A Happy Holiday Menu for an Extremely Restricted Diet
Last Thanksgiving I was an Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP) newbie. Coming up with a Thanksgiving menu wasn’t easy for me since the diet is quite limited and I had little experience with it. However, with some assistance from my family, I managed to enjoy an especially delicious feast! Menu planning with a limited list of foods requires a bit more creativity, but I found a lot of pleasure in that creative process. I appreciated the fact that I could still have such a yummy Thanksgiving, but I remember looking ahead to Thanksgiving 2015 anticipating I’d be back to a more “normal” varied diet after a year of healing.
Well, much to my surprise (and dismay), Thanksgiving 2015 found me needing to restrict my diet even further! Last year I dove into the AIP out of desperation when I experienced, um, a case of the runs that would not go away. Amazingly, within just a few days the situation resolved, but since it’s an elimination diet, the AIP isn’t meant to last forever. Little by little, I tried reintroducing foods to transition away from the AIP and expand my diet again, but I had little success. Why? Something had to be causing these multiple food intolerances . . .
Through research I discovered there is often some sort of gut infection at the root of multiple food intolerances, which causes a “leaky gut.” So, with this knowledge in mind, I made an appointment with my naturopath to have some testing done. One stool test later I received a call from her office informing me that yes, not only did I have an infection, but it was such a serious pathogen they were required to report it to the Department of Health! The bacteria that lived in my gut and caused so much damage is called Yersinia enterocolitica. I believe I contracted it in 2006 when I had the most severe food poisoning-like event of my life, causing an 8 pound weight loss on my already thin frame.
Thankfully, an herbal antibiotic treatment prescribed by my naturopath eradicated my little longterm bacterial friend, and I looked forward to experiencing a deeper level of digestive healing minus the infection. However, instead of my food tolerance increasing, I started noticing reactions to even more foods! Digesting FODMAPs and starches became difficult, I noticed my abdomen was bloated nearly all the time, and I had more bouts of, er, the trots. Daily probiotic supplementation and drinking bone broth (which are normally quite helpful and healing) actually seemed to make things worse. Eventually I came across a podcast about a condition called SIBO, and I realized I had most of the symptoms.
Back to my naturopath I went, and one breath test later I learned that I do indeed have SIBO. I’m relieved to have a diagnosis but a little bummed at the same time, as SIBO can be difficult to treat.
Meanwhile, I came across an amazing book called “The Loving Diet” by Jessica Flanigan. Reading this reminded me that things in our lives happen for a reason, and good can actually come from illness if we look at it with the right perspective. Instead of fighting against illness, surrendering to it lovingly and embracing the struggle often yields a deeper healing, teaches us important lessons, and helps us uncover blessings in disguise. In addition to addressing these important, often neglected, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of disease, the book provides a lot of practical information, including a three phase diet that’s designed to help manage symptoms of SIBO until treatment and then to help heal after treatment.
Basically, the most restricted phase of “The Loving Diet” is AIP + low FODMAP + very low starch, which leaves you with a total of:
- 20 fruits
- 25 vegetables
- healthy fats
- 20 herbs
- 2 sweeteners (1 tsp of honey or maple syrup per day)
- 2 beverages besides water (mint tea and ginger tea)
Ironically, my starting this extremely restricted diet coincided with Thanksgiving again. This new diet made last year’s Thanksgiving meal seem extravagant! However, as I contemplated my tiny food list, I felt inspired by the restrictions. I was determined to create a delicious feast again, and, amazingly, I really derived a lot of joy out of the process! I want to share my Thanksgiving menu with you in case you’re in the same boat and need some inspiration for the holidays. I think it’s also important to focus on the experience of the meal, so I tried to make my Thanksgiving dinner visually appealing in addition to being as flavorful as possible.
My Happy Holiday Menu:
San Pellegrino with raspberries and mint
– blanched carrots
– peeled and blanched celery
– blanched radishes
– peeled cucumber
– green olives
– “dip” made from red palm oil, avocado oil, lemon zest, and fresh herbs
butternut squash with bacon, sage, and smoked sea salt
root veggies (turnips/rutabagas/parsnips) and fennel roasted in duck fat
fresh baby greens topped with olive oil and lemon juice
puréed pumpkin with avocado oil, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and maple syrup
- 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Mix all ingredients together really well, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to incorporate.
- 2 lbs butternut squash, cubed
- 4 slices of sugar-free bacon, chopped
- 1+ Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- 1+ tsp smoked sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Place all ingredients in a roasting pan and mix together.
- Place in oven and stir every 10 minutes until done (about 20-30 minutes).
- 2 medium rutabagas, peeled and cubed
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and cubed
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cubed
- 1 large bulb of fennel, chopped
- 2 Tbsp duck fat
- sea salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Mix all veggies, duck fat, and salt together in a large roasting pan.
- Place in oven and stir about every 15 minutes until done, about one hour.