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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food Intolerances, What Can I Eat?

This is probably a question that pops up immediately when someone learns they have a food intolerance.  Changing one's diet to eliminate a common food such as milk or wheat can be daunting.  Eating with the rest of the family who does not share your intolerance is frustrating.  It is hard watching my family order shrimp, scallops or lobster these days and knowing that I really shouldn't no matter how much I'd like to join them.

First, you need to decide how bad your symptoms are to you and whether you can tolerate small amounts of the food.  For example, my sister is lactose intolerant but a small scoop of ice cream on a piece of pie is ok.  A milkshake would mean an evening of misery.  If you do not have a food allergy or you have not been diagnosed with Celiac disease, it is not life threatening to eat the problem food.  You might be able to eat baked goods with eggs in them but not an omelet or to have a slice of toast once a day.  You will probably go through a period of experimentation and education as you learn more about your body and what it can tolerate.  It would be helpful to keep a food diary of what you eat and how you felt later.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to more than one food, then bless you!

You will also benefit from a trip to the bookstore or library.  There are countless books on gluten free diets, vegan diets and everything else.  Don't forget the handy web to find further information.  Next, you should start to eliminate processed foods from your diet.  Processed foods contain a whole host of bad-for- you-things anyway so this is a good thing.  However, it also means that you must be committed to preparing most of your own food so that you can control exactly what goes in it.  If you do buy any processed foods, you must be vigilant about reading the labels.

If you have a problem with gluten, your diet will be mostly fruits, vegetables and protein.  There are probably some grains you can tolerate like quinoa or oats.  You might eat yogurt and fruit for breakfast, have a nice salad for lunch, fish and a couple of vegetables for dinner.  If you are lactose intolerant, there are other milk substitutes and lactose free milk, though they can be expensive.  You can even find frozen treats that are made with coconut milk and taste just as good (I've tried them!) or you might have sorbet.

There are also many alternatives on the grocery shelves these days and even whole stores and bakeries that cater to people with food intolerances and allergies.  You can buy gluten free bread and cereals to fill that void.  Some of these foods may be found in the organic or health food section of your regular grocery store.      

Open your mind to the possibilities and don't focus on the limits.  This is an opportunity to clean up the whole family's diet by getting rid of junk and processed food they shouldn't be eating anyway.  (Just keep that one to yourself and be sneaky about it!)  Once you begin to feel better, you will not miss your old diet.

I'd like to mention that I will be preparing healthy snacks at the HMG Health and Wellness Expo on Saturday at 9:45.  Come on out and spend some time learning more about good health!  As always there will be plenty of activities for the kids, including an awesome exhibit where you can walk through a giant body and learn about the organs.  

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