Grab & Go

How can I grab & go if I must avoid gluten, histamine, FODMAPS, and dairy? It’s a great question! And a pertinent one if your family gets hangry like mine.

While it may seem be easier than ever to avoid gluten, the task becomes more difficult as restrictions compound. Some restaurants offer a salad base to turn a sandwich into a salad. That’s great unless the salad contains a significant amount of mushrooms, spinach, or finely chopped tomatoes that are high in histamine. And you’ll probably have to ask them to hold the cheese to avoid dairy and problematic plant-based cheeses. Then there’s the matter of fruit in salads – some are high in histamine and some are full of short-chain carbohydrates known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols or FODMAPs.

Of course you can eat at home, but grab & go can be complicated there too. Canned tuna & chicken, deli meat, sausage, polish sausage, ham, and hot dogs are typically high in histamine. Pickles are out. Packaged salad toppers with candied nuts and dried fruit are out.

Although it requires a bit of effort, there are ways to mitigate the inconvenience and have grab & go options at the ready when mealtime slips up on you.

Here are some ideas:

Gluten-free instant oatmeal is shelf-stable, filling and easy to carry. Keep some in the pantry to fill in gaps when someone gets too hungry.

Imagine® shelf-stable chicken, bone, or vegetable (contains a small amount of tomato) broth can be heated in the microwave and served in a mug as a satisfying drink to take the edge off of hunger.

Keep some gluten free bread or bagels on hand or in the freezer and nut butters in the pantry. If you haven’t tried peanut butter on warm toast, give it a try. It’s surprisingly good!

Replace sandwich meat with pre-grilled or blackened thinly sliced chicken breasts or steak. Trim away any fat, season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Bake or grill the chicken just until done. Sear the steak in a skillet and finish in the oven. Cook two or three times as much as you normally would. Freeze in daily portions. Thaw a day or two before you run out of easy-to-grab foods.

Chicken can be eaten on a sandwich with lettuce, fresh cucumber slices, and fresh basil leaves. It can be sliced or shredded and served inside a wrap with hummus (if tolerated), and fresh red bell pepper slices.

The fastest, easiest way to have these proteins available is to buy and prepare larger than normal quantities when you’re cooking the items anyway. The same is true of beef or pork roast which can be sliced and then frozen for later use on salads, sandwiches, and in wraps. Purchase an additional pound of roast to prepare when you’re making roast for dinner.

Keep a supply of low histamine vegetables that can be enjoyed raw – carrots, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, green onions as well as low histamine/low FODMAP fresh fruit – blueberries, kiwi, and raw nuts (if well tolerated).

Purchase an extra half-dozen or dozen eggs along with your regular purchase. Boil the extras and keep them in the refrigerator. You can even pre-peel them once they’re cool so that they’re truly grab & go. They can also be used in egg salad or a green salad.

Bake and freeze a dozen muffins. Thaw in the microwave as needed or take a weekly portion out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator for everyday use.

You can also make and freeze pancakes fitting your needs that can be used as a wrap for breakfast sandwiches.

As long as you keep it simple, staying ahead of the game doesn’t require too much time and effort. Tack a few tasks onto things you already have planned. Keep a few strategic items in the freezer and pantry. Before you know it, dietary compliant grab & go will seem like a piece of cake.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What is Your Food Language

What is your food language? Do you think each of us has a primary food language in the same way we have a primary love language? Why not? Anthropologists study the way language and food intersect, positing that food and its uses provide setting and structure for language.

I feel like we could develop a questionnaire that could indicate a primary food language. Perhaps we would use that language to guide our choice of dining companions. Perhaps we would use it to encourage healthier diets for our children. Perhaps we could use it to improve compliance with medically beneficial eating plans or prevent/treat eating disorders.

If we were going to design such a test, what would we look for?

Mind you, I’m not going to be incredibly scientific or statistical about this. It’s more a flight of fancy, and since that seems to be where my mind is determined to go this morning, I’m going to run with it. If I don’t, I’ll just be fighting myself (some people call that writer’s block).

So, back to our questionnaire. How about some questions like these, followed by multiple choice answers?

In what way do you associate food with conversation?

How often are you able to feel the hunger in your body?

