer to this question may differ a bit dependent upon one’s health issues. Keeping all of this in mind I recommend the following references:
1) www.mercola.comThis goes beyond just nutrition. Abundant amount of articles, videos, links, resources
3) I recommend Paleo Diet blogs even if you are not on a paleo diet because they are a good general source of information. More specifically, I’d like to offer websites that combine alternative, integrative medicine with nutrition experts. The ones I have chosen also have free online radio blogs.
Word of mouth can help a person too, especially if the “mouths” so to speak are attached to people who are knowledgeable, have done extensive research, and apply what they’ve learned to their own lives.
4. In your experience, where is the worst place for information for a person who needs to make major changes in his or her nutrition for medical reasons?
I’d have to say to be cautious of more traditional medical professionals, both locally and online, who tend to be unwilling to think “outside of the box.”
Also be wary of programs/organizations/universities (in person and online) that are supported primarily by the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, businesses owning food brands…or anyone who may profit from it. This is not to say that there isn’t some beneficial information on their websites; however, I personally examine the research closely and look for continuity of information before I will endorse and use them.
5a. What are some of the best ways you have found for a person to start to learn new cooking or baking skills?
To learn a new skill a person must practice, practice, practice while learning the “how to’s.” Be open to learning new things even if you’ve done things a certain way all your life; it’s like learning to ride a bike all over again! Learn about flavor combinations. Do research. Read blogs. Read books. Listen to free online radio shows. Watch food TV shows and DVD’s. Your Gentle Readers can start with the websites that I’ve mentioned here.
5b. How about a few shopping tips for a person starting to purchase new and unfamiliar foods?
I recognize that moving in a healthier direction can be overwhelming in the beginning. Start where you are and consider a few tips to get you started:
Before you even go to the store do some initial research on anything you are unsure about. For example, examine purchasing food in cans vs. plastic vs. aluminum. It makes a difference and can have a profound impact on a person’s health.
Think twice when food is on sale. It can be tempting to buy on impulse an unfamiliar food or brand name. Look more closely at what you are buying! Here are two examples: 1) there are brands of olive oils and vinegars that are “pure,” better tasting, and not as processed; and 2) purchase olive oils only in glass, dark-colored bottles to keep them from becoming rancid and from dangerous chemicals in the plastic container leaching into the oil.
If you can’t find better food choices at your local store, consider shopping somewhere else or shopping online! Food that is pure, tastes better, doesn’t make you sick, and is more nutritious will save you money in the long run.
Improving your nutrition is also a balance. For example, I prioritize avoiding the “Dirty Dozen” and favoring the “Clean 15” (organic) food lists. (Go to: www.thedailygreen.com for these lists.) I would love to buy all organic foods but I can’t afford it either!
Talk to others who cook and eat clean foods.
Stock up on healthier foods, especially when you can find them on sale.
Read labels carefully. I know this is an old standard, but some ingredients have different names which can be deceiving. For example, did you know that another name for soy is autolyzed yeast extract?” If I see an ingredient that is unfamiliar to me and I can’t pronounce it, I don’t buy it! The “Foodie” in me goes home and does a quick check online to determine if it’s ok for me and my family.
Carry a list of verboten items with “aka” names to help you identify less healthy ingredients such as: artificial preservatives, MSG, casein, etc.
6a. Let’s get specific now for the kinds of nutritional changes many of the folks reading this blog might be making, starting with gluten-free foods. In the beginning gluten-free foods all seem to taste so bland and grainy. What makes them taste better and where would I find the kinds of foods that tend to taste good?
Let’s start with the second part of your question: I rarely, if ever, buy any pre-packaged, ready – to-eat foods, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you where to buy them. I make them myself. Regarding why foods taste better, most professional, traditional chefs would agree: the secret is in the quality of ingredients. This includes: buying “clean” “whole” foods that come as close as possible to its natural state. In other words, I recommend minimally processed foods with NO artificial preservatives, additives, artificial colorings and flavorings. This healthier way of cooking and is the way that I am eating. Foods taste better and I feel better overall as a result.
Also: there definitely are big differences in cooking and especially, baking allergy-free. The more foods you eliminate in an allergy-free recipe, the harder it is to get a result that is palatable, let alone recognizable to the real thing! In some ways, it is like riding that bicycle all over again. Be creative but get started on doing some research and practice. This might mean starting with your favorite blogger’s information and reading comments. I learn a lot from the comments!
6b. Do you have a store, favorite blog, or website that you would recommend for gluten-free foods?
Please note that I avoid gluten in addition to dairy, soy, corn, artificial preservatives, sulfites, nitrates, nitrites, MSG, and dyes. Certain foods I only buy organic and I prefer free-range meat when possible. Keeping all of this in mind, I offer the following:
Find most meat, bone marrow, bacon, and animal fats online at US Wellness Meats: http://www.grasslandbeef.com/StoreFront.bok. Shipping is only 7.50 per order, regardless of size, and they often, have specials. A person can sign up for free to receive e-mail notifications and special offers.
Buy organic coconut oil from Nutiva (company): http://nutiva.com/ They have frequent sales, including “Nutiva Tuesdays,” and occasional free shipping. Sign up for free to receive e-mail notifications, etc.
Tropical Traditionshttp://www.tropicaltraditions.com/sells various products, of which I primarily buy organic coconut oil, shredded coconut (various sizes), organic palm oil, organic red virgin palm oil. They also sell organic, free range meat. TT has regular sales, but since shipping can be costly, I usually only buy something when shipping is free. Sign up for free and they will also send e-mail notices.
Nutstop: www.nutstop.com sells various types of nuts and seeds, including raw, roasted, blanched, etc. They have good prices on large quantities of macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Always compare online stores to local resources.
How can I save time and money when shopping or making gluten-free foods?
It’s easier to save time and money if you are solely looking at foods without gluten verses foods without multiple allergens like I do!
Initially researching sources for foods can be time consuming, but once you’ve found stores (online and/or local) that suit your needs, stick to it.
Buy in bulk when ingredients are on sale to save money as well as to make sure that you have an ample supply on hand.
Make double, triple, even quadruple batches of both savory and sweet foods. Freeze in convenient sizes so you can easily pull what you need out of the freezer to thaw and for a fast meal.
Word of mouth.
Apply “Mise en place” or the French art of having everything in its place. Prep ingredients ahead of time, not just for the meal on hand, but for meals for the upcoming week. For example, I use a lot of onions in my meals, so I peel and cut several of them and store them in the refrigerator. Onions also freeze well for later use in meals.
If you don’t feel comfortable (or are uninterested in) converting “regular” recipes, there are numerous blogs with free recipes that will meet your requirements. Email me for more information on converting recipes at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep notes! Write down or edit personal files with any changes you’ve made in a recipe, including what worked and didn’t work for the next time you make the dish.
In general, don’t let fear prevent you from making good tasting and nutritious meals. You never know if your next masterpiece is just waiting to happen because you were willing to take a risk!
Now for another hot topic, what suggestions would you have for a person trying to reduce then eliminate sweets or sugar in his or her diet when following a special health protocol?
This is challenging. An answer depends upon one’s definition of “sugar.” Are we talking refined sugar? Honey? Maple Syrup? Starches? Starchy vegetables? Grains? Fruits? I haven’t done this myself so I would not be the person to ask. I’ve reduced sugars but not to a huge extent regarding fruits, grains, starchy veggies.
Will sugar free foods generally cost more or less than what I am eating now? How about gluten-free foods?
Again the answer depends upon the type of foods for which you are looking. Anything that is considered “different” or “specialized” will generally cost more, even if it doesn’t cost the company much to make it! Also many companies, even those selling so-called “healthy” foods, cut corners in their ingredients by adding fillers, artificial preservatives, MSG, smaller amounts of the “key” ingredient, etc. For various reasons, foods that have fairly pure ingredients tend to cost more. One example is “power bars” that are made only with dried fruits and nuts.
I make most of my foods from scratch because in the long run, it is cheaper than buying prepared items, plus they are more flavorful and healthier. For example: many flour mixes at the store contain highly processed gluten-free flours such as rice and starches. There are some mixes available with” ancient grains” but they generally cost more.
10. Wow, you’ve really helped me get energized on using food as part of my medicine for healing! We might need to chat again to include other special dietary needs such as dairy-free, non-GMO, organic vs. non-organic, and more! If there was one thing you would like to say to encourage our Gentle Readers who might be stressed-out with a new way of eating, what would you like to tell them?
Be patient and kind with yourselves. Seek out support, whether it be from research, friends, family, others who are in similar situations, etc. Don’t give up!
Well we hope that this special blog post will be helpful in the journey to health for you and your family. For more information, please feel free to contact Cindy at: email@example.com Seeya next time! Just Julie
As you embark upon your new diet or nutrition plan, you might feel at times like the television shows that create a new home or body through an extreme makeover! Well, if this is the new diet that will work for you, it’s possible that many things in your life will undergo an extreme change too.
