All ready to start Step 5? Let's do it!
So... Here is my biggest problem with processed foods. They take over! They are literally engineered/formulated to be addictive. Too often we (and our kids) fill up on them and then hardly anything with nutritional value makes it into our bodies. It really needs to be the other way around. To have a body that isn't going to be constantly inflamed and doomed to be fighting diseases, we have got to fill up as much as possible on quality proteins, veggies and good fats FIRST. I'm good with reasonable amounts of fruit, as long as it isn't constantly taking the place of protein, veggies, and quality fat. But I see processed foods at the very bottom of the totem pole, to be eaten as an indulgence or as a very last resort. Still with me?
I also want to mention that many common foods in society are difficult for people to process and quite frankly, aren't all that nutritious. For example, most things made with gluten (pasta, bread, pancakes, etc.) Breads are cheap and easy to fill up on but have very little to offer nutritionally, especially compared to most vegetables.
There is also a large part of the population that doesn't tolerate dairy very well, particularly the creamiest versions of it (milk, yogurt, etc.) but sometimes they do okay with butter and cheese (that's me, with small amounts). You will have to experiment and figure out what works best for YOUR body. The best way to do that, I've found, is to eliminate that particular food for a few weeks or months and then slowly reintroduce it to see how your body responds to it.
But for Step 5 today, we are going to talk about some ideas of replacement foods for the processed, less healthy ones.
Step 5: Food Replacements
Here are some ideas to replace gluten, dairy, boxed/packaged foods & sugar in your diet:
Even if you "tolerate" gluten pretty well, there are at least hundreds of other food options that are far more nourishing for your body. I would strongly suggest eating as little gluten as possible to make sure those foods are not filling up your plate and replacing the foods your body needs the most! Here are some ideas on how you can do that.
- Pasta: A first step may be to use quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta. A step after that might be to make your own noodles out of zucchini, squash, or cucumbers with a Spiralizer. I LOVE mine & it increases your veggie intake! I really love to bake spaghetti squash as well as a pasta replacement. It really is "nature's noodles!" SO COOL!
- Breakfast Breads: Like I mentioned in Step 3, try making some gluten-free muffins or gluten-free waffles or pancakes!
- Bread: Try out a gluten-free bread recipe if you insist on having bread, or at least make the bread at home. There are way more ingredients (especially with all the preservatives) in most breads at the grocery store, compared to homemade bread. I occasionally will make a sprouted spelt bread when my kids are wanting some bread. Most recipes work just fine when I replace the canola oil with coconut oil and milk with full-fat coconut milk.
- Tortillas: Try out some coconut wraps, or make "tortillas" out of egg like in this recipe, next time you want to make enchiladas.
- Burger: Many restaurants now offer gluten-free buns for a hamburger or will serve it on a salad or wrapped in lettuce. Pretty cool! When I make burgers at home, I typically eat mine as a salad but sometimes I make a simple bun to put it on. As long as there is bacon and avocado on it, I'm good :)
- Almost anything you would usually put on pasta, rice, or a slice of bread often will make a pretty decent salad. I've even dumped some of my Chicken Tikka Masala on a salad!
Dairy replacement used to be harder for me and I found that I missed it more than gluten. But the less dairy I eat, the less I enjoy eating it when I do. Interesting, huh? If you are someone who tolerates dairy well, it could be worth keeping in your diet, as there are quite a few potential health benefits. But there is a pretty significant difference in the nutritional value of "cheap" dairy products and those that come from pastured/grass-fed cows. Many people say that your dairy should be raw too but I personally can't stand the taste of raw dairy products. So I mostly just don't eat dairy and my waistline thanks me for it :) I digress... Try some of these substitution ideas for dairy and see how you feel. Maybe you'll bring it back in to your diet, maybe you won't.
