Every once in a while, life throws you a drastic change and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused.
This recently happened to my family, with one of its members needing life-saving medicine and a new diet to survive. We are blessed to have access to these life sustaining treatments, however, it left us feeling bewildered trying to make the change happen so quickly.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time we’ve undergone a complete diet transformation so the change was much easier this time around. The first time it happened it was a complete 180 from everything I’d ever known about food and cooking and it took time to muddle through the chaos of learning new recipes, methods of cooking and foods I couldn’t pronounce.
During that time, I did learn a few basic tips to make the process easier that I hope will help others, whether they are in a similar situation, trying to navigate a serious medical diagnosis or they can make a slower transition to a new way of eating.
Research: Whether it’s a medical condition or a health decision that has prompted this diet direction, research everything and know what you are dealing with. Know what foods you can and can’t have and find recipes in books and on websites. There are many websites and videos online now that teach how to cook just about everything.
This would be a perfect time to consult a professional nutritionist or registered dietician that can help navigate through this change. If you are able to switch diet plans slowly, research what foods can be easily swapped to make the change more comfortable such as a sugary cereal with an organic, low sugar or sugar free cereal.
Plan: Now that you know what you can and can’t have, it’s time to make a reasonable menu — and I say reasonable because it needs to be a plan to live by. Plan for snacks and the occasional treat, if you can have them, and any meals out like date night, family gatherings or even taking a meal to work.
If these are not planned ahead the temptation to eat something that isn’t on plan may be too enticing. The menu also needs to stay flexible enough, especially at first, to make sure you are getting enough to eat. If fasting isn’t on the menu you should not be hungry after a full meal, so plan ahead.
Remove: Empty the house of all the food that you cannot have. This does not mean to bury it in the pantry to deal with later, I mean, get it out of the house. Donate it, garage sale it, make the kids eat it and while I would never recommend wasting food sometimes it’s necessary to throw it away!
Take the temptation as far out of reach as possible, that way when you are craving something off plan you have only the healthy foods and snacks to grab.
Shop: Create a shopping list and stick to it. Be quite sure you are buying enough food. This is not the time to run out of an ingredient that was supposed to last for several more days. Resist the urge to throw in the things you would normally eat or impulse buys, such as snacks that would normally have been eaten in front of the TV late at night.
Grace: Probably the most important of all is to give yourself plenty of grace. You can accomplish all the other steps, but if you are hard on yourself you will not like the change. Change is not easy for most people, so go easy on yourself.
You will get the hang of it; you will even learn to pronounce quinoa eventually and love it. Pretty soon the new techniques and foods will become second nature and you’ll be surprised by how much you now enjoy your food so there is no reason to worry.
A radical change in diet can be a daunting task, but it can also be an exciting learning experience that will end with a healthier, more food savvy you and with the knowledge and opportunity to help others in a similar situation.