How do you feel most often when you prepare a meal?

How do you feel most often when you order a meal from a restaurant?

If you reach for a snack between meals, what is the reason?

What foods do you choose when no one is watching?

How does the quantity of food you consume change when you’re alone?

In what way do your feelings change after a meal?

How does the temperature of food affect its appeal?

How does the texture of food affect its appeal?

What words would you use to describe a meal you enjoyed?

What words would you use to describe a meal you did not enjoy?

What sort of lighting enhances the flavor of a meal?

What sort of sound enhances the flavor of a meal?

How do you pair flavors?

How often do you think of food when it is not mealtime?

How do you feel when the pantry is full?

How do you feel when the pantry is empty?

How often do you buy kitchen tools you do not use?

These questions may be a good beginning or others might serve better. And multiple choice answers must be carefully chosen to give us an accurate picture of what they indicate. One way to hone the questions and answers is through research.

Research studies often begin with curious flights of fancy. Mine could lead to identifying food languages. Yours could lead to something even more significant. Even if you’re not a researcher, there are ways to contribute ideas to the research community. Colleges and universities, medical schools, and nonprofits in your community are great places to find opportunities.

And if you’d rather do than imagine, you can volunteer to be a research subject. In college, I participated in an exercise study measuring the effectiveness of isokinetic workouts. A few years ago, I participated in a study surveying attitudes toward cybersecurity.  

Whether or not today’s flight of fancy leads you toward research participation, hopefully it will encourage you to explore your internal food dialogue. You may discover you have a well-defined food language just waiting to be discovered.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Colorful Life Deserves a Colorful Plate

We spend a lot of time these days documenting colorful experiences on social media. In fact, the past few years of valuing experience over possessions has led to a full-scale push against the limitations of the pandemic. Many want large gatherings, colorful actions and over-the-top fun!

To live your fullest, it makes sense to guard your health. And good health begins with good nutrition.

One of the simplest ways to keep your diet healthy is to fill your plate with fresh foods of many colors. This was my grandmother’s rule. And it’s echoed by nutritionists.

The phytochemicals that give foods their color also provide nutrients, prevent disease, fight inflammation, and mitigate pain. Eating a rainbow of colors can have the following effects:

Red. Eating red foods can support the circulatory system, the brain, and help with cholesterol levels. Stock up on tomatoes, radishes, and strawberries. Then add some tart cherries for pain reduction. And don’t forget red chili peppers, red bell peppers, and raspberries.

Orange. Oranges, carrots and sweet potatoes help boost immunity. And my grandmother used to say carrots would help you see better at night. They can, in fact, add some protection for your eyes and bones.

Yellow. Peaches, pineapple, and bananas make a delicious smoothie that will boost immunity and may improve blood sugar levels and even insulin sensitivity as long as the banana is not yet ripe.

Green. Leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. They can help lower blood pressure, keep cholesterol in check, and help protect against heart disease and stroke. And there are so many options – spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, lettuce, Swiss chard, and watercress. Of course you’ll want to avoid spinach if you have histamine intolerance.

Blue. Blueberries are my favorite blue food. (Actually, huckleberries are my favorite, but they’re hard to come by.) I try to keep blueberries on hand. They’re a great complement to yogurt, oatmeal, and ice cream. I tend to just eat them by the handful as a snack that helps lower my risk of cancer while possibly improving my memory.

Indigo. Blackberries are another berry I prefer to consume by the handful. I never think about the fact that they may be helping me age better while improving my memory and preventing heart disease and cancer. I just enjoy their sweet, tangy juiciness.

Violet. Eggplant, purple cabbage, and plums are great choices. (Avoid the eggplant if you’re histamine intolerant.) Plums have even been touted as a new superfood with more antioxidants than blueberries and isatin that helps regulate digestion system function.

If nothing here is on your favorite list, don’t worry, just choose something else in the same color range or a white food like cauliflower. A multicolor plate looks as good as it tastes. There’s really no going wrong.

Consistently eating a variety of colors will mean an essentially healthy diet without lots of reading, studying, and calculating. Your body deserves the support so you’ll have more time to get out and live a colorful life.

