Elimination Diet – Halfway There!

I recently entered the phase of the diet where I am able to reintroduce potential food triggers. It has been interesting to try out all of these foods. I have become much more aware of my body and how it reacts to foods. These are my impressions thus far.

I have tested out soy, nightshades (tomatoes and peppers specifically), eggs and peanuts. Soy is in so many different things and I was finding it difficult to find replacements for other foods that I am not allowed to have yet. I figured if I could have soy, I would have a much wider availability of certain foods. Soy caused no migraine reaction at all! I know soy can be a major trigger for many people, but it does not seem to be for me. YAY!

I was really missing eggs one morning, and although I had planned on holding off for a little, I decided to change my order up so I could enjoy the nice breakfast my family was having. Eggs gave me no migraines and I felt fine! Another success!

Reading through my past posts, it’s like an ode to peanut butter. I really LOVE that stuff. Throughout these past few weeks, each time my husband made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ate a peanut butter granola bar, it was like a little dagger to my heart. And I’m not exaggerating. I love that stuff! So I hoped and prayed it would all be okay! Thankfully, no migraine! Unfortunately, it upset my stomach a little. I also had a really hard time sleeping that night. I am not calling it a total loss, but I will definitely be doing another peanut butter trial again in a few weeks to see if it was just a weird coincidence or if I really should be avoiding the most delicious food ever created by humankind peanut butter.

Yesterday was the start of my nightshade trial. I was so excited to get to try it out, but really nervous. The majority of my recipes have a tomato base to them and I was nervous that I would react badly. I had survived the past month on this diet without tomatoes and peppers and anything spicy, but it was hard! Yesterday I lived it up. I had salsa with my vegetables and made my favorite homemade tomato sauce (served over rice pasta). It was amazing. And thankfully, I have had no migraine symptoms! I did have a bit of heartburn last night, but I really went crazy enjoying my tomato sauce- so that is no surprise!

Looking forward, I will soon be introducing dairy. Since I have had issues with dairy in the past, I will be introducing different types of dairy. I will start with those with low lactose levels and move from there over several different trial days. I am also hoping to get in my wheat trial before Thanksgiving! I do think I will allow myself to take a stopping point at Thanksgiving and reintroduce the foods that I have trialed successfully. I plan to spend about two weeks with my newly approved foods

One thing I have noticed is that my body definitely was thriving on the elimination diet. My skin was so incredibly smooth and I had a lot of energy. Over the past few weeks of introduction, I have noticed my skin slowly getting worse. Even when I remove the trial food, it still does not get better. I wonder if this is more hormonally related. Another possibility is that some combination of foods is causing it. I am going to take a few days to return to the strict TED and skip the next trial so that I can try to evaluate this further.

Wish me luck!

Elimination Diet Results: Week 1

I am a week into this Total Elimination Diet (TED) and, well, I don’t love it. I mean, I don’t hate it. But I could really go for a cookie. Actually, that’s not even true. I’m not missing cookies or really any other sweets. I miss beef. Like a good medium-rare burger. I did suffer from anemia in the past, so totally legit reason to introduce beef sooner rather than later because of how delicious it is iron. Right? I digress.

Day 1:

Woke up feeling ready to go! So excited! Loving life! I had prepped and prepared and felt good to go. For the most part the day went well. I definitely crashed into bed that night, so happy that one day was down!

Day 2:

I slept really well last night. I woke up feeling pretty chipper. It might be my imagination, but my bloating doesn’t seem as bad as usual. My acne looks a bit better, too, but that must be unrelated because seriously 24 hours of this TED could not have made a difference, right? We’ll see.

I also am unusually cold and tired by 8am. Then I see my beautiful Keurig. Did you ever notice  how pretty they area? No? Oh, okay. Well, I miss my coffee. I think at this point it’s more the warmth factor than the caffeine factor. I do some jumping jacks instead. This helps for about five seconds. It is also freezing outside, so that probably is not helping things. I decide to start cooking dinner at about 10 am, just so the house warms up. I make butternut squash soup and roast the seeds (yes, just like with pumpkin!). So delicious and makes for a wonderful early lunch.

