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It’s time to share the best dairy free products I use the most in my kitchen. Making the switch to a dairy free lifestyle can feel overwhelming at first, but I’m here to make it easier. These non dairy swaps are easy to add to your own kitchen, and help make the transition easier.

When I recently read the ingredients of a particular children’s protein shake, I realized I had to share a healthy alternative to PediaSure®. A milkshake that’s marketed to parents as a healthy drink but is filled with sugar, oxidized oils, and synthetic vitamins is certainly not what I would give to my own kids. As a liquid meal replacement, there are much better options.

A morning routine can help you achieve more, but lets create a realistic plan for busy moms. Morning routines can include time with your kids, yet still optimizing our health.

I spent the better part of this past fall learning about culinary nutrition, and I focused on creating an autoimmune meal plan for women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The strategies I included in those meal plans are applicable to anyone dealing with autoimmune disease. As it becomes more common for us to hear of friends and family getting an autoimmune diagnosis, I want you to have the understanding of which foods may keep symptoms quiet.

When I was three, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I recovered, but it means I’m more likely to develop another one. Add in a strong family history of autoimmune diseases, an inflammatory arthritis diagnosis, and I’m using these guidelines myself as preventative measures. For the past 9 months, my symptoms have been extremely quiet and I’m so happy I no longer need to read for Advil to deal with ongoing pain.

Autoimmune Anti-inflammatory Meal Plan

How to develop an autoimmune meal plan.

There are a couple of key factors I want you to consider as you plan your meals. You want your meals to be nutrient dense, and anti-inflammatory. Those are your top priorities. How do you accomplish this? By adding in a wide variety of vegetables and gut-healthy foods to your autoimmune meal plan. It also includes the following elements:

*Cold water fish, like Salmon-provides you with essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation

*Bone broth-gut healing and provides collagen and gelatin to ease joint pain

*Chia and flax seeds-helps with elimination and binds with toxins to exit the body

*Organ meat-rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that are easy to absorb

*Seaweed- provides a wide mix  of minerals, including iodine which helps hypothyroid patients.

Changing Your Diet

There are some foods you want to avoid to optimize your health. Those are foods containing gluten, refined white sugar, vegetable oils, and dairy. Why? These are the primary culprits that trigger inflammatory responses. For some people, it’s a flare up of rosacea or lupus. For others, it’s brain fog and joint pain. By eliminating this primary group of allergenic foods, you give your body an opportunity to heal and run as it’s supposed to. For some people with autoimmune disease, you may want to eliminate foods from the nightshade family from your meal plan. That includes tomatoes, peppers, black pepper, eggplant, paprika, and potatoes. I help clients figure this out when we work through their custom nutrition protocol.

Here are some recipe suggestions to get you started. If you need more for a certain category, let me know and I’ll add more to this post.

Dinner

Chicken Livers with Leeks and Kale by Simple Seasonal

Easy One Pan Salmon with Roasted Vegetables by Cooking Classy

50/50/50 Burgers from Paleo Mom

Salmon Sliders with Sweet Potato Buns and Cashew Cucumber Dip

Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks by Paleo Leap

Coconut Quinoa and Kale Salad by Cookie and Kate

autoimmune meal plan recipe ideas

Lunch

AIP Carrot and Sweet Potato Chili

Brown Rice and Arame Seaweed Salad– please skip the canola oil and swap in avocado or olive oil instead.

Breakfast

Moroccan Breakfast Skillet from Autoimmune Wellness.

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Grain Free Granola from Minimalist Baker

Paleo Breakfast Hash with Sweet Potato from Balanced Bites

Snack

Mochaccino Breakfast Pudding

Green apples and almond butter

Lemon Cashew Energy Balls

Bananas rolled in chia or flax seeds

Further reading:

Autoimmune Wellness Handbook

The Autoimmune Solution

The Anti-inflammatory Diet and Action Plan (the co-author Sondi is a fellow alum of my Culinary Nutrition program!)

For more inspiration, check out the years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

If you shop the grocery store lately, you are bound to have lots of questions about healthy dairy options. There is a giant wall of choices, and you need to understand the differences between conventional, organic, grass-fed, low-fat, fresh, and raw milk. It’s a hot topic in the nutrition field and I’m going to break it down for you.

healthy choices for dairy, milk and yogurt

What are the health benefits of dairy?

