This is part one of a multi-part series. Check back for part two soon.
What can I say about AIP? I can tell you it stands for Autoimmune Protocol. I can tell you it is crazy restrictive. And I can tell you that my mother and I went cold turkey into the diet for November.
I’ve said before and will happily say again that I believe three key things constitute a healthy diet:
- Eating real food from good sources (pastured, unprocessed, etc).
- Finding out what works for your individual body.
- Moderation. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
Now, finding out what my body tolerates is in progress. That’s a backbone of the AIP diet. You start out stricter than strict and gradually add certain things back one at a time to see if you have a negative reaction. While personally I think I will easily add back most of the things I’ve currently cut out (spices, eggs, nuts, etc), it was important for my mom and I to do this. It was most important for her, because her autoimmune disease landed her in the hospital for two weeks followed by two of at-home IV antibiotics. Even now she is still on antibiotics, a high dose steroid, and other medications that we hope to wean her off of. While her health is on the upswing, we know that getting her body under control is so important.
As for me, well, I hope to heal my severe (like, extreme) eczema and lose weight. I’m already seeing improvements, but there will be more on that in a later post in this series. I know I will never go back to eating the way I did before, and nutrient density is something always on my mind now. I am eating less, better and I can tell it’s making a difference.
So now that you know the why, let’s talk about the how.
AIP restricts so many of our diet staples. This is not a comprehensive list, but among the things we can’t eat right now are. . .
- dairy (even raw, grass fed, etc — not even ghee)
- seeds (including spices like cumin, black pepper, paprika, mustard, etc)
- nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews)
- legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
- grains (wheat, corn, quinoa, rice, etc)
- most sugars (small amounts of natural sugars like maple are okay, depending on who you ask)
- nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, etc)
- processed foods, nitrates, artificial sweeteners, etc.
- all “vegetable” or seed oils (sunflower, canola, flax)
You may be thinking something like “but that’s literally my whole pantry” and yeah, you’re pretty right about that. It’s a lot. For me so far the most difficult thing about giving up these foods is the change of flavor that we must embrace. Once upon a time I hardly cooked a thing without cumin, pepper, and paprika in particular. Lately I’ve been relying heavily on onion powder, garlic powder, and turmeric. (Turmeric in particular has been a life saver, plus it’s so good for you!)
It’s also surprisingly hard to live without condiments. I just want to spread some dang mayo on my lettuce wrap, you know what I mean? But, alas, I can’t for right now. Egg yolks, ya know.
In a way it has been fun, though. I’m experimenting with new ingredients and trying new recipes. I’m going to dedicate a separate post to some of the unusual ingredients and products that I’ve swapped out successfully for conventional ones, but I’ll let you know now what a lot of our kitchen staples are on AIP:
- grass fed meats and wild game (some homegrown like pork and chevon, some wild harvested like venison, some from the store or places like US Wellness Meats)
- bone broth from said meat sources
- healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and home-rendered lard from pastured pigs
- leafy greens like kale and chard
- root veggies like parsnips, carrots, and onions
- fresh veggies like broccoli and cauliflower
- and of course the king of AIP tubers: the sweet potato.
I’m also including my favorite essential oils and supplements in my daily routine along with raw apple cider vinegar and collagen in the form of grass fed collagen peptides and gelatin. Each morning my first glass of water has a capful of apple cider vinegar, a drop of grapefruit essential oil, and a scoop of collagen peptides. I really think it sets the right intention for the rest of the day mentally along with the physical benefits.
Which brings me to. . .
Get Ya Mind Right
By far the hardest obstacle to overcome is the mental one. Yes, it’s difficult to cut so many things out of your diet. And yes, it definitely requires more time spent cooking and more consciousness in each and every meal. But you know what? That’s a good thing. We should be spending more time being mindful of what we’re eating, how it was raised and prepared, and how much of it we’re shoving in our mouths.
Something that has really stuck with me through this first week of AIP (and the few prior weeks we started easing into it) is this:
It is a privilege to be able to eat healthily, not a punishment.
November is the month of Thanksgiving, and although we should cultivate gratitude in our day to lives, November is the perfect time to remind ourselves of how much we have for which to be thankful. I’m reminding myself almost daily that it is a privilege and a blessing to be able to choose so carefully what I eat. I know that not everyone can afford the higher end food products like grass fed meats. Not everyone has access to homegrown pastured pork and chevon and locally harvested wild game. Not everyone has access to the education and resources to understand why those things are important.
I am a firm believer that once you get your mind right, you can do anything. But with the wrong mindset this diet that is truly a gift easily becomes a deprivation. And I am not deprived, my friends. I’m not going to let my mind or body convince me that I am because I can’t have cheese right now.
Eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for these are gifts from God. Eccl. 3:13
Before I go, I do have a teeny tiny recipe to share with you. It’s not even so much a recipe as just a method, but let me tell you — you will be glad you tried it. It is so, so good.
Here’s the Recipe:
Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Bites
1 medium sweet potato per person
4 slices of bacon per person (adjust as needed)
Maple garlic seasoning, optional
*Note: If you are on AIP you want bacon that is uncured (no nitrates/nitrites) and watch out for bacon that includes “spices” in the ingredients, as that most likely includes seed or nightshade spices. US Wellness Meats has a sugar-free, spice-free bacon if you can’t find a good one in stores or make your own.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut your sweet potato into even-sized wedges about 1″ wide by 2″ long. I like to do this by cutting it into 1″ wide disks horizontally and then cutting those disks into halves for half-moon shaped wedges. (You can also cut them into longer fries the length of the potato and 1″ wide if you want to wrap a single piece of bacon on each one rather than cutting the bacon. It’s good both ways!)
Cut your bacon slices in half and wrap each sweet potato wedge with half of a bacon slice. You can use a toothpick to hold the bacon in place if needed, but I find that if I put the ends of the bacon underneath the potato wedge and set it on the baking dish as such that the bacon stays in place while cooking.
Place the bacon wrapped wedges on a cast iron skillet or baking sheet and sprinkle maple garlic over them. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the bacon is cooked and the potato is soft inside. Check the biggest piece with a fork to determine that the potatoes are done. Serve warm.
*Note: I love these just as they are, and I think they’d make great appetizers or finger food at your holiday parties. However, once I introduce seeds back into my diet I am going to glaze these babies with a paleo honey mustard sauce during the last 10 minutes or so of baking. I think that will elevate them even further! Let me know if you try them that way!