Push Through or Move on

How do you determine when to push through or move on? This is an issue that keeps rearing its head for me and for others I know. It’s often discussed regarding intimate relationships or life partners, but it comes up in every area – business, finance, sports, career, parenting, friendships, recreation, and healthcare.

I’ve been reading and rereading a policy I’ll be voting on this week. I’ve seen this policy before – more than once. I pushed for changes and got a meeting with the stakeholders. Some things were changed. Some were not. I felt like that was progress.

Now I see that most of the changes I fought for are gone and the policy disregards the segment I represent more than it did the first time around. It’s not particularly surprising. Change is a constant battle in certain organizations.

But I’m a volunteer. I’m giving time and energy that might be better directed to organizations that are more receptive. And yet, the entities most resistant to change are typically the ones that most need it. Knowing that makes me feel like I should push back again.

I also realize there is a point at which pushing back creates more resistance. I can hold up a vote, but I have no real authority within the organization. I can be circumvented with a simple procedural change.

The problem in this particular instance is that the stakeholders with the most power are not concerned how this policy affects my constituents. In the past two years, many of us have had the opportunity to see this kind of disregard in action.

No policy will be perfect for everyone it affects. But when husbands, wives, CEOs, legislators, law enforcement officials, physicians, or parents lack regard for those who are governed by their policies, it becomes more likely that rules will be created that result in real harm.

I am attempting to lessen that possibility. But I’m doing so from a position with limited power and authority. And I can easily be replaced. This is a singular situation, but also a recurring theme and it always leads to the question:

How can you know when to let go?

There’s no way to be absolutely sure how any situation will play out so there’s no absolute answer to this question. The best you can do is approach the decision mindfully, exploring as many sides as you can see (the more, the better). In other words, when you can step back and incorporate many points of view, your decision will be more informed.

You can also gather input from other sources. While this is helpful, it’s important to make a decision you feel comfortable owning. If you allow another’s opinion to influence you to do something you can’t feel peace about, the decision will continue to haunt you.

Many people may advise you to make a pro/con list. That can be helpful in showing you whether you see more positive than negative about moving on or pushing through, but the items on the list may follow the human bias for justifying our actions while taking the easy way out.

Here are a few questions you may want to consider when deciding to push through or move on. The situation will help you determine which ones apply.

What are my intentions? Which action is more in line with my intentions?

What are the risks of pushing through? What are the rewards? Do the rewards align with my values?

What are the risks of moving on? What are the rewards? Do the rewards align with my values?

What will I lose if I move on? What will I gain? Which aligns more with my values?

Have I been in a similar situation in which I regretted my decision? Why did I regret it? Do I feel a need to do things differently this time? Would doing things differently be a selfish decision, or would it benefit all parties?

Can I live with myself if I move on at this point or will I feel I have neglected my duty or failed to work through some issue I need to resolve?

Do I believe I have done everything I can do and further action on my part will be more destructive than helpful?

Is there another person who may be better suited to play my role from this point forward?

Is it costing me too much to continue this work or this relationship?

Would a short break give me the perspective I need? Can I take a break and come back to the decision?

How much is fear guiding my decision? (This is a good question to ask when anger is what I feel.) Can I sit with the fear until I’m more clear on its role?

If I feel strongly about the path I should take, but am afraid, can I enlist an advocate? Who would that advocate be?

If I need allies to affect change, should I redirect my energy to building an alliance?

Do I recognize that making no decision is actually making a decision? Am I able to set a deadline for making a decision and then remove the pressure and allow myself to process through all the feelings around it?

Am I keeping in mind that behind all policies are human beings?

Humans can be kind, supportive, inclusive, and compassionate. They can also be cruel, sadistic, dismissive, manipulative, and selfish. Sometimes the cruelty is a deliberate choice. Sometimes, it’s an inadvertent result of a lack of awareness. Raising awareness will most likely have the most lasting positive effect in any given situation. But it won’t automatically make someone care about an issue you believe they should care about.

Sometimes the moment requires a strong stand. Sometimes, it requires subtle pressure over a long period of time. And sometimes, it requires walking out the door and letting go. I’ll be keeping all of this in mind as I decide my response to the policy I’m reviewing.

I wish I knew whether to push through or move on. I don’t. But I am confident I will be at peace with my decision once I make it because I trust my process.