“So what do you eat?” is a question that I hear a lot from family, friends, doctors, nurses, and even strangers at the grocery store. Although it is an interesting question, I sometimes have a tough time trying to answer it because I am not sure where to start.
My family’s unique diet happened very gradually. And my incredible fascination with food, cooking, and experimenting in the kitchen happened by accident.
It started before my baby was born. In addition to removing all of the regular prohibitions from my pregnancy diet, I also eliminated all nuts and shellfish since we have a family history of allergies to those foods.
Then when our Little Bear was born and wouldn’t stop crying day or night, we tried everything we could think of to ease his pain including effective burping, small frequent feeds, constant holding, swaddling, and keeping him upright for thirty minutes after a feed. Finally at our four-week appointment, our midwife suggested eliminating wheat, dairy, and soy from my diet. Although those were my favourite foods, and I was skeptical that eliminating them would even make a difference, I stopped eating them that day out of desperation. It was extremely difficult to forego bread, pasta, cereals, crackers, baked goods, milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, chocolate, soy sauce, etc, but we immediately noticed a huge improvement in our little one. He calmed down. Although he was still restless and uncomfortable, he was no longer in constant pain. To fill the gaps in my diet, I substituted rice, potatoes, and oats for bread, pasta, and cereal.
I continued to monitor my diet for several months and eliminate problem foods that triggered either an allergic reaction or a lot of pain or gas in our little one. The big culprits included broccoli, vinegar (including pickles, condiments, and salad dressing), corn (corn oil, corn starch, corn chips, corn syrup, and corn cereal), and tomatoes (tomato sauce and ketchup).
In addition, I phased out foods that aggravated reflux such as peppermint, caffeine, carbonated beverages, spices and seasonings, and citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes).
Managing my menu started to become a little challenging, but I continued with it because I was seeing results. If I ate even one bite of a forbidden food, my little one would scream for several hours before projectile vomiting. These drastic consequences lead me to continue experimenting with different foods. Some foods, like tomatoes and condiments, were hard to find a substitute for that didn’t contain anything that my little baby was allergic to, so I learned to eat very plain foods, without any conventional sauces, condiments, or seasoning.
Eventually, I looked at the vegetable families and analyzed which vegetables were related to the foods that I already knew affected my son. The worst offender seemed to be the nightshade family, so I phased out the entire family including potatoes, peppers, and paprika, in addition to the already terminated tomatoes. For a period of about eighteen months, I also completely eliminated the onion family (onions, garlic, chives), the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, radishes), and the legume family (peas, beans, lentils, peanuts).
After a while, I decided to minimize grains, starches, and sugar from my diet in an effort to focus on more nutrient dense foods. Although this was, perhaps, one of the more intense dietary transitions, I noticed a new energy and balance in our lives. In both my little one and myself, I observed that not only did our moods stabilize, but our strength and energy improved as well.
Over time, I realized that what I was adding to our diet was even more important than what I was removing from our food choices. Every time I added more foods to my boycott list, I looked for substitutes for what we could eat.
It would have been easy to become discouraged and frustrated, but I always tried to focus on what we were able to eat and enjoy.
I investigated the vegetable families that were okay with Little Bear’s tummy and I expanded our diet to include sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach, quinoa, pumpkin, zucchini, and all types of squash (butternut, buttercup, spaghetti, etc).
I started obtaining all of our meat and eggs from a local organic farmer. We could not believe the difference in quality and taste in these products!
Then I added some super-foods to our diet including coconut oil, fish oil, and bone broth. We also increased our intake of fermented probiotic foods such as homemade goat’s milk yogurt and fermented cucumbers.
As I have continued to add and subtract foods from our diet, I have had to figure out new ways to prepare and present our cuisine.
Now, our meals are more nutritious and tasty than they have ever been. When I look back and think about how we used to eat a couple of years ago, I cringe. At that time, I honestly thought that I was eating a healthy diet!
When I look back and think about how I used to feel a couple of years ago, I shudder. I was tired all the time, I lacked energy, and I had mood swings. I cannot believe how much better I feel now just from making different, sometimes difficult, long-term food choices.
I have come to realize that for me, food is a journey. I will always be researching, tinkering, and practicing in the kitchen. What started out as survival has become a passion and a challenge. I love to experiment with different foods and attempt to present the foods that we already eat in new ways.
The recipes published on this blog were all created specifically for my little boy. They were designed to be healthy, tasty, easy to eat, and quick to make. Not only do they take into account his food allergies and sensitivities, but they have also been designed to be easy to chew and swallow, since he has a hypersensitive gag reflex.
My most important rule for formulating new recipes is that we both have to like it. For me, a dish has to be healthy, well-balanced, and easy to make. For Little Bear, a meal has to be appealing, delicious, and fun. The recipes posted here meet all of these requirements.
I hope that you will enjoy them as much as we do!