If you’ve done any research on the Autoimmune Protocol since my last post (read it here), you may be a bit overwhelmed. Don’t worry – it’s easier than it seems. Before you know it, bone broth will be second nature to you and grains will seem like a distant memory. My last post centered heavily on the dont’s of AIP, but now I want to dive into the do’s.
As a reminder, here’s what not to eat (bear in mind that peanuts are on there, but under legumes!):
Here are the wonderful things you will be nourishing your body with!
You may be wincing at the Offal and Ferments, don’t worry – you can ease into it (bone broth mixed into recipes and drinking Kombucha are safer choices for the dietary faint of heart). Your next thought may be, “where the heck do I buy this stuff? What in the world is ume plum? Am I going to turn into a crunchy freak?” Yes friend, you will. Now let’s get to the helpful stuff:
Where to Shop: While you’re welcome to hand your entire paycheck to Whole Foods, there are more economical ways. You will most likely be able to buy your produce and meat at whatever grocery store you currently frequent, as long as they offer organic and quality meat options (which means Walmart is out). When you can’t afford to buy all-organic, grass-fed everything, buy it where it counts. Get the dirty dozen organic and aim to get hormone free meat at the minimum (here’s a great post on ranking meat quality). I do most of my shopping at Aldi (who even has grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon!), and I buy pantry staples I’m unable to find at Aldi online at Thrive Market. Kroger and Sprouts also have great health food options (my nitrate-free, uncured, love-of-my-life bacon comes from Sprouts).
Rethinking breakfast: Weep over your brunch days for a moment – conventional breakfast is going to be a thing of the past, since it’s built on eggs, dairy, and grains. At first, it may seem incredibly weird to eat dinner leftovers, lots of veggies, or anything not drenched in syrup or milk for breakfast, but I promise you’ll get used to it. There are loads of wonderful AIP-compliant breakfast recipes that will leave you feeling full and wonderful! My personal favorite is a sweet potato hash with greens and onions, paired with bacon and fruit (breakfast veggie hashes may be your new love affair…grated parsnips also make for a wonderful knockoff of traditional hash browns). If you’re a coffee lover embarking on this adventure, I recommend stocking up on green tea and dandelion root tea (a great coffee dupe).
Broccoli, chicken, and baby feet for breakfast. Totally normal!
Update your kitchen: You are going to be spending copious amounts of time cooking. One – batch cook when you can, and two – be sure you have the necessary tools and ingredients. You don’t need anything fancy, but you’ll need proper knives, cutting boards, baking sheets, and pots and pans handy. I also frequently use a food processor, a veggie spiralizer, and a crock pot. Because your go-to baking ingredients are no longer on the menu, your cabinet will need a complete makeover once you start AIP. Here is an extremely comprehensive list of autoimmune-friendly pantry items; don’t think you need everything listed. Find what works best for you. My must haves are:
- coconut oil, butter, flour, flakes, aminos, and milk (here are BPA-free options – look for one without added gums or stabilizers – I use Natural Value brand)
- olive and avocado oil
- nutritional yeast
- carob powder
- tapioca flour and arrowroot starch
- honey and pure maple syrup
- Celtic sea-salt, onion powder, and garlic powder
- basil, oregano, and rosemary
- grass-fed gelatin
- collagen peptides
- pumpkin (I buy mine boxed and organic from Thrive)
- bone broth
- dates (some stores keep these in the product section, they are sweet and caramel-y and my saving grace)
- dandelion root tea, green tea
This is where most of my life currently takes place. My hand-towel is crooked. Do I care enough to take another picture? Nope. I DID care enough to give my kitchen a quick “re-new” by moving around items that need easier access, reducing clutter, and deep cleaning. Clean kitchen = happy Fallon.
Recipes: Have fun experimenting in this new food world! I cannot give enough praise to “He Won’t Know It’s Paleo” (although my veggie-hating husband likes to joke and say he-won’t-know-it’s-Paleo-my-rear-end… whatever husband, whatev). It has all the comfort recipes you knew in a former life. You can access most of the recipes on Pinterest, but I love having a tangible cookbook to work from. Find a few go-to recipes you can whip up in a pinch, but don’t be afraid to try new things. You can browse my Pinterest board here for my favorite autoimmune- compliant recipes! If you don’t feel like following a strict recipe, most veggies go together pretty well (garlic powder and sea salt can make just about any combo taste wonderful). My dinners typically include meat and a bunch of sautéed or baked veggies. Sweet potatoes + onions + brussels sprouts, zucchini + parsnips + mushrooms + spinach, cauliflower + broccoli + carrots are some of my most-loved variations.
The cookbook that will change your AIP life. Fuzzy socks are also nice if you have Hashi’s and your feet are always FREEZING.
“Noatmeal creme pies” from “He Won’t Know It’s Paleo” were my first AIP dessert. I was NOT disappointed.
Plan, plan. plan. Confession: I don’t really meal plan anymore. I buy one meat package for every day of the week (which gives us enough for leftovers typically), 2-3 fruit variations, and a ton of veggies, and I haven’t had to throw away any bad produce since I started the AIP. I always keep a few bags of frozen fruits and veggies for when my fresh supply is gone. The food GETS eaten. If you think you may go hog-wild and need more structure, though, the autoimmune-paleo website is here to rescue you. Again. (You will soon fall in love with Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt, too). My biggest planning has to come when we are traveling or will be out of the house for a while – I always plan as if our destination will not have what I need (assuming I can’t do research beforehand) and go prepared (if anyone thinks it would be helpful, I may do a future post on AIP travel tips. Yes? No? You’re never going anywhere ever again? Cool.) Since lunches, coffee dates, etc are so common, it’s easy to forget that you can’t go just anywhere on AIP. Until you get into a strong-willed rhythm, know for certain a restaurant serves AIP-friendly food or is extremely allergy-kind, or don’t mind not being able to eat, try to make plans that don’t revolve around food. When you do start researching local eats, call ahead to see if they cook with olive oil and are willing to make allergy modifications – a lot of places will, you just have to ask!
Find a friend. There are SO many people with autoimmune issues. Try to find someone who will tackle the autoimmune protocol with you. If you can’t, I’d love to be your accountability buddy! Sometimes you need advice, or to vent, or to ask if coffee should be haunting your dreams. No big deal.
Be patient. The first week may seem like an eternity, and you might not notice an immediate improvement. Give it at least a month, if not two; people heal at different rates. As tempting as it is to cheat from time to time, know that you will likely upset your progress – sadly a “cheat meal” on an autoimmune diet is not like a cheat meal for most people.
Stop stressing. Relax. Get enough sleep. Drink some water. Rely on the Lord. A great John Piper quote has been circulating recently: “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” While this may seem a bit extreme for an autoimmune disease at first glance, if you do have one, you know it’s not. Take time to be frustrated if you need to. Talk to the Lord. Confess your sadness over ice cream dates, pizza parties, and convenient food and then press forward in healing your body. Ask Jesus why He called Himself the bread of life and then allowed your body to react to bread (kidding. sort of?) It’s all too easy to wallow in self-pity over your body that hates itself (as in, it’s literally attacking itself. Cool!). Instead, focus on being grateful for access to the resources to take care of your body and rejoicing over the opportunity to draw closer to Jesus. Autoimmunity is rough, friends, but it gets better. Some of your sensitivities may lessen, but others will be lifelong, and you will have to figure out how to adjust with a good attitude. Having an autoimmune disease doesn’t have to leave you debilitated, but it CAN leave you in awe of the Savior who sacrificed everything to be with you.
Good luck, friends, and reach out to me if you need anything!