Apr 16, 2012

Reflecting on the Diet after Easter

Easter, the time of the chocolate and the hot cross bun!  And maybe some religious ... stuff.

But what did Easter mean for non-Christians with long lists of food intolerances?

As most people with ME/CFS will know, diet can play a huge role in managing symptoms.  Food sensitivities and even allergies are very common with this illness, and food often needs to be as natural as possible for the body to handle it.

For me, this has meant different things at different stages.  These days I have a few rules I need to follow - mostly going with non-dairy and non-processed food - but when I first became ill, I did a lot of experimenting with food to figure out what was best.

One thing I discovered early was that alcohol was a lot more potent than it had been and my hangovers much more intense, so that was one of the first things to go.  Eight months later, I was on an alcohol free, grain free, sugar free, dairy free, spud free, soy free, legume free, vinegar free, caffeine free diet, as my body was having a great deal of difficulty processing anything not eaten by cavemen.

Meat, eggs, veggies and nuts became my staples and everything had to be prepared and cooked at home.  It was all very simple.  Cheap too, which was good, as I was living on sickness allowance by then.

Eating out was even relatively easy.  Most places serve some sort of steak and veg option.

The problems usually came when eating at other people's houses, because no matter how many times you tell people that you are happy with plain old meat and veggies, most people will feel uncomfortable serving just that to a guest.

But what type of bread can you eat?

You'd have to make it out of almondmeal.

Gluten free bread?

Made with grains.

Soup?

Only if you home make the stock.

What about dessert?

Fruit's fine.

What about salad dressing?

 Lemon juice and herbs.  Nothing pre-made.

What about mustard?  Soy sauce?  Tomato sauce?  Stir fry sauce?  Garlic marinade?  Sweet chilli?  Hollandaise?  Bolognese?  Chicken tonight?  Mayo?  Miso?  Miso soup is fine, surely!

No!  It's all processed, most of it contains sugar, and miso is made out of soy!

What can I serve you then!?

Just cook a piece of meat and steam some veggies and put them on a plate!

Mpff.  What about coffee?

Herbal tea is fine.

This conversation would happen over and over.  Often with the same people.  I was very easy to cook for, only able to eat about five things, but somehow everyone seemed to find it very frustrating.  People want to do something special when they invite you over, so I became an insurmountable challenge - one people would usually fail by trying to get around it somehow, the biggest pitfall being products labelled 'organic' when that's neither here nor there.

Thankfully, I no longer need that diet.

My options started to open up as my health improved, but I still had restrictions.  Increasingly though, so do a lot of other people, for both health and moral reasons.  I remember going to a home made pizza night with some friends where the pizzas were labelled thus:

  • Meat wheat
  • Veggie wheat
  • Vegan wheat
  • Vegan no wheat
  • No wheat no cheese
  • Veggie no wheat

A bit non traditional, but we were all covered, and making our own pizza dough was fun.

But what about Easter?  Hot cross buns have been one of my favourite foods since I was little and chocolate is something I've never managed to cut out entirely no matter what diet I was trying to adhere to.  Even when I was restricted to the meat and veggie diet, I still made exceptions for these foods from Good Friday to Easter Monday.  The setbacks were just worth it.  And, of course, this year was no exception.

This Easter though, my family gathering had a great menu with a dish to suit any and every dietary need (the guests included one vegetarian, three people with gluten and dairy intolerances and two diabetics).

  • Gluten free veggie pie
  • Dairy free potato salad (honey mustard)
  • Regular potato salad
  • Green salad (dressing on the side)
  • Dark chocolate and/or milk chocolate
  • Gluten/dairy free banana muffins with dairy free frosting
  • Gluten/dairy free orange almond muffins
  • Soy chai rice pudding with meringue (yes, you read that correctly). 

Yum (Though, the diabetics kept the insulin on hand and my heart was beating out worrying rhythms as I went to sleep).  And we had Easter at my place, so I got to keep the leftovers.

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