Do you have any health issues that can and/or should be addressed with the food you eat? As a personal chef, this is one of the first and most important questions I ask when I do a consultation with a new client. More often these days, people are replying “yes.” Personally, I believe this says more about the standard of our current food production practices, than it does about the actual individual, but that’s another whole blog in itself. The point I’m trying to make here is that it can be a daunting process figuring how to navigate special dietary requirements when diagnosed with a serious condition.
I know, I spent four years curled up in my bed in the fetal position with Crohn’s disease. I had to be on a low residue (no fiber) diet when my disease was severe, but it was a slow process of being aware of how my body responded to various foods to know what I could and couldn’t tolerate.
Luckily there are much more specific guidelines for other serious health complications such as heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, Celiac disease, diverticulitis, and various food allergies to name some of the many illnesses that can be managed (sometimes in conjunction with drug or other therapies) by diet. By now most of us are familiar with what a heart healthy diet should look like, but what about those that are less as common? How does one adapt when we can no longer live mindlessly on fast food and take-away in today’s fast paced world?
The first thing I always recommend is to consult your doctor and a registered dietician or nutritionist. At least do as much research as possible about the foods to avoid and the foods that might help heal your condition. There is no excuse for ignorance these days with the internet at our fingertips, but do choose your sources carefully – there’s plenty of misinformation out there as well. Many highly respected medical institutions have websites with the information you need, and it’s a good idea to stay abreast of any pertinent new studies published too.
Usually it’s best to restrict your diet to the basics for the first few weeks, then once your body begins to feel better – add foods (that are “legal” on your special diet) one at a time, back into your diet. Be mindful of how you feel when you consume each one and eliminate any that make you feel unwell.
Once you feel you know what does and does’t work for you – get creative! Stave off the boredom that can come from a highly restrictive diet and think of ways you can adapt old favorites to your knew way of eating while staying within the restrictions. For example, try oven frying chicken for a heart healthier approach, or if you’re gluten free – experiment with the grains you can eat in place of the those that contain gluten, use vegetables in place of complex carbs, and learn which gluten free products you can substitute like Tamari for soy sauce. You’ll be surprised by how many old standards can still work with a few minor adjustments.
I get so many requests for special diet menu plans on the Personal Chef Approach website. While I do hope to one day be able to oblige, here’s how the Personal Chef Approach can help you now:
- Cooking yourself is the only way to know that every ingredient that went into that meal is safe for you to consume. By planning and cooking in advance, you’ll know you have food that heals you without having to obsess about it every minute of the day.
- Use our custom menu planning tool to choose recipes that comply (or can easily be altered by substituting or omitting any offending ingredients) with your restrictions. A grocery list and heat to eat instructions will auto-generate for you in a snap; or print the menu I write each week, and make notes of any necessary ingredient changes on the recipes and the grocery list.
- Shop armed with that knowledge and a plan. Learn how to read food labels, and know what ingredients you need to avoid. Stock up on foods that are good for you.
- Ask! Don’t forget you will have direct access to me in the forum, and a whole community of support. One of the members (or a family member they cook for) may also require the same special diet, and already have a ton of experience they can share with you or vice-a-versa.
Tip: One last tip I want to leave you with is to buy organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, and non GMO whenever possible. The way we produce and process food changed substantially in the 1970’s. Not so coincidentally, we have seen a major rise in many of the diseases mentioned in this post since then. We really are what we eat.
For more about how the PCA works, please view the video above. How do you used food to heal an illness?