I have food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, and eggs (oh and beans!)
In 2011, after years of constipation (and subsequent laxative addiction) turned into appendicitis-like pain in my lower right abdomen, I got sick of doctors telling me it was stress and I took a trip up to the IBS Treatment Center in Seattle, Washington. Who knew food-allergy testing would so much easier (and cheaper) six years later! For those in Salt Lake City, East West Health does it.
I had a microbial ecology profile done (a stool sample) which tested for bacteria, yeast, fungi, and parasites as well as a full blood workup which tested for IgA, IgG, and IgE immune reactions to more than 100 foods. When my results came back, it turned out I had food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, eggs, and beans (kidney and lima, not green and soy). Here’s a peek at my full work-up if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
At first, my symptoms got way worse, withdrawal symptoms, my doctor said. But after six months of eating what can only be described as a paleo diet (minus the eggs and plus non-glutinous grains) my symptoms were completely gone. No more pain, no more constipation, my urinary tract infections went away, and my annual strep-throat never occurred. It was truly a miracle!
And I don’t really eat meat (because…cancer)
Fast forward five years or so and I had watched the movie Forks Over Knives, a documentary about the effects of animal products—such as meat, dairy, and eggs—on health. And let me tell you, the results are not in the favor of eating meat. The film was recommended to me by a friend who is high risk for breast cancer, and she told me that she ate a vegan diet to lower her risk. Needless to say I wanted to lower my risk too.
I had long understood the carcinogenic effect of animal proteins on the body, but I had convinced myself that I had already given up too much and couldn’t possibly give up anything more. But then, no one ever said I had to be an abolitionist and go full vegan on anyone (there was no way I wanted to be even more of a pain at restaurants). I just had to eat less of the stuff. And really, apart from seafood, meat has never really made my stomach feel good anyway (anyone else feel horribly fat and lethargic after eating a steak??)
But sometimes I splurge (because…life)
And so there I found myself—eating a mostly vegan, mostly gluten-free diet. I say “mostly” because I still eat meat on special occasions or at fancy restaurants; and I still eat gluten, dairy, and eggs when I’m vacationing in France (because baguettes), or when I’m eating cheese fondue at the Melting Pot (every birthday since I was 13), or when the right fancy cheese from France pops into my shopping cart by mistake (oops!).
Thankfully, on a one-off basis, I no longer get the symptoms I used to. As my doctor explained it to me, food allergies are deep (meaning one small bite of an allergen can send you to the emergency room) but food sensitivities are shallow (meaning a little bit of a food allergen spread out over time won’t cause the immune system to react, but a lot of an allergen over a short period of time can cause an uproar). I’ve found that I can eat my allergens about once a week without any major symptoms, though usually I go once a month to prevent breakouts.
The other 90% of the time I follow a 100% organic, mostly vegan, gluten-free diet. Here’s what I eat:
Beverages: I start every morning by drinking 16 oz of sparkling water with lemon. I buy reverse osmosis purified water in large jugs from Natural Grocer and then I sparkle it myself using a SodaStream Sparkling Water Maker.
I follow this with my morning matcha latte. I add freshly boiled water to one teaspoon of matcha powder, one teaspoon of Premier One Royal Jelly In Honey, and a splash of warmed almond milk. Delicious.
Breakfast: Almost every morning I have toast using either Mariposa Baking or Kim & Jake’s (gluten-free & vegan) bread topped with smashed avocado and my signature lemony kale recipe. This bread is absolutely spectacular. Unlike most of the gluten-free breads available it’s actually made like real, old-fashioned bread (none of that processed crap—just honest to goodness ingredients). They sell the buns at Whole Foods, but Natural Grocer the loaf. I buy three at a time and keep the unused loafs in the freezer.
I almost always have soup. At some point during the week I’ll make a big batch featuring whatever veggies I have on hand. I usually start with olive oil, onions, and garlic sautéed in a pan, then I’ll add whatever veggies and broths I have on hand.
