If you’ve found my blog there’s a good chance you are following, or are about to embark on, either the RPAH Ellimination Diet or Sue Dengate’s FAILSAFE diet.
Doing an elimination diet is a really daunting experience. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s easy, especially if you’ve seen the results of it. But I think for us the hardest part was that it upset our whole routine. We thought we were pretty healthy eaters before the diet (although in hindsight we did consume a lot of the nasty additives), we cooked at home and limited take away or eating out to the weekends. Before the diet, if we were too tired to cook something “proper” we cooked up some pasta and mixed in a stir through pasta sauce or pesto, maybe added a few olives. Easy! Now we cook some chicken in a bit of garlic, stir through some sour cream or light evaporated milk and add it to pasta. Its almost as easy, but it took more than a year for that to become the new routine.
We are lucky, in that Oscar can have amines and we have successfully reintroduced moderate salicylate foods. But our shopping list is still pretty limited. We now have a new set of regular week night meals and easy options, such as the pasta described above, but it wasn’t easy to get to this point. I also need to keep developing new recipes, and looking for new ideas, so that Oscar can continue to experience as wide a range of foods as possible.
A lot of the adjustment is about old habits and changing mindsets, but an elimination diet also increases your work load incredibly. Almost everything has to be created from scratch! I’ve never pictured myself as much of a home maker. My husband used to complain to “the manufacturer” (my mum) about my lack of domesticity. Now I bake and dry my own fruit and make jam, chutney and stock! If anyone had told me this even 3 years ago when I was pregnant I would have howled with laughter. (I do have to say here that hubby is very domesticated and does his fair share of the other household chores.)
If I had to re-do our elimination diet again I would do a lot more preparation. Our dietitian advised that I spend a week making a menu plan and doing the shopping before starting, but there is a lot more I wished I had thought of or known to do. So here is my list of tips for preparing for an elimination diet. To do all of this you would probably need about 2 weeks preparation time.
Get all your resources together and make a list of all the foods you can have. There are many lists of salicylate and amine foods but a lot of them are out of date or incorrect – stick with the RPAH handbook.
Put together a list of recipes that you think you can accept and eat, and most importantly cook yourself. Use the RPAH and Sue Dengate books, but also search your own books for recipes that can be easily modified (i.e. leek for onion,) use the internet. Any recipe, or variation, on this site that is Low Chemical/Failsafe is OK for an elimination diet. If you need to modify a recipe, write it down before you start the diet.
Note: ingredients used in processed foods often change, so always check the ingredients list before using.
3. Menu Plan
Make up a menu plan for at least the first 2 weeks – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. You’ll be too tired and stressed after the first week to think about the next week’s plan.
4. Pantry and Fridge
Clear out the foods you can’t eat from your kitchen. Don’t through them out yet, you may be able to have them once you’ve been through your challenges. Because my husband didn’t have to do the diet we didn’t remove any foods. We bought a couple of packets of stickers (spots or stars) and put a sticker on every food item that was OK for the elimination diet. (There were less OK foods than not OK foods, but you could do it the other way around).
Do your shopping. Take the time to find health food stores or online stores that stock the more unusual products – Hanks jam, cashew paste, quinoa grains, millet rings, lollies, etc. – as these can add a lot of variety into the diet. Be prepared for your first trip to the supermarket to take twice as long as normal – you will have to read all the labels very carefully. This does get easier and quicker over time. Prepare a list of allowed foods and add to it when you find brands of processed foods that are OK – take it with you to the supermarket. You can use my shopping list as a start. Any foods that have “Low Chem” in the chemical column are OK for the elimination diet. The ingredients on packaged foods can change, so please review the ingredients list before using.
Prepare all your basics:
- Make vegetable stock and freeze it.
- Make chicken stock using a whole chicken, then freeze the meet in portions for use in recipes and sandwiches. Freeze the stock.
- Make pear jam if you’re not buying the Hanks jam.
- Make pear chutney and pear sauce, pear and vegetable sauce and/or no-tomato sauce.
7. Freeze meals
Cook ahead if you can and freeze. Soups, pies, sausage rolls, sausages, rissoles and casseroles are great for doing this. Not only will you have something in the fridge, it gives you a chance to practice and refine your recipes.
8. Weekly Roast
Make a weekly roast dinner part of your menu plan and cook a large piece of meat and heaps of vegetables. You can freeze the left overs or use them over the next few nights in risottos, pies, fried rice, bubble and squeak, pizzas, etc.
9. Special Occasions
If your elimination diet is likely to go across a special occasions such as Christmas, Easter or birthdays, plan ahead. Include some of the foods you intend to serve in your weekly menu so that you can practice. See my Special Occasions page for some ideas.
10. Eating Out
Eating out and maintaining your elimination diet is pretty difficult. We did find with Oscar that we could get the kitchen to cook some meals for him that weren’t on the menu, but you need to plan ahead and be very specific about what ingredients they can use. If you can’t avoid eating out while on the diet or get a modified menu, you can treat it as a challenge (just don’t do it during a challenge as this might skew your results). Record what you ate and go back to the elimination diet immediately after, then record any symptoms that occur over the next 3 days. Food intolerances are related to the level of chemicals in your body, so you may discover that you can go out and eat certain types of food on an occasional basis.
I wish you all the best!