When Cupcake goes down for her nap, I try to lay down, too. I’m just so tired. I walk over to the Keurig and think that maybe just a half cup of coffee couldn’t be that bad. I debate asking a babysitter to come so I can go out and get decaf coffee. I Google “Can decaf coffee really cause migraines?” The answer is yes. I feel sad. I make an allowed tea (green and black tea is out) and barely drink any of it because I cannot add anything to it and I want to have a pity party. At this time, I develop a headache and become pretty darn cranky.

I struggle through the rest of the day snacking on chicken breast and grapes. After dinner, Cupcake desperately wants to go outside. I take her on a walk. I end up even more cold, so we come home and have warm bath/showers. I feel much better. I go to bed without my late night treat and that feels weird, but also ok, because I’m pretty full from my dinner- spaghetti squash with chicken, zucchini and onions. So yummy. I crash into bed and fall asleep very quickly.

Day 3:

Cupcake woke up at 3am for.the.day. I amazingly feel not too miserable, but know this day would be a lot easier if I had some coffee. I make myself hot water. I seem to have lost 3 pounds- probably from an insane amount of fiber I am now consuming. A lot of water weight, too, as I definitely am noticing less bloat. My muscles hurt a little and I am very cold. I eat ground turkey for breakfast with quinoa and feel quite full. Acne seems to still be improving. My headache is going away, but my legs kill. It feels like I did 100 squats. I have no energy to do even one, so not sure what that is about.

I am really liking most of the food I am eating, but I am running out of my butternut squash soup, so I know I will need to get that. Soups have been my best friend in keeping me warm! I manage to take a nap midday, which usually is really hard for me to do. I go to bed at 7:30pm and fall asleep very quickly.

Day 4:

Today was NOT good. I wake up feeling well rested, despite having crazy dreams all night long. I have lost another two pounds, bringing my total to five. I am back to my “normal” zone after having been insanely bloated for the last few months. I don’t actually want to lose anything below this, so am hoping to regulate out here. My skin feels very smooth. My headache is definitely gone. My leg pain is better and I’m hoping I’m through the worst of it. Then, I get to church.

I kind of did not think through the whole “communion” aspect of church. We only have communion once a month, so it was not even on my mind as I planned this out. I get in the line for the gluten-free communion. I seriously debate getting up in the middle of church to find someone to give me the ingredient list, but don’t. I should have, but I didn’t. If I had a real allergy, that’s one thing, but this is just to identify migraine triggers and potential intolerances-so I feel silly. I say an extra prayer and eat my communion. I also took my old multivitamin out of habit, which includes trace amounts of soy. WHOOPS. This all happens within a 2 hour time frame. I get a small tummy ache, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m worried that I just messed it all up.

Part of me thinks, screw this plan. I already messed up, might as well have something I really want. I go to the grocery store as planned and see so many things that are on the “banned” list. Nothing actually seems appealing, except maybe the coffee. Mostly, I just want to get home and start making more butternut squash soup. So I buy my squash and go on my way.

The rest of the day is fine, but my leg pain comes back with a vengeance and makes it hard for me to fall asleep. Boo.

Day 5:

Today was not a good day at all.

I woke up with a ton of leg pain. My congestion, which had seemed to be improving, is back. Probably due to all my mistakes yesterday. I feel tired. I also am so cranky. I owe my family apologies for this day! Literally everything is annoying me right now. Work- annoying. Cats- annoying. How cold I am-annoying. I get so fed up with the diet that I spend a good amount of time googling if I am insane for attempting this. I weigh myself and am up 2 pounds and definitely feeling bloated. I will definitely need to check the ingredients for that communion matzo we have at church! I probably should hide my old multivitamin. I finish out the day with my sweet husband making salmon and baked sweet potatoes for dinner. Cupcake inhales the salmon!

On the upside- my skin looks great! It is so smooth. I usually get a lot of pimples under the surface-so they just look like skin-colored bumps. In the last month, they have been all over my face in a level I never even saw as a teen. However, it definitely seems better.