If it’s going to be a puréed soup I’ll add ingredients by color. Broccoli, celery, & spinach for example, maybe some russet potatoes to make it creamy. After boiling the potatoes for fifteen minutes, then adding the broccoli and celery for another 15, I’ll add the spinach and throw it all into the Vitamix—et voila! A nice broccoli pureed soup to be divided amongst containers and taken with me to work each morning (topped with red pepper flakes, lemony kale, crackers, or a nut milk cheese).
At night, or when entertaining, it’s all about the spread. When I went to France with my girlfriends last year, we would pick up tiny treats as we went about our day: truffle salts from a local vendor, olive oil from everywhere, whipped local honeys with lavender, and of course various cheeses and baguettes. By the end of the day we’d all gather in our Airbnb and put together the most spectacular spread anyone has ever seen.
At home, I do the same, but without the bread and cheese. I always have several wheels of Kite Hill almond milk cheese on hand (specifically the soft-ripened and the ricotta) and let me tell you, this is is not your ordinary cheeze with a “Z.” In fact, it’s made the exact same way that dairy cheese is made: by adding enzymes to the almond milk and letting it age. The only ingredients in a Kite Hill cheese are almonds and enzymes.
I also always have their plain unsweetened yogurt on hand, and sometimes their cream cheese (if I want to swap my avocado toast for toast with cream cheese and smoked salmon, for example). The only problem with Kite Hill is that it’s not widely distributed. The entire product line is available at Whole Foods, but it’s in limited supply elsewhere. Natural Grocer has the cream cheese and the sweetened yogurts, but that’s about it. So I make a special trip to stock up.
As part of a spread, I serve these cheeses on a platter with truffle salt, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, Mary’s Gone Crackers, jalapeño jelly, prosciutto (when I’m feeling it), grainy mustard, and those yummy sweet red peppers from the Whole Foods olive bar.
Food Delivery: I am a die-hard GreenChef fan. GreenChef is one of those food delivery services that are all the rage these days. They send you all of the ingredients and recipes you need to make three dinners that week and that alone saves me about four hours each week. After all, choosing what to make and then going to the grocery store to get the items is the hardest part—and I usually end up buying a bunch of expensive “treats” I don’t need. Cooking the meals is the easy part.
I have tried several of these services, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh being my least favorites (not organic, no vegan options, and the quality of the ingredients is extremely sub-par). Sun Basket is my second favorite because they are all organic and have plenty of meal options each week (which means I usually I can find something in line with my food preferences). But GreenChef is my all time favorite.
GreenChef is 100% organic, there is a vegan option (that rarely contains gluten—and when it does it’s avoidable by swapping rice noodles or a corn tortilla), and they they pre-chop the vegetables and make all the sauces (and when the sauces are yummy vegan pestos or cashew-cremes this is a complete life saver). Best of all, just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s all rice and beans. And when you do get beans, they’re usually of the easier-to-digest variety (like garbanzo). Instead, they rely on delicious plant-based recipes. So basically, it meets all of my weird food preferences and I’m obsessed with it.
Cookbooks: When I’m not eating a GreenChef meal, I cook from The Love & Lemons Cookbook and The Love & Lemons Blog. Almost exclusively. Her recipes meet my requirements to a T and they are soooo delicious. Not to mention, her recipes browser is just the best thing ever. On the right side you can select the season you are cooking in, the diet you are on (dairy-free, gluten-free, raw, vegan, etc.), the meal type you’re cooking (dinner, lunch, breakfast), and the ingredients you have on hand. This is amazing for impromptu cooking, which is basically the only kind I do.
The only other cookbooks I use are Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good Cookbook (amazing breakfasts including several gluten-free/vegan muffin recipes), and all of Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Books—and they are my favorite books of all time so if you haven’t read them I suggest you read each and every one (starting with French Women Don’t Get Fat). Not to brag or anything but I have a signed copy because I fangirled out on her at a book signing. (I cannot keep my cool around my icons—this much I know). She is every bit as amazing as you think she’d be.
So there you have it, thanks to food sensitivities and dietary preferences, that’s what I eat in a nutshell!