“You’re allergic to dairy and eggs”…. Next to being told I was celiac five years ago, this is probably the worst thing my doctor has told me.
Not only did I have to give up the gluten deliciousness of beer, bread, pasta, and pastries now I had to give up cheese?! Guess I should count my lucky stars that the only bad medical news I have received relates to my diet, but come on! A celiac vegan! This has brought my “hangriness” to new and previously unknown levels. I ate constantly without every feeling satisfied. True I mopped about this for a few weeks, but since talking to coworkers, friends, my naturopath, and reading a few cookbooks I’ve learned a lot.
A bit of background – I became a vegetarian about two years ago when our mom got pet chickens for eggs while at the same time I had to dissect various animals in a zoology class. I could no longer look at meat and not see flesh. Especially fish and chicken, both turned my stomach. Occasionally I would indulge in a burger or bacon, but I’ve given it up 100% now. Celiac is a hereditary autoimmune disease that runs in our family. My sister also has IBS with many of the same dietary triggers so she struggles with all this right along with me. It is true misery loves company. Our mom, bless her heart, seems to have an iron gut and can eat anything. We not so secretly dislike her for this as she goes on and on about how amazing local craft beer has become.
Movies like Cowspiracy and books such as Wheat Belly have also shone light on the environmental impacts of the dairy and agriculture industry. So, whether you give up gluten and or dairy for medical reasons, want to eat clean, or want to do your to save the environment here are a few things I’ve learned in the last four weeks:
Protein is Key – Without meat or dairy options for protein you are left with soy products, lentils, beans, and some vegetables such as potatoes and broccoli. The average person should eat 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight. That means I need to eat approximately 60g (I’ll pause while you do the math to figure out my body weight) of protein a day. I was getting less than half of that. With a physical job, I was dragging my ass around halfway into my work day. I’ve incorporated a few things combat the afternoon lazies. I’ve started eating tofu. Not as bad as I had feared, so that’s a win. I also have a plant-based gluten free protein shake in late afternoon when I find my energy levels needing a boost. Eat complex grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat. These will make you feel fuller longer as your body takes time to digest them. Nuts are also a great source of protein….
Balance Healthy Fats vs. Protein – Your body needs fat, that’s a fact. And good fats like those found in nuts and avocados are great for your health. However, be wary of how much good fat you eat. I ate way too much healthy fat without enough protein which caused me to gain a few (okay maybe 5) pounds. I couldn’t figure out why I was hungry all the time even though I ate constantly. This is where we circle back to the importance of protein to make you feel full longer and prevent sugar crashes. To review, eat lots of protein, drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, and get a good balance of healthy fats.
Meal Planning – I love my job, but my schedule sucks. Working 12:30-9pm five days a week makes meal planning difficult. I usually spend at least one of my days off cooking meals I can freeze so I can take them to work for dinners. This requires a lot of planning and focus. I’m still working on this, and honestly, it’s the hardest part so far.
Grocery stores were depressing – My first grocery store visit after my diagnosis left me near tears in the international food aisle. I was so overwhelmed by how much my options had shrunk going from gluten-free to gluten AND dairy free. Luckily now that I know what aisles to avoid it is less of a struggle. As my husband told me, start to like Mexican and Indian food. He’s not wrong. Both cultures traditionally use very little if any gluten or dairy products.
Cookbooks – I’ve found a few great cookbooks such as Oh, How She Glows and The Whole Life Nutritional Cookbook. Both have resources outlining different diets and alternatives to certain ingredients as well as great recipes. Be prepared to spend a little bit of money stocking your pantry with peculiar but tasty ingredients. The results will be worth the initial cost.
BYOS – Bring Your Own Snacks – I’m fairly certain our mom and mother-in-law live in fear of having me (and my sister) over for dinner. They would have no idea what to cook for me, nor would they have many of the ingredients. I have accepted the fact that I may have to eat meat on occasion and bring my own food almost everywhere I go. While out for dinner with friends last week I ate chicken because the only gluten and dairy free option on the menu was a quinoa chicken salad. Sure I could have ordered it without the chicken (as I did with the feta), but without the chicken I would have been starving within an hour.
Being a celiac vegan by choice or by necessity is a difficult change so expect some challenges. You may have withdrawal headaches, sugar crashes, fatigue, and tummy aches as you adjust to new forms of protein and fibre. Read the labels on EVERYTHING, be patient, look into taking supplements for iron and B vitamins (consult a doctor first of course), and do your research. Be prepared for difficult restaurant staff, and the occasional eye roll from friends and family. My husband does this great impression of a vegan as he faints against the kitchen counter saying how healthy he is and how he is superior because his diet saves the environment. Makes me laugh even if he is poking fun at me.
it’s been a month and I still desperately miss cheese and milk chocolate. So much so last night I dreamt of eating a milk chocolate covered red pepper. How gross would that be in real life? While writing this post I ate 13g of protein in a snack but still feel hungry and weak. I’m a work in progress J, but if I can stick with it, anyone can. Remember, there is always wine and dark chocolate.