Day 6:

I wake up an hour earlier than normal and actually feel pretty alert. I have some leftover quinoa and ground turkey for breakfast. I try to give Cupcake her typical egg breakfast, but she spies the salmon in the fridge and begs for it! I am so excited she is starting to like fish, because I still don’t really love it. I only give her a small amount (to limit her mercury intake) and mix it in with her eggs. She is in heaven and nearly licks the plate clean! I am jealous of her delicious egg and hope that when I challenge eggs, I do okay, because I love them. Also, they’re in everything- so there’s that.

We head off to our playgroup and it is at this amazing local tire park. Cupcake has a blast playing with her friends. I am completely worn out chasing after her! I need coffee. I miss coffee. ALL I WANT IS COFFEE. I am cranky. I know this. I try to not show it, but mostly I want to crawl under a blanket and cry a little. I am wicked emotional on the way home and end up crying to half of the songs on the radio. Cupcake eats a quick lunch and goes off to nap.

I turn to the pantry and thrust open the side of the “banned” substances. I think and plot and plan. Then, I remember I have a phone date with a friend and call her instead. While on the phone, I grind up some rice to make homemade cream of rice. It isn’t the most delicious snack in the world, but it fills me up to the point where I don’t want anything else even after we get off the phone. I decide to lay down and get a quick nap before Cupcake is awake.

The rest of the day is pretty busy. Hubby has to work late, so thankfully Cupcake is well-behaved, since I do not have my normal patience. I go to bed around 9 and manage to fall asleep pretty easily.

Day 7:

I cannot believe I’ve made it a whole week. I mean, I did have my whole communion-snafu, but oh well. I hate to say it. I don’t want to say it. I think I’m unfortunately feeling better. I say unfortunately because that means that there probably is something really bothering me. Aside from the initial no-more-coffee headache, I have been headache- and migraine-free! I also am definitely less bloated and my skin looks great. I am sleeping better and seem to be *ehem* digesting things better, too. The biggest negative symptoms I am still experiencing are fatigue and being emotional. I hear these can be food intolerance symptoms, too, so I will just wait it out a few more days and hope those disappear soon.

I wake up feeling relatively alert. I have noticed the past few days that my mouth still feels very clean first thing in the morning. That’s a random bonus. I am down a pound from yesterday, making it an overall total of four pounds lost this week. I really thought I’d miss sugar more, but really what I crave is salt. I am allowed that on this diet, but I want to be careful I am not adding too much. I will want to watch that in the upcoming days.

My mood seems more stable than yesterday and I have a good deal of energy. I have not yet attempted a formal workout during this first week, but decide that today is the day. I go for a run in the afternoon with Cupcake and then we play hard at the playground before dinner. It feels good and my mile time is steady, so I feel like I have been doing a good job of making sure I get enough of the nutrients I need.

Looking forward to next week:

I am starting to get a bit bored of my current rotation of meals. My in-laws are also coming into town, so I will have to carefully plan my meals so that I can be an accommodating host and not drive everyone (including myself) crazy making multiple meals. I have been told that if I go a second week headache free, there is a slight chance I will be cleared to trial a small list of foods that are unlikely to cause a reaction, but will provide me with a more well-rounded diet. Fingers crossed!

Five Steps for Preparing for an Elimination Diet

When you are about to start an Elimination Diet, you need to make sure that your body is adequately prepared. There are several steps I have taken to (hopefully) ensure that this is successful.

Meet with a medical professional

I cannot stress this enough. This Elimination Diet is not for weight loss. Some individuals will experience weight loss as a result of this program since they will be eating out less and eating more whole foods. These are great reasons to be losing weight on this plan. However, this is not a plan where you severely restrict your calories. It is important to meet with a medical professional who can direct you how best to approach the plan for you. (S)he will help ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients that you need over the course of your Elimination Diet. They will also be able to advise you how to reintroduce the food challenges.

Track your current eating habits

Tracking your current habits is important for many reasons. One, it lets you know the types of foods you consume most frequently. Most professionals will advise you that any food you are consuming nearly every day you should consider eliminating as part of this diet. It will also give you a sense of how many calories you are consuming so that you can aim to be close to that. This diet is restrictive enough!

