Variety on a Restricted Diet & the Meal Where My Mouth Is Challenge

No matter what your special diet, it’s likely you’ll get tired of it. When that happens, it’s not pretty. Here are some of the keys to living with limited food choices – we’d love to see you share your tips as well!

Learn to Love Leftovers… Later

Roast chicken gets an extreme makeover in this avacado salad!

Leftovers are the convenience foods of a special diet. When you have to make everything yourself, in your own safe kitchen, it’s a lot of work. It can be tempting to make extra and have that for your next meal. But do that too many times and you’ll never want to see that dish again. Instead, make several extra servings of your favorites when you cook them. Then freeze or can them in single portions for a week or more from now when you put them away. Don’t forget to put the date on the packages you make! If you want to get fancy, you can even make an entry on your calendar to remind you to eat them up on a particularly busy day.

Flavor Changer

Herbs are a great way to bring a new flavor to leftovers. Image courtesy of the Denver Post.

If you do have left overs from last night, mix it up by adding different ingredients and cooking it in a totally different way. Everyone knows a roast chicken can become a chicken salad and a chicken soup… but you can be more creative than that! Here are some ideas:

  • Make your first meal with very mild flavors, then, the next day, add bold seasonings (herbs or citrus can really change a dish).
  • Add lots of vegetables and fry it up.
  • Add broth or water and make it a soup.
  • Change the texture by pureeing a soup or stew or by adding chunks of vegetables or meat to a pureed soup.
  • Turn it into a pancake or pudding.

Take Turns Playing Chef

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut if you are the one cooking all the time. If you have a friend, partner, parent, or kid, see if they would enjoy helping you (or taking over if you trust them to get your diet right). Encourage them to play with flavors and bring their own ideas to the meal. If you don’t normally cook, ask for a turn in the kitchen and try something new. Even something as simple as carrots sliced the other way can bring variety.

Create Comfort Foods

Most people have comfort foods. The secret to successfully creating a new comfort food not to try and replace it with an impostor. You don’t want to be comparing your new food to the old one. Even if it tastes better, it will not taste the same, and will disappoint! Make sure your new food evokes the same sorts of feelings as the old one by creating positive memories around it, and choosing something that fills you up in the same kind of way.

This apple souffle is the kids' new favorite.

My kids’ old comfort foods were was oatmeal and nachos (but not together!). These were quick, easy, delicious things they could make themselves. When we got rid of all grains, beans, and cheese these foods didn’t work any more. It didn’t take long for them to find a new favorite – winter squash souffles! They are hot, filling, high protein treats that can be made sweet or savory, and the kids can make them all by themselves. Having a go-to food that’s easy, satisfying, and associated with feeling good goes a long way.

My old comfort food was lasagna. With no grains, nightshades (about to get those back!), or fresh dairy I’m definitely not getting that one any more. Now when I want that feeling lasagna used to give me, beef stew with lots of root vegetables is the answer.

Don’t Wait ‘Till It’s Too Late

Just last night I found myself in tears because I hadn’t had smooth and creamy sweets for so long. I really wanted some curd! Letting it get to that point had me thinking of everything and anything that could possibly fill that craving. I found myself focusing on foods we no longer eat, feeling sorry for myself, and got slightly crazed. It doesn’t have to be that way.

When we pay attention to our cravings before they become so intense, it’s much easier to head them off with appropriate choices. Sometimes cravings can be indications of deficiencies or other unmet needs. If I let myself get thirsty or too hungry, I start craving sugar. When I want ice cream I’m usually craving affection… or fat. There are better ways to get both those things than a late-night run to the Alberton’s for Tin Roof Sunday, which is definitely out of the question these days. Start paying attention to your cravings and what they mean for you, and they’ll be both easier to head off and easier to deal with.

Make it More Than a Meal

Finally, mealtime doesn’t have to be just about food. A cup of tea (or just hot water) can be a quiet morning with the crossword or an afternoon chat with a friend. Lunch can be a reason to stop thinking about work and get some air – or an important business meeting. Alone, dinner can be a great time to experiment with your meals. If you are with family or friends, dinner can be a time to connect, banter, or even play games. You don’t have to break bread together to enjoy a meal!

The Meal Where My Mouth Is Challenge

Send us a list of ingredients for a typical meal on your diet, and we’ll give you three or more ways to enjoy them! See if you can stump us.

ps – sorry about all the alliteration! I just couldn’t help myself for some reason.

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday!

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