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Putting REAL FOODS to the “Elimination Diet” Challenge

Real Foods Passes the Elimination Diet shopping test with Flying Colours!

My passion for healthy eating and cooking has led me to enrol on a 3 year Nutritional Therapy course.  As much as I love the theory and study of nutrition, it’s all meaningless unless you actually can help people to eat better.  That’s why I was really excited to test drive a sample 7 day elimination diet that I would possibly have to recommend to future clients.  Seven days of playing in the kitchen and shopping for unusual ingredients – now this is what I signed up for!

So what’s eliminated?
Well at first look – EVERYTHING!!  No wheat, no gluten, no eggs, dairy, oranges, corn, soy, peanuts, pork, beef, shellfish, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and the biggie NO SUGAR (even my beloved honey!!).  I like to think I eat healthily but even for me this was going to be a challenge.

What’s left to eat??!!

What I loved most about this challenge was trying new ideas with all the amazing foods that we could eat!  Fresh fruit and veg, seeds and nuts (unless you have a known nut allergy), fish, chicken (preferably organic), wild game, beans, lentils, rice, oats, quinoa, potatoes (white and sweet), cold pressed vegetable oils, coconut oils and milk, nut/rice milks, herbs, spices and some sweeteners (brown rice syrup, agave, stevia, and fruit concentrates.

Our plan came with a sample menu and recipes so I had a look through and made my choices for the week.    I could have made the week easy and just do a 7 day juice cleanse, but I wanted to see this from the perspective of a client who maybe wasn’t really experienced in healthy eating so I picked recipes that were new to me and used some unusual ingredients and came up with a ‘wee’ shopping list …

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Luckily I had at least 1/3rd in my pantry already!  I was keen to try the recipes for a vegan, gluten free, sugar free applesauce cake and for the homemade granola.  These had ingredients I’d never even heard of – Teff Flour, brown rice syrup and things I’d never noticed in the shops before like unsweetened applesauce and apple ‘spread’ (what’s the difference??).

Most people would have to go online to find these items, have to wait for delivery and have added shipping costs; luckily living in Edinburgh, I knew exactly where to go – REAL FOODS.  The Broughton Street branch is the easiest for me to get to so I grabbed my shopping bags and my list and headed out.

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In my many, many visits to Real Foods I’ve seen so many unusual items and wondered who bought them and what they did with them. Now it was my turn (I’ve been itching for an excuse to try these out!).  Just as I entered the door I found the section of non-sugar sweeteners and concentrated fruit spreads.  Sure enough I found a jar with a dark brown apple spread – just cooked down apples – much more concentrated than a normal applesauce.

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One the next shelf I found the unsweetened applesauce – 2 out of 2 items found!

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And when it came to organic, cold-pressed vegetable oils – I had tonnes to choose from!! I decided to go with sunflower as I had the olive oil at home).

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Next were the gluten free flours, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and toasted ‘cereals’ for my cake and granola.  There were loads of options but some did contain corn (often as corn starch) so I really had to read every label.  It took some time but I found everything on my list except for the ‘Teff Flour’.

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I had never heard of this before so I thought it might not even be available in the UK, but the staff knew exactly what I was looking for but unfortunately it was out of stock, as was the brown rice syrup.  All in all though I got about 95% of what I needed!

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And a trip to the Tollcross branch the next day rewarded me with the missing items (and some extras).

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All my ingredients came to around £50.  This may sound like a lot but most of the packaged goods have a long shelf life and I got enough for one, maybe even two MONTHS!! If I didn’t go for the organic option (choices were available for most items) I could have saved a bit.  I got my fresh fruit and veg during later trips to Real foods, the farmers markets and the grocery store for an additional £40 – which gave me enough for 2 people for the whole week.

During the 7 days I felt great!  I had so much energy!  I woke up earlier and much more alert – DARN!  Does this mean I need to eat like this forever? 😀 😀

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share the recipes from my textbook here but I can tell you that it is possible to create some really tasty food and treats without any of the restricted ingredients. I was surprised at how many things had corn in them – either corn starch or corn based sweeteners so this was also a great lesson on reading labels!  I will definitely be reading every label very carefully from now on – just because something is organic it doesn’t mean every ingredient is right for your individual needs or choices.

UPDATE!   I can share the whole plan!  The lovely people from the Institute of Function Medicine have put the plan online.  Check it out here.

I know the main purpose of an elimination diet is to test for possible food allergies and intolerances but I really enjoyed the challenge of trying new ingredients and recipes and I know I’ll keep using most of them.  Some of my favourites were:

Pan fried Scottish salmon with salsa verde, baked sweet potato and a ‘rainbow’ cabbage salad (my new lunch favourite; its raw, vegan, and one batch serves 4 to 6 and keeps for several days!)

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Baked organic chicken breast with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, nutty brown rice, steamed tenderstem broccoli and mangetout; for a vegan version just make more rice and top with the mushroom sauce:

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Courgette/Zucchini ‘Noodles’ with avocado pesto, olives and tomatoes (from Clyde Valley Tomatoes of course!) One avocado made enough ‘pesto’ for my noodles and for lunch the next day – spread on rice cakes and topped with sliced tomatoes. This was raw and vegan…

Just put a raw courgette through a 'spiralizer' and presto - noodles to be eaten raw or cooked

Just put a raw courgette through a ‘spiralizer’ and presto – noodles to be eaten raw or cooked

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I left mine raw - with tomatoes, olives and spring onions

I left mine raw – with tomatoes, olives and spring onions

The pack of organic rice cakes lasted for 2 weeks and were my ‘go to’ snack whenever I got the naggers; either on their own, with the avocado spread or with almond butter and sliced banana – also great for breakfast.

My applesauce bread had a really nice flavour but an odd, dense texture.  It was definitely nice to have a ‘sweet’ treat and if you absolutely couldn’t eat any of the eliminated foods then this is a really good recipe to have to hand.  The ingredients I bought for this would have made at least 4 cakes – and I only used ½ during the week and froze the rest so although it used some of the more expensive ingredients, actually it was really good value for money.

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There's a fine line between moist and gummy - this was close!

There’s a fine line between moist and gummy – this was close!

I had so much food that I didn’t need to make the granola.  It was the seeds, grains and dried fruits that really added to the total cost but these will last for ages and it will give me a chance to come up with my own recipe – which I’ll gladly share!!

For a proper elimination diet (which can last 4 to 6 weeks including controlled re-introduction of restricted foods) see your doctor and/or certified Nutritional Therapist. If you’re just interested in ‘free from’ cooking and ‘clean’ eating (which can benefit everyone) you’ll definitely find everything you need at Real Foods.  You can even shop online!  And you’ll also find recipes on their website.

The elimination diet I followed was from The Institute of Functional Medicine.

2 thoughts on “Putting REAL FOODS to the “Elimination Diet” Challenge

    • Thank you for making it so easy to eat healthy and to get excited about making healthy food from scratch. If it was too hard to get these ingredients many people wouldn’t bother.

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