New Year, New Journey

by Aimee

Hello 2023!

Dear Readers, I’ve never been great at following food trends or blogging for the masses. I write what is close to my heart.

I might craft a post about Paska bread prompted by the war on Ukraine, or develop a recipe inspired by my latest muse, like a simple spinach salad discovered on a trip to Greece. I write from life experiences and I always have.

This new year my food journey is taking a slight detour. In brief, our daughter Clara’s naturopath has recommended she try an elimination diet for a few months.

Please know that the following opinions are merely my own, and I acknowledge that I am not a health professional.

I haven’t mentioned her health here before, but Clara lives with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, and was diagnosed with widespread complex chronic pain last year. She is the bravest kiddo I know and inspires me on a daily basis.

Danny and I are her full-time caregivers, in partnership with an amazing team of doctors, nurses and many other incredible professionals in the alternative medicine space. It’s…a journey…and one that I am finally able to talk about without going to pieces.

So here’s what I’m working through in this very blunt, honest post: I’m terribly conflicted with the idea of an elimination diet.

Oh, where to start. I don’t diet – at ALL – and have worked hard to create a family food culture that is balanced and relaxed, without labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’. You probably are familiar with this problematic language around perfectly normal food.

It’s all just food, and we are fortunate to have enough to eat every day.

I want absolutely nothing to do with fad dieting, clean eating, intermittent fasting, and all other diet culture tropes. In my (strong) opinion, these are all forms of eating disorders.

From what I have observed, much of the wellness industry is a joke; a preoccupation with personal health (looking thin) as the primary achievement of well being. Non, merci.

I am so much more interested in how we are all doing mentally, emotionally, spiritually…especially after the last few pandemic years.

Happy New Year! 2023

Furthermore, in our home, we are body positive. We do not equate body size with moral success/failings. That is Healthism and I am so ready for this mentality to die out. (Here are some examples of healthism – challenge your biases!).

Here’s why I feel SO strongly. Eating disorders and hospitalizations are on the rise, and let me tell you, it only takes one heart-to-heart talk with a parent of a suffering daughter to fully grasp the seriousness of the issue.

Sadly, I’ve had more of these eye opening conversations than I’d like. Descriptions of hospital floors filled with sedated teen girls receiving IV nutrition have broken my heart more than once. As someone who’s love language is feeding people, I feel this crisis deeply.

Our girls Are. At. Risk. of developing a troubled relationship with food and body image, which is why I strive – day in and day out – to model a healthy relationship with food to my children, both daughter AND sons.

In addition to the issues I have with diet culture, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around eliminating ENTIRE food groups because of the advocacy that I do for the zero hunger movement.

So many people here in Nova Scotia – and around the world – are food insecure; they can’t afford to be picky.

One has to acknowledge their great privilege to be able to pick and choose their foods, and pay for specialty ingredients. I know I do.

And yet I understand that grains and/or gluten can be the cause of inflammation in some people. And not everyone can digest dairy. Of course I understand this.

I acknowledge that some people suffer with Celiac disease, which is very different from the carb-cutting diet culture that counts calories and vilifies the humble Daily Loaf.

And although there is currently no cure for arthritis, I would do anything to try and alleviate some of Clara’s discomfort. What parent wouldn’t?

So we will completely eliminate gluten and dairy on the advice of a naturopath. Until at least mid-March. And we’ll observe if my JIA warrior has less pain or is more comfortable. I don’t really know what to expect.

Deep breaths.

We will go gluten and dairy-free as a family. For one, because this is Simple Bites, and I’m not about to cook two types of meals.

Also, we are all on this journey with Clara, supporting her in any way we can. Giving up pizza, etc is the least we can do.

Food and eating together has always been deeply personal for us, with the kitchen and dinner table the heart of our home. That won’t change.

My goal is to create food that sparks joy, ignites conversation and brings comfort to my family, especially during these dark winter months.

Fortunately, many of our favourite meals in the Simple Bites archives are gluten-free, especially winter comfort food.

Here’s what’s on the loosely-written meal plan for Gluten-free and Dairy-Free family dinners. And please leave me your suggestions in the comments!

Okay, this naturopath-recommended elimination diet is not so very hard…except for the baker in me! Aran’s cookbooks are a great resource; we already love her GF/DF banana bread, recipe over at The Lemon Apron.

Now I need a plan for school lunches. We typically do a lot of sandwiches, wraps and baking…Send me your suggestions.

Thanks for reading. To be continued!

Share your favourite gluten-free/dairy-free recipes in the comments!

Original article: New Year, New Journey.