Browsing Category: diet countdown

20-day diet prep plan: Day 12 – No-brainer breakfast options

9 easy no-brainer breakfast options with protein

hash with chicken apple sausage

I hope you enjoyed experimenting with the hash method and the soup method yesterday! If you ran out of time (or energy), feel free to continue the experiment today.

I also encourage you to spend some time today doing some thinking and research — and maybe also, possibly some more cooking — in order to figure out what your breakfast plan is.

Breakfast is so important! One successful Paleoite says:

Ever since I started taking breakfast seriously, I have really grown to enjoy it and it’s now my favorite meal. I try to set myself up for success by eating the most nutritious meal first thing in the morning. Since I started eating this way, I’ve found that I have more energy during the day and I’m less hungry for snacks, and sometimes even have to remind myself to eat lunch (coming from someone who used to suffer from chronic hunger, this is huge!).

I think that sums it up well. Starting off with a nutritious, filling breakfast sets you up for food success the rest of the day. Your blood sugar rises slowly and ebbs slowly over the next three to four hours, carrying you through to lunch.

In contrast, starting out with a small, carb-filled breakfast, your blood sugar first spikes — which feels good, because you get energy — but then it bottoms out, leaving you foggy and hangry, and reaching for more sugar or carbs, so your day ends up looking like this:

cravings all day long

If you’re doing the 21 Day Sugar Detox or a Whole30, protein at breakfast is going to be part of the plan. Also, for those who are trying The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, Step 1 is eat breakfast every morning, making sure it has protein in it. So this is a good idea for everyone!

If you’re like me, though, you need breakfast to be a no-brainer! So that’s why you need to plan ahead of time and figure out what your no-brainer breakfast will be. If you wait to figure this out on Jan. 1, you’ll shoot yourself in the food right at the start!

Experiment with breakfast and find one to three you can live with for a month. One is sufficient if you’re the type of person who is content to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Find more if you want more variety.

It should contain a protein (eggs, meat, or protein-y broth), some healthy fat (butter, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil), and veggies and/or fruit. Use fruit sparingly. Some 100% whole-grain bread is fine, too, if you’re not cutting out grains. Keep it as sugar-free as possible, too.

No-brainer breakfast options

paleo breakfast options - protein smootie

Protein shakes

I’m not a huge fan of protein powder as an everyday ongoing habit, because I don’t consider it real food. But if a protein smoothie is all you can manage at this point, by all means, do that! Progress, not perfection, is what we’re after. (Just make sure it’s sugar and sweetener free.) Use banana slices or apple juice for sweetening. Don’t go too crazy on the fruit. A small amount of vanilla or almond extract can add to the sweetness, too.

Here are some recipes:

Strawberry Banana Protein Shake – protein comes from protein powder

Paleo Breakfast Smoothie – here’s one where the protein comes from whole eggs


paleo breakfast options - makeahead


Traditional breakfast proteins

Try fried, scrambled, or hard-boiled eggs. Bacon and sausage are fine if they’re nitrate free, with minimal sugar. (Though I recommend using bacon as a condiment, not a main protein source day-in and day-out.) Good smoked salmon can be a delicious breakfast option, too, if you can get some!

But if cooking up a couple eggs in the morning is not enough no-brainer for you, here are some make-ahead breakfast options:

Bacon deviled eggs – these are delish, and you can make them as hot or as mild as you want. (And they are mustard-free, for you mustard haters.)

Easy breakfast casserole – make one big batch to last you days!

Slow-cooker breakfast meatloaf – basically, sausage by another name.

Sausage-egg cups – there are a million recipes like this; experiment to find your favorite combo of veggies and meat.


Paleo cream of pumpkin soup with cinnamon, ginger + turmeric

Nontraditional breakfasts

I’ve come to love clear broth as a breakfast option, especially when my guts are not happy. Use homemade bone broth if you’ve got it! If you’re buying ready-made broth, get it from a carton, not a can. And buy the best you can afford. Check the labels, and get the one with the most protein.

Also, you can always heat up last night’s leftovers, if you like! Have a favorite (healthy) food you love so much you want to marry it? Have it for breakfast! Why not?

Cream of pumpkin soup – I love to make this creamy soup ahead of time, then heat it up and add some diced ham or already-cooked sausage. Diced bacon is a yummy topper, too!