Choose to trust the process of transformation and know that you are not alone! I am not writing this as a nutrition expert, just someone who has experienced the rigors of what feels like an “extreme dietary makeover.” I am writing these strategies to encourage you that you can do it! The challenges and victories associated with an unfamiliar food plan will stretch you and grow you in ways that will likely benefit others in the future. In the end, you will be: glad you tried something new, have new skills you never knew existed, and understand the powerful healing chemistry of food.
Each of the tips below will help some folks and not others. Take what you like and leave the rest. These Strategies refer to “you” and this is intended to include a loved one if you are using these guidelines as a caregiver of another person. Thank you for helping him or her! Further, these ideas are in no particular order and in no way are to replace the advice of your healthcare practitioner. These guidelines should not be considered medical advice! I share them as a fellow sojourner on the path to better health and to encourage you on your own, unique journey. YOU CAN DO IT!
Know that your schedule must change in the beginning: this will likely be time consuming for awhile. This new food plan could save your life or the life of your loved one! If he or she was in the hospital, your schedule would change drastically. So please consider asking for help if needed to keep essential daily activities going and to cut out the rest for at least 2 weeks. It may be longer. These new skills will take time to develop and the adjustment to a totally new nutritional plan could take weeks or months. Things must change to ward off exhaustion, frustration, and illness of the primary caregiver. You are giving yourself or your loved one a great gift. You might be surprised that the adjustment won’t be as long as you think it will and some “normal” activities can return to the schedule sooner than you think.
When you make your decision on which diet to follow, gather together as many of the supplies and ingredients you need as soon as you can and before starting. This is especially helpful if your plan requires say, less than 30 foods/fats/seasonings in the beginning, so you don’t get too hungry and quit. Even if you must order ingredients online (www.amazon.com, www.walmart.com, www.vitacost.com), get them on the way to your house. It may take weeks or months to find local resources and the cheapest places for each item on your list. You will find them! It’s all part of the natural learning curve.
In the beginning, consider simply posting the new diet plan on the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets to get you and others in the home familiar with everything more quickly. The person on the new plan will benefit from having specific information written down and easily accessible.
Consider posting a snack list on the frig or a kitchen cabinet for at least the first week or more of the new diet. Try filling a special basket or brightly colored container with as many food choices as you can as a quick treat. This also cues others in the household not to eat up the only foods the recovering person can eat AND adds independence besides convenience. Surprise the person with a new food choice when able, small toy or a note of encouragement/inspirational verse/quote to find in his or her special place. This is even important if the person is an adult or if it’s for you and you live alone! Everyone likes a special treat now and then, eh?
The internet can be your friend for: 1) emotional support, 2) resources of information, and 3) places to purchase special ingredients. Not good on the computer? Virtually every public library has an adult reference librarian who can help you if you are not a “Googler.” Most special diet and health protocols have an information and support network on their website or blogging community. Use them. Broaden your network online as soon as you are able. This will help when you are feeling overwhelmed and it is the middle of the night or a time of day when the people you usually go to simply aren’t available.
Follow your plan until your Healthcare Provider or sound advice leads you otherwise. There will be contradictory information “out there” on most aspects of your diet and health plan. Don’t get discouraged. Unless you or your loved one is in a crisis, you must allow time for the new nutrition plan to work. How long has the person had the health issue? Consider doubling this amount of time and know that when that date arrives, you will have made some gains, figured out some things to do/not to do, what sources of information are reliable for you, and had some successes. Virtually everyone benefits from improving his or her nutrition!
Get supportive family and friends involved to help and to keep you on track. Inform them of your plan and research. Answer their questions and ask for help with specific tasks and for his or her support to follow the food plan as you have it posted. Listen to their suggestions if they are offered and offer to take them to your healthcare provider (HP). By getting a third party involved, the HP, you can help ward off hurt feelings from family and friends when you simply cannot follow their attempts at “helpful advice” right now. They obviously care and are just trying to help but might not know as much as you or your HP does. You probably have done more research than the casual commenter. Thank them and keep moving forward as appropriate.
Drink the best water you can afford whether filtered or bottled. Filtering your own water is generally cheaper in the long run.
Look for and celebrate the success with non-food rewards! The meaning of food as a source of comfort, nurturing, requirement for special holidays must change for at least a season of time. Remember this diet could change a life forever! Wow. This new food plan may not last forever either! We just don’t know at this point and please, “don’t even go there” for now, k? Sooooo, when there are victories, find a way to rejoice. Even bottled Perrier tastes like gourmet food when all you can drink is water. Bon appetite’ in your finest glassware!
Seek special recipes to help you from books, health food stores, local community colleges, online newsletters/blogs, and support groups, etc. Ask for help by contacting the author of the respective source of info. when needed, especially when you must make substitutions or deletions from printed recipes. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. A year from now you will find great joy in sharing what you have learned to help others too.
