As a holistic nutritionist who helps women uncover their hidden food sensitivities, most of the women who come to me have already removed gluten and/or dairy from their diet, but are still having symptoms. This often leads to frustration and confusion that makes them want to give up altogether.
For this reason, I highly recommend a full elimination diet: a 60-day regimen including three phases…
An elimination diet is broken into the phases of detox, elimination, and reintroduction and removes the most common allergens (eggs, yeast, citrus, soy, gluten, dairy, nuts, etc.) for two weeks or until symptoms clear before bringing them back in, one at a time, to discover which foods are not tolerated well by your own body.
The elimination diet takes commitment and strategy in order to be completed successfully. To save yourself wasting time on a potentially lengthy process, here are the 5 most common mistakes I see made on an elimination diet.
Forgetting to Prepare
Preparation is the most important thing you can do for yourself on an elimination diet. Without food preparation, you will likely find yourself hangry whereas prioritizing it will make the process so much easier.
If you are planning to be away from your house or when going to work, make sure you have “emergency food” such as portable fruits and veggies (apples, carrots) and homemade nut-free trail mix, energy bites or bars.
You’ll also want to prepare your meals and they don’t have to be complicated. Try out some recipes and build about three options each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you enjoy. This keeps life simple and saves you from wasting too much energy thinking about what to make.
Not Reading the Ingredient List
With the elimination diet, you need to follow it 100% to find answers. This is why you cannot fall prey to reading the front of the package instead of the ingredient list. The ingredient list is where the truth lies.
Many of the ingredients you’ll be avoiding are added to packaged foods so it is important to read the ingredient list. Corn may be added under many different names so make sure you are familiar with these. It is near impossible to find anything without refined sugar, which includes evaporated cane juice.
Not Eliminating Enough
The more you eliminate, the shorter your elimination phase will be. Think of the elimination phase as fishing. If the fish are your food sensitivities and the net is your eliminations, you are going to catch more fish with a wider net.
For example, if you only eliminate gluten, dairy, sugar and nuts but you have an unknown sensitivity to corn, you are potentially unnecessarily eliminating nuts for a long time – until you decide to eliminate corn in this example. While somewhat challenging, eliminating more in the beginning saves you time in the end.
Eating Too Little
I want to be clear that even though “diet” is in the name of an elimination diet, it is not the same as traditional dieting. The elimination diet is a temporary, intentional “diet” that is the best way to discover which foods work with your body chemistry and which foods do not.
The difference here is that health is your motivation and NOT weight loss. If you are hungry, eat! The elimination diet is not about starving yourself because the goal is not weight loss.
Don’t forget to keep things simple. You don’t need to master fancy cooking skills or concoct elaborate recipes. Yes, you will likely spend more time in the kitchen than you usually do but that doesn’t mean everything you make must require hours to prepare.
Make use of smoothies and roasted vegetables to fill your belly and herbs and spices to satisfy your taste buds. Try new fruits and vegetables. Cook meals in bulk and reap the reward of leftovers. Maintain a sense of childlike curiosity to keep the process playful.