My “get well soon” soup recipe – super simple!

My hash method – a great way to use up leftover veggies and meats


So there you have several possibilities. Pick one or two and experiment with them this week. Breakfast really can make or break how your eating goes for the rest of the day!

The assignments for the next couple days will be short and sweet, then we’ll take off the 23rd, 24th, and 25th. Take time to enjoy your loved ones while you have them near!

9 easy no-brainer breakfast options with protein

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 2) – The soup method

Easy meals; the soup method


Here’s another meal template that’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your life — and quick and simple to throw together, and a great way to use up leftovers.

Hopefully, you’ve bought your groceries, and read Part 1 – The hash method. The soup method is somewhat similar.

This time, you’ll need a saucepan. A 1-quart pan works nicely for one person. Scale up as needed.

Like the hash method, the soup method has a list…

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced white or yellow onion (and/or whole green onion)
  2. Already cooked meat of various kinds
  3. Vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach… They can be raw, or cooked leftovers.
  4. Zucchini, if you want to make zoodles
  5. Good quality chicken broth
  6. Possible add-ins: spaghetti sauce or marinara, salsa, eggs, lemon juice, herbs

If you haven’t already read about the hash method, please do read the section under the headings “About measurements, part 1” and “… part 2.”

Sorry: I don’t have how-to pictures for this yet, but it’s not tricky — you’ll get it!

Okay, ready to cook?

Step 1:

Heat your saucepan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, dice or slice any veggies you’re going to use. A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use. Add them after the onions have been in the pan for just a few minutes. EXCEPT: For spinach and zucchini noodles, don’t add them in until the very end.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done to your liking. If you think they’re drying out too much before they’re done, add about an 1/4″ of broth to the pan.

Step 2B – If you’re making zoodles:

How to make zucchini noodles (ignore the cooking part):

Place them in a paper-towel-lined bowl, to help absorb excess moisture.

Step 3:

Add the meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Then add enough broth to cover all the meat and veggies; it should come about halfway up the pan, in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Step 4:

Now you can add anything else you want in it. Stir in a big spoonful of spaghetti sauce or salsa. Add a few pinches of your favorite herbs. If you want a mostly-clear soup, you can thicken and enrich it by first whisking a splash of lemon juice into one egg yolk, then slowly whisking this mixture into the soup.

Step 5:

Add the spinach and/or zucchini noodles (if using), and simmer for three or four minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Does it taste bland? Add salt and/or black pepper a little at a time, taste, and add more as needed till it tastes good. Sometimes a little splash of lemon juice helps the flavor, too.

And your soup is done!

Here are some soup combos I’ve enjoyed…

Simple chicken soup, with diced carrots and green onion.

healthy lunches: chicken soup


Sausage or hamburger, green beans, carrots, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. A little shaved Parmesan on top!

quick easy minestrone


Here’s a great example of using up leftovers! Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.
easy lunch: onion soup + burger


One day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. There’s also bell pepper and diced zucchini in there. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches.

easy lunch: leftover steak soup.

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 1) – The hash method

how to make breakfast hash


A few months ago, I did a cooking demo for some friends of mine, and the theme of the class was, “Easy ways to get more vegetables in your diet.” Because the only other thing that ALL diets agree on (beside eat way less sugar, and no trans fat), is that we should all probably be eating more vegetables!

This sweet potato hash was the hit of the night! They all loved it, not just because of how great it tastes, but also because it is SO easy to put together. (One mom of three little ones said she made it for breakfast the next two days!) Another great thing about this dish is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

And it’s a simple, tasty way to get three or more vegetables on the table, in one dish.

About measurements, Part 1

The pan I’m using here is an 8″ nonstick frying pan. A well-seasoned cast iron one would work, too. Also, it’s important to note that I’m cooking for one here — as you probably should while you’re experimenting. But once you’re cooking for real, and if you’re cooking for more than one, just scale the measurements I give you up accordingly. Double them for two people, triple for three, etc.

About measurements, Part 2

I used to not EVER cook anything without a recipe, and always measured everything. Baking definitely requires that you stick to some important ratios, but dishes like the ones I’m going to show you today are a lot more forgiving. And part of what makes these dishes so quick and easy is that you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups/spoons, then scoop, pour, and level. You just get an approximate amount in the pan and — trust me — it’ll come out okay.