With a few basic preparation techniques, you can make most anything taste good or at least better. This next section offers a few specific (crazy?) ideas where applicable:
If you can cook with oil or fats, rub the acceptable amount all over the meat/fist on your food plan. Add approved seasonings and a little extra salt (again, only if allowed). Pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salts are very flavorful even alone. From here you can either bake it or slow cook it in a covered pan on the stove, searing meat first before cooking it further. Pepper tastes better if ground and white pepper is milder than black pepper. Experiment from here. Even powdered onion/garlic/salt rubbed on meat/fish is a great place to start. Read all the ingredients in store-bought seasoning mixes and avoid MSG and “natural flavorings.” (Using oil and healthy fats like real butter enhance flavor, help the meat/fish stay moist and slows digestion to keep you fuller longer!)
Ground meats and cooked fish can easily be formed into serving size meatballs and baked for handy meals and snacks. These also generally freeze well..
You can add acceptable veggies to the pan of the meat/fist prepared above, coated with the same seasonings. Just cut up the veggies smaller (1/2” cubes, for example) to make sure they cook at the same rate as the meat. Root veggies (carrots/parsnips also celery) and greens will take longer. Add meat or veggie bouillon or non-dairy milks as needed to keep things moist and add flavor. (Ever cook with coconut milk? Yum!)
To make an unfamiliar/low sugar fruit taste better for a picky eater, cut it up and mix it with acceptable sweeteners or other fruits on the plan, let it sit awhile, and enjoy. Work towards lowering the sweeteners when needed.
Puree your low sugar fruits and pour it over most anything as a sauce or topping.
Make a smoothie, mixing everything together that sounds good on the daily food list. Add ice to make it cold and more palatable. Use liquids on the plan as a base, for example coconut and almond milk. Even unsweetened “milks” taste good mixed with fruits. This rocks: hide supplements or a small amount of fresh green veggies in the smoothie where possible! Put drinks in an insulated sports bottle for a convenience food away from home.
Omit all fruit (and simple carbs) if you are treating a yeast infection of any kind. Cheating feeds the yeast! One source advised to do a challenge test after at least 3 weeks away from sweets, by adding back one serving and re-evaluating how you feel. We can do anything for 3 weeks if it will reduce our misery, eh?
You can steam just about anything just don’t mix meat and veggies together for food safety.
To make foods tast better:
Use as much salt allowed on your food plan. Ground pepper too.
If sweeteners are allowed, add a pinch to each food item. For example, a tiny bit of local honey brings out lemon and other flavors more. I understand that stevia is the only sweetener without a blood sugar impact if yeast is of concern.
Where possible, organic cocoa powder, cooking extracts, flavored stevia, or organic decaf coffee crystals are great flavor agents. Experiment!
Vary the oils used to add a new dimension of flavor. For example, substitute flax oil in dressings. Heck, use Mrs. Braggs Liquid Aminos instead of vinegar with your oil for a savory dressing.
Roasting veggies at high temperatures brings out the natural sugars and makes them taste better on a pan coated with oil. Who knew that parsnips could taste sweet?
Make more dishes or serving portions than you will need in any given day when possible.Freeze portion-sized quantities and date/label the baggie or container. These portions become your new “convenience meals” and can help decrease stress.
Freeze soft foods, slightly cooled, in Ziploc-type sandwich bags. Place each individual bag in a 1-gallon freezer bag or food storage container and place it in the freezer in a designated section for easy access.
Separate grain-based foods, veggies, fruits, and meats from each other by placing only food of each type in each 1-gallon bag or larger container. Label the larger bag or container and grab what you need on any given day! Mixing it up wards off boredom on a limited diet.
Minimize the dangers of bacteria and mold growth in leftovers by freezing portions as noted right away or by making your own frozen dinners in microwave-safe or oven-safe containers. Remember to label the container please!
You will not likely regret purchasing the best food processor or blender that you can afford.Almost any food ingredient can be made tolerable when blended with something that tastes good. For example, add acceptable fruit juice concentrate (reading package labels to make sure you can have all of the ingredients), sweeteners, cocoa, instant organic coffee, whey/egg white/hemp/pea protein powder, salt, etc. Try this: chop carrots, nuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds together and add to ground meat dishes for increased nutrition and flavor.
