Kim Christensen’s journey with multiple allergies and intolerances, chemical sensitivities, digestive disorders, and Chronic Lyme Disease encouraged her to take a unique approach to a healing diet and holistic self-care. Inspired to share her experiences with others, she started the blog Affairs of Living two years ago. During this time, she has seen a drastic improvement in her symptoms and has become passionate about empowering others to make educated choices about their diet, health care, and lifestyle. Kim is also a contributing writer for the Lyme Disease blog Lymenaide and is committed to raising awareness of Lyme Disease in the general public and the medical community. She is currently working on a cookbook of gluten-free, allergy-friendly, whole foods recipes, and will be starting cooking demonstrations and healthy living classes this summer. Kim plans to attend graduate school for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2011, and later hopes to study holistic nutrition, Western herbalism, Ayurveda, and other traditional healing therapies. She would like to work with clients to treat Lyme Disease, autoimmune diseases, and digestive disorders with personalized, holistic care plans.
Kim’s tip: Embrace change and shake it up.
Kim’s recipe: Raw Strawberry “Milk”Shake
Everyday, I try to shake it up a bit. Maybe I sit in a different bus seat. Maybe I jazz up an old dress with a new belt. Maybe I try out a new recipe. Sometimes it is a larger decision, like choosing to take part in a new volunteer event, starting a new writing project, or making changes to my educational or work timeline. Anyone who knows me will tell you: I thrive on change.
When I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and intolerances, a Candida albicans overgrowth, and chronic Lyme Disease, I was forced to confront a lot of changes. Not the least of these changes was reinventing my diet – I needed to eliminate gluten, sugar, yeast, and my many allergens, and make a full transition to whole foods cooking. I knew I had two choices: fight change and be miserable, or embrace change and discover joy in the unexpected.
In short? I could either get crabby or get creative.
Thankfully, I chose the latter, and dove headlong into my new diet plan. I already had so many dietary restrictions to work around, the last thing I needed was to further limit myself because I was picky or ignorant of my options! I started impulsively buying the “weird looking” vegetables I generally passed by in the grocery store. I started asking farmers at the farmers market what they like to do with stuff I didn’t recognize. I bought a copy of Rebecca Wood’s brilliant book The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia and read it cover-to-cover (she just published an updated version, lucky you!). I researched ethnic cuisines and new flavor combinations. I frequented ethnic grocery stores. I tried out different gluten-free flours and whole grains. And I started reading food blogs and buying more cookbooks, constantly searching for new inspiration.
I embraced change. I embraced newness. I threw out preconceived notions and redefined my own dietary patterns. Most importantly, the changes in my diet corresponded to changes in my health. Symptoms that troubled me for years faded away completely, or at least became manageable rather than debilitating. Each day I felt better was motivation to continue on my path. Whole food is powerful medicine, and it can feed the body, mind and spirit in amazing ways.
This journey, however, has not been with struggles and flops. It is hard to go to parties and restaurants, and I’ve made my fair share of recipes that don’t make the cut. But has anything been so horrible that I just never recovered from the trauma? No! Did anyone get hurt because of my culinary endeavors? Nope (thankfully)! Did I learn something every time? Absolutely! Have I become a better cook? You bet! Has changing my diet saved my life? YES!
I know, I know, newness and change can be scary. But let’s be honest – sometimes life is scary too! Every day brings changes, and we never know what is going to happen. Change is around every bend; get comfortable with it. Gather your courage, walk over to that garlic scape, that rutabaga, or that fresh organic chicken liver, and pick it up with confidence. You can change your diet and in turn, you can change your life. It starts with the moment you allow yourself to open your mind, think outside the box, and get more comfortable with uncertainty.
Ten ways to shake it up in the kitchen and embrace change:
- 1. Make one small change in your diet a week, or if you’re ambitious, every 3-4 days. Maybe it is eliminating sugar, or dairy, or gluten. