How I Survived the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

What’s this? FINALLY another blog post?

It’s true, Champagne for Breakfast is back! In the two months since my last post, a few things have changed.

I had been experiencing severe, inexplicable chronic abdominal pain for months and I finally decided to find a reason for it. Last time I felt this way, it was because I was eating gluten daily not realizing that it was slowly destroying my insides. Because of Celiac and MTHFR, I’ve learned that most health issues start and end with food. So, I stuck to 6 weeks of an anti-inflammatory diet to try and figure out which foods could be causing my symptoms.

For those of you who don’t know, the anti-inflammatory diet means completely cutting out:

  • Grains – including rice, quinoa, oats, and corn
  • Added sugar – including cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners
  • Legumes – beans, peanuts, lentils, soy, and peas (with the exception of sugar snap peas and green beans)
  • Dairy – including milk, yogurt, and butter (with the exception of ghee or clarified butter)
  • Alcohol – even champagne 😦
  • Oils – except for olive, avocado, and coconut oil

Sounds crazy right? I know, it’s a lot to cut out. Which is exactly why I didn’t post what I was eating – it was boring and pretty much the same three or four meals over and over again! The hardest part was having to learn to drink my coffee black, and giving up cheese.

Luckily, it was worth the struggle because I felt sooo much better. My abdominal pain went away, I had more energy, and my skin even cleared up! I’m not sure why, but somehow this diet even made it easier to manage my stress and helped me sleep better. It’s pretty amazing what a huge difference a little nutrition and self-care can make in your life.

As I began to add the banned foods back into my diet, I noticed that dairy, sugar, and lentils (randomly) were the culprits behind my inflamed digestive system. While the symptoms were evident after eating each of those foods, it wasn’t so severe that I will need to cut any of them out completely (like I had to with gluten). I’m still going to have ice cream and gluten free cupcakes on special occasions, and I’ll still probably snag a cappuccino or two during busy workdays. But for the most part, I will try my best to avoid sugar, and luckily I already use almond and coconut milk substitutes around the house!

Since this diet changed my eating habits a lot, I wanted to share a few of the foods that helped get me through the 6 weeks. I never said it was easy – ignoring cravings, re-learning how to prepare meals without the key ingredients you’ve always used, and essentially cutting out all processed food. The first week or so I was hungry all the time because I didn’t know how to work with all these new dietary restrictions. After I had some time to adjust and practice, I learned a few tricks to keeping myself full and still following the rules.

Here are a few foods that helped me deal with cravings:

  • Pickles – I used to indulge salty cravings with microwave popcorn coated in fake butter. Clearly that wasn’t allowed in this diet. Pickles were an easy and delicious way to settle the cravings when I was feeling snacky.
  • Nuts and seeds – We went to Costco and got the giant bags of pistachios, cashews, and roasted sunflower seed kernels. They were also really handy to satiate salty cravings, and they’re a bit more filling than pickles. Plus they’re super easy to pack in Ziploc bags and carry in your purse or work bag and snack on throughout the day.
  • Pomegranates – I’ve always had this bad habit of rewarding myself for getting through the day by eating a little bowl of ice cream after dinner. The first few days after beginning this diet, I had the strongest urge to eat something sweet after dinner, I guess because my body was used to getting that extra bit of sugar every night. I found that pomegranate seeds were sweet enough to settle the cravings, and all the hard work that it took to get them out of the pomegranate taught me that I don’t need to give in to a craving as soon as I feel it – sometimes you have to earn your treat 🙂

These were the anti-inflammatory meals that I rotated through each week:

  • Potatoes – Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, and oven baked fries. They aren’t exactly the most nutritious of food choices, but they’re filling, delicious, and non-inflammatory so they’re totally fine in moderation.
  • Eggs – Every morning I’d have fried eggs if I had time to cook, and I made a bunch of hard-boiled eggs for busy grab ‘n go kind of mornings. On weekend mornings, I had fun experimenting with omelettes – my favorite was topped off with spinach and smoked salmon. Yum!
  • Zoodles – The next best thing to pasta is pasta made from zucchini. I’d add in some spaghetti sauce (be sure to check for sugar, it’s surprisingly common in these sauces!), veggies, ground turkey, and crushed walnuts for texture.
  • Spaghetti squash – Easy to make and surprisingly filling. My favorite recipe was baked spaghetti squash with non-dairy pesto, roasted garlic, and pan-fried chicken. We made this at least twice a week!
  • Turkey burgers – I learned something new, most processed meat products contain added sugar. The turkey burgers I usually bought were no exception. I had to dig through the freezer section of my grocery store to find one that was anti-inflammatory compliant, but now that’s all I’ll buy. I topped them off with sliced pickles, a slice of tomato, and a bit of dairy-free pesto all wrapped up in a lettuce leaf.
  • Taco salads – Ground turkey cooked in taco seasoning, sliced olives, pico de gallo, guacamole, and chopped lettuce made for a delicious and easy weeknight dinner. I didn’t even miss shredded cheese (that much).
  • Apple slices with almond butter – This became my anti-inflammatory lunch most days; my coworkers were making fun of me for having a giant jar of almond butter in my desk. But it was surprisingly filling and easy to pack, and the only prep work was slicing the apple. Can I get a hooray for lazy lunches!

And that’s my anti-inflammatory story. I’m going to take what I learned from this experience and make healthier, more conscientious food choices from now on. My upcoming blog posts will (mostly) be dairy and sugar free, with a few exceptions. On a personal level, I will continue to find snack foods that aren’t Babybel cheeses and try to drink black coffee, but the champagne isn’t going anywhere!

I have a bunch of delicious meals planned for the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to get back in the swing of sharing them again 🙂 Thanks for following along!

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