Today’s post is a guest post by Megan Stevens from Eat Beautiful. Megan and her family have been on the GAPS Diet, and she has learned some unique and really cool ways to “cook GAPS.” I recommend checking out her site for more information and recipes!
My family and I have been on the GAPS Diet for 4 years. I share with you here some of the things I’ve learned along the way, both practical meal suggestions and emotional encouragement, as well as some insights to help the healing along. And humorously, I just couldn’t stop at 7; so if these are helpful please head over to my blog, Eat Beautiful, to ready the aptly named article, “7 More Things I’ve Learned from 4 Years on the GAPS Diet.” Cheers, Friends, we are in this together.
1. Ease into it; but jump in with both feet.
I know. This one sounds like a contradiction.
Jumping in with both feet means this: clean out your pantry before you begin. Don’t give yourself any leeway in terms of backsliding. Don’t let yourself eat non-legal foods ever. Be committed.
Easing in means choose ahead of time a 1-3 foods that will help you emotionally to feel full and satisfied. For our family these foods were bacon, winter squash and peanut butter. We couldn’t have the bacon or peanut butter, of course, in the beginning of the Introduction Diet. But we phased them in, as we started the Full GAPS Diet; and they made our lives happier and easier.
Later on, when we had found our rhythm, we let go of bacon. Even though it was sustainably-sourced and sugar-free we felt it was holding back our healing. We let go when we were ready. We also cut way back on our peanut butter consumption over time.
2. Support your kids’ and your own emotions.
Part of supporting your family’s emotions is listening to them tell you and validating how hard the experience and process is. Part of supporting their emotions, ironically, is knowing when to call off the complaining and teach them to persevere with stalwart, cheerful spirits. And part of supporting everyone’s emotions is #1, allowing certain foods in the beginning of the Full GAPS Diet that ideally there will be less of in the long run.
3. Puree your veggies to make your soup more satisfying.
The first time we did the Introduction Diet we were swimming in a dark, depressing world of fatty broth. The second time we circled back to do the Introduction Diet I had learned so much! The well-cooked carrots and onions were turned into a bisque. The difference was amazing. Now we were eating hearty stews and satisfying bowls of goodness instead of filling our bellies with sloshing liquid. Here’s a post of mine that guides you in how to make great bisque-based soups.
4. Make meatballs!
Ground meat is one of the most economical sources of protein. But on the Introduction Diet you can’t fry up ground meat or make burgers. It took me a couple years to have the epiphany: poach meatballs in the bisque or broth! Sea salt, white or black pepper and dried herbs made the meatballs delicious. Combined with the bisque base, the Introduction Diet now felt fun and like no big deal!
5. Be creative in the kitchen.
Making gelatin treats is a great example of how to make dessert from something healthy. There are so many recipes on-line now offering GAPS-friendly ingredients that don’t make you feel deprived: coconut manna desserts, sprouted nuts, fresh juices with ginger, lettuce wrap tacos, zoodles, spaghetti squash pasta, hearty stews with fresh herbs, anti-pasto platters. Have fun innovating. Buy beautiful fresh produce and sustainably-sourced meat so you can revel in the potential and splendor of whole foods.
6. Choose your cheats carefully (and ahead of time).
When I say, “cheats” I don’t mean Snickers bars and fast food.
For us cheats meant going to Chipotle maybe once a month and ordering their salad option. We never got their cheese or sour cream, of course, because those are NOT whole foods, if you look at the ingredients. (Their cheese has annatto, which is horrible for gut-brain health. And the sour cream has about 20 ingredients and isn’t actually a fermented product.) But their lettuce, meat, salsa, guacamole and bell pepper onion saute were enough okay that once a month we allowed this treat. We’d either have broth before we left home or when we got back.
We also allowed more bacon in the beginning, as I mention above, more GAPS baked goods, although we phased these out over time, and honey on things like winter squash.
All of these choices were intentionally part of our process to ease the kids and myself in. Going off of sugar and grains is a big jump. These high-fat, high-flavor, sometimes sweet choices helped the kids, and me, have peaks of food fun as we learned better ways to cook our new foods, that would make them more exciting and fulfilling.
Like I said, you have to have the big picture in mind. GAPS won’t be effective if you indefinitely eat too many baked goods. The soups and stews and fermented condiments are the staples of the diet. So cheats must be well-chosen and in the context of this truth. The fewer cheats, the more progress with healing. That said, there is no guilt when you know where you are and where you’re headed.
7. Don’t neglect supplements and healing methods.
The diet does dominate one’s attention. It’s a lot of work and a huge adjustment. So it’s easy to miss other recommendations that Dr. NCM makes, recommendations about which supplements and practices are essential to support optimum healing. These include fermented cod liver oil, detox baths and plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
Once you’ve started the diet and have your feet under you, so to speak, continue to reread the GAPS book and her two websites, here and here and her blog here. There are several specific suggestions that can help speed and complete the healing diet.