My journey with food has been anything but easy.  A chronic dieter for years, I had what could be considered a “bad relationship” with food.  It was sort of a love-hate thing. What I wanted, I couldn’t have and if I did have it, I usually experienced guilt or weight gain.  When I finally gave up dieting and entered the world of natural health and clean eating, I was thrilled to be able to have a good relationship with food again.

Then I discovered I had food sensitivities. 

Enter old feelings about food.  I was back to feeling deprived and controlled by my diet.  I wasn’t always able to have what I wanted, and I was frustrated about the limitations that dictated who I could eat with, where I could go, and even what I could cook.

It took some time, but I soon learned to see my food sensitivities as inspiration instead of deprivation.  The challenge to create amazing and mouth-watering foods with different ingredients opened my eyes up to new culinary options I hadn’t previously considered.  The closed door on a handful of ingredients opened a world of opportunity to expand my culinary pleasures.

Now, as I work with clients who learn of their own food sensitivities, I watch them have the same disappointed reactions I once did.  Sometimes they are angry, frustrated, and even sad because of the emotional connection we all have to food and the social environments that surround it.  With guidance and encouragement, they, too, are able to find the inspiration and fun in the new structure of their diet.

If you have found yourself experiencing food sensitivities, don’t be discouraged!

Here are 5 steps that can help you take food sensitivities from deprivation to inspiration.

Make-Over Your Favorite Meals

Sometimes when we first discover food sensitivities, it’s easy to assume our favorite meals containing these foods are no longer an option.  While there are some cases where that is true, more often than not, there are ways we can have the meal with some adjustments to the ingredients.  With food sensitivities on the rise, there are many online resources for food substitution so you can swap cow’s dairy for coconut milk, or wheat flour for teff flour, even eggs for bananas or flax seeds.

Think About Food Differently

Culturally speaking, we have certain expectations about what our meals should consist of.  In the US, breakfast often includes some combination of eggs, gluten, and/or dairy. I can have none of those, so breakfast suddenly became a little challenging.  But who says breakfast HAS to be “breakfast-y” foods? In other countries, none of those ingredients are used at breakfast. In India, breakfast may be a crepe made of lentils.  In Japan, it’s often fish and miso soup. Simply adjusting our expectations can allow us to think outside of the box for new options. Instead of having a traditional American breakfast, I might have a quinoa bowl with organic chicken sausage and roasted vegetables.  Adding spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg or even a small drizzle of maple syrup allows me to still taste those familiar breakfast flavors I sometimes crave.

Become Familiar with Pinterest

At the beginning, recipes will be your best friend with making adjustment to your diet.  Tap into the many resources of people who have similar food requirements so you can glean from their experiences.  Not everything will automatically be healthy, but all the recipes will get your mind thinking about substitutions and options that avoid your food sensitivities. Use the recipes as a guide and make adjustments to best suit your needs.

Allow for Mistakes

When a child is first learning to walk or ride a bike, they fall….A LOT!  The first time you try a gluten-free muffin or a soy-free stir-fry, it may not be an overwhelming success.  Every “mistake” in the kitchen expands your knowledge and builds your skills, not just for that specific dish, but also for other things you will try in the future.  Experiment! Try new combinations, being aware they may not work the best but you’ll know more for trying.

Get Creative

When you have become confident and comfortable working around your food sensitivities, don’t be afraid to get creative!  This is where the inspiration that comes from food sensitivities can really shine. It’s where things get FUN….and food should be fun.  Allow me to illustrate. I have a cow’s dairy sensitivity, so store bought ice cream is often out of the question. I tried to buy the coconut milk ice cream at our local grocery store for a special occasion, but it had other ingredients I couldn’t have and wasn’t willing to feed my family.  Determined to have ice cream, I tapped into my culinary creative and ended up making one of the most amazing ice creams I had EVER had. It started with thinking about flavors I was in the mood for and then building from there. In the end, I had a coconut milk-based ice cream with bourbon-browned thyme pecans, and coconut cream caramel.  Totally dairy free, plus it was free of refined sugar and all the unnecessary additives that accompanied the store-bought products. My non-food sensitivity husband LOVED it and said it was one of his favorites ever, too. A food win? I’d say so. And it’s all thanks to allowing myself to be inspired instead of limited by my food sensitivities.  

Food sensitivities are sometimes a big change, but they can prompt an exciting and refreshing make-over to your typical diet. Try something new today and see where the flavors take you. You may be surprised just how much you can love food that loves your body.