Around 18 million people in the U.S. have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and they are just one group of many that need to follow a special diet. Additional conditions that often benefit from a special diet include ADD and ADHD, allergies, asthma, candidiasis, colitis, kidney disease, gout, and high cholesterol. Adapting to a new diet requires planning and research. If you have just started a gluten-free, low-sugar, fiber-rich, or another type of eating plan, the following tips may help you stay on track.
Link between Stress and Poor Eating Habits
If you have a stressful job or simply find it hard to fulfill many competing obligations, it is important to battle stress proactively. There is a strong link between stress, eating poorly, and poor quality sleep, as found in a 2017 study by researchers at Michigan State University. Lead researcher, Daisy Chang, stated that “employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food.” Stress can also make your intestinal barrier weaker, leading to changes in gut microbiota and immune system responses. Effective, natural ways to deal with stress include yoga, mindfulness meditation, and spending as little as 10 minutes in a green area—all of which have been found in studies to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Check out Susan Neal’s assortment of yoga products at https://christianyoga.com/shop.
Make Key Organizational Changes In Your Kitchen
If you or anyone else in your home has food allergies, they will undoubtedly be on a special diet that eliminates foods that can be harmful. It is important to create a tidy kitchen and prepare the space to avoid contamination of utensils and ingredients. Before rearranging ingredients such as herbs and spices, remove everything from your kitchen cabinets and give the shelves a good cleaning. When returning items back into their new spaces, ensure that any potential food allergens are kept in a separate space that the person with the allergies can avoid. Label items that contain problem ingredients and organize the refrigerator and freezer in a similar fashion. You can also use color-coding to help younger members of the family. For instance, all potentially dangerous items can be kept in a receptacle bearing a specific color, or you can apply a bright-colored sticker to the items.
Make the Transition to a Special Diet Easy
Planning your purchases and avoiding last-minute food home deliveries can help give you maximum control over what you eat. When making your shopping list, be generous with healthy snacks and treats so you always have something to nibble on when you feel hungry. Prep ingredients such as vegetables in advance so you can make a quick salad or plate of veggies like carrots and celery is easy and effortless. On weekends, prepare a little extra of any hot dishes you serve, and freeze extra portions that can easily be heated up or brought to work for lunch.
Aim to shop on the same day every week or shop online. Draft detailed grocery lists you can simply repeat (with minor changes) to improve time efficiency. A special diet may require you to consume specific products and to substitute with others. For instance, if you have switched to a plant-based diet, then consuming products such as chickpeas, beans, and peas (as well as products such as tempeh, tofu, and seitan) may be advised by your nutritionist. Determining what to purchase can be time-consuming as it involves making a weekly meal plan, looking at recipes, and making calculations. Once you have put the initial work in, however, you can simply make variations and substitutions from week to week. Then it’s time to head to your favorite establishment or login onto your online store and get what you need quickly and efficiently.
Reading food labels is more difficult than it seems since ingredients may be listed in various ways, and some may be deal-breakers when you are following a special diet. Research and a little patience go hand in hand since some ingredients may be tricky to spot, and it can take time before you discover all the ingredients to watch out for. For instance, if you are eating a vegan diet, you may be surprised to learn that many ice cream brands use castoreum extract (obtained from beavers). Candy, for instance, can contain shellac—this ingredient is obtained from the laccifer lacca bug, and it is used to keep candy from melting too fast. Reading labels also involves learning various information to get the full picture of how an item can impact your health. When you have diabetes, for instance, you need to eat a low-carb diet and thereby consider carbohydrates in items that you purchase. Instead of looking at just sugar content on a label, you need to analyze the total carbohydrate count. The latter includes complex carbohydrates, added sugar, and more. Some foods—such as fruits—contain high sugar levels, but they are nutritious in other ways. Other foods may have little added sugar but still be high in carbohydrates—this is the case with many cereals and bread, for instance.
Millions of Americans consume special diets regularly. If you discovered you need to follow one, make it as easy as possible on yourself by shopping wisely, reading labels carefully, and prepping on weekends so that eating well throughout the week is easy and less time-consuming. Invest time researching hidden ingredients found in food labels and draft a list of items to be avoided. Your list of “ingredients to avoid” will undoubtedly grow as time goes on and your knowledge increases. Remember that stress can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, so tackle your stress on a daily basis through holistic exercise or by spending time in the great outdoors.
Bio for Sara Zipf
Sara is a busy working mom and writer–who is raising a child with specialist dietary concerns. In her free time, she volunteers for mental health charities and loves to experiment with baking and cooking gluten and lactose-free meals.
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