You may have some mishaps as you learn. But as my childrens’ first grade teacher Mrs. Maxwell often said, “It’s okay to make mistakes!”

That’s why you’re doing this food lab today. You’re going to test this method in small batches and get a feel for what works with your equipment, and for your taste buds. You may singe one batch or put too much salt in another; that’s okay. There are no food police patrolling your neighborhood. Make the mistake, learn from it, and move on! (Good advice for life, too.)

Okay: you ready?

So, you got your groceries bought, right? And you have your two or three already-cooked meats. And if you didn’t dice your onions up already, go ahead and do that. (How-to here.)

Also, prep one or two sweet potatoes according to my method here. But you can go ahead and cut all the way through the skin for a complete dice.

If it’s not already in bite-sized pieces, you might also want to chop your already-cooked meat. (Optional, if you want this to be a side dish, or you’re vegetarian.) Sausage (have you tried homemade?), ham, pulled pork or carnitas, grilled or roasted chicken, cooked seasoned ground beef, smoked salmon — all legit candidates.

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced onion
  2. Diced cooked sweet potato
  3. Already cooked meat of various kinds (optional)
  4. Baby spinach
  5. Other vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms…

(See what that looks like in my fridge here.)

So, once you have those ready, you’re ready for the method.

Step 1:

Heat your pan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.


(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was actually cooking my lunch for this, and the dish goes fast, so there’s not a lot of time for second shots.)

Step 2:

Meanwhile, coarsely chop one or two handfuls of baby spinach, and dice any other raw veggies you’re going to use. (A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use.) Bell peppers are a nice addition, and one quarter of a good-sized bell pepper should be about right. If I were adding other uncooked vegetables, I would add them after the onions were in the pan for just a few minutes. But if the only vegetables you’re adding are spinach and already-cooked sweet potato — as I am in these photos — wait until the onions are fairly translucent before adding anything else.

Step 3:

Add the coarsely chopped spinach. Salt it lightly — this helps break down the cell walls, and also flavors the spinach, which is sort of bland. It will begin to cook down quickly. Once it’s about half-wilted, add your meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.

Today, I had one leftover chicken thigh, and one taco’s worth of carnitas, so I diced those to bite-sized pieces and threw them both in. Stir that around and let it warm for a minute or so.

Step 4:

Add your sweet potato, and leave it just until the potato is heated through, stirring once or twice, gently. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper — or another seasoning mix or herbs according to your taste. On this day, I added a little taco seasoning.

sweet potato hash

I often make this dish with sausage and/or bacon for the protein. In those cases, you really don’t need any other seasoning besides a lighter sprinkle of salt (since there’s a lot of salt in the meat) and black pepper to taste.

Another thing I like to do is serve this with a Wholly Guacamole Mini on the side. (This isn’t a sponsored post; but hey, WG, if you’re reading, let’s talk! 🙂 )

sweet potato hash - the hash method

Now, what makes this dish so versatile is that you can add any number of veggies and use various meats, and come up with numerous combos. Here are just a few I’ve done…

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

With diced breakfast sausage for the meat, chopped avocado, and a couple of fried eggs, this makes a hearty breakfast — or any meal, really!


hash with broccoli

Broccoli, broken into small florets, is another yummy addition. Chopped asparagus would be another nice option.


Is fat healthy? Yes - eggs + bacon for breakfast!

Here, the hash is in the background, and includes some bacon and mushrooms!


Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

Sometime, I scramble an egg or two, chop that up and add it to the hash.


hash with chicken apple sausage

And yes, you can make it without sweet potatoes. In the photo above, chicken apple sausage is bringing a slight sweet note to the mix. Sliced avocado (in the background) adds some healthy fat.


hash with a side of green beans

As you can tell by all the eggs, I’ve made this for breakfast a lot, but with enough meat and maybe another side, it’s also hearty enough for dinner. Sausage and mushroom, show above. (Find this simple green bean dish here.)

I also sometimes make this with just the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potato; season with taco seasoning (or just a bit of cumin and ancho powder); and serve it as a side dish when the main dish is Mexican-ish.

So, I hope you’re inspired! Get out your frying pan, and start experimenting! I’d love to hear your comments or questions.

(Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.)

20-day diet prep plan: Day 14-B – The grocery list

grocery list for quick easy meals

Two weeks to New Year’s!

