I get a lot of questions about the products I use daily.
Because of the impact nutrition has had on my health, I pay close attention to what I eat. I’ve been doing so for the better part of 10 years now and over that time, I’ve built up quite a collection of my favorite things. And I’m pretty picky about what I’m willing to eat…to which my husband will attest…often much to his chagrin. Because the first part of every client program I do is to have them ditch gluten and dairy for at least 3-4 weeks, I’m often asked about what I use as substitutes for the “normal”, day to day things like milk, bread, butter, etc. The most popular question I get is…
“What the heck do you eat?!” LOL!
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can be overwhelming. For me though, if there was even a remote chance I could feel better and improve (or eliminate) my symptoms, I was all in. Having said that, it took some research and a lot of trial and error to find healthy options to some of the foods I had to eliminate that tasted good. Of course, fruits and veggies are gluten and dairy free and healthy for everyone, but some other’s were more of a challenge. I can remember when it was first suggested that I eliminate dairy…I seriously felt like there was no possible way I could do it. Coffee without milk??? No way! And give up bread, too?? Impossible! And now, here I am…still a coffee drinker (I love it more now than I ever did with dairy) and I also still eat pasta, pizza, crackers, and bread – I can eat it all and still feel great. I’ve managed to find some healthy AND delicious options that work for my dietary restrictions, many of which my family enjoys as well – and they’re a picky bunch!
Ditching gluten and dairy
I’ve been gluten and dairy for almost 10 years now and it has seriously changed my life. Cutting those foods from my diet produced the biggest improvement in my autoimmune symptoms. These foods tend to generate inflammatory reactions in the body, the reason I have all my clients eliminate gluten and dairy from their diets for at least 3 weeks when we start working together. Gluten causes intestinal permeability in everyone, even if you’re not gluten-sensitive or have Celiac disease, and intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) increases inflammation in the body (among a ton of other issues). As for dairy, over 60% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, making it difficult to digest anything containing lactose. If we don’t fully digest our food, it’s left to sit in the digestive tract for too long and can cause issues ranging from inflammation, indigestion, leaky gut, immune reactions to more serious chronic illness such as autoimmune diseases and cancer. Eliminating these foods completely for an extended time gives the digestive system a chance to heal and inflammation to subside. Anything you can do to improve digestion in your body is the first step in improving overall health!
Besides these eliminations, there are some staples I’ve added to my diet over the past few years that I often recommend to my clients. In most cases, these additions make it easy for me to get key nutrients I need, like added insurance, for those days when my diet isn’t 100% on-point. Most of the changes I’ve made to my diet are directly tied to improved digestion and lowering inflammation, so can benefit everyone. There are so many options for so many things, it really is quite overwhelming. Since I’ve already done the “research” and taste-testing for myself, I thought a “quick reference” product guide would be helpful. They may not all suit your needs or tastes, but it at least gives you some options and a place to start.
- Milk – This was definitely the most overwhelming change for me when I started. I couldn’t imagine a life without dairy! However, I was determined to keep an open mind and was amazed at all the non-dairy options there were. I tried a few different “milks” (coconut, rice, cashew, hemp) before settling on almond, unsweetened, vanilla. I used almond milk for years, but I’ve recently made the switch to oat milk because I prefer the texture and taste in my coffee. Earth’s Own is the brand I love – it comes in unsweetened original and unsweetened vanilla. I use the unsweetened vanilla and it froths up beautifully for that perfect cup of java! And as a little treat for my kids, I’ll pick up the chocolate version now and then…just cuz I’m a great mom.
- “Butter” – Because we’re dairy free in our house, we needed a healthy alternative to real butter. (Just FYI, Becel is NOT a healthy alternative to real butter, regardless of what it says on the package!) I was searching the grocery store one day and found Earth Balance Traditional Spread. None of us could tell the difference from what we had been using, it didn’t make our popcorn or toast soggy (BAM!), and it’s non-GMO and soy free (which no one else in my house cares about but me!). Oh, and it’s vegan, as well. We use it for anything we’d normally use butter, even baking. It makes delicious chocolate chip cookies!
- Cheese – This was almost as big a deal for me as giving up milk. I found it really hard to find healthy alternatives that didn’t taste disgusting. Recently, I’ve been quite impressed with Daiya Foods. Their products are plant based, dairy free and allergen free. Many of their products are now also non-GMO, a key element for me to buy them. I gave them a try and am so glad I did! Their shredded cheddar is perfect for nachos and I use the shredded mozza for our pizza nights. Even my younger kids (who are prone to turning their noses up at anything different) don’t mind the taste and texture. If you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that it’s not cheese, so it’s not going to taste exactly like cheese. It is, however, in my opinion, a suitable alternative when you’re dying for a pizza or nachos and want to stick to your diet restrictions.
- Bread – It took me YEARS to find a gluten free bread I liked and that was also non-GMO and/organic. I’m very happy to report that any of the products we’ve tried (bread, buns, bagels) from little Northern Bakehouse have been a hit…not just with me, but also with the gluten-free-haters in my family. My husband didn’t believe it was gluten free! Non-GMO, 100% plant based and egg free makes these products perfect for celiacs, vegans, anyone with gluten sensitivities, and moms who want healthier options for their family.
A Few Faves Beyond Gluten and Dairy
- Protein Powder – Protein is a key nutrient for optimal wellness. It’s critical for digestion, as it helps with the production of digestive enzymes. It’s also important for hormone production, muscle and tissue repair, detoxification, and the immune system. I’m a firm believer that we should start our day with protein and an easy (and healthy) way to do that is with a protein powder – I make a smoothie with a plant-based protein powder (we’re dairy free in our house, so I steer clear of any whey products) every morning. The product we’ve been using for a couple of years now is LeanFit Complete Green Organic Protein. It’s gluten free, dairy free, soy free, organic and the vanilla flavour tastes great in our morning smoothies. We buy it from Costco – can’t beat the price, but it’s also available on Amazon.
- Probiotic – I take a probiotic daily to support the microbiome in my gut. Probiotic supplements can help repopulate the good bacteria in the digestive tract and help to regulate the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. I originally started with a probiotic supplement capsule, but have recently switched to The Cultured Coconut – a locally made product that is both effective and convenient. The Cultured Coconut is a fermented probiotic liquid supplement and offers a higher quantity and diversity of probiotic strains than a powdered probiotic supplement. (4+ trillion CFU, with over 40 probiotic strains in just one tablespoon). I add it to our smoothie every day and it’s completely unnoticeable (whenever I can add bonus foods to the smoothie and the kids don’t notice, I’m all over it!). It’s dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, and cholesterol free and boasts to be the most powerful probiotic on the market, with 30 times more beneficial bacteria than the average probiotic supplement. Another bonus…better bang for your buck than capsules!
- Bone Broth – Drinking bone broth is one of THE BEST things you can do to support gut/digestive health and I don’t believe there is a person alive who wouldn’t benefit from showing their gut a little love. Bone broth is loaded with proteins and minerals that promote good bacteria growth in the digestive tract and help pull digestive enzymes into the gut. It also contains gelatin which acts like a crack-filler for the gut lining. We want this lining to be in tip-top shape to avoid food sensitivities caused by food particles leaking into the blood stream. A healthy gut will naturally help to strengthen your immune system, which is something we should all be focused on these days. In the winter usually make my own with this recipe, but in the summer, I opt for the easier option of a powder bone broth where I can just add water. My current fave bone broth powder is Organica Chicken Bone Broth – I just add a little salt and pepper to suit my taste and sip away!