- Milk: We aren't big milk drinkers in our house but you could try drinking some almond or coconut milk or simply start by using it with your cereal. Or try making my gluten-free granola with your new milk of choice! I would recommend making your own almond or coconut milk because of the cost savings and to avoid unwanted, added ingredients. It can be made in bulk batches to enjoy all week.
- Cheese: With most foods that I would normally have cheese, I have found that if I replace it with some other quality fat, usually avocado, I don't really miss having cheese. I love avocado on top of my omelettes/breakfast hashes, salads, you name it! You can also find a variety of dairy-free cheeses at a health food store. Experiment, have fun with it!
- Yogurt: Most yogurt will be made from dairy products, but while you are replacing dairy (at least for a little while) you could try some of this homemade coconut yogurt. It is yummy with a little bit of fruit and/or grain-free granola on top! There are other dairy-free yogurt options out there, but as always, be sure to check your labels. Something that is dairy-free but loaded with sugar isn't going to be a great replacement.
We already talked about replacing a lot of common snack-y foods with whole foods in Step 2 but here are some other common boxed and packed foods and replacement ideas for them:
- Popcorn: I'm not a huge fan of corn but sometimes we make our own popcorn on the stove that is popped in coconut oil and topped with sea salt for a family movie night. Here's the method I follow. It tastes so much better than microwave popcorn (or even theater popcorn, in my opinion) and is very simple to make.
- Chips & Crackers: A first step could be trying out some gluten-free crackers or buying a bag of chips that are cooked in coconut oil. On a day when you are feeling a bit more adventurous, make some kale chips! Overall, minimize eating these and gravitate toward snacking on veggies when you need something with a crunch.
- Fruit Snacks: I'll just say it, even though they are so popular... I despise these. There is pretty much nothing redeeming about them. They spike your (kids) blood sugar without providing a spec of nutrition. Ugh. With that out of the way... some substitutions could be fruit leather (try making your own) or dried fruit without added sugar. Trader Joe's has the BEST soft, dried mangos; just be sure to find the ones without sugar because they have both. Just be careful with dried fruit, it's easy to overdo it!
In my opinion, the less time you spend obsessing in this phase, the better. Since I love to cook & bake, I made way too many "primal/paleo/gluten-free" cookies, breads, etc. at the beginning of my whole food journey. They don't taste like the real deal (or at least hardly ever) & definitely slowed my body transformation changes quite a bit. If you're getting change at a pace you're happy with, then great. Otherwise, I'd really suggest minimizing the "treats" you make. With that said...
- Sweetener: Stevia is a pretty good option to add some sweetness to food without the insulin spikes that sugar and even other "natural" sugars do (honey, maple syrup, etc.). The taste can take some getting used. Another idea is to use part stevia and part honey or maple syrup to minimize the amount of carbs. My dairy-free creamy hot cocoa is a good example of that.
- Pie: If you insist on having pie, there are tons of gluten, dairy, & sugar-free options out there. I really like this Black Bottom Pecan Pie, or this Raw Chocolate Cheesecake!
- Cookies: If you want a cookie suggestion, my two favorites are the Icebox Chocolate Chip Cookies (it's a very popular post and are super easy to make) and Macadamia Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Like I said, I bake too much! I could go on and on...
- Ice Cream: I like all of my coconut milk ice cream recipes! Mint Chip is probably my favorite but the Pumpkin Pie recipe is really good too. I occasionally buy some coconut milk ice cream, but like with many foods, they have more ingredients than my homemade recipe & some that I don't care to ingest. Another super fast, and easy treat we've enjoyed, is making our own fudgesicles!
- Others: My most common "treat" these days is a couple of squares of an 85% dark chocolate bar. Sometimes I will melt it down and add some nuts to it or cacao nibs and mint to make Peppermint Bark but I try not to bake/make very many sweets anymore. As your tastebuds change, fruit will likely become more of a "treat" to you too. Fresh peaches... Mmmmm!
There it is. What did I miss? Are you finding these ideas simple enough to start today? I would love your feedback on how to make these steps the most helpful for you! See you at Step 6!