Okay, Saturday and Sunday, you’re going to be doing some more experimenting in the kitchen, to help you prepare for the new, healthy way you’re going to be eating starting January 1!

I’m going to walk you through a couple meal templates (the soup method and the hash method) that will open up new possibilities for you, for healthy meals that are easy to throw together in a matter of minutes. So today, tonight, or early tomorrow, you’ll need to go grocery shopping.

grocery list for easy healthy meals

The grocery list

  • 3 medium white or yellow onions
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 large bell pepper – red, yellow, or orange
  • 1 large or 2 smallish zucchini
  • 5 oz. (or more) pre-washed baby spinach (or pre-washed and chopped kale, if you like kale)
  • 1 or 2 32-oz. cartons of good quality chicken stock. Don’t buy the cheapest option: read the labels, and buy the one with the most protein.
  • salsa of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free
  • spaghetti sauce of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free (or homemade marinara, if you have it on hand)
  • eggs
  • taco seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • Italian seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • olive oil or coconut oil
  • already-cooked meats of your choice (see below)

for the grocery list; wholly guacamole minis



  • Wholly Guacamole minis
  • any other vegetables you especially like, that come frozen: green beans, carrots, etc.
  • spiralizer, if you want to make zucchini noodles. I like this one, which you can also get at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but there are other brands.


Get two or three of these meats that you’d like to experiment with:

  • Already-cooked chicken. Make your own, or pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts or several thighs from your grocery store deli.
  • Diced ham; buy one thick slice and dice it yourself if you can’t find already diced.
  • Sausage, whatever flavor(s) you like. They can be pork, turkey, or chicken. Bulk sausage cooked and crumbled; link sausage cooked and diced.
  • Cooked, seasoned hamburger
  • Pulled pork, if that’s something you normally make and have in the freezer
  • Bacon; cook up a pound in the oven. Then chop into about 1/2″ pieces. No need to break out a ruler!

If you want, go ahead and cook/prep all your meats.

how to chop an onion

You can also dice up the onion and put it in an airtight container in the fridge. (If you want to save that for later, that’s fine, too.) If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.

Tomorrow, we start cookin’!

Like this post? Pin it! 🙂

grocery list for quick easy meals

The grocery list shown in the image above is available as a printout at designsponge.

20-day diet prep plan: Day 14 – Choose your poison

We are eating food-like products.

“Choose your poison? Wait, what? I thought we were picking a diet?”

Yeah, here’s the thing: Some foods are kinda like poison.

In some instances, there are the food problems that vary from person to person: allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities.

But there are also some foods that are just plain bad for everyone, and others that look like they may be problematic for most people, but the scientific jury is still out.

There are two food items that pretty much every diet agree on as bad: refined sugar, and trans fat.

I’ve already discussed how getting rid of sugar should be your first step, so let’s talk about trans fats. The Harvard Medical School has stated that “for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%…. there is no safe level of consumption.1

The easiest way to avoid trans fat is to avoid factory-made food. This doesn’t just mean junk food like chips and fries, but also includes bakery goods like bread and muffins. Also, check labels for the words “shortening,” “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil;” these mean trans fat. (Note: Seeing “0 grams trans fat” on the label is no assurance that it is really trans fat free. If a “single serving” — which is often smaller than what you will actually eat — has 0.49 grams or less of trans fat, they can legally say that it’s has no trans fats. But remember: Harvard says there is no safe level of consumption.) Think that granola bar is healthy? Check the label.

What other foods might be wise to try eliminating from your diet? And how do you know?

I’ve lost faith, by and large, in medical studies. Too many of them are on too small a population, for too short a time, and/or underwritten by someone with a vested interest in the outcome. (Prime example: This “study” done at UCLA, which suggests that eating probiotic yogurt “may” [and I quote] change the way our brain reacts. Surprise, surprise: the study was funded by Danone/Dannon yogurt. My first clue was that there were no cautions regarding the sugar content in flavored yogurts.)

I do think there’s validity in looking at historic population trends for clues as to where we went wrong. I find this chart particularly interesting, showing the rapid increase in autoimmune diseases since 1950.

chart; rise in autoimmune diseases since 1950I haven’t found a chart on it, but just among my own acquaintances, I’ve noticed an increase in new diseases that no one has ever hear of before. Idiopathic angio edema for one; pain amplification syndrome for another.

