Shopping List, Recipes, and All Things Elimination Prep, OH MY!

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling lost or confused as to what could be ailing you…maybe you have stomach issues that never seem to go away, experience skin flare ups or breakouts randomly, or have a digestive system that barely allows you to sleep through the night – it’s possible that an elimination experience is right for you.

An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan designed to eliminate potential “trigger” foods that could be causing allergies or other uncomfortable reactions. After a short period of cleansing your body’s system, these triggers are then reintroduced slowly, one at a time in order to determine which could be not as well tolerated.

The first time I went through an elimination experience was almost a year ago, and the more I’ve thought about it over the past year, I think my reasoning for submitting to such a challenge was simple: I was curious. In my opinion, curious is always an okay place to be…as long as you are open to what your curiously may uncover.

So I took a large step toward better understanding my own body and health and it turned out to be so eye-opening, I decided to do it again.

Fast forward through a whole year of learning and growing and developing, and I’m more excited than ever for round 2! There are a lot of posts about my first experience, and what I ate, or didn’t eat, and how I felt from last year’s posts, so I will just cut to the chase here and start with what you probably want to know:

Which foods are removed during an elimination diet, and for how long?

There are 6-8 foods which most professionals consider to be “common allergens,” so these are always a good place to start if you’re not sure what to eliminate: milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, wheat/gluten, soy, fish, and shellfish.

However, elimination diets can and should vary depending on what you personally want to identify about yourself. Here is what I plan to eliminate this year:

• Gluten
• Dairy
• Soy
• Eggs
• Peanuts
• Corn
• Alcohol
• Caffeine
• Processed food/preservatives
• Refined/added sugar/sweeteners

I also have a hunch that even small carbohydrates in certain foods could be the culprit to some lingering digestive discomfort, so I will be sticking primarily to low FODMAP foods, excluding the above list. You can learn more about the Low FODMAP Diet plan here, an article shared by one of my sweet friends, Lauren Palm.

Most elimination experiences last a total of about 4-6 weeks, as it takes at least a few weeks for your body to rid itself of any antibodies which could be lingering due to a negative reaction (you read that right – so if you choose to never identify what your body could be negatively reacting to, you essentially run the potential of having perpetual antibodies just hanging out on your insides…ugh!). After this initial few week healing process, the next part of the experience is reintroduction.

How to do an elimination diet:

It’s really quite simple, and more than anything else I will mention, simply takes a little bit of extra focus and attention.

First, stop eating whatever foods you choose to eliminate. Maintain an otherwise healthy and fulfilling diet for 3 weeks, absent of these foods.

During this time, carefully read food labels to ensure you are avoiding even trace amounts of your triggers. It might seem like now, more than ever, is a good time for a cheat day but trust me on this one – you’d only be cheating yourself. The elimination diet WILL NOT WORK if you cheat even a small seemingly insignificant amount. The first step is allowing your body to heal, let it.

After three weeks, begin to slowly reintroduce one food group at a time. Don’t go wild and crazy, here. It might seem fun on the first day of reintroduction to make pancakes or go to a fancy Italian restaurant, but the point is actually to be pretty conservative through the reintroduction phase, introducing a single serving amount (1 cup or less, typically) of the food group in as simplistic and pure a form as possible. You want to introduce one food for 1-2 days before moving onto the next one.

This might look like a cup of whole wheat pasta on the gluten reintroduction day, or a glass of cow’s milk on the dairy reintroduction day. Pay attention to how you feel within about 20 minutes of consuming the trigger food, and be sure to record any symptoms or differences. If you calculate that one food or another left you with a negative experience upon reintroduction, you can confirm this food as a trigger food by eliminating it again. Essentially, the entire process is simple trial and error. The most important task throughout the experience will be to take notes, and listen to your body. If this is something you’ve never done before, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by pairing mindfulness with consumption.

 What foods can I include?

So as mentioned earlier, I plan to follow (as closely as I can) the low FODMAP directory of foods, additionally eliminating any low FODMAP foods which are captured by my essential elimination list.

Previously, I ate about 70% vegetables, and 30% lean meat, with the occasional and unintentional sprinkle of healthy fats. Since last year, I’ve been on a mission to learn more about what other potential eating habits could be affecting my gut health, and leading to uncomfortable digestive issues. At a high level, foods that are considered high FODMAP foods mean they contain high levels of sugars and sugar alcohols, which if poorly digested, can ferment in the lower part of your bowel causing the intestine to stretch and expand. The result? Pain, bloating, and other related digestive issues.

