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Five Reasons You Should Consider an Elimination Diet (plus the most AMAZING Chicken-Apple Sausages)

E DietOk so I know the title of this post contains the word “diet,” and that’s likely to send at least a few of you running for the hills. I, myself, have a tendency to rebel against things that are limiting, so I feel you, I really do. But if there’s one thing I would encourage every person I care about to do in this lifetime, it’s to try this Elimination Diet, even just once.

I could go on and on about its benefits, and at its most basic, the diet will cost you two weeks of your life. That’s a small commitment to exchange for feeling better than you ever have in your time on this earth, no?

Just in case you need a push, here are five reasons you should consider picking up Tom and Ali’s book The Elimination Diet and giving it a try today.

1) Sometimes–maybe not always–but at least part of your life is spent dealing with any of the following symptoms: bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, migraines, skin problems, joint pain, foggy thinking, anxiety, depression, sinus and lung problems, unexplained weight gain, low energy, insomnia.

Hey guess what? It’s not normal to feel bloated and gassy after you eat. You may have gotten used to it, but there is nothing more liberating than discovering that you can eat a meal and feel nothing but amazing afterwards.

Or maybe your digestive tract feels like a well-oiled machine, but you deal with severely dry skin or eczema. I’m willing to bet you my firstborn that two weeks of following this eating plan will reduce that inflammation.

Think it’s way too farfetched of a notion that your diet can affect how moody or anxious you feel? Okay, that’s fair. But aren’t you willing to try just about anything to get those feelings to go away, if such things are possible? Wouldn’t that include eating whole, organic foods combined into some of the most delicious meal combos to ever alight upon your palate?

Thought so.

2) Food allergies have increased 50% from 1997 to 2011—said the CDC in a 2013 study.

And no, this doesn’t just mean that people whine more now. For one, more people are starting to realize that constantly being miserable after eating is not a normal state of being. More and more doctors are recognizing the legitimacy of food allergies—especially those with backgrounds in Eastern medical theory—and are suggesting an approach to health that embraces the philosophy that “what you put in, is what you get out.” This is totally different from the Band-Aid approach we’ve become accustomed to, where your doc scribbles out a scrip for yet another “magic pill,” in an attempt to cover up your symptoms.

We have learned that 60-75% of the world’s population doesn’t have enough lactase after the age of 4 to digest the lactose in milk, so that probably means you. And if this urges you to go get a “scratch test” and discover your allergies that way, just know that food sensitivities and intolerances (as opposed to full-blown allergies) are less well known, often undetected, and can’t be tested for. They usually create a subtler, simmering sort of distress that leads to chronic symptoms.

When you can’t process a type of food, you lack an enzyme, nutrient, or organism to properly digest or metabolize. Each time you eat this food, more of the undigested particles build up in your body, feeding harmful bacteria and yeast in your digestive tract. Your body views these particles as foreign invaders and attacks them, putting your system on alert and causing inflammation. If you are constantly inflamed, your body is poorly equipped to handle actual foreign invaders—things like seasonal allergies, colds, or even cancer.

3) Maybe you’re like my roommate and you have an iron stomach, are vital as a stallion, and claim you’d gain no benefit whatsoever from doing an Elimination Diet. Okay, fine. Do you crave cheese? Caffeine? Sugar? Would it be hard to give these things up completely because the cravings would be too intense? After two weeks on the E-Diet, you will have completely reset your system, and the bacteria in your gut that leads to cravings for the afore-mentioned foods will be completely wiped out.

Don’t suffer from food cravings? Then you, my friend, are far stronger than I. But do you drink? A little? A lot? If that’s the case, your liver could use a detox. Trust me, your liver sent me a letter begging for it, and it thanks you in advance for your consideration.

4) Calories (and fats) don’t count!

Say what? Every time I pour coconut milk into my coffee, my mom cringes. “It’s so full of fat!” she proclaims. And that’s completely accurate. But! Coconut is one of the most heart-healthy fats out there, and this diet embraces these types of fat in spades. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, coconut milk and oil, avocados and nuts (once reintroduced) will become staples of your diet.