What’s causing all this? I readily admit that the answer is complex, involving a combination of factors, but the purpose of this post is to focus on what you can do, starting today, in your own life. And changing your food changes what you’re made of, so it makes sense to start there.

There are a number of things that shifted in the American food supply in the last part of the 20th century, but probably the single biggest change is this: We’re eating more factory-made food, and less homemade food. Main dishes, soups, breakfast, and baked goods (except for bread) used to made almost exclusively at home. Now we get most of those from the freezer, a can, a restaurant, or other convenient, ready-made, factory-made source. It’s easy for ingredients to sneak in without our knowing it.

We are eating food-like products.

The currently-hot Paleo diet is based on the presupposition that our Paleo-era ancestors were healthier than we are because they hadn’t started eating grains, beans, or dairy. I disagree with the assumptions and the conclusion, but I’ve heard enough stories of people who had radically improved health on the Paleo diet — especially with autoimmune conditions — that I think there’s something to it. We may not fully understand the mechanism yet, but the results suggest there’s something valid to at least part of the Paleo prescription.

However, I think that going from no diet to a strict Paleo diet is a recipe for failure for most people. It’s too much change at one time to allow you to adapt your habits and your tastes in a sustainable way. (And the Whole30 is just 30 days of super-strict, no-cheats-allowed Paleo.) That’s why I recommend that you wean yourself off of sugar and refined carbs first. Once you’ve done that, what might you try next?

From there, I would recommend greatly reducing all of the wheat, corn, and soy in your diet. Why? Because:

  • They make up a disproportionate amount of the standard American diet. Corn, in particular, finds its way into a disturbing percentage of our everyday foods. Read more about how corn sneaks into our meat and soft drinks here.
  • A lot of people are reporting noticeable improvement when eliminating or restricting these items. Myself included. When I did Whole30 (after already being sugar-free for several months), my brain fog and heart palpitations went away.
  • You’re going to be replacing all that bread and pasta with vegetables, which are almost always lower in calories and higher in nutrients than grains. Plus, less likely to kick off cravings.
  • Both corn and soy have been bred to be resistant to RoundUp — ya know, that weed killer that kills anything it touches? — so that these crops can be sprayed with RoundUp without killing them! (Sugar cane and sugar beets have, too.) Supposedly, none of that makes it into our food. I’m not so sure I’m willing to take the risk, though.
  • These foods have been rebred and/or genetically modified so much in the last several decades that they are significantly different than they were several decades ago. (“Theoretically [GMOs are] just the next level of agricultural advancement. What’s different is a new gene is being inserted into a crop which otherwise wouldn’t be there.”2) Between 1996 and 2013, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops increased by a factor of 100.3 Does this mean that these changes are definitely bad for us? No, but I’d rather not be a lab rat until we find out.

At first, the thought of giving up your bread, bagels, muffins, chips, crackers, and pasta (PASTA?!) sounds like a death sentence! And it’s a challenge, to be sure. But once you adjust to this new way of eating and cooking, it really becomes easy.

And in the next three days’ posts, I’m going to show you just how easy.

Later today, I’ll post a grocery list, then Saturday you’ll go shopping, and Saturday and Sunday you’ll do some easy-peasy cooking! I’ll introduce you to a couple simple, versatile meal templates.

The hash method:

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

And the soup method:

easy soup: sausage and veggies

You won’t believe how many possibilities these two techniques will open up for you, OR how quick and simple they are!







I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or any other health professional. You should always check stuff out for yourself!

Day 15: Understand food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities

Food allergy vs food intolerance chart

There are three types of difficulties with foods: allergies, intolerance, and sensitivity. It’s not unusual to see some of these terms used interchangably, and most people aren’t aware of the differences between them, but the differences are important.

Food allergies are when your body perceives a food as a dangerous intruder and mobilizes the immune system (IgE, specifically) to fight it. Reactions may vary from a skin rash to one’s airways suddenly swelling closed, which can quickly become life-threatening.

Food intolerance means that your body has difficulty digesting certain foods. Symptoms are usually digestive problems such as bloating or diarrhea, but may also include respiratory symptoms or headaches.

This chart further explains the differences between these two:

Food allergy vs food intolerance chart

Other common food allergies not listed by the chart include wheat and soybeans. Less common allergens include corn, gelatin, various meats, seeds (sesame, sunflower, and poppy being the most common) and certain spices.