With this added knowledge, this time around the goal will be to aim for about 30% fresh vegetables, 30% clean protein, and about 40% healthy fats. Notice this leaves no intentional room for grains or carbohydrates…lending to another topic I’ve been continually researching as of late, but I won’t go into that too much now…

Vegetables, especially leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like Brussel sprouts and broccoli, mushrooms, squash, radishes, and sprouts are all good for healing your body! In addition to avocados, some other healthy fat sources include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

If you can’t imagine going without any source of grains, try to keep them at bay by only including them as about 10% of your food intake, and stick to gluten-free lighter grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and gluten-free oatmeal.

What else can I eat, and how about some recipes? 

So the real juicy inside info I know many of you have been waiting for – my shopping list, and recipe book to meal prep for the diet.

To preface, I’ve always imagined this could be a bit of a letdown if your expectations thirst for flare and excitement. The honest truth: this experience is very plain when it comes to ingredients. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – that does NOT by any means lead to tasteless, boring, or repetitive meals. I just mean to be upfront that what you see is very literally what you get, and you’ll notice the recipes are just as simplistic as the ingredients. Surely you can hit up some other spaces on the internet to find more shazam for your kitchen, if that’s what you’re into. For me, however, I find it easier to stay motivated as long as my food taste good, and minimal work is involved.

So without further ado – my shopping list:

Some other staples include plenty of spices, herbs and other flavor adders such as Salt, Pepper, Turmeric, Coconut Aminos (taste exactly like soy sauce), Avocado Oil, Red Chili Flakes, Everything Bagel Seasoning (from Trader Joes), plus I drink pretty much allll the herbal tea – just make sure to read the ingredients and especially watch out for soy letchin.

So what do you plan to eat?

Like I said – to me, simple is key. I plan to stick to a protein smoothie for breakfast, using vanilla Garden of Life plant-based protein. The ingredients might look something like this:

Breakfast Smoothie
1-2 scoops vanilla protein
10 frozen berries
bunch of spinach, kale, or other green
1/2 – 1 cup almond milk or water
handful of seeds, if desired

I typically will pack snacks for at least the first few days, in case I find myself hungry between meals. I will plan to share some fat-ball recipes later this week! In my experience, however, this lingering hunger between meals will go away as my body starts to heal, so snacks will become less necessary overtime.

Snacks
5-10 Sprouted and roasted almonds
1-2 Small kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 Medium clementine, mandarin, or orange
Couple slices of pickled beets
1 Cup fresh grapes

In my opinion, lunch should be especially easy since it typically has to be prepared ahead of time. I tend to stick to salads, or take leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. My first week lunches will probably be something like the following:

Chicken Salad
1 Cup of chopped romaine
Unlimited amount of kale, if more greens desired
1/4 – 1/2 Medium avocado, chopped
1/2 Lb plain boiled chicken, shredded or cubed (I love the Simple Truth chicken selection from Kroger)
1 Slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1-2 Anchovies, if desired (excellent added low carb source of protein!)
Avocado oil + balsamic vinegar
Everything Bagel Seasoning, if desired

I also like adding pickled beets to my salad, and you can pretty much add any vegetables you want! Carrots, celery, bell peppers? Salads are an easy way to easily and quickly experiment while you food prep. Just be careful to stick to clean dressing options, like a fat-based oil, and natural herbs or spices to add flavors.

Egg Roll in a Bowl (Recipe makes 3-4 servings)
1 Lb ground pork
16 Oz bag of coleslaw, cabbage and carrot mix (avoid preservatives and artificials!)
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
Green onions, for garnish/topping

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, coconut aminos, and oil – set aside. Brown the pork in a large skillet, then add in the cabbage/coleslaw. Add the sauce mixture to the meat and veggies and stir to combine, cooking for about 3-5 minutes until the veggies are wilted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

When it comes to dinner, we tend to stick to just simple meat and veggies. This week we will likely enjoy salmon and cooked Brussel sprouts or carrots a couple of nights, then maybe make a soup to last the next couple of days. Brenen has been talking about curry a lot lately, so here is what my soup recipe may look like:

Chicken Curry Soup
14 Oz Chicken Broth (Pacific, found at Kroger, is a great brand!)
14 Oz unsweetened full fat coconut milk
1/2 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Jalapeno chili, seeded, minced
4 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-3/4 inch pieces
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 Cup chopped green onion
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and chili and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the chicken and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Mix in the lime juice, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Add in the lime wedge, green onion and cilantro as a topping right before eating. This soup is also excellent with cooked white rice, but we will be avoiding rice, personally!