Milk and dairy products have been around a very long time, at least 10,000 years or more by most accounts. Fresh milk provides the following nutrients when it hasn’t been altered by pasteurization:

  • fat-soluble vitamins like calcium and phosphate
  • conjugated linoleic acid (an anti-inflammatory and healing fat)
  • balanced amounts of essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6
  • probiotics
  • complete proteins, including glutathione (another anti-inflammtory)

Feeding our babies breastmilk provides all of the nutrients above, plus natural growth hormones. We are nearly all born with the ability to process lactose, the sugar in milk, but that ability begins to decrease by age 2. About 25% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant, and 97% of Native Americans are lactose-intolerant. (1)  Despite our lactose intolerance issues, dairy is still recommended for children and adults.

baby milk healthiest options

Do we need milk for calcium?

While calcium is one of the beneficial nutrients from dairy, it’s not as readily available as the dairy businesses would like us to think. Calcium is delivered into your bones when there is a synergistic relationship between it and magnesium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. The vitamin D added to milk after pasteurization is not well absorbed by our body. What we really want is calcium in a bioavailable form, which is found in dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, dried figs, rhubarb, and bone broth.

The second big issue with the calcium conversation is the low-fat/no-fat nonsense. If your body is in balance with the other micronutrients I mentioned, calcium needs saturated fat to be absorbed. If you eat a 0% fat yogurt, you just got zero of the calcium.

When the beneficial fat is removed from the milk, it’s replaced with carbohydrate-based fillers like cellulose, maltodextrins, gums, starches, fiber, and polydextrose. The other thing added to low-fat products is SUGAR. When you remove the fat, you remove the flavor. Added sugar is a whole other conversation, but worth noting so you skip those fruity, sugary, no-fat choices next time you are in the yogurt aisle.

Also, studies have shown there is no reduced risk for osteoporosis when drinking two or more glasses of milk a day versus two glasses per week. (2) You are better off protecting your bones by eating a plant-rich diet and incorporating movement into your lifestyle.

What’s the downside of dairy?

Conventional dairy products typically cause your body to go into a proinflammatory state. It can cause leaky gut syndrome, insulin resistance, and development of gut dysbiosis. The main goal I have when creating a healing diet is to reduce the overall inflammation levels in your body. In this day and age, our bodies are taxed by environmental toxins all the time. We can’t always control that, but we can control what we choose to eat.

As someone who creates healing diets for clients, often I work with people to eliminate dairy from their diet. Why? Eliminating dairy gives you the opportunity to see if you can reduce issues related to digestion, skin (acne/rosacea/eczema), asthma, candida, joint pain, allergies, and headaches. When you reduce overall gut irritation, you actually make it possible for your body to absorb nutrients better from the other foods you eat.

Organic versus conventional dairy?

Milk quality has improved in recent years as companies realize customers do not want antibiotics in the glass of milk they serve their kids. However, if you do not choose organic milk, you will be exposed to pesticides. They exist in the grains fed to the cows, which then goes right into the milk. The toxins actually bind with the fat in milk and they are not eliminated by pasteurization. Always purchase organic milk to avoid the toxic exposure. Remember, this applies to all your dairy products: ice cream, cream cheese, cheese, sour cream, creamer, and so on. The conventional milk used for these products is pro-inflammatory which is exactly what I teach my clients to avoid.

What happens when milk is pasteurized?

Healthy dairy options at the grocery store.

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to very high temperatures to kill off any bacteria, or microbes, present. It came into practice in the 1800s when we didn’t have the clean facilities to gather milk on a regular basis. The demand was increasing during the time of industrialization and pasteurization allows for milk to be produced cheaply, which is what the big dairy businesses needed. Homogenized milk was the next change, where milk fat is separated so the cream no longer rises to the top. So what does this do to our milk?

