Wheat, dairy, eggs, strawberries, people walking so slowly in front of you that you want to punch them in the back of their head, all these things have one thing in common – intolerance.
Being intolerant to certain foods can make life difficult at times, when you’re out and about and want to grab a quick snack but you have to spend the next 45 minutes scouring the back of every single piece of packaging for the ingredients list to look for the ones “highlighted in bold”.
Over time you learn what foods you can or can’t eat, what’s worth the risk and what definitely isn’t!
Intolerance is different to an allergy; it’s less likely to cause a fatal reaction and more an uncomfortable few hours or days and a few more trips to the bathroom than normal.
Sometimes intolerances develop over times and manifest later on in life. On the other hand, sometimes you can simply ‘grow out’ of it and one day able to eat the forbidden foods!
I feel those whose intolerances gradually raise their inconvenient head are at a great disadvantage, they’ve already felt the pleasure of devouring a huge 850g slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in one glorious sitting, but now that treat is completely off limits, unless of course you don’t mind WWIII kicking off in your gut.
So how can you eat a balanced diet if you aren’t able to get fats from cheese, protein from eggs or carbohydrates from pasta?
Simply experiment with your meals, find alternatives and challenge yourself to try something new. Yes, you might come across foods you absolutely cannot stand and make you want to vomit without having anything to do with your intolerance, but for each of those experiences you’ll find three others that are perfect for you!
Try the Free-From ranges in supermarkets, not everything will be great (like gluten free bread or pasta… seriously, some more work needs to be put into these before they are suitable or human consumption) but you might find some great little gems in there!
My husband is lactose intolerant, he wasn’t born with it but developed it after a serious illness when he was 17 and has been living with it ever since.
Nowadays he manages pretty well with it and it doesn’t have a massive impact on his life, but there are still the days when it’s a heavy burden.
He sometimes takes a digestive aid tablet after he’s eaten dairy products to help with digestion. These pills contain lactase – the enzyme his body is missing which breaks down the lactose, but these aren’t a cure and only help with small quantities.
When he wants to completely overindulge and go all out, he mentally prepares himself for the aftermath and accepts his fate of several days feeling very, very uncomfortable.
It wasn’t easy in the beginning, we used to have to check every label or ask in every restaurant for ingredients. Sometimes we’d forget to check, but his gut would always make sure to remind him a couple hours later. We’d then go through the list of everything he’d eaten that day to find out what it could have been.
Even when you get used to buying certain ‘safe’ products you still have to be careful. We recently got caught out by beef stock cubes, the brand had been fine for a good few years but no, they had to go and change the recipe and not think to tell anyone about it or highlight the fact that it now contained lactose! It tasted exactly the same so what was the point?!
It’s not just food either, lactose is found in prescription medication too. We have now learnt to always check with the pharmacist and medication packets because even though on your medical records it will state, “lactose intolerant” doctors could still issue you unsuitable prescriptions.
We’ve found the best and easiest way to cope with his intolerance is to cook and bake at home as much as we can. When we go out, we’ve come to learn what meals are safe at which restaurants and if we go somewhere new we can either look for the safest options or he’ll be ready for the fallout.
But 90% of our meals during the week were made at home. We know exactly what ingredients are in there and how they translate to our macro and calorie requirements.
There’s so much more choice now than there was just 10 years ago in terms of what foods you can get with alternative ingredients.
Arla have added the lactase enzyme to their Lactofree products to break down the milk sugars before it enters the body – be aware these are still not suitable for milk allergy sufferers.
MooFree chocolate is made with rice milk and is absolutely incredible. Perfect for chopping up for chocolate chip cookies!
It’s a long ongoing process with regular checks of ingredient lists, but it is possible to hit your calorie targets with the right macro ratios.
Start by writing down lists of foods you’ve found you can eat, put them in the appropriate column, i.e. fats, protein, carbs, then you can see if you fall short in any particular area and where you may need to do a little research to find some alternative foods.
This can also help you plan your meals as you can pick things from each column and know that you’re getting a balanced meal; the only thing you then have to look at is portion sizing.
There’s no real excuse anymore for not being able to eat a balanced diet.
Regardless if you have intolerances or allergies, religious or personal reasons, there are foods for everyone to enjoy and we all need to step out of our comfort zone and experiment with food a little more.
Don’t let your intolerance be a hindrance.
Let it be your motivation.