I know this was a longer read, but I hope you find the information and recipe/shopping ideas helpful. I am so excited to begin this journey (again) with some awesome friends joining along, so please feel free to share any other ideas you might have, questions I can answer, or just general thoughts on how things are going along the way. 🙂

I will be back with more updates soon! Good luck, and have fun!

So You’re About to Start A New Diet?

I can appreciate all the sides of the “dieting” arguments out there, and it’s no secret that many in the health and wellness community would disapprove of any form of a constricting diet regimen. I, on the other hand, strongly disapprove of closed-mindedness – on condition. When I think about restricting what you consume, I frame it more as a way of preservation. I don’t remove things from my diet to punish, or torture myself – I choose to remove what I believe (based on research and communication with my own body) actually causes more harm than good. Ideally, once these foods are removed, they stay removed. Therefore, I am not simply participating in an elimination diet, but I am embarking on the first step of a journey toward understanding more about my body.

I strategically plot to improve my overall wellbeing by structuring a dietary regimen that will support the areas through which I define such a state: stable mood, quality sleep, energy level, comfortable digestion…to name a few.

To be perfectly honest, I think it would be difficult for me to support any kind of diet-altering plan that wasn’t backed by some kind of research, be it personal at the very least, but I can whole-heartedly and confidently stand behind any well-organized and thought out attempt to feel better.

With the new year off to the races, and many of us “trying new things,” read on for my top 5 tips for switching up your diet/nutrition, not just for a moment, but in order to cultivate a serious change in your relationship with nutrition + everything else. After all, food is fuel – might as well customize what drives you.

1.     Make Sure It’s Healthy

A healthy eating plan should include foods you enjoy, along with plenty of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, etc. And take note on what ‘healthy’ means in that previous sentence. It depends greatly on your overall goal of dieting as to what ‘healthy’ might mean to you. If you are attempting to lose weight, maybe these healthy foods include low-fat diary, and whole grains. If you are attempting to uncover potential trigger foods that could be the root cause of a perpetual discomfort in your body, maybe you stick to all natural substances like nuts and beans, instead. The only way to actually feel good is to make sure you are consuming a healthy amount of nutrients that your body needs in order to survive, and the only way to make sure you are in tune with this information is to read, and learn, and be open to the discovery. Don’t start a new diet without knowledge of how it might affect you.

2.     Take Baby Steps/Track/Prepare

Change is hard. The ideal approach to creating new habits it replacing them gradually, and experts agree, this is actually the best way to overhaul your diet. If a goal of yours is to simply drink less soda, then maybe the goal today should be to drink less than you did yesterday, and so on. Don’t stress yourself out by attempting to quit something you love cold turkey – spoiler alert: it’ll be incredibly difficult to maintain, and you’ll likely end up feeling disappointed and discouraged if you’re not successful right away. I wanted to stop drinking coffee, which I LOVE, and averaged 2-3 cups of every day. It took me almost 6 weeks to even completely ween off of it, and every single day that I turn down a cup is a successful day to me. I’m still taking baby steps, even after it seems the goal has been reached. Track your progress using your phone, or a note book, or even a handy tracking app like My Fitness Pal or Fat Secret. Even if part of your diet is not necessarily focused on calorie/macro counting, having the ability to actually see what you’re consuming and how it adds up can be extremely powerful, and encouraging. Write everything down! From how you’re feeling to what you did that day. You will be surprised looking back at the progress you’ve made internally from improving your diet. Consider it like progress photos for the mind.

Overall, the most important part of this step is to be prepared. Similarly to doing your research ahead of time, make sure you are prepared for any potential obstacles that may present themselves to throw you off course. Have a company happy hour coming up? Know ahead of time what you can get from the menu, or pack a snack/eat before you go and politely sip on soda water at the event. Plan your shopping trips so that you have plenty of time to get everything you need, and then plan your meal-prep day so that you are not stressed out, or end up going hungry because you didn’t make enough food for lunch AND dinner one night. Prepare until you feel over-prepared and then prepare some more.

