Changing your diet is tough. Until it’s medical, a robust diet change has always felt more like a suggestion instead of a must. For a burger queen who suddenly has to cut out all meat, or the cheese king who finds out he’s lactose intolerant, discovering that you have a food sensitivity can feel like being thrown into deep water without a life preserver.
Maybe this is why so many fad diets ultimately fail. Once the need is medical, like a food sensitivity or because of a person’s increased risk of diabetes, what once felt like a suggestion suddenly feels like life or death.
Consider this post your virtual life jacket: Here are three game-changing tips for changing your diet.
Research and play.
Eliminating food items (or a whole food group) from your diet doesn’t mean being relegated to a life of boring meals. Quite the contrary! Food sensitivities can be the gateway to a whole new culinary world that you never knew existed. A simple Google search and a trip down the YouTube rabbit hole will have you experimenting with new ingredients and looking forward to testing out this recipe or that ingredient in no time.
For example, for someone who has to cut out dairy but loves yogurt and cheese, the options are endless. From making your own coconut yogurt at home to discovering a delicious cream cheese alternative at the grocery store. Or maybe you’re someone who has never cooked before. Now you’re facing a gluten-free future and the thought of touching a kitchen appliance makes you break out in hives. This new gluten-free adventure could be the very thing that turns you into a viral culinary TikTok sensation.
Stop thinking of your food sensitivity as an “elimination” and start thinking of it as a “possibility”.
Plan, plan, and plan some more.
While living your best vegetarian or lactose-free life sounds great on paper, the truth is that changing your diet takes quite a bit of planning. At least in the beginning. Keeping a food plan for the first month can help you ease into this new life without feeling overwhelmed or burnt out by day five. Luckily, we live in the 21st century, where meal planning services and telehealth services are as common as Netflix and Amazon Prime. When in doubt, talk to your doctor or look into signing up for a meal delivery service.
Maybe you are on a strict budget or your doctor doesn’t have any appointments available. In this case, find a list of things that you need to eliminate and food items that you can sub in. Use a couple of hours to meal prep for the week on a lazy Sunday and plan for every scenario.
Another important tip is to always keep a snack on hand, even if you’re about to meet some friends for lunch. Pack more snacks than you think you’ll need, and try to avoid changing too many things at once. Habits take time to stick, and it’s best to tackle one major life change at a time.
Be social, be vocal.
In a perfect world, every restaurant would have options for those with food sensitivities. Unfortunately, we don’t live in Utopia, and because of this, social lives tend to take the hardest hits during dietary journeys. The thought of never going to brunch again or sitting out on that birthday dinner isn’t a happy one, this is why it’s so important that you go anyway. Yes, you read that right. GO ANYWAY.
Have dinner with your friends, go to that cool bar with your siblings, ask for seconds on Thanksgiving. Your social life can still exist, you just have to be vocal about your new lifestyle and do a little bit of research ahead of time so that you’re not caught in an awkward situation (this is where your snacks will come in handy).
For example, if you’re going to a dinner party at your in-law’s house, bring your own dish. Make sure that it’s big enough for everyone to enjoy, and dig in. Have a script ready for when people ask why you aren’t eating the mac and cheese, and shrug off any ‘joking’ comments.
Perhaps your friend really wants to have a birthday party at a cool little Italian restaurant. Call ahead and tell the staff about your dietary restrictions; more often than not, they’ll be happy to accommodate your needs.
Remember, you've got this.
Major life changes are daunting, especially when it comes to food. Tackling this transition is a lot like riding a bike for the first time: it’s scary in the beginning, but after a couple of tries, you’ll find yourself thoroughly enjoying the ride.
If this article resonated with you or someone close to you, check out our Food Diary and Symptom Checklist for a more hands-on approach to navigating your food sensitivities.