To help with feeling hungry:
Keep protein powders, oils, fats, fibrous veggies (for example kale chips, celery), fiber supplements, seeds, nuts, etc. on hand to stave off hunger. Consider adding these to your meals where possible to help the meals become more sustaining. Ever mix organic cocoa with a spoonful of coconut oil and a drop of stevia? Who knew it could satisfy a hunger craving? I’ll take mine with organic decaf coffee and no stevia please! J
Make a protein smoothie, pudding or no-bake cookie with items from your food plan. Crazy adaptation: make a paste of non-dairy milk/yogurt, protein powder, nut/bean flours, pinch of salt, any acceptable flavorings/sweeteners, nuts, seeds, fiber, and any solid fats (like nut butters or coconut oil). Taste it and adjust as needed for a thick consistency. Roll it into a log, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate it. Give it your own funky name and slice off a chunk when hungry.
Mix powdered or liquid supplements into soft foods to make a superfood sauce/dressing/topping without added sugar. For example, many powdered probiotics and supplements are slightly sweet. Mix the powder with coconut/greek/almond/plain yogurt and dollop it on a difficult-to-eat food (like cooked greens!). A sauce or topping can make most anything look (taste?) like a gourmet food!
Always carry emergency food and water with you when you or your loved ones leave the house.For example, cooked organic chicken apple sausages probably won’t hurt you if stashed in a purse or book bag for a few hours. Helps to prevent dietary slips and crabbiness! (Don’t hold us responsible for this one. Just ask a backpacker about the (organic turkey) hot dogs they pack and survive to tell about it!)
Buy in bulk where possible after you know what foods you use the most and like. Food spoilage won’t save you any money in the long run! Packages placed in a large, sealed plastic storage bin generally works well in a cooler garage or basement for dry or non-refrigerated and sealed ingredients when there is simply not enough room in the kitchen or pantry. Watch expiration dates please and don’t mix old and new ingredients.
Prepare ahead for all special events and social functions. Give a trusted hostess a list of acceptable ingredients ahead of time when applicable. Never assume that your gracious host or the ladies at church/school will really know all the ingredients the recovering person can tolerate. For example, all gluten-free cookies are not alike! This is your area of expertise right now. Thank your hostess for trying to help.
Travel Tips. Make ahead and freeze serving size portions of foods that are difficult to find on the road. A well-packed cooler with freezer packs will generally keep items frozen for most of a day until you get to your destination; items will keep for about 2 days if you don’t mind the items partially thawed when you arrive. Exception: protect your cooler from a hot car and out of the sun! I usually go to the grocery store before I reach my hotel or the home of my gracious host to purchase perishable items that will be needed the next day. This minimizes any potential stress trying to get out and grocery shop when I’d rather be visiting, even if that visiting will be over some special food prep. Make it fun!
For the car/plane/train: pack a lunch and dinner in a suitable lunch box to reduce the temptation of going off your food plan when everyone else is grabbing a burger or sub. (Check airline policies before you get to the airport.) Remember your treats and keep snack foods, drinking water accessible. Tip: request a small refrigerator for your hotel room if it is not already provided. And as a courtesy when staying with family or friends, let them know about your life-saving nutrition plan before you get there to avoid hurt feelings when you are unable to enjoy meals in the same way you might have in the past. Your gracious host needs to know if you will require space in the refrigerator or freezer too.
Keep a dedicated notebook or portable electronic device/app to record everything: grocery lists, snack lists, major symptom changes, new healthcare practitioner recommendations, etc. It’s just too easy to forget stuff, even the good progress that’s coming along. You probably want to minimize mistakes and flare-ups; good record-keeping helps track things. This likely requires keeping a daily log, even if it’s scribbles in a journal, planner, purse-sized notebook or smart phone. “There’s an app for that!” Catch up on note keeping when sitting in waiting rooms, riding in a car, etc. and get the recovering person involved too. Seeing a symptom improve from a “7” to a “3” on a 1 to 10 scale can provide the boost needed to hang in there when the going gets tough.
Please remember: you are not alone in this journey. Celebrate that you are doing something to help your health where many would simply give up! Food is fuel. Garbage in, garbage out, etc.This processwon’t be perfect and that is o.k.! Learn from the mistakes and move on. Keep moving forward where possible.
That’s it for now. Got some of your own victory strategies? When things settle down for ya, I would love to read them and pass them along to others! Contact Julie Horney at: firstname.lastname@example.org I am grateful for Cindy Jakacki-Null and Tonya Floyd for their coaching and expertise included in these Strategies. I invite you to follow Julie’s story by clicking the “Follow Me” button at: http://www.justjuliewrites.wordpress.com
P.S. Riddle: how do you eat an elephant? (I know, yuck!) Answer: one bite at a time. Yeah, a sense of humor will get you through as well. We Extreme Diet Survivors don’t recommend elephant, however!