Mom is coming from the perspective of years of diet advice claiming that counting calories or fat grams is the best way to lose or maintain one’s weight. But the E-Diet embraces clean, whole foods that come from the earth, and is therefore low in additives, sweeteners, coloring and preservatives, so it follows that you can literally binge your face off on these things and worry not one iota about your waistline. In fact, this diet is almost assured to cause you to lose weight. I can’t imagine anyone following it strictly and not seeing similar results. Personally, I simply love that I can eat to the point where I am almost uncomfortably full and still wake up the next day looking slender and lean with absolutely zero tummy bloat.

5) You get to eat things like Butternut Squash and Sage “Stuffing,” Chickpea Curry with Potatoes and Kale, and Mustard-Herb Lamb Burgers. This isn’t just a bunch of rabbit food here people. No boring iceberg salads drizzled with lemon juice, yeuuck! In fact read my post here about how I ate like a food champ during my last E-Diet.

The recipe below, for example, had me at hello. After tasting these little nuggets of deliciousness, I vowed to never eat store-bought, highly-processed breakfast sausage ever again, especially since processed meats have now been linked to cancer. 

Chicken-Apple Breakfast Sausages
  • 1 medium tart apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
  • 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 T fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil for cooking
  1. Place the apple, green onions, sage, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with the “s” blade and pulse a few times. Then add the chicken and process until the chicken is ground and the mixture starts to form a ball, about 30 seconds.
  2. With oiled hands, form the mixture into about 8 patties and set them on a plate. Heat a large skillet of medium-low heat and add 1 T oil. Place four of the patties in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining patties.
  3. These keep in the fridge for about 5 days or can be frozen and reheated in a 350-degree oven.

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Now trust me when I tell you making these bad daddies–and just embracing the Elimination Diet in general–is inarguably doing something delicious! And just because I love you so much, I’m even including a link to an awesome guide to shopping for the right ingredients to support your E-Diet. You’re welcome!

 

 

 

 

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)

 

fruit-tartI love ANYTHING that has that many words in parentheses and still tastes as good as this does. I’ve got some stubborn eaters in my extended family, and this stunning dessert satisfied them all. If I hadn’t already made it for her this season, I would shape the crust like a heart and serve it to mom for Mother’s Day brunch. Awww…

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-9″ tart
Ingredients
  • 1 can coconut milk (without guar gum)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal or flour
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 cups 100% all fruit apricot preserves
  • 2 T water
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of 5 lemons (about 1 cup)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1-2 T organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Mango, peeled and sliced thin
  • Pineapple, peeled and sliced thin
  • Kiwi, peeled and sliced thin
  • Clementines, peeled and separated
  • Assorted berries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. To prep the whipped coconut cream, pour coconut milk into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. To make the crust, stir together the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the vanilla, oil, maple syrup and 1 T water. Add the oil mix to the flour and combine well.
  5. Turn the dough onto a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers or a rubber spatula to spread it towards the edges of the pan, making sure to press it all the way up the sides of the pan. Try to make the dough a uniform thickness across the bottom and edges.
  6. Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown. Don’t overbake!
  7. While the crust is baking, make the glaze by heating the preserves and 2 T water to boiling in small sauce pan.
  8. Strain through a sieve to remove lumps.
  9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature before brushing with glaze.
  10. In the meantime, make the lemon curd. Heat agave nectar, arrowroot, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice In a small saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency.
  12. Whisk in coconut oil.
  13. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Curd will get very thick the longer it sits. Still tastes great spread on toast though!
  14. Once crust is cool, use a pastry brush to lightly brush interior of tart shell with thinned preserves. Let “dry” for 15 minutes.
  15. In the meantime, make whipped coconut cream. Drain off liquid (should look like thin coconut milk) and reserve for another use.
  16. Whip cream with a mixer on high until thick and frothy.
  17. Fold 1/2 c coconut cream into chilled lemon curd.
  18. To remaining whipped cream, add 1 tsp vanilla bean paste and organic powdered sugar, to taste. I like mine not too sweet. Reserve to use as garnish.
  19. Fill crust with lemon cream, spreading in an even layer.
  20. Channel your inner artist and layer slices of fruit and berries in whatever pattern makes you happiest.
  21. With remaining apricot glaze, brush fruit lightly until evenly coated and shiny. This will keep your tart looking beautiful for days—not that it will last that long!
  22. Serve with big spoonfuls of whipped coconut cream.

 

Now that’s the definition of doing something delicious!

 

Gluten Wars

 

angry-mobI’ve noticed a lot of backlash recently towards people with gluten sensitivities and towards “bandwagoners” who appear to be adopting a gluten-free lifestyle, allegedly because it’s trendy. Because let’s face it, here in LA, food trends are kind of our jam.

