A healthy diet has played a big part in helping me achieve good health while overcoming chronic Lyme Disease and has made me a firm believer in the power of food. And while I’ve always been interested in nutrition and dietetics, it wasn’t until I decided to do everything in my power to take control of my health and finally conquer my Lyme that I was forced to dive head first into all that a nutritious diet has to offer. Now I can say that it has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I don’t plan on ever going back! In fact, I plan on going much further with it and studying nutrition so as to be able to help others live their healthiest lives possible.

That’s the plan. But for now, let’s look at how I eat to keep myself feeling the best I possibly can.

I follow a healthy immune system diet – which basically means I eat a diet that is designed to help eliminate toxins and then give me the nutrients I need to keep things running at peak performance. I don’t consider this a “diet” in conventional terms because, like many healthy living bloggers out there, I don’t believe in withholding food that my body needs. I’ll be the first to tell you that I love my five meals a day. So while there are some things I definitely don’t eat now, it’s not because I’m punishing myself to meet a certain physical goal. It’s because I’ve seen for myself how much better I feel when I eat the way my body was made to eat. That being said, the first step for me was eliminating unhealthy foods from my diet. Which includes: sugar, wheat, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol.

Why did I do this?

I was first given these tips by my wonderful Lyme doctor, who understands that to reach full health you have to take a full body approach. And after researching it for months and months (looking for a loophole, I admit), I discovered that these are the guidelines many people follow in overcoming illness and reaching full health. But it was really Dr. Janet Maccaro’s book 90 Day Immune System Makeover [read my review of this book here] that explained exactly WHY I was eating this way. So to *almost literally* borrow a page from her book, here’s a quick rundown of what I learned:

  • Sugar inhibits immune function within 30 minutes for up to 5 hours after consumption. It makes your system acidic and strips us of B vitamins. Your body has to divert its attention to dealing with the sugar you just put in it and can’t focus on doing what it’s supposed to do best – run like an awesome machine.
  • Dairy foods are high in fat and interfere with the detoxification process because of this. It also contains hormone residues that contribute to female hormonal imbalance, which can affect our metabolism.
  • Refinement of wheat loses 80% of the B vitamins, 98% vitamin E, 90% minerals and micronutrients. This leaves large amounts of undigested material that the immune system treats as potentially toxic and creates extra “baggage” for our digestive systems to deal with.
  • Caffeine has some positive attributes, but contributes to body being out of balance in a lot of ways because it leaches B vitamins from the body and depletes the body of essential minerals, especially calcium and potassium. Caffeine also stresses the adrenal glands which control our adrenaline and affect our metabolism.
  • Small amounts of wine contain magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous and highly absorbable B vitamins. But to get a healthy immune system, you should only drink 1 or 2 glasses a week max or eliminate completely. To rebuild your immune system, eliminate it completely for the first 90 days.

Now, let’s be real for a second. When I was first told that I would have to eliminate wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol from my diet, my first response was not “score!” It was more like the 5 stages of mourning and grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance. Did I mention denial, anger, bargaining, and depression lasted a long, LONG time?

As a carb and sugar addict at heart, this was not easy news for me to hear. An important part of getting over this for me was learning to replace the cravings. And I’ve since found several protein bars, sugar free/wheat free desserts, and healthy snacks that have taken the place of my once beloved Kit Kat bars and peanut butter filled pretzels. Now, after eating like this for more than a year, I don’t even give my old faves a second glance. And when I do have a craving, I automatically reach for one of these healthy alternatives (which taste better too, I might add) instead. Seriously Larabars, you’ve changed my life. 😉

Some of my favorite replacements are:

