How to Live With Diet Restrictions {and cook for people who don't}

So let's get one thing straight here. When I say 'diet restrictions', I'm not talking about A DIET. Not your oh-crap-bikini-season-is-coming-I-need-to-get-skinny, forty-day-cleanse, man-this-time-I'm-serious dieting. What I mean is LIFESTYLE. Healthy living, give-it-all-you've-got, no-turning-back-ever, all-out Lifestyle Change. Whether its controlling a health issue through what you put in your mouth, the desire to become a Food Hippie, or needing to loose a few inches off your waistline, this is not about a temporary eating habit that gets ditched with the first Starbucks craving. This is real, long-term, serious life foodiness. Yes, I just made that word up.

The thing is, most of us who have made the leap are dragging behind us friends and family who have not. Its not likely you are going to be able to convert everyone, so you will end up needing to cook meals that you choose not to eat. Which is fine, as long as you practice some serious self-control. But add not being able to taste the food you need to feed your family to trying to reign in your own food cravings, and things can get irritating.

So in the past few years, I've learned some important things about feeding people food that I can't eat. The most important thing is simply...

People still need to eat!
And I still need to feed them. And most people just aren't into roasted lentils and coconut milk smoothies the way I am. So they need food. My husband likes chicken, tacos, pizza, and grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches. And he's always checking the freezer for ice cream. Regardless of the fact that a lot of his favorite foods aren't on my list, my husband enjoys them and he still needs to eat filling man-food. Now, since I am the cook of the house (muhaha), I will make choices about what type of food I feed him. I will get him good, organic ice cream when I can, and strive to make homemade bread that is free of random chemicals and nonsense. I pack his lunch with a nice sandwich, an apple and some yogurt. I offer him better food and he is a happier man for it.

My point is simply that, while I encourage my friends and family to take control of their food lives, I cannot be a Food Snob. Sometimes, I'm gonna have to serve those sugar-laden desserts and crappy pasta dishes. I can edit them and make them healthier, but I still have to feed people.

Follow Recipes!
Recpies are my best friend. They tell me exactly what to do and how to get something to turn out right. Now, I'm pretty good at guessing, throwing together something and having it taste decent. But nothing beats a good recipe with all the right measurements and everything.

Yummly is one of my favorite places to find the recipe I want quickly. Pinterest is helpful too. I'm slightly amused by the fact that I just recently created a board devoted to beans and rice.

Use your Sniffer!
Once you've cooked enough, you will know what certain things are supposed to smell like, regardless of whether you can taste it or not. Memorize how your favorite chili recipe smells, how that awesome spaghetti sauce smells, and what your chocolate chip cookie dough is suppose to smell like. Learn how to utilize that smell memory of yours!

Be Confident!
I highly doubt this is your first rodeo. You know how to do this! You know how to cook, right? So cook, feed it to your minions, make your own meal, and move on. Sure you're going to have some flops. At the moment of writing this, I'm trying to make some chocolate butterscotch chip cookies for church fellowship tonight...and they are flat. Ridiculously flat. I have no idea what happened, but they flopped. So now I am experimenting with baking them in my muffin tin and pie pans, so the dough will hold its shape and not become a pancake. But that's life. You live and learn.

What you are doing for your food life is important, and its going to benefit you in ways you could never imagine. What you get by tailoring your menu and giving yourself a healthier lifestyle gives you leaps and bounds in your health above others that choose not to. You are doing the right thing. Keep doing it!

Let them in Your World!
People can surprise you. And you can surprise people. They might be wary of your foodie habits, but letting them try some of your odd snacks might be the best thing in their day! And they might really like your stuff! So don't be afraid to cook a healthy meal for someone. They just might surprise you and really enjoy it!

Never be afraid to talk about your food life either. Especially if they don't know you, they might not realize why you do what you do. When I start mentioning that I'm a vegan (plus all the other things), people generally automatically think "hippie, animal-rights-activist, anti-hunting guru". But then I have to be quick to clarify that its not cause I think eating animals is bad. I am totally pro-hunting! When I tell them I'm curing myself of epilepsy through food, their jaws drop. They would never have guessed and never thought such a thing was possible.

Share your story!

Be Steadfast!
I don't ever accept the excuse that you can't live a healthy lifestyle because your family won't eat that way, or because you just "can't" give up X-Y-Z foods. YOU CAN. The people around you do not dictate your eating habits, and there is no well-loved food more important than your health. Sure, its hard. But it is not impossible. Don't ever say you could never live with your caffeinated, sugary beverages, your chocolate treats, or your ice cream binges. Don't ever tell me you don't like water or vegetables. They are all just excuses, and bad ones at that. YOU CAN. Period.

You make a choice to take your health in your own hands. With that choice comes a responsibility to yourself. Don't let other peoples' actions dictate your behavior. Just because everyone else is eating it does not mean you have to. Its like the analogy that mom's love to use with their teenagers...if all your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to follow?

We have put a lot of social stigma on food. We have made it so that it is rude not to eat what everyone else is eating, and that requesting something different is considered snobbish. Food is comfort. Its what people do together, and while this may be true, it has caused the good intentions of health-foodies to go down the drain with one simple "Hey, let's go out for ice cream!" Food is important, but it is not the be-all-end-all of our social lives. You have to stick to your guns, tell your story, and say NO to the cupcakes! It isn't worth it.

Cooking your loved ones food that your can't eat is hard sometimes. But its not impossible. And its not impossible to live a food life that no one else around you does. Its kinda like being a Christian (now, just bear with me here). Those fiery darts are gonna come at your from all sides. But what do you do? You put on your whole armor of God and stand strong and courageous!

Well, maybe that's a rough analogy. But you get the idea.



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