3.     Set Realistic Goals

It often seems that those who wish to change their lives the most are the ones who set the most lofty, unrealistic goals. What you may not realize is that even a 5-10% change may make a huge difference in how you feel. Set realistic goals so that you can feel accomplished when you reach them. If you are attempting to lose weight, keep in mind that it’s recommended to strive for shedding no more than 1-2 pounds a week. Slow and steady…or rather, focused and consistent wins the race in developing habits that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

4.     Clean Out/Start Fresh

As it reads, if you’re attempting to switch up your diet, then you might as well actually do just that. Not only will cleaning out your kitchen prevent you from feeling tempted by the sugary snacks you’re used to having, but it will support the overall fresh start that you are attempting to give to your health. Donate the foods you don’t want to a food bank, or neighbor. Don’t put them in the bottom of a closet – get them out of the house! Eliminate the possibility of having a crutch, and simply dispose of anything that doesn’t fit into your new lifestyle. This will be HUGELY impactful to making changes that remain consistent, and not just for a phase.

5.     Experiment and have fun!

Finally – the most important of all – have fun! If you find yourself miserable, hating the idea of every new day, you’re definitely doing something terribly wrong. Use the new opportunity to get in touch with yourself – try new things, explore more about yourself and your surroundings. DON’T sit at home on the weekend sulking because you can’t go out with friends due to your new diet…instead, use the opportunity to see if there are any cool restaurants around town where you can enjoy healthy options. Invite friends out for a movie instead of drinks. Experiment in the kitchen – maybe buy a new cookbook and play around with recipes. Whatever you do – take advantage of this time. You’re not just doing a thing, you’re creating a chapter of your life which has the potential to affect the entire rest of the story. Make it your own, be proud of yourself, and enjoy it!

Good luck!

A note on expectations.

What does it mean to have expectations? Especially in the health and wellness community, we hear the idea of casting aside expectations thrown around a lot. How can you omit such an abstract concept? How can you proceed with most anything in life without setting up a certain expectancy?

One of my favorite rituals I’ve picked up over the last year is that of truly “being.” Being present, and being in the moment. Simply existing without over-thinking too much about it. I learned this practice through meditation, which even after years of practicing yoga, I admittedly only first started habitually committing to earlier this year. While I enjoy meditation in itself as a relaxing and energizing part of my day, the outcome of this present mindset is the reason I keep coming back. Through the challenge associated with living in as crazy of a city as New York, plus the added difficulty of trying to find my place in the world, writing + mediation were largely impactful tools that assisted me in reaching this state.

Like anything else, a certain mindset is a practice, and to master it will continue to take a lot of time. But when it comes to being present, I’ve noticed through my practice that there is really only a short list of obstacles which prevent this from being a natural part of our existence as humans. Imagine how you view change for a moment. Any kind of change – big or small – is typically exciting to some extent, however this excitement can often be joined if not completely clouded by worry, stigmas, and preconceptions. Now imagine how you could view these situations differently if you cast aside those negative feelings. Or more specifically, the ROOT cause of those negative feelings: expectations.

Did you know that of all the animals in the world, human beings are the only species that create their own stress specifically by worrying about the future? No matter how much we plan or how hard we work, often it seems inevitable that something could (and probably will) go not according to plan. And the crazy thing is, even knowing this and often preparing for it, rather than just awaiting the outcome of a situation and dealing with it when it actually happens, we stress about it now, and we stress about it later. Double stress.

Believe me – I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I have grown to believe that a certain level of uncertainty can be powerful, and freeing. In our society, change has been delivered as a scary, typically negative “thing,” but in reality, change can be the most beautiful experience we are privileged to know. Synonymous with “NEW,” experiencing a change means you have the ability to start fresh – whether you’re starting a new job, moving to a new city, entering into a new relationship, or even just taking a new route to work this morning – embrace the changes around you. Every single day is an opportunity for change. Every single day we are privileged with the opportunity to do something new. I’m grateful for New York State of Mindfulness for comforting me just enough to step out of my comfort zone over and over again throughout the past year, but I know my relationship with change will only continue to be tested moving forward.

Just some food for thought, and something I am going to challenge myself to continue to be mindful of through my upcoming transition: Are you enabling your existence with expectations and worry, or are you embracing your opportunity to lean into change, and take advantage of your ability to be free? Welcome to the world, TenikaTime.com – I can’t wait to see what all changes come from this new space.