Plan your meals

Planning is ESSENTIAL to this diet! Most quick convenience food items will not fall under the umbrella of “allowed” foods. This means that there is more of a push for you to plan ahead. Having fresh fruit and vegetables prepared will really help during those moments that are more difficult. You will likely need to do some preemptive grocery shopping to make sure you have all the right ingredients on hand. Knowing ahead of time what your meals and snacks will be makes it much easier to be successful. Cheating on this diet is not an option! If you cheat, you just need to extend the length of the elimination phase-which NO one wants!

In the weeks leading up to this plan, I went through every cookbook we owned looking for recipes that fit the bill or would be easy to modify. I researched websites and scoured Pinterest for ideas. There is a lot out there, which makes it a lot easier! We will be cooking extras of every meal so that when we get hungry, we already have what we need on hand.  Plan, plan, plan!

Remove temptations

People are terrible when temptations are around. If my craving is right in front of me, it is going to be difficult to say no all the time. Sure, I can say no at dinnertime when my family is right there. But what about when I find myself in the kitchen alone in the middle of the night? Will anyone notice that there is a little less peanut butter in the jar? Will anyone honestly know if I steal a few animal crackers from Cupcake’s snack drawer? Maybe you have nerves of steel, but I do not! We rearranged our whole pantry so one whole side is all acceptable foods. The other side has our not-for-nows. If there is something I know I really will want, I have boxed those up and put them in the basement. Remember, these are not gone forever! But, there is something to be said for out of sight, out of mind. Plus, with that delicious fruit salad you prepared (see tip above), you have everything you need!

Plan a phase-out week (or two)

This has been the most helpful tip! An acquaintance of mine posted a picture the night before she started a diet- she was at a restaurant with an ooey-gooey double cheese burger loaded with toppings. She also had french fries with all the fixings. She finished up with a delicious looking double-fudge brownie sundae. It all looked amazing and for some people, that is exactly what they want to do the night before embarking on a new diet.

This is not a traditional diet plan, though. By indulging in these types of items the night before, you will make it significantly harder on yourself! One hidden secret of an Elimination Diet is that you often feel worse before you feel better. Your body is going through cravings and withdrawals to the sugar and the caffeine and numerous other things you’ve been putting in your body. Instead, you want to slowly phase-out from your typical diet to make it an easier transition.

Since October 1st is a Thursday, I actually started phasing-out this past Sunday because I’d rather get a head-start. I have started drinking only half a cup of coffee in the morning and half in the afternoon, as opposed to my normal 2 cups a day. I have reduced the milk and sugar I put in my coffee, as well. Each day I have eliminated one of the foods from my diet that will not return until the challenge phase.

Armed with these tips, I hope that I can be a bit more prepared for what is to come! Wish me luck!

Elimination Diet Introduction

I always said I wouldn’t do one. I was not going to do an elimination diet because they seemed like another big fad. And it sort of seems like they are! If you Google “Elimination Diet,” you will find a million different websites. You can find meal plans, recipes, and everything you need to leave you thoroughly confused!

You see, each website tells you to eliminate slightly different things. There are a few items that seem to be eliminated from nearly every elimination diet out there. Dairy, processed meats, and wheat are usually the first things to go. Many websites suggest avoiding soy, eggs, legumes, and nuts. Others also include restrictions on certain vegetables and fruits. It can be a lot to take in as you sit and wonder what exactly you can eat.

Which is why I always said no, until I was forced to say yes. Starting in high school, I developed migraines. They lasted throughout college and into my mid-twenties. Then, I got pregnant with a certain cutie pie and they virtually disappeared! I still got normal people headaches, but no real migraines! Then, the real magic came after she was born. For over a year, I did not have any headaches. No migraines to speak of. It was awesome. I thought I was cured. Then, this summer they returned with a vengeance. I once drove two hours to visit my sisters and nephews to only be able to stay 15 minutes due to a terrible migraine. I barely remember anything from the day, other than pulling over on the side of the road crying because the street lights were too bright for me. It was a difficult day.