Pasteurized milk has no live bacteria, compared to raw milk that may have lactobacilli present. You know, those probiotics you pay for in a bottle used to come from a glass of milk. Heat from pasteurization breaks down the proteins and fat, resulting in health-damaging consequences. The new milk creates a milk-fat soap through saponification. This creates a product that irritates your gut and can cause either diarrhea or constipation. The nutrients we want from milk, like calcium and phosphate, are now much less bioavailable and difficult to absorb. It’s about a 6-fold drop in nutrition when comparing fresh milk to pasteurized milk. (3) The amino acids are damaged with the heat and then turned into pro-inflammatory irritants, or allergens.

Where can I get healthy dairy options?

Yogurt is still the one dairy option I recommend keeping in your diet, if you are able to tolerate it. The good news is that fermentation rejuvenates the damaged proteins and makes the minerals we need more bioavailable. You want to find whole milk, grass-fed, organic yogurt in the plain variety. Skip the flavored options and just add your own raw honey or maple syrup if you need a little sweetness.

grass fed yogurt healthy dairy option

Raw milk is becoming more available across the United States, however it is still illegal to sell in Canada. To find raw milk farmers near you, head over to Real Milk to see a state by state guide. This is the place to know your farmer, visit the farm, and talk about the safety of the milk. There was a lot of scare tactics used when pasteurization came into effect at the turn of the century. As we move towards getting more food closer to the source, I hope raw milk will become widely available. What I don’t understand is why we can buy soda and cigarettes that cause obesity and cancer, but not raw milk. As a healthy dairy option, the amount of regulation against raw milk surprises me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Dairy decisions: Why can we buy soda & cigarettes that cause obesity & cancer, but not raw milk? ” quote=”What I don’t understand is why we can buy soda and cigarettes that cause obesity and cancer, but not raw milk. “]

Spring is actually the best time to introduce yourself to raw milk as the animals will be eating fresh, growing grass. I can’t get raw milk here in Canada, but I’ve already talked to the owners of a raw milk dairy back home during my time working on a farmer’s market. They were allowed to sell raw milk cheese at the market and it was amazing!

Here’s my recommendation for healthy dairy options in order of preference:

  1. Eliminate dairy for two weeks to see how your health may improve. Add back in and notice if you see any changes.
  2. Raw milk if you can find a quality source.
  3. Yogurt made with Organic, grass-fed milk. Plain flavor.
  4. Organic grass-fed milk (cow/sheep/goat) whole milk.
  5. Organic milk, whole milk.

If you wish to continue on the non-dairy train, you can read my tutorial here on how to make your own almond milk. Coconut milk, cashew milk, hemp seed milk and rice milk are all available at many stores. I don’t recommend soy milk as it will be a GMO product unless it’s listed as organic. You can find lots of recipes in my meal plan section that includes primarily dairy-free options.

Is it easy to go dairy free? Yes and no. I no longer drink milk but find I can tolerate a quality yogurt or cheese here or there. More often I’m going to make a homemade coconut milk yogurt instead. My kids however LOVE their cold cereal and milk in the morning. It’s a treat they get occasionally so I invest in the best milk and organic cereal I can find. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s working for us right now. Progress, not perfection.

Will I let them try raw milk down the road? Yes, once I get to know the farming practices in detail and can trust the safety of the milk. I would rather they get the full benefit of the vitamins and minerals in milk instead of a watered down version.

Leave a note in the comments if you have questions. Thanks for taking the time to empower yourself with information about choosing healthy dairy options.

how to choose healthy dairy options for your family

Healthy Dairy Options Additional resources

The Big Fat Surprise: discusses the need for fat in our diet.

Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and Politics of A1 and A2 milk. : further reading to learn about the various qualities of milk

The Paleo Approach: in depth look at why eliminating dairy can lead to optimal health, especially for women with autoimmune conditions.

Click here for a report card on your favorite organic milks to see how they stack up to the competition. There is also a yogurt one on this site too. I learned that Organic Valley is a better option than Horizon. Horizon is organic, but it’s mass produced and the nutrient quality is not the same as using milk from grass-fed animals. Their cows may be getting organic grain feed, which isn’t going to produce a premium product.