Food sensitivity is controversial in some quarters because it doesn’t always show up in common lab tests. It’s similar to allergies in that it involves the immune system (but the reaction is usually less violent or life-threatening), but similar to intolerance in that reactions to food are usually delayed and may be in proportion to the amount ingested. While not immediately life-threatening, it may do damage to the body. For example, in a person with celiac disease, the reaction to gluten may cause damage to the small intestine. (Learn more about celiac here.)

If you remove all offending foods from your diet for a time, your system may heal to the point where you can again enjoy them in moderate quantities.

Symptoms may include:

  • Bloating or irregular digestion
  • Skin rashes of any kind, including adult acne
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Foggy head; difficulty with mental focus
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto’s, lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and more)

Foods don’t cause the autoimmune disease — which often have a genetic link — but food intolerances can add fuel to the symptoms. A common saying is, “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle/environment pulls the trigger.”

Which foods are the main cause of food sensitivity is the topic of much debate! Three different websites yielded three different lists:

  • Wheat/gluten, corn, soy, dairy/milk, eggs
  • Cow’s milk, eggs, beans, nuts, cereals/grains
  • Nightshades, eggs, nuts, seeds, gluten, grains, legumes, dairy

Food sensitivities vary from person to person.

So to sum up, food allergies and intolerances are well-known and agreed upon in the medical community, and so finding reliable information about them is not difficult. Food sensitivities, however, are more controversial, and harder to diagnose. This doesn’t mean that they’re not real: just that science is still working out the kinks in the theory.

If you think you may have one or more food sensitivities, here are some books to explore:

It Starts With Food – This book contains some “science-y stuff” (the authors’ term), but leans heavily toward easy-to-read. It explains the “what” and a little of the “why” behind the Paleo diet*, which is an elimination diet that has helped many people with food-related health issues.

Also, see my review of Digestive Health with Real Food. This is the most thorough treatment of food sensitivity that I’ve read, emphasizing that there is no one-size-fits-all diet.

*I don’t think the Paleo diet is something everyone needs to adhere to strictly, and I question its assumptions (that this is the way our ancestors ate), but the proof is in people: Paleo does seem to work for a lot of people with the types of ailments that have exploded in America in the last few decades. It eliminates some of the items that show up on every expert’s food sensitivity list — grains, soy, beans/legumes, and dairy. It does allow eggs, though.

In my next post, I’ll talk about where I’ve landed on this topic, and what I would recommend for someone wanting to take their diet to the next level, once they’ve eliminated sugar and reduced refined carbs.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  – Definition of allergies/intolerance

American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology – Detailed info on food allergies

Today’s Dietician – Definition of allergies/intolerance

Mayo Clinic – Difference between a food intolerance and food allergy

Chris Kresser – Gluten sensitivity

Allergy UK – Common food intolerances

Medical News Today – Common causes of food intolerances

Medline Plus – Definition of celiac disease

Very Well article: An overview of celiac disease


I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or any other health professional. You should always check stuff out for yourself!

20-day diet prep plan: Day 17 – begin the process of choosing a diet

Book covers: sugar addict + 21-day sugar detox

Okay, time to process the last couple days’ assignments. By now you should have:

Now to process what you learned there.

But first, a note. To keep things upfront, I want you to know that if you buy any of these books by clicking the links on this page, I’ll get 4-6% of the price — but that doesn’t affect your cost at all, and it helps keep this blog viable. So if you decide to do that, thanks!  🙂

You certainly don’t have to buy any books to start a diet, but for me anyway, understanding the “why” behind something — and knowing that other people have found success with a certain approach — goes a long way toward helping me really engage in the process.

Sugar quiz results

If sugar is your captor:

If, after taking the Sugar quiz, you discovered that sugar is your Jabba the Hut…


…then I recommend checking out this book: The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, by Kathleen DesMaisons. DesMaisons proposes that some people have what she calls “sugar sensitivity,” making them biologically more susceptible to having an addiction-like response to sugar and carbs.

Sugar Addict's Total Recovery ProgramI was already living pretty sugar-free when I was introduced to this author, so I can’t speak firsthand about how her plan works, but the friend who told me about this book had good success with it, and the reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive. (And DesMaisons’ advice about eating potato at bedtime did wonders for my insomnia!)

