Surviving *-free

I love pasta. And cheese. And tofu. I have on occasion said that if I had to choose between my husband and cheese, cheese would win. Which is why giving up dairy, soy, and gluten was a difficult decision, one made out of desperation.

A little background: I’ve had a bad stretch of migraines and headaches that last for weeks. New meds, changing dosages on old meds, so much naproxen. An MRI showed nothing abnormal. When I hit week three of a non-stop headache and ended up in the ER, something had to change.

After the 1,000th suggestion that I might have food triggers, I started looking into elimination diets. The idea is that you eliminate categories of food for a period of time (anywhere from three to six weeks) and then re-introduce them one category at a time and monitor your symptoms. When you find something that triggers your symptoms, you remove it from your diet and move on to the next. (I recently discovered that cheddar and I are no longer friends. It was a sad, sad day.) There is a lot of information out there, ranging from level-headed to full-on woowoo. Luckily for me, I have friends that have been amazing resources. So after a major trip to the grocery store and one last DQ binge, I dove head first into it.

I’m just over a month into it now, and it not nearly as terrible as I had anticipated. Having to read every. single. label. is a complete pain in the ass. Did you know that orange Crush soda has soy in it? Or that balsamic glaze has dairy? I’m glad that I live close to two large supermarkets that have pretty extensive natural foods sections, so I have a lot of options. One store (Wegman’s) has an app that you can filter recipes by dietary restrictions and add the ingredients to your shopping list.

I think this has been easier than I anticipated because I’ve been focusing on making my food interesting so that I don’t think so much about what I’m missing out on. Or maybe I was mentally prepared for it to suck, so anything less than that feels easy. Maybe it was the desperation that has given me more willpower. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s working.

Here are some things that have kept me sane the last few weeks.

  • Lunch bowls. I start with a layer of quinoa and top it with black beans, chicken, avocado/guacamole, and salsa. I think I have gone through at least one jar of salsa a week. I could write a love letter to salsa.
  • Smoothies. An easy, quick breakfast. I cut up bananas and freeze them in individual portions so that in the morning, I throw some in the blender with strawberries, almond milk, and peanut butter and hit the road.
  • Tortilla chips.
  • Rice Chex.
  • Bacon. Because bacon makes everything better. Like Brussels sprouts, they’re delicious on their own, but if you sauté them with bacon and some balsamic drizzle, amazing.
  • Liz Lovely’s Snickerdudes. Gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free cookies. They’re $4 for two cookies, and worth every cent. They even got the Mr. qSS seal of approval, and he’s quite the cookie connoisseur.
  • Sorbet. I found a recipe on Pinterest and I am amazed how easy it is to make. Puree some fruit, add some simple syrup, freeze, enjoy.
  • Salsa. I know I mentioned it earlier, but it deserves its own bullet. I make microwave rice with salsa at least twice a week. It’s super cheap and requires no prep.
  • Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Spread. It’s perfect by the spoonful, or added into something, like a bowl of Chex.

Do any of you deal with food sensitivities/allergies? What are your favorite recipes? What resources have been the most helpful for you?

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Part-time artist, full-time crankypants who dabbles in knitting, running, and burpees.

One thought on “Surviving *-free”

  1. The one good thing about this — I speak from experience — is that you start finding out how EASY some of the stuff you used to buy in jars is to make. Like, shake your fist at the sky at the supermarket gods for fooling you with their marketing tricks, easy to make. Try Her recipes are vegetarian, but are often tweaked to be vegan as well, and her commenters are great about substitute advice for sensitivity diets. (And if you want meat, you can add chicken or beef to everything pretty easily.) Her double broccoli quinoa gives me life in the summer.

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