Sources

  1. The Paleo Approach, pg 106
  2. Feskanich, D., W. C. Willett, M. J. Stampfer, and G. A. Colditz. “Milk, Dietary Calcium, and Bone Fractures in Women: A 12-year Prospective Study.” American Journal of Public Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 1997. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
  3. Roig, M.j., A. Alegrı́a, R. Barberá, R. Farré, and M.j. Lagarda. “Calcium Dialysability as an Estimation of Bioavailability in Human Milk, Cow Milk and Infant Formulas.” Food Chemistry 64.3 (1999): 403-09. Web.

allergy season meal plan low histamine

Do your allergies flare up in the spring? Here’s an allergy season meal plan, which follows the protocol of a low histamine diet. Your food choices can help alleviate, or aggravate, allergy symptoms. Histamine is part of our natural immune response. When our body detects something foreign in our body, like pollen, histamine is released to “attack” it. Sometimes our body is too aggressive with the histamine release and then you end up with the itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezes for days.

I had the worst seasonal allergies and it wasn’t until I switched to a gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle that I found relief without a prescription. Both gluten and dairy can cause chronic inflammation in your body. By removing these two triggers, your body is less likely to overproduce histamine when it’s allergy season. Pair this with a low histamine diet plan and you will set yourself up for less sniffles and sneezes!

There are a few other key things to do during allergy season to complement the meal plan below.

  1. Boost your immune system with foods rich in vitamin C and polyphenols.

  2. Use locally grown raw honey repeatedly in the weeks prior to allergy season to prep your body for local pollen.

  3. Increase your intake of fresh herbs, like mint, cilantro, and watercress. All of these increase your levels of quercetin, a natural antihistamine.

  4. Focus on fresh food first (meat, produce.)

  5. Avoid cultured, processed, cured, fermented, and aged foods. (cheese, beer, wine, beef jerky, and smoked meats.)

  6. Avoid soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and yeast extract.

Allergy Season Meal Plan

allergy season meal plan turmeric pork skillet

Dinner

Turmeric Pork Skillet from Sweet Treats. This dish is anti-inflammatory, AIP, paleo, and Whole30 compliant.

Chicken Lemon Spinach Stew from A Healthy Life for Me. Adding lemon in chicken soup is a game changer. Plus it adds a healthy dose of Vitamin C!

Master Cleanse Salad Recipe from Detox DIY. Includes watercress and immune boosting broccoli. Pair with chicken or hard boiled eggs as a protein source.

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa from Joyful Healthy Eats. Cilantro is a great herb for our allergy season meal plan, plus it helps detox heavy metals found in your body.

One Pan Roasted Pork with Sweet Potato, Pear, Apple and Garlic from Garlic Matters.

allergy season meal plan paleo chicken lemon stew recipe

Lunch

Easy Almond Apple Quinoa Salad-from Chelsea’s Messy Apron. Apples also produce quercetin, a natural antihistamine. Note, avoid store bought chicken stock as it often contains yeast extract, another form of MSG. Instead, grab the recipe here for homemade chicken bone broth.

Breakfast

Superfood Breakfast Smoothie Bowl from A Glowing Fridge. The spirulina added here is a blue-green algae that is rich in protein and immune boosting. I use a powder like this one.

 

Allergy Season Beverages

Beverages

Green Tea: delivers EGCG, an antioxidant that blocks production of histamine and immunoglobulin E.

Bone broth: reduces inflammation. Learn more about why I drink bone broth every morning. 

Bonus

Probiotics: a dose at night can help boost your immune system during the height of allergy season. Always buy probiotics from a local store that has them refrigerated. Enjoy them thru kombucha or a kefir drink.

LOW HISTAMINE ALLERGY SEASON MEAL PLAN

Additional Resources

Healing Histamine (histamine in food list, great for anyone with histamine intolerance)

I hope you learned something new with this allergy season meal plan, with low-histamine food ideas.

Academy of Culinary Nutrition Program Graduate

Academy of Culinary Nutrition program

For the past few months, I have been getting an amazing education from The Academy of Culinary Nutrition program, run by Meghan Telpner. I was challenged with new recipes in the kitchen, pushed to my limits writing research papers while taking care of three little ones, and am inspired by the community I am now a part of as an alumni. Let me tell a little more with my review of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

Last winter, I started feeling a little lost. Maybe it was a result of living in a foreign country without my friends and family nearby. Maybe it was looking ahead to September and realizing my kids would be in school all day together in a Montessori program. Did I want to be a full time blogger? No, my heart wasn’t there. I knew I needed something more. That’s when it hit me.