A little about the author’s background:

As Kathleen DesMaisons neared 240 pounds, she thought losing weight was simply a matter of willpower: develop enough discipline to keep the pounds off, and everything would be fine.

But as time went on and things didn’t change, DesMaisons felt like “a slug who couldn’t get it right.”

Her work as the head of a treatment center for alcoholics and drug addicts caused her… to see her compulsive use of… sugars and carbohydrates, as an addiction. When DesMaisons lost weight through a friend’s protein and vegetable diet — and kept it off — she returned to school, obtaining the first degree in Addictive Nutrition.  (Source)

She recommends that people with “sugar sensitivity” not rush to cut sugar completely out of their diet,  and she lays out five other steps to complete first, to make the break-up with sugar easier and more successful.

If sugar is your “frenemy”:

Maybe you have some difficulties with sweets and carbs. You’re in friendly company; most of us do!

If sweetened drinks (including artificially sweetened ones), other sweets, and/or carby foods such as chips, crackers, pasta, and bread/bagels/donuts/muffins/etc. are currently a regular part of your diet, you might do best to just concentrate on reducing or eliminating those items for now.

21 Day Sugar DetoxOne book that I think does a good job of this is The 21-Day Sugar Detox, by Diane Sanfilippo. Again, this isn’t a book I’ve walked through myself (I was already sugar-free when I started Paleo), but I kept hearing about it from others. Now I’ve read a good deal of it and it all sounds very solid! She explains the whys and hows of nutrition in simple, easy-to-understand language, and lays out a plan to get sugar and processed carbs out of your diet.

A little about the book, from Amazon:

Use the easy-to-follow meal plans and more than 90 simple recipes in this book to bust a lifetime of sugar and carb cravings in just three weeks. Three levels of the program make it approachable for anyone….

By focusing on quality protein, healthy fats, and good carbs, this program will help you change not only the foods you eat, but also your habits around food, and even the way your palate reacts to sweet foods…. After changing your everyday eating habits, you will begin to gain a new understanding of how food works in your body–and just how much nutrition affects your entire life.

So, if you’ve never eliminated sugar completely from your diet, or if you have but have backtracked, I think this would be a really solid place to start.

Let me repeat that, I want to make sure no one skips over it:


If you haven’t already eliminated

sugar and refined carbs from your diet,

start working on just those!


I’ll give you some specific direction later.

Already free from sugar?

Lucky you! If sugar and carbs aren’t a big deal for you, but you still have some issues you think may be diet related — such as fatigue, allergies, joint pain, digestive problems, mood swings, adult acne — you may want to consider eliminating some other foods from your diet. Read on…

About food sensitivities

If you scored high on the food sensitivity quiz — or even if you just have one item on the list that is particularly bugging you — you may benefit from trying an elimination diet.

That means eliminating one or more types of food from your diet completely for a specific period of time, watching to see if your symptoms improve. Usually, this is two weeks at the very minimum, but four weeks is better. Then at the end of the abstention period, you add back one type of food (if you were eliminating more than one) and watch to see if symptoms reappear.

Giving this proper attention would make this post reeeeeally long, so to keep your reading for today short, I’m going to continue this topic tomorrow.

20-day diet prep plan: Day 18 – think and write

Do not despise these small beginnings, Zech. 4;17

John Dewey is credited with saying, “A problem well defined is a problem half solved.” To know the best diet for you, you need to define what specific problem(s) you’re trying to solve.

Do not despise these small beginnings, Zech. 4;17

Set aside 15-20 minutes or so to think about and clarify why you’re doing this; why you want to or need to change the way you eat. Is it to…

  • Lose weight quickly?
  • Lose weight permanently?
  • Gain energy?
  • Kick your addiction to sweets and/or sweet drinks?
  • Stabilize your moods?
  • Gain focus, and lose that foggy brain?
  • Find out if food issues are causing your (or your family member’s) health problems?
  • Reverse or avoid metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes or heart problems?
  • Other?

Write them out. If you have more than one — and most of us do! — prioritize them, and then make a short list with your top three.

Keep that short list handy, along with your quiz results from yesterday. Tomorrow, we’ll start sifting through what type of diet approach you might want to consider.



Photo credit: CC Chapman via CC BY-NC-ND