A lot of this weird aggression comes from my food industry friends—chefs and servers alike—who get unbelievably up in arms due to situations like this: Person A is gluten-free and orders a gluten-free meal. But Person B, with whom Person A is dining, orders something that ISN’T gluten-free, and the two proceed to share.

Okay, I understand that cooking gluten-free isn’t exactly easy—I do it every day of my life. And I see how choosing to eat a meal that is half gluten-free and half NOT seems a bit pointless. But this notion that the only people who “deserve” to have food service workers accommodate them are the ones who nearly die when they eat gluten is ludicrous. For one thing, we have been accommodating special food requests for decades—just look at airlines offering vegetarian meals on flights, or scope out how many restaurants now make note of which of the menu items are vegan.

So someone who doesn’t die when they eat gluten—but is nonetheless trying to limit her consumption of it—is not a jerk. She is not necessarily just a blind sheep following some evangelical anti-gluten guru. She likely ordered her gluten-free meal because that’s the only thing she can control about her experience dining out. Until you eat Gfree, you have no idea the pressure people put on you to “just taste a bite,” or how much less fun it becomes to go out with friends when everyone is preoccupied that your weirdo food allergies may mean the group can’t go to the restaurant it prefers.

Taking a “cheat bite” or sharing the meal with a friend because its easier than making a big deal about it is just like a person on a diet taking a bite of her friend’s chocolate soufflé. It’s called being human. You don’t hate the gal on the diet for her moment of weakness, or slam her back in the kitchen to your work compadres for having the gall to order a low-calorie dinner and then sneak a bite of dessert. And if you do, then I hope you enjoy the view from that pristine glass house of yours.

Our gluten free gal, whom the rest of the world assumes just can’t think for herself and has succumbed to the hype, probably understands this. Human beings cannot properly digest gluten. That’s right. I can’t and you can’t. In fact, the only mammal that can digest it has four stomachs and chews its own cud. And get this: besides gluten, there are 23,000 different proteins in modern wheat that can produce inflammatory reactions in the body!
gluten-free

Now you personally might not have any symptoms whatsoever when you eat gluten. Good for you. I hope you’re eating a pizza while you read this. Or you may have some sort of health problem for which you take medication, but because the problem is not “digestive” in nature, you haven’t made the connection between it and your gluten consumption. Gluten has become known as the great masquerader; it can create over 300 symptoms and conditions you wouldn’t think to attribute to it—from skin issues, infertility and depression to headaches, liver disease and cancer.

I’ve also had people scoff at the idea that I diagnosed myself. That’s because people who self diagnose are usually called hypochondriacs. But because a perfect test for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease does not yet exist, an elimination diet is the one way that even people who test negatively for celiac, but still don’t feel good, can attempt to get to the root of their health problems.

During an elimination diet, common allergenic foods are removed and slowly reintroduced. A modified version of this diet can take place over the course of 10-14 days. I did mine for 71 days. You can read about it here Challenge 2013: Elimination Diet a.k.a. Food Allergen Cleanse and here An Elimination Diet-Friendly Chinese “Chicken” Salad: Debunking the Deprivation Myth. And yet the way I felt after only two weeks of not eating gluten did more to convince me of the power of this crazy little protein strand to make or break a person’s health than any doctor-approved scratch test ever could.

An elimination diet isn’t easy, but it can be life changing. It takes discipline and it absolutely requires planning ahead. When caught off guard without a meal plan, falling off the wagon is nearly inevitable. But fortunately help is out there. If you’re in the LA area, you can make use of Wellness Chef Jennie’s weekly meal delivery services. I specialize in customized Elimination Diets of all durations and will provide prepared meals, recipe ideas and shopping lists to accommodate any client’s needs. I’ll also provide you with resources if you’re simply interested in learning more.

In the meantime, be kind to your gluten-free friends. Those of us with dietary restrictions certainly have an obligation not to be a**holes, running around expecting the world to bend to our needs, but if the person with whom you’re dealing isn’t acting like that, well then it really shouldn’t matter one iota whether her reasons for eating the way she does make sense to you.

In fact, I think we’d all get along better if we just went and did something delicious.
keep-calm-eat-gluten-free-3

Challenge 2013: Elimination Diet a.k.a. Food Allergen Cleanse

Goal:

Find the perfect response to the statement: Why not just do the scratch test at the Doctor’s office? That sounds sooo much less terrible.