Since then, the migraines have continued. I also have been having other odd symptoms. I’ve developed acne that I never experienced before. I have frequent heartburn and digestive issues. I have no energy at all. I am bloated and my stomach frequently bothers me. So, I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Is it hormones? Is it something I am eating? Is it environmental? Am I sick? Is it my thyroid? Anemia? What was going on with me?!

It was then suggested that I undergo an Elimination Diet. I had to get rid of all dairy from my diet for a few months last year for Cupcake. It was hard- really hard. When I added dairy back in to my diet, I looked for any unusual symptoms or reactions. However, my body seemed to be handling it just fine. I was then informed that I had introduced it all wrong. I introduced dairy as a whole category. Welcome back cheese and yogurt and sour cream and milk! Instead of taking time to introduce just one new dairy product at a time, I just reopened that category and never looked back. It is likely that one of the aforementioned food items is a problem for me, but I am not even sure which!

Finally I realized that enough was enough. Life is way too short to be feeling this terrible. I had been told to try an elimination diet in the past to deal with my migraines, so I revisited that idea. With medical guidance, I am going to embark on this journey on October 1st. I will be coming here to share how I feel throughout the process and what I learn along the way. I will be posting recipes in case anyone else ever finds themselves in the same position. This is NOT a tool for weight loss.

If you want to go on an elimination diet as a way to drop some pounds before a big event, go elsewhere. If you want to try it because some celebrity went on one, go check out his or her webpage. Instead, I will be posting because I do not have the time to be making three different meals for my family. My husband and Cupcake will be eating along with me. For those of you worried that they might not get enough of what they need, think again. This is exactly why I am blogging about it. I wanted an Elimination Diet that would work for real people with real families and I had a hard time finding one.

I am not about to go out and buy a bunch of crazy ingredients that we’ve never tried before! My meals will not always be the most exciting. They will pretty much always follow a similar pattern of protein, gluten-free grain and vegetables. Rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes will probably be my BFFs as I love my carbohydrates! This is not, I repeat, a weight loss plan. This is a chance to heal my body and figure out what is going on.

Please join me on my next big adventure!

The Simplest Crockpot Lasagna

My dad recently came to visit our little family. I have never gone so long without seeing my dad before, so I was very excited to have him over. Growing up, my dad was the main chef in the family. I wanted to show him all the yummy things I had been making recently. I know that he absolutely LOVES lasagna, so I decided to give it a go.

I am not sure about where you are, but in August it gets mighty hot where I live! The idea of a lasagna cooking away in the oven seemed like a bad idea. So I turned to my favorite kitchen appliance-my crockpot. The idea of a lasagna cooking away all day without heating up my kitchen sounded GREAT! This would also allow me to take my dad to the zoo with Cupcake. She has recently become super interested in animals and I figured that’d be a heck of a lot more enjoyable than him watching me cook.

My dad is a great many things. He is brilliant, witty and always supportive. He also can be a bit particular. I was nervous to say the least. If he didn’t like it, I’d know. And then I’d be sad. Thankfully he LOVED it! He ate it and then started inquiring into how much we really wanted to have for leftovers. Cupcake devoured her portion. It was delicious and I am looking forward to making it again.

This recipe is very basic and simple. There aren’t a whole lot of veggies in it, but you could easily add a layer of that in! I am planning on making it later this week with a layer of sautéed spinach and onions. Yummy!

Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

29 oz can of tomato sauce

8 oz uncooked lasagna noodles (I use the no-bake kind, but any kind works)

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.5 cups cottage cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese for top layer

Directions

  1. Brown meat in a skillet and drain off fat
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and mix well
  3. Spread 1/4 meat sauce on bottom of crockpot
  4. Arrange 1/3 uncooked noodles over sauce (Break them to make them fit)
  5. Combine 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese with cottage cheese is a bowl. Spoon 1/3 cheese mixture over noodles.
  6. Repeat sauce-noodle-cheese layers twice.
  7. Top lasagna with remaining sauce. Cover with 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cook 4 hours over low. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

 Let me know what you think!