Nutrition.

I can talk about real food and nutrition all day long, but I never received any credentials around my love for healthy living. The idea of health coaching clicked and I started doing my research. For a month, I talked with multiple health coaching programs and chatted with a friend who has a successful life coaching practice. I learned a lot about the quality of different programs, and also the lack of regulation when it comes to being “certified.”

Then I found The Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

Health coaching online program options

When I learned Meghan was based in Toronto, it felt like a sign. I’m only here for two years and this amazing program is in my backyard, yet is online and available from anywhere in the world. It would offer me flexibility as I traveled in the fall and still be able to access the program. I read everything I could about the program, listened to the webinar (and took a lot of notes!), had Jim watch the video about making almond milk, and I was hooked.

The Academy of Culinary Nutrition program is for people like me who wanted a solid nutrition education, and then I added on an optional business component. There’s also an honorary level for the program for anyone who wants the information for personal use. I signed up last spring and for the next few months, I couldn’t wait to get started on this new journey.

Over the summer I started doing some of my required reading, including Meghan’s Undiet book. It gave me a great foundation for understanding the philosophy of the class. In September, I was ready to get going and get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

Not only did I get my hands dirty, but I trashed my kitchen a few times. There were some marathon cooking days when I had recipe assignments due, a family to feed, and just a mountain of dishes to tackle. I only wish I could have had a house elf to do dishes for me during this course!

Kimchi Maki Rolls Academy of culinary nutrition program homework

A peek at one of the recipes for a homework assignment.

On those cooking days, I used ingredients I had always passed by at the store. Nori rolls, seaweed, gelatin, and horseradish root. I always considered myself a “foodie” but I truly didn’t understand how powerful food is for our health.

Academy of Culinary Nutrition Success Story

The #1 thing I came out with from this class is how important it is for us to take care of our health and let ourselves feel amazing. I have followed a gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle during the course and am continuing this path. Why? Because I feel better. I have more energy. I no longer feel wiped out late in the day as I’m trying to get dinner on the table. Plus, the skills I learned in the class has helped me learn how to do this without getting stressed out about planning my meals.

Did I mention I had homework each week? That would also be why I couldn’t get a blog post up the past few months. I love writing, but not sitting at a computer. I reached my typing limit during this course, but look forward to sharing some of my new recipe creations here in the coming weeks.

What you learn in the Academy of Culinary Nutrition program

I worked on creating custom meal plans for clients that help with digestive issues. I came up with a protocol for managing thyroid conditions. Armed with books about natural medicine and knowledge from hours of lectures from the course has given me the culinary nutrition education I was looking for. Here’s a recap of all the skills taught in the Academy of Culinary Nutrition program:

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• A thorough understanding of the impact food choices have on health and specific health conditions.

• The development of meal plans in accordance with various dietary restrictions.

• Recipe modification and testing.

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• Recipe development and testing.

• Experience with a client simulation: following a prescribed meal plan for 3-7 days

• Selection of specific healing ingredients, experimentation with a variety of applications, and the creation of recipes that exploit health promoting benefits.

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• Successful hosting of a cooking class /workshop.

• Knowledge in and experience with local food community.

• The study and development of food philosophy.

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Now it’s my job to help share this message by working with clients to help them learn how to bring real food back to their life. Need a custom meal plan? I can help. You can learn more about my nutrition consulting services here. And a big thank you for being a part of my community here via the blog. It’s been over seven years and I can’t wait to see what the next seven holds.

One more thank you to my children and husband, who tried everything I put on the table. Thank you for being so supportive.

Emily Roach CNE graduate academy of culinary nutrition program

I cannot speak more highly of The Academy of Culinary Nutrition program. Meghan, her team, and the culinary nutrition expert community were all so supportive during this journey. Head over the the school site, and get on the mailing list to learn more about the community. If any has questions for me about the program,  or my services, feel free to reach out to me at hello@emilyroachwellness.com. I’m happy to listen and share more about my review of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition program.