Let’s Get Creative

Diane Eblin is the author of The Gluten-Free Diner e-cookbook and the blog The WHOLE Gang. Living by her motto, Real Food, Real Fun, Real Choices, she encourages people to eat real food by shopping for “ingredients, not food.” Today she offers some ideas to help if you’re making changes in your diet, whether by choice or necessity.

If you just discovered October: Unprocessed, welcome! Find out more and take the pledge. Don’t worry about joining late — you can start your 30 days today or simply join in for the rest of the month.

Roasted Beet Salad with Avocado and Orange
Roasted Beet Salad with Avocado and Orange

Scared to make more changes? Let’s get creative.

Wow, what great ideas have been shared this month! You have travel tips, budget tips, how to grow you own or find it at a market or restaurant.  You can even find gluten-free info from Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom and gluten-free flours Jean from Gluten-Free Doctor.  And all of the recipes shared are amazing.  Bravo!

What if you’ve just been reading this series but have been too scared to take the plunge?  Or what if you just found out you have to make more changes?  Or maybe you’ve been staying faithful to the challenge this month, but you’re not sure you can keep going without a little something something?

For many people hearing that they have to eat gluten-free or dairy-free or soy-free or sugar-free or processed-foods-free can be a scary proposition.  For me it caused a meltdown when I found out I couldn’t eat gluten, dairy, or rice. After 15 minutes I calmed down and came up with a plan.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. Actually, if you are trying to avoid any of the eight major allergens in your diet, eating unprocessed foods can make it a whole lot easier and healthier.  You may have been told by a doctor that you no longer can eat gluten due to a sensitivity or Celiac Disease. Your doctor may tell you that you need to lose weight so “watch your diet.” Or you may decide that you just don’t want to eat meat anymore and become a vegetarian. Any of those situations will cause you to change how you eat.

Any time you take away what you have become accustomed to it can cause a panic. It doesn’t have to. Take a few deep breaths and embrace the joy of something new. I find if you take something away, it breeds creativity. Let’s get creative!

Here are a few tips on how to make this transition a little easier no matter if you are starting today, a week ago, a month ago, or even a year ago.

1.  You want to make a list of foods you can eat and you like. If you are avoiding processed foods, start with foods that do not have labels to read.  This helps you avoid the question, “now what do I eat?” Your list might look like this:

Beef, Chicken, Salmon, Tilapia, Cod, Shrimp, Clams, Lobster . . .

Feta, Mozzarella, ricotta . . .

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomato, Potato, Onion, Celery, Lettuce, Sweet Potato, Kale, Spinach, Corn . . .

Apple, Pear, Watermelon, Kiwi, Banana, Strawberry, Blueberry, Peach, Raspberry . . .

Rice, Quinoa, Millet, Amaranth, Grandma’s bread, Aunt Maria’s pasta, Sue’s Shortcake, Betty’s brownies, Sam’s Sushi . . .

Your list will of course be much longer and will depend on what you are avoiding.  My list would be free of gluten, dairy, and rice.  A vegetarian would leave out the entire top row.  A vegan would avoid the first two rows, and so on.

2.  Scan the resources. Take this list and start scanning your cookbooks, food blogs, cooking shows, and ask friends and family for their favorite recipes.  Start at your level of cooking expertise and go from there. If you have always cooked by opening a box of something or ordering takeout, and you are trying to live these first 30 days without processed foods then you call in the experts.

The experts being those who have experience cooking something. Get together with these folks and ask them to share their recipes, ideas and tips. Cook together. Each person take a night and make enough food for everyone and then share. Take a cooking class together. There are a ton of ways to get real food and keep the processed foods at bay.

3.  You will be a lot more successful if you create a menu. I create a menu every Monday and share it.  It only takes five minutes longer to create a monthly menu, so I figured why not.  I first start with what foods I have in my freezer and fridge.  Boy does this save me tons of money!  40%, actually, off my grocery bill.  Anytime I have leftovers I freeze them right away, labeled, so I can have a fast meal that I know is unprocessed.

Now if you are living gluten-free like me, then you have other things to consider. Cross-contamination is a big one. If you are eating something from a box that was made where they also use wheat, than what you are about to eat from the box could be cross-contaminated. If you are cooking at home, you want to make sure you keep anything containing gluten out of the kitchen while you are cooking. You also want gluten-free dedicated cutting boards, if you have plastic utensils those too, and pots and pans, as I was told that gluten will remain in the scratches in pans.

My kitchen is completely gluten-free so that is no longer a concern for me.  I also buy very few items that have labels, so grocery shopping is really fast and easy.  I stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store where they sell the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood.  I do go to the inside aisles for things like dried beans, oils, and vinegars.

I hope by the end of these 30 days of living the unprocessed life you will be eating lots of foods you like,  have found and used lots of new resources, and by planning your menu you don’t get caught off-guard and go away from the unprocessed life.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 28, 2010 6:54 pm

Hi Diane–I love your “yes” list approach! When we start looking at that list, it not only gives us something to work with/map out a plan, it also makes us feel a sense of abundance. There are just so many other foods/ingredients that can be enjoyed even when one has a food intolerance or multiple food intolerances. Sometimes we just have to drop our preconceived notions. We often enjoy food from other cultures and visit other countries and find simple dishes and combinations that we love, but would never consider at home. Finally, you are so right about not even having to read labels when you are buying real food! 🙂

Thanks, Diane!

October 28, 2010 8:14 am

I love your approach Diane. It’s so positive! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Reply to  Maggie
October 28, 2010 11:29 am

Thank you Maggie. I’m a glass half full kind of girl. Always have been. To me it’s easier to figure things out if you are happy than if you are not. It seems to open up the creativity and options. Thank you for leaving a comment.

October 28, 2010 4:08 am

Excellent job Diane! I would also recommend Amazon to see if they do the subscribe and save on some of the products (flours, gums, maple syrup) you will be using. It will save money, especially if you live in an area without much support for gluten-free through stores. Scope out online, what stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes may have (we schedule a trip to these about once a month since they are just over an hour away) for you. I love Trader Joes Sunbutter (not nuts of the food variety in this family)! Lastly, and most importantly, interact with the food bloggers. They have experimented, and continue to. They are an excellent resource for help.

Reply to  Diane
October 28, 2010 11:28 am

Diane- I love that name! I agree that Trader Joes and Whole Foods do have great foods.

I lOVE your last comment on interacting with food bloggers. If we are blogging about food we are most likely obsessed or just have too much time on our hands and had to fill it up. Yes, I love it when people interact with me and ask me about how or why or what. Ask, Ask, Ask! Thank you for leaving a comment.