The holiday season has arrived but this year I won’t be indulging in pumpkin pie, turkey stuffing or wheat dinner rolls. I recently began an elimination diet to detect food allergies.
The diet involves completely avoiding certain foods that are potential food allergens for two-four weeks. Many of the traditional foods, eaten from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, are off the menu. My timing on undertaking the diet might not be the best but I probably won’t gain the average one to five pounds during the holidays.
Dairy products, wheat and other gluten-containing grains, eggs, corn, tomatoes and potatoes are some of the foods I must avoid. Some of the others being eliminated include: red meats, soy, peppers, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, refined sugars, caffeine, citrus, strawberries and peppers. I also must avoid foods I eat more than three times a week as well as items I “crave.”
Why am I subjecting myself to this torture, especially during the holiday season? The answer is I have symptoms, commonly caused by food allergies, but I don’t know what foods are the culprits. An elimination test, while not 100 percent accurate, is considered the “gold standard” for figuring out which foods are problems. I took the easy way out previously and had a blood test. Unfortunately, my symptoms only improved slightly when I eliminated the foods identified by the blood test.
Common symptoms provoked by food allergies include gas, bloating, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Other symptoms can be headache, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, food cravings, eczema, mouth ulcers, canker sores or hives.
My task is to stay off the foods on the “avoid” list until my symptoms improve and then begin the reintroduction phase of the diet. That’s where a bit of complicated detective work comes into play. I will keep a food journal as I reintroduce one banned food every three days and note symptoms that appear. Foods that cause symptoms go on the “allergy” list. After a food goes through the reintroduction test, it goes back on the “avoid” list until all the testing is completed. Testing can take up to two months to finish.
Being on an elimination diet doesn’t mean deprivation, especially if you’re open to trying different foods and being creative with menus. Many delicious foods are on the “allowed” list which will help me still eat well for Thanksgiving. I can choose among turkey, chicken, fish, lamb or wild game for my Thanksgiving entrée. Sweet potatoes, squash, most vegetables, rice and legumes can be used for side dishes. Sweets may be in short supply but most fruit is allowed.
Here’s a delicious recipe you might want to try for Thanksgiving, even if you’re not on an elimination diet.
Glazed Turkey with Sweet Potato Dressing
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, trimmed and chopped
½ cup chopped peeled parsnip
1 tsp. ground sage
1 turkey (approximately 10 pounds)
Roast and glaze turkey according to directions. Prepare stuffing. Place sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash. Sauté the onion, carrot, celery and parsnip in oil for about 10 minutes. Add the sage. Combine the mixture with the sweet potatoes. Place the sweet potato stuffing in a casserole dish, oiled or coated with pan spray. Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.