Why you need to be accountable for your diet

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The other night, at an event I attended for work, an incredibly overweight woman walked in and was offered a bottle of pink lemonade, as we all were. “Does it have sugar in it?” she asked. “I have diabetes.” The host confirmed that yes, unfortunately it did, and gave the lady some cold water instead.

Minutes later, the diabetic lady returned to the drinks stand. “I’ll just try one bottle,” she said sheepishly, “diluted with water.” Over the next half an hour, I watched her guzzle down two bottles of the stuff, while her young daughter – probably around 13 and already overweight – looked on.

It made me sad, but it also made me feel guilty. Her disease may manifest more obviously than mine, but I am making the same mistakes despite having a serious illness. We both need to be accountable to someone for our dietary choices. She clearly isn’t – and at the moment, neither am I.

Why it’s hard to stick to a disease-fighting diet

It’s incredibly tough to stick to strict diet, even when you have an illness and you know that diet is integral to the healing process. For me, the hardest part has been sticking to SCD or AIP (autoimmune paleo) while my medication keeps everything under control so well. Even dairy, which in the past has left me a bloaty, achy mess, is no match for my Asacol – I could probably eat a tub of ice cream and feel little if any discomfort.

Add to that the fact that I don’t experience any negative side effects of the mediation – or at least, I haven’t yet – and you’ll understand why it’s sometimes so hard to stick to my diet.

When I did 100 days on SCD, I was fastidious about sticking to it – and that’s because I was accountable here on my blog. Now that I’m not documenting my daily progress, it’s been easier and easier to ‘slip up’; to take chances with my diet. And when I do – and I’m fine – I once again think, ‘why bother?’

Oh hey! Just having a binge. But I've taken my meds so it's cool

Oh hey! Just having a binge. But I’ve taken my meds so it’s cool

Why diet matters

For anyone whose IBD is raging out of control, medication is essential. Steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs like Asacol can get the dangerous symptoms under control before you end up dehydrated, anaemic or worse.

But over the long term, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the foods you eat, and to modify your diet if you know that certain foods can trigger flares. For me personally, I feel that while the drugs are keeping my symptoms under control, they may also be masking the effects that food may be having on my gut.

Over and above ulcerative colitis, I could be suffering from leaky gut (which can be exacerbated by certain  food), or a variety of gut infections, excess yeast (fed by sugar), low stomach acid or other ailments that are preventing me from enjoying optimal gut health, and many of which can be improved through proper diet.

Why accountability works

Everyone knows how hard it is to drastically change one’s diet. Which is why having someone that you’re accountable to is essential. The diabetic lady needs it, I need it, and you probably need it. Identifying who that person is is the hard part – after that, it gets a lot easier.

I’ve kept a food diary for myself in the past; it hasn’t kept me accountable. Because after I’ve berated myself for those chocolate-coated indiscretions, I’ll forgive myself. Keeping a food diary for my nutritionalist, however, worked a treat. She’d be seeing everything I ate, and I’d be embarrassed and ashamed if she could see that I was abusing my body with food.

This blog kept me accountable too – especially as I gained followers, and read your amazing comments, felt your support and heard your stories.

Lately, while I’ve mostly been sticking to the AIP protocol, I have slipped up. I’m eating nuts when I shouldn’t; I’m consuming way too much sugar (“natural” sugar from fruit is STILL sugar – a little fact I like to kid myself about); I’m shovelling the odd mouthful of rice when I’ve had a drink or two – both of which I shouldn’t be doing.

Getting back to blogging, for me, might be the best way to get my bad habits back under control. What’s it going to take for you? A nutritionalist, a blog, a family member, a friend? Find who or what it is, let them know, and then stick with it. It’s one of the most important tools you need in sticking with your new lifestyle. And, if you can do the diet with someone else, even better! Strength in numbers, after all.

Who are you accountable to?

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Autoimmune paleo recipe: Butternut and sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

It’s been freeeeezing in Cape Town, the perfect weather for soup. But I’m not one to slave over a pot for hours on end – not after SCD anyway! I’m all for quick, easy soups that taste like they’ve been bubbling away for hours…

My sister served us a delicious cauliflower soup yesterday, when she and her husband had the family over for Father’s Day. Feeling inspired, I decided to see what kind of soup I could come up with using ingredients I already had at home, and this was the result.

AIP butternut & sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

AIP butternut & sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

It’s tasty, filling, easy to make and totally budget friendly 🙂 Plus, K said that it tasted like ‘restaurant quality’, which is high praise considering that a) she hates butternut soups and b) we have amazing restaurants in Cape Town!

This recipe can easily be made SCD-friendly by omitting the sweet potato. Simply add extra butternut.

Butternut and sweet potato soup with coconut and ginger

Yields 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 500-600g butternut, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 200g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (omit for SCD)
  • 1 medium-large onion, quartered
  • 1 medium-large carrot, sliced into rings
  • 6 or 7 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Garlic salt
  • Knob of ginger, grated
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt & a good crack of black pepper
  • 250ml coconut milk or coconut yoghurt

Method

Preheat oven to 200C/390F.

Place all the vegetables (except the ginger) on a roasting tray, drizzle with coconut oil and season with cinnamon, dried rosemary, mixed herbs and garlic salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.