When everyone around you is running a marathon or giving up alcohol for 30 days or doing the Insanity workout, you start to feel the need to demonstrate that you’re is not an irresolute schlub.

This is how a girl who hates diets and rules ended up on the elimination diet food plan. Meaning a 6-week (minimum) eating regimen that removes all possible allergens from your diet, reintroducing them slowly–after a cleansing period–to test the system for reactions.

Why Is This A Good Idea?

There are so many reasons to give this eating plan the old college try, not the least of which is gaining a general sense of feeling “better.” I chose to follow The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen’s guidelines; the site is beautiful and the recipes, delicious sounding. Nutritionists Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten really manage to sell this “diet” in a beautifully photographed blog that just might entice you to take the challenge yourself. When you visit their site, you’ll read about all which conditions can be remedied by eliminating allergenic foods and reducing the accompanying inflammation these foods cause.

So my reasons?

*I’ll stop suffering from food hangovers. I live to eat and not the other way around, so its time to take this bull by the horns.
*I’ll discover what my triggers are (pleaseohpleaseohplease don’t let it be cheese), so I can carefully pick and choose the moments to eat them.
*To learn a lot about more about food and discover some new flavors (as a cooking instructor, it’s important to always be learning, right?).
*I might lose weight.

3 Potential Road Blocks

*If you try this, accept that you will not be fun for the next six weeks. For the first fourteen days especially, the response to remarks like, “oh you can order a salad,” when everyone wants to go out to dinner, will still be, “no, I can’t.” Planning is of the essence.
*The food might be so boring or bland, I might fall instantly and firmly off the wagon.
the-shining*Being deprived may make me feel the need to remodel the bathroom with an axe. This possible outcome is based upon a history of starvation-induced offenses, leading Fiancé to mandate that I NEVER be allowed to do anything requiring actual fasting.

Reasons to Stay Tuned

*I’m a real person, so I’m likely to mess this up from time to time, in ways that might even be humorous. Plus I hate rules remember, so I may even cheat out of spite, and then you’ll know whether or not it works for real people, or whether you have to be a hyper-focused zen master in discipline in order to reap the benefits.
*I believe there are delicious realms to be discovered my friends, and I intend to send all that lusciousness your way.

Meantime, check out my slightly less than successful first days of the Elimination Diet below.

Day 1: Put off diet for an additional week and ate half a pound of cheese. And leftover Easter candy. This is going to be hard.

Day 1 (again):

All delicious things, no?

All delicious things, no?

Green smoothies ONLY for two, very long days. Green, meaning chalk full of vegetables, the flavor of which is only slightly masked by the meager handful of fruit the recipe calls for.

Discovered I hate smoothies. Not even just the veggie kind—I don’t really even like fruit smoothies. It’s a texture thing, apparently. Felt hungry and tired all day long. My stomach cramped and I lay on the couch and whimpered to evoke sympathy from Fiancé.

I cheated repeatedly to entice myself to drink down 2 blenders-full a day. A dried apricot as a reward. A gluten-free zucchini cracker to provide an alternative to the salsa-esque consistency that had been in my mouth all day long. A bowl of smashed warm raspberries (what the what?) because they didn’t taste like kale and were well, warm.

I also had a headache all day long. I never get headaches. I thought I was going to feel like superwoman, not like I’d been poisoned.

This cleanse sucks.*

Looks better than it tastes.

Looks better than it tastes.

*Spoiler Alert

This post is finally going live after I’ve actually been doing the diet for a few weeks. It’s worth muddling through the tough days at the beginning–I promise! Furthermore, upon researching my first few days of “symptoms,” everything I experienced is a common effect of a detox (which is why I do the research after, not before, so that I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of things).

I just wish I had had a cheerleader to tell me this stuff during the first few days, rather than a bunch of health-nymphs hopped up on wheat grass fluttering about saying things like “green smoothies are delicious and energizing! I could drink them all day,” and “here are 1 billion invigorating recipes!” when all they really are is kale and a bunch of other good-sounding things that are, in fact, not good because all you taste is kale. Blech.

Ever tried one of these programs yourself? How’d you get through it? I’d love to hear your tips and war stories.

And then in celebration that you’re not suffering through this yourself, go do something delicious!