Saturday, March 15, 2014

Managing your (gluten-free, SCD, GAPS, Paleo) diet

Nobody said a special diet would be easy, but with determination
and a few little tricks, we can do it!
One of the biggest challenges of special diets, such as gluten-free, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), GAPS, and Paleo, is the amount of time it takes to prepare food. Without the ease of pre-packaged, pre-cooked, processed and canned ingredients, you must spend hours on such tasks as cleaning and chopping vegetables, grating cheese, reading recipes and washing dishes.

Now that my children have left the nest, and I’m no longer working full time, I have quite a bit of extra time to devote to cooking, researching, and grocery shopping. The whole diet thing is a new hobby that I look forward to and enjoy. But I frequently find myself wondering if I could have managed the diet, a career, and a busy household at the same time. Even now, when five o’clock rolls around and I haven’t at least gathered my ingredients, I begin to stress out.

From experience, though, I’ve picked up a few tricks to make all that extra work manageable:

Making a Crock Pot full of applesauce
is one of my weekend tasks. 
  • Plan your menus for the entire week ahead of time. That will cut down on emergency trips to the grocery store and eliminate the stress of coming up with a plan at the last minute.
  • Gather your groceries at one place (if possible) and at odd hours. When I was teaching school, coaching, and raising a family, I would often shop after everyone had gone to bed at night or pick up items before school in the morning. Because there are fewer customers, you don’t have to dodge other shoppers and you don’t waste time standing in line. (You also discover an interesting culture as you browse the grocery aisles at your local supermarket after midnight!)
  • Set aside time on the weekend--3-4 hours, maybe--to prepare casseroles and ingredients to use for the entire week. The few hours you spend on the weekend will free up precious time during the week.
  • Prepare large quantities of frequently-used ingredients at one time. Chop up an entire bag of onions at once, for example, and freeze them for use in weeks ahead. Clean and chop an entire head of celery, peel a whole bunch of carrots, and boil a dozen eggs to use for snacks and recipes. (If you’re shorter on time than money, you can even buy these ingredients already cleaned, chopped, peeled, and boiled.)
  • Use frozen vegetables and fruits. The nutritional value is usually as high as fresh (although you might sacrifice a bit of taste).
  • Double or triple the size of your recipes in order to have leftovers for lunch or for dinner on busy evenings. One night a week, you can “leftover night,” and prepare a smorgasbord of all the dishes that are crowding your refrigerator.
  • Plan your leftovers to use in subsequent meals. Early in the week, for example, throw a chicken (along with spices, onions, and celery) into the slow cooker with enough water to make a good broth. That evening serve chicken and a vegetable side dish. The next day, make chicken salad. On the third day, use the broth and any leftover vegetables and chicken to make vegetable soup. If you add a few new vegetables (and maybe an extra chicken breast or two) to the mix, you can even prepare enough soup to have leftover soup for lunch the next day. (One chicken=four days!)
  • Enlist the help of family members. Even your elementary-aged children can wash veggies, stir sauces, fetch ingredients, or load the dishwasher, for example. Your husband and older children can chop and peel and grate and measure. Family time in the kitchen can actually be fun and educational.
  • Use that slow cooker! Load it up with carrots, onions, and a roast before you head off for a busy day, and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. (I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If I had to choose only one kitchen appliance, it would be my well-loved Crockpot.)
In Case of Emergency: Break Seal!
If you’re just starting out on the gluten-free, SCD, GAPS or Paleo odyssey, you are probably feeling completely overwhelmed. My most important piece of advice to newcomers would be to keep trying, to do your best, and to cut yourself some slack if you make mistakes. Take a deep breath and eat a Larabar. (They’re legal on most diets!) With a little time and practice, your new diet will definitely become easier—and your renewed health will be worth all the effort!