A trick I learnt recently: If you want to know whether your vegetables will taste good after roasting, run your finger along the bottom of the roasting tray after seasoning, and give it a lick. If it tastes good, so will the veg!

A trick I learnt recently: Run your finger along the bottom of the roasting tray after seasoning the veg, and then give your finger a lick. If it tastes good, so will the veg!

Just before the vegetables are ready, place the ginger into a large pot and saute in a little water for 2 or 3 minutes. Add two cups of boiling water, plus the salt, pepper and bay leaves. Add the roast veg along with any juices/seasoning. Bring to a boil.

Allow the vegetables to simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaves and add the coconut milk/yoghurt. Blend using a stick blender. Add a little extra boiling water if it’s too chunky to blend – I found that I needed another cup or so.

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Add a little extra water if it’s too chunky to blend

Return to the heat for a minute or two before serving.

Slurrrrrrrp! Enjoy 🙂

 

Nightshades: A trick for replacing tomatoes in recipes

I’ve become one of those people that no one wants to cook for. When I first went dairy and gluten free, it was okay because I could eat everything else, and my family happily cooked chicken and sweet potatoes for me. Then I went SCD, and I took my own food everywhere and my family happily boiled eggs for me.

Now, on the autoimmune paleo diet, my family and my girlfriend have basically thrown their hands in the air. They could deal with no dairy. They could deal with no grains. They could even deal with no sugar. But no nightshades?! NO TOMATO?! *hands fly up into the air. What do we feed you?!

I concede that a diet void of tomatoes is… devastating. It’s not only difficult to cook for, but also difficult to live with. The AIP diet calls for the elimination of all nightshade vegetables – the edible members of the solanaceae family – which include potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, chili, paprika, eggplant and various others. See a full list of nightshades as well as an explanation of why they’re problematic for people with autoimmune disease here.

Saying goodbye to nightshades

For the most part, for most people, nightshades aren’t all that hard to give up – except for the tomatoes. Many of us already limit or restrict our intake of potatoes. Lots of people don’t like peppers and they’re pretty easy to avoid too. The same can be said for eggplant. Chilies and paprika is admittedly harder to kick – especially if you like your food to have a bit of kick itself – and also, paprika is found in many pre-made spice mixes.

But here’s the real catch: tomatoes. Just for a moment think of how many tomato-based or tomato-enhanced dishes you eat. Salads, soups, stews, sauces, curries, casseroles, bakes, bolognaises and so much more. Tomatoes are used for colour, flavour, thickness and tang, and they’re used because they’re delicious.

It’s been less than a week but I’ve already found myself up against some pretty tenacious tomatoes. There are some still loitering in my fridge; there were some gorgeous baby ones in my restaurant salad last night, and I had to deftly avoid slurping up some of their seeds with my lunch today (close call!).

When it comes down to it, there’s nothing that easily replaces tomato. It’s not like switching shallots for onions or replacing sweet potato with butternut. NOTHING is like a tomato, which means that one must get creative and think laterally!

The tomato paste bait-and-switch

A few nights ago I decided to make my SCD burgers – one of my absolute favourite meals. But – panic! – I knew that omitting the tomato paste would completely dull the taste of the patties: due to its tartness, tomato paste adds a unique depth of flavour that is very difficult to mimic with anything else.

tamarind-paste

After plenty of Googling, I finally came across the answer: substituting tamarind paste for tomato paste. Who’d have thought?!

And even luckier: I bought a large packet of tamarind paste while I was in Malaysia recently. I’d used it during my cooking course in Kuala Lampur and I was eager to bring it home and try it in my own cooking.

What is tamarind paste – and is it paleo?

Tamarind is a very sticky, tart brown pulp that comes from the pods of the tamarind tree. Often, the seeds – roughly the size of a cherry pit – are left in the paste and you need to remove them before using the paste.

It's suuuuper sticky and sometimes it still has the seeds inside

It’s suuuuper sticky and sometimes it still has the seeds inside

To make the substitution, use roughly half the amount of tamarind paste as you would tomato paste. It’s very tangy with a touch of sweet, just like tomato paste but more intense. Put a little on your finger and give it a taste.

Where to get tamarind paste and what to use instead of it

You’re most likely to find tamarind paste at Asian, Chinese or Indian food suppliers. Or, you can do what I do and Google it, as this will help you to find a supplier in your area or perhaps an online retailer that sells it.

Tamarind paste comes in jars or blocks wrapped in cellophane

Tamarind paste comes in jars or blocks wrapped in cellophane

If you can’t find it, some people use pomegranate molasses instead. Accordingly to Nigella Lawson’s site, you can also mix equal parts of lime juice, white wine or rice vinegar with sugar. I haven’t tried this myself, but it is apparently only effective if just a small quantity is required, as tamarind has a very unique flavour (in the same way, this is why it works well as a substitute for tomato paste, because the latter is usually only used in small amounts).

Recipes using tamarind paste

Tamarind paste is mostly used in Indian and Asian dishes. Here’s an awesome recipe for paleo pad Thai using tamarind paste, taken from Against All Grain – an amazing site if you haven’t checked it out yet. Or you can give it a bash my paleo/SCD burger recipe 🙂

Give it a try and see what you think!