So we’ve been trying this new thing in our house for about 5 weeks now, and since it’s Monday and who doesn’t like to read about bizarre diet attempts on a Monday, I’ll regale you fine people with the preliminary results.
Let me back up for a bit to April. I’d been feeling pretty rough despite not being actively pregnant or nursing very often, maybe only 3-5 times most days. (He has since weaned completely. Tiny, conflicted violins.)
But my body felt like I was running back-to-back marathons and I could.not.get. enough sleep to satisfy the deep, unrelenting exhaustion that claimed me most afternoons by 3 pm. I’d cut way back on alcohol, had stopped drinking coffee for an entire week (I know!), then reintroduced to my current level of a single shot of espresso with breakfast (do I need to rebrand, u think?), and still felt like k-crap.
I’d also been seeing a naturopath for the last couple months and she’d recommended some dietary changes that sounded truly terrible. But! She also hinted that she thought I might be a good candidate for trying to heal what she suspected was a “leaky gut” by cutting out grains and dairy. I was confused because I thought leaky gut was something… grosser. But hearing her explain that some of the symptoms can include depression and exhaustion and exacerbated hypothyroid symptoms had me all ears.
Since I’m not crazy enough to think that I could do another Whole 30 at this juncture in time, I forced her to tell me which was worse, in her estimation. In her own words: “if you’re standing at a party looking at a platter of cheese and crackers, pick the cheese.”
So dairy isn’t great, but in her opinion, grains are far worse for leaky guts and their lesser-known sidekicks, leaky brains.
(The reasoning? Serotonin levels are controlled by both the gut and the brain, and what irritates one will also impact the other.)
I’m not going to pretend I’ve done tons of research or have a nutrition degree, but in my own anecdotal experience, I’ve seen an incredible difference in my energy levels, quality of sleep and stability of mood over the past month.
Placebo? I dunno. But I will take it. 3x’s a day, chased with a tall glass of kombucha.
The first week without grains was tough. It felt like the beginning of a Whole 30, but with the consolation (and a large consolation, I’ll concur) of cheese and honey. After about a week though, we settled into a new rhythm of eating as a family, and it’s just kind of become normal.
(As an aside: grains are, for our intents and purposes here: wheat, corn, rice, oats, and those lesser-knowns like spelt, amaranth, rye, etc. And the kids still eat some oatmeal. But we’re working on it.)
And yes, we did it as a family. I knew it was going to be tougher with the kids, at least in terms of convenience and time spent in food prep, but I also wanted to not be preparing multiple meals for different people. So we tossed out the oatmeal, (which we’ve since reintroduced), packed away the mac n cheese to the food pantry, and finished up our last loaves of Ezekiel bread.
And it’s been totally fine.
I’ve made these insanely good chocolate chip cookies twice, and a few mornings each week we make paleo pancakes (eggs+bananas+vanilla+baking soda in the blender) which they happily gobble with butter and syrup and are none the wiser, and things have been really great in the stability of toddler moods department. We’re seeing happier, calmer kids and they are eating a TON of vegetables.
So are they happier and calmer because mommy feels better? Because they’re off grains? Because they’re eating 400x’s the amount of vegetables they were before? Because in cutting out grains we’ve ditched almost all the processed food we were eating before?
Happily, since this is neither an official nor a scientific study, it really doesn’t matter.
And because it is working so well for our little family, I figured I’d throw it up on the blog in case someone else could benefit from giving it a go.
The best result for the kidlet set has been for our oldest, who has had chronic tummy troubles since birth. We’ve done gluten free in the past, and we figured out he was lactose intolerant about a year ago, but this combo of low grains (he’s still eating oatmeal some days) and low dairy (he can tolerate aged cheese) has him feeling better than I can ever recall. And he is a lot happier and a lot easier to get along with.
Which is sad because, the poor guy, his tummy just hurt all the time. And going potty was never easy.
Every night the litany of complaint would start up again, and no matter how many times we’d been reassured by doctors that having a kid on a regular regimen of Miralax was normal, we still couldn’t shake the feeling that no, actually, it wasn’t.
So what does a normal day’s food look like? I’ll give you some multiple choice options for each meal, because the sheer lack of options was what really felt overwhelming to me in the beginning. But there are plenty of options, truly! It just takes a little mind shift.
Breakfast: paleo pancakes, scrambled eggs, apple with peanut butter, bacon or sausage, veggie omelette, gf oatmeal (kids only)
Lunch: turkey and lettuce wraps with mustard and mayo, salad with roast turkey, blue cheese, almonds, homemade vinaigrette, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, grilled chicken with portobellos and onions, roasted asparagus, last night’s leftovers
Dinner: roasted veggies in avocado or olive oil, roasted salmon, curried shrimp and veggies in coconut milk, baked potatoes topped with homemake bolognese sauce, turkey and sweet potato crock pot chili, shredded Hawaiian crockpot chicken over roasted veggies, spaghetti squash with olive oil and parmesan, grilled burgers in lettuce wraps with roasted sweet potato rounds, oven chicken fajitas in lettuce wraps or on a bed of lettuce with tons of guac
Snacks: string cheese, almonds, dried fruit, cut up veggies with homemade guac, salsa and baby carrots, apples with peanut butter, potato chips, plantain chips, (<– the kids hate these, I tolerate them. Barely.) peanuts in shells (messy but beloved by kids), frozen berries, natural beef jerky, hummus, watermelon cubes
So there’s still a lot of options. It’s just a matter of thinking outside the bread box. And truly, the mental shift away from quesadillas and pb+j’s is daunting, I’ll admit it. But one unexpected bonus of this chosen way of eating is that our friends with more severe dietary restrictions and actual food allergies are now easier to entertain in our home, both because my repertoire in the kitchen is expanding, and also because little palates are developing tastes for a broader variety of foods.
So we can bring a bunch of veggies and guac to the park and everyone can actually eat them. (For the most part. I do have a little buddy with an avocado allergy, which is so sad. My heart is Mexican. And yeah, I do really, really miss tortilla chips.)
Now here’s the confessional portion of this obnoxiously-long program: this weekend I ate a cupcake at a party, and I drank a beer. Both were delicious.
And I felt like crap.
And I still feel like crap, truth be told. And yes, alcohol always tends to make me feel run down the next day, and sure, not a lot of sleep was had this past weekend (who knew priestly ordinations involved more partying than weddings?), but the effects of that little cupcake and that very delicious pint of Left Hand Milk Stout were undeniable. And as delicious as both were, neither were worth feeling this rough.
So I’m plunging back into paleo-ish meal planning with fresh resolve this week, grateful for the huge improvements we’ve seen in our family’s health, and happy that there are no grains in potato chips. Or in dark chocolate (check your labels.)
Oh, and fine, yeah, I’ve lost 6 lbs too. That part isn’t terrible, either 😉