So I’m smack in the middle of a month-long experiment. It’s totally unscientific, and completely non-fact-based, but an experiment nonetheless…
I’m going dairy-free for the month of January. No milk, butter or cheese. No pizza, chicken parm or malteds. No traditional baked goods.
“Cow Wallpaper (Pink on Yellow)”, 1966, image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum
Over the last few years I have too often felt “on the verge” of getting sick. I’ve had one too many sinus infections and have gone through several stretches of just feeling plain crappy. And I couldn’t figure out why. On most nights I get enough sleep. And I exercise regularly. I even get a check-up once a year (and get a clean bill of health every time).
So I started thinking about all the areas of my life that could use some tweaking. That maybe I could take a modified holistic approach, and see – if by making some minor changes – I could realize a difference in my day-to-day energy level, and overall well-being.
My diet was the first thing that came to mind, and I decided to eliminate one food group per month, for three months. There is so much talk these days about “trigger foods” and people being diagnosed with later-in-life food allergies that it was obvious to me that this was something worth exploring.
The three food groups I decided to “take away” were dairy, gluten and sugar. I also set these goals:
*Go cold turkey on the 1st of the month and not cheat – even a little – for 30 days.
*Find, make and share really great recipes and resources with all of you.
*Make minimal use of what I call “fake foods” (tofurkey, anyone?), using “real” ingredients wherever possible to make dishes that I would genuinely want to eat – even baked goods.
I set the bar pretty high, but why the hell not? I even put it on my life list to make it “real” (numbers 71, 72 and 73 to be exact). We’re talking 30 days, not a lifetime.
My plan was to start with gluten, which I figured was the biggest culprit.
And then Chelsea came home from school, and announced that she was a vegan.
And this is what the inside of my head looked like:
image courtesy of Rex Features
Now, I was totally supportive of Chelsea – and more than impressed with her commitment to seeing this through. But it was like, No – I cannot learn one more new thing. Please don’t make me. I can’t do it.
The timing on this probably didn’t help either. I had just gotten through a 6-week marathon of travel, Thanksgiving and holiday baking. Re-inventing my family’s meal time was definitely NOT on my agenda.
But then I realized that vegan means no dairy – so why didn’t I just eliminate dairy to start? Chelsea would be home for the whole month, and was more than willing to find recipes and research ingredients. I could help her get started while completing my goal for January.
So how’s it going, you might be wondering?
Not too badly….
The first 7-10 days were not great. I had read on Mara’s blog about what to expect when eliminating dairy – that it would be similar to caffeine withdrawal. And she was right. Fortunately the headaches and jitters have gone way completely.
I’m hungrier than usual, but if I grab an “empty” snack (like some candy or a cracker), I’m likely to have a crash by mid-afternoon, even worse than before. So I’ve added both a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, each containing a decent amount of protein.
Here’s a rundown of a typical day’s meals:
Iced coffee with almond milk and a splash of maple syrup (the syrup “cuts” the almond milk and gives it a flavor that is preferable to me)
English muffin with jam and honey (alas, none of my homemade butter for a while – but it helps when you have friends like Elizabeth, who send you Earl Grey vanilla apple butter. That lasted about a week.)
A larabar (hopefully homemade), breakfast bar (same) or Cliff Bar
A handful of nuts, a Cliff Bar or hummus with crackers/carrots
I’ve been adapting our dinners by making dairy-free meals, or putting aside a portion for myself with no cheese. As I’ve been making vegan side dishes and salads to serve Chelsea as her “main”, there is always something for me to eat (this salad is a big favorite around here).
For dessert I’ll have some dark chocolate covered cherries or a few cookies (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have great dairy-free options).
Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the recipes (yes, even baked goods!) that we’re enjoying here, as well as any changes I’ve noticed (both good and bad).
I’d love to know if you’ve ever done something similar with your diet, and if it worked for you. If it did work, have you maintained it, or modified along the way?
Also – how do you manage mealtimes for your family when one member has specific dietary needs? Let’s get a conversation going here!
Note: I am not a doctor, nutritionist or dietician. Please consult a professional before making any changes to your diet.