Category Archives: Nutrition

The Elimination Diet

Elimination DietFriends, I’m being tortured. After seven years with eczema and trying every medical and holistic treatment on the planet, we’ve moved into the realm of unholy torture. They put me on an elimination diet.

What is this torment, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I am allowed to eat virtually nothing for three weeks, then I reintroduce foods one at a time to see if they trigger the eczema symptoms. All I can eat is turkey, organic chicken, fish, brown rice, quinoa, and fruits and veggies (except for grapes, bananas, citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Those are taboo as well). I’m half way through the 3 week phase, and next week I’m reintroducing beans and peas (other than soy). Some people don’t even eliminate those, and I have no reason to think they would be part of the problem, so they get in early.

I have two real fears about this process. First, of course, I fear that I will learn that one of my favorite things in life, like gluten or cheese, has to be permanently eliminated. I am seriously considering whether some things are worse than eczema… Second, I fear becoming one of those whiny crusaders who ruins every event by talking incessantly about their dietary issues (yet, ironically, here I am blogging about it. I promise it won’t become a regular occurrence). I resisted the elimination diet as long as I could because of these two things, yet here I am.

Once during the first week, when I was still reeling from the limited scope of my eating options, I decided to roast a turkey. I got the bird all thawed and ready to go, put it in the oven on time bake, and headed off to work. When I got home that night, I was instantly alarmed by the lack of turkey smell in my house. I ran up to the kitchen and found that the oven’s time bake and computer bits had frizzed out (that’s the technical term, I’m pretty sure). The turkey was raw, and it was time to eat. To add insult to injury, my microwave had bit the big one just the day before. I could eat nothing at restaurants, I could make nothing in the microwave, and my son had to get to church. I threw something together for my husband and son, and settled on a can of tuna, some sour kraut, and asparagus for me. That has to be the weirdest menu I have ever put together, but I just had to make it work. I posted the story in a group on Facebook, and one of my friends commented something like, “May I gently remind you that you advocate for the hungry?”

She’s right. An elimination diet is frustrating, and having things go wrong when you had a plan is also frustrating, but it’s nothing like what people face when they are truly hungry. I have options, though they’re fewer than usual and sometimes strange. The hungry have no options. If tonight is a disaster, I will eat again in the morning. The hungry probably won’t. While my microwave was down (the new one came today), I had my gas stove to cook on. In many parts of the world, making a hot meal requires foraging for sticks to burn. I still have a lot to be thankful for.

That dinner disaster, and my friend’s sweetly offered wisdom opened my eyes. I know that whatever I learn from this diet, it will not ruin my life. There are thousands of foods available to me. And this mindset, I believe, will help me to not become one of those diet-obsessed oversharers.

Edited July 16, 2016 to add: I survived! My eczema is doing better, and I discovered that my main trigger is eggs (not a surprise since my son was allergic to them too). Thank you to all my friends who supported me during the process 🙂

Finding Balance: Nutrition vs. Non-perishables

balance

Take a look through a grocery aisle of canned goods or a glance at your own home pantry, and you’ll notice that non-perishables aren’t the healthiest foods. In order for them to keep long-term, they’re packed full of sodium and other preservatives, and they tend to run a little light on nutrients. But there are things that we can do to maximize the nutrient value of our food shelf donations.

 

 

  1. Choose whole-grains: White rice and pasta fill your belly and provide energy-giving simple carbohydrates, but not much else. Complex carbohydrates from whole grains have a lot more to offer, like higher amounts of fiber, selenium, potassium, and magnesium.
  2. Watch out for sugar: If you’re a label-reader, you know that they put sugar in EVERYTHING! Some sugar is natural, of course, but a lot of it is added and unnecessary, and most Americans eat way too much of it. They put sugar in ketchup, salsa, salad dressings, cereal, juice, and canned fruit. It can really add up! Read labels, for yourself and your food shelf donations.

    heinz-ingredients-toxic-mercury
    Ingredient list from a name-brand ketchup bottle
    (also note the sodium. 160 mg just for a condiment!?!)

  3. Choose low-sodium options: Like sugar, sodium is in everything, and most of us are getting way more than is healthy for us. Sodium is added to canned goods as an inexpensive preservative. It’s an important nutrient the body needs to regulate hydration, but too much can cause, or at least exacerbate health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. Avoid donating high-sodium, low-nutrient foods like ramen noodles, and instead pick reduced-sodium foods with nutritional value, like vegetables.

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    Nutrition label from ramen noodles

    Green-Beans
    Image borrowed from fitness blog http://www.howdoigetripped.com – clicking the image will take you to the original source.

  4. Support food shelves that offer fresh foods: Obviously, if you live in a small town there probably won’t be a variety of food shelf options, and operations of all sized offer valuable services that deserve our support. But in most metropolitan areas there are food shelves that offer more than just canned goods. Bigger operations offer fresh veggies and meats, breads, baby care items, and more. If possible, support food shelf efforts to provide their clients with nutritious foods.

 

Eating a healthy diet when you depend on the food shelf’s non-perishable offerings is a challenge, but mindful donors can take steps to minimize the supply of salt- and sugar-laden canned goods and instead offer more nutritious fare. Share your additional ideas and experiences in the comments!