  • For sugar: Stevia! As someone with a total sweet tooth, this little natural sweetener has been a lifesaver for me on many occasions. I keep a box of stevia packets in my desk at work, which I mix into plain yogurt and chamomile tea, and a box at home to make lemonade with when I want to drink something a little sweet. I also use honey occasionally and look for products sweetened with rice syrup or sometimes sucarat (a natural sweetener from sugar cane juice). I do NOT use artificial sweeteners, because they are made with synthetic chemicals that only give our immune systems one more thing to fight. God’s given us all the natural sweeteners we need :).
  • For dairy: I’ve replaced a lot of the dairy in my life with Rice Milk and Almond Milk, which not only tastes better but doesn’t drag me down the way cow’s milk definitely did. I keep yogurt in my diet for the live active cultures it contains. Cheese has been the hardest thing for me to give up. I’ve found Yogurt Cheese at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that is delicious and not too expensive at all. After that, I’ll reach for goat cheese. Yes, it’s a cheese but apparently goats have way less of the bacteria and hormone issues that cows do. I’ve also found affordable packages of this at Trader Joes. And of course, there’s rice cheese and soy cheese (I don’t eat soy because I’m allergic to it.). And as an ice cream ADDICT I’m all about Rice Dream, especially in mint chocolate chip. You’ll never miss “the real thing” again.
  • For wheat: Carbs are a super important part of everyone’s diet, so I make a point to eat a healthy balance of these on a daily basis. My favorite substitutes for refined wheat are millet, kamut, amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice. I eat bread made out of these, cereal made from these, pasta, etc. And after months of experimenting, I’ve found some awesome brands that make all of these products with these grains.
  • For caffeine and wine: I just say no. Though eventually once I’m as healthy as can be, I plan on partaking in a glass of wine for special occasions. For now, seltzer and lime is my drink of choice.

Some of my favorite healthy snacks are:

July 30 - packing day bfast
(Honest Foods, Oskri coconut bars, and a Naked smoothie) and…

Pom Bars… one of my favorite candy bar replacements:

Aug 1 - pom bar bfast

After I learned to eliminate all of these unhealthy foods from my diet (and replace them with even yummier, more natural options) I was able to focus on putting more good foods in.

Those foods include:

  • Complex carbs: brown rice, potatoes, whole grains (millet, kamut, amaranth, quinoa, etc), oats
  • Lean protein: chicken, turkey, fish (and tofu for some, though I’m allergic to soy)
  • LOTS of fruits and veggies
  • All the fun substitutes for those foods I used to think I liked.

Using these foods as the basis of my diet, I’m able to make lots of delicious, fun, and satisfying meals that are still good for me. Such as…

Quesadillas with brown rice tortillas, yogurt cheese, organic black beans, avocado, lettuce, and tomatoe:

Aug 1 - quesadilla mmm
Homemade pizza on a brown rice tortilla with yogurt cheese (rice cheese also works), cherry tomatoes, and basil and a side salad of romaine, black beans, and alfalfa sprouts:

Aug 2nd - pitza
French toast (made using brown rice bread and vanilla almond milk), egg salad (with canola mayo), and bacon (ok, this is soy bacon that I made for Steph. You can bet I had some turkey bacon with this since I can’t eat soy):

Aug 8 - dinner
A cheesey salsa omelet (made using yogurt cheese and almond milk) with chick peas and kale:

Aug 9 - dinner

Chicken drumstricks (marinated in olive oil and rosemary) with lentils and a spinach salad with alfalfa sprouts, slivered almonds, and avocado:

Aug 13 - dinner

And last, but certainly not least, an amazing BLT sandwich with yeast free spelt bread, turkey bacon, yogurt cheese, and alfalfa sprouts with a side of chickpeas, avocado, and salt and peppered tomato. Mmm. Mmm. MMM.

Aug 12 - best dinner ever

At heart, I’m still a foody. Put me in front of a salad bar, and I’ll go crazy. I love salad. But put me in front of Au Bon Pain’s soup bar, and I may *think* I came in for tomato bisque, but you can guarantee I’ll walk out with either a baked potato soup, broccoli and cheddar, or clam chowder if it’s on the menu. That’s why I had to learn to REPLACE THE CRAVINGS and pick my battles. One of the major things I’ve learned is that if I eat healthy 80% of the time, avoiding foods that are bad for us and stocking up on lots of healthy complex carbs, lean proteins, fiber, fruits, and veggies, I can have a large bowl of broccoli cheese soup every once in a while and it ain’t no thing. But typically after that bowl of soup, I realize why it is I like to eat healthier dishes instead. I can fill up and still feel energized and ready to go.

There’s a lot more I could say on this topic, so I’ll end it here for now. But coming up… how I’m getting healthy with vitamins and supplements (are they really necessary?), exercise, raw foods, and more.

xo team,

Grateful for: Delicious, healthy, whole foods.