Easy Breaded Chicken 

Yesterday I posted my “recipe” for homemade bread crumbs. Since realizing that I could make a healthy, clean bread crumb filled with only ingredients I can pronounce- I have been on a quest for all things breaded! After months of setting aside some of my favorite recipes, the floodgates have opened. I have since breaded chicken multiple times, made my own fish sticks, and I am already trying to figure out how to get away with another day or two of breaded meals this week.

This recipe is insanely easy. It requires almost no prep time. I was able to do it all while Cupcake colored. If you know anything about 16 month old attention spans, you know that that is quite an accomplishment!

So without further ado..

Easy Breaded Chicken

Ingredients

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs

2 eggs

1 T mayonaise

1.5 cups bread crumbs (you can use a store bought kind, or use my “recipe” for clean and healthy bread crumbs!)

If using unseasoned bread crumbs- add 1 t garlic powder, 1 t Italian seasoning and salt/pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Trim any excess fat off your chicken. Set aside.
  2. Turn broiler to high.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the eggs and mayo.
  4. In a separate bowl, add bread crumbs (and optional seasoning)
  5. Dip chicken first into egg/mayo mixture and then into bread crumbs. Be sure to coat entire piece. Place on foil-lined pan.
  6. Put pan in oven. Cook for approx. 8 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.


 

    

Homemade Granola Bars 

I think I’m a little bit obsessed. Ever since I made the commitment to start making more homemade food items, I find that I can’t stop! Everything just tastes so good. As a bonus, it is also way more affordable to be preparing food this way. I cannot afford to give Cupcake everything I would like, so this is my way.

In our family, we love granola bars. When my husband started residency just three weeks ago, we had a grand total of six different types of granola bars JUST FOR HIM. That does not count what we had for Cupcake and I. Kind of crazy. Also, kind of expensive! Even with buying most of our granola bars as Aldi’s, it was a significant part of our “snack budget.” Since I am really working to be more thrifty, I realized I could help by learning how to make my own granola bars. I had seen many recipes online that seemed quite involved. I was looking for something simple, because Mama wants to enjoy nap time by relaxing,not by running around like a crazy person!

An easy granola bar recipe is what originally led me to Andrea . Her recipe for granola bars seemed super easy, and I was excited to try. The recipe that follows is hers, with a few notes from me! Dear Andrea, if you are reading this, I might have a bit of a momming crush on you!

Ingredients

1/2 c honey

1/3 c packed brown sugar

1/4 c peanut butter or nut-butter of your choosing (I used crunchy peanut butter as recommended by Ms. Andrea)

1/4 c unsalted butter

4 c quick oats

2 c crispy rice cereal

3 t vanilla

Directions

In a large bowl, stir crispy rice cereal, quick oats together.

In a medium saucepan, combine honey, butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then bring the temperature down to low, and simmer till sugar dissolves.

*thejoyofmomming note- let it boil for a minute or so, and then simmer. Your granola bars WILL fall apart if this mixture does not heat enough because my first few tries definitely did this  I’ve heard.

Remove from heat. Pour in vanilla and stir.

Pour the hot mixture over dry ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are moistened. Press into a parchment-lined 13×9 pan.

Pack the granola bar mixture as closely and as tightly together as you possibly can into one end of the pan at about 1/2-3/4 inch thickness. Any thinner, and the bars will not hold together. *See pictures below for trick I used!*

Let cool on the counter till they reach room temperature.

Cut into bars. Wrap in plastic or store in a ziplock bag.

*You may add chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. if desired. If adding chocolate chip, press them into the top of the bars after you’ve packed the very warm granola mixture into the pan. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a melted chocolate-swirled mess.

Here are some photos from my adventure. I did not have any parchment paper, so I used tinfoil and it worked just fine.
  Look how pretty!   Okay, here’s where I went a little crazy. As I mentioned before, I may have some people had trouble with the granola not sticking together. So, I folded my tinfoil around the granola.
  And I found the cutest 21 pound weight to pack it down (I put a clean baking pan over the tin foil first!) I’m glad this kid isn’t in school yet, because I could just imagine her sitting around the snack table. “My mommy has me stand on my granola bars before I eat them.” Thank goodness she is only 16 months old!
I prefer a harder granola bar, so we store these in the fridge, but you can store them on the counter-top as well.