The ACV Chronicles

It’s no secret that I tend to “go through phases” when it comes to experimenting with my health. Unique to this cycle, Apple Cider Vinegar has been an ongoing “experiment” for over a year. The first time I tried it, I took a shot of it straight (from an actual shot glass), and chased it with room temperature water. It was horrible! I remember thinking, “why would anyone ever do this to themselves…this cannot be worth it!” But, with all the trial and error that is my wellness journey, I knew that was just a mindless reaction to something new and uncomfortable and I owed it to myself to keep researching, and learning before writing it off for good. Over the most recent several months, my relationship with ACV hasn’t dimished, or even faulted by more than a day or two – usually onset by travel, but it has evolved in terms of everything from concoction, routine, and appreciation.

What I’ve learned? I’ll separate it into categories:

The Benefits – WHY drink this stuff in the first place? The regimen initially sparked my interest because of it’s natural effects on detoxification, and anti-inflammation. I was experiencing gut related discomfort, and this seemed it could potentially be an easily accessible and inexpensive solution.

But the perks don’t stop there. Incorporating ACV into your diet can help to improve your overall health by positively impacting your digestion, helping to regulate your bowels, strengthening your immune system, and even improving bad breath! And listen, I’ve become so obsessed with it that I’ve recently been using my Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner for my skin…but more on that another time…

What keeps me coming back specifically? Well I wasn’t consistent right away and I actually NOTICED the difference in the way I felt when I didn’t drink it. Even now, missing a few days here or there due to travel, my energy level drops, I can sometimes lose focus more easily, and often times I’ll get chest/stomach pains from indigestion (I suffered from acid reflux for years and ate tums like candy before ACV – now, it’s a complete nonissue when I drink it on a consistent basis!).

The Method – HOW do you drink it? I will admit, the first several trials were rough – as I mentioned, I was just straight up ripping this like it was cheap vodka in college, and trust me, the experience was eerily similar. In my experimentation, I eventually ruled out several juice options as chasers as well. A few were good, like actual apple cider, but these options eventually got to be too expensive.

You can also try some mixed concoctions using grapefruit juice, honey, cinnamon, lemon juice, and more!

I can’t really remember where the logic came from, but for some reason I recall feeling concerned diluting the ACV would minimize it’s benefits – NOT TRUE. Right around the time I got to the comfort level of drinking it straight from the bottle (talk about building a tolerance), I found it’s actually BETTER to dilute your intake.

The recommended mixture is anywhere from 1/3 ACV to 2/3 water, or 1-2oz ACV with 8oz water. Sometimes I’ll add honey, which is of course optional, but I sometimes like to add it if I’ve had any kind of hiatus from my routine and need a little pep-talk for that first dive back in.

When do you drink it? I also learned that while it matters less when you take it, and more so just that you do, the most optimal time-frame for your daily concoction is first thing in the morning – after 8oz of water to jumpstart your system, but before any amount of caffiene. When we are sleeping, our bodies are working to clear-out, and get ready for a new day. Taking the ACV early in your day can help to optimize it’s potential benefits with minimal distractions floating around your system.

Early in my experience I was taking it at night, right before bed. I was drinking it straight, so it was irritating to my esophagus, possibly distracting me from noticing it’s impact. When I started chasing it, I was able to notice my typical evening-bloatiness lessen overtime. I also woke up more refreshed, and still less bloated than I was used to.

During the real wild straight-from-the-bottle era, I was keeiping it on my desk at work and would swig it in the middle of the day, or just on my way out of the office in the evening. I was able to coorelate it with thinking clearly, and an improved ability to focus, and though still present, the inconsistency in schedule seemed to lessen the positive impact it had on my bathroom habits.

Finally, with most of my kinks worked out, the first thing I do after I get home from the gym in the morning is mix 2oz of ACV with 1/2c of water and toss it back like everyday is my birthday! Immediately following the shot, I refill the measuring cup with water and wash it down further (I usually drink it from a measuring cup…two birds, one less dish to clean). I could have just had the best workout of my life at the gym and I still don’t feel fully awake until I have my ACV. I’ve also noticed the regularity of the routine heightens it’s benefits (at least for me!).

Whether you needd to get your gut in check, or if you’re just looking for a step in the right direction toward improving your overall health, look no further than that nasty stuff your grandma used to give you if you said a bad word! I highly recommend apple cider vinegar above almost anything else in my healthcare routine. It’s natural, it’s cheap, and it’s super beneficial for serveral reasons! Make sure you get it organically (if you can) and always with the mother!

Now that I think about it, I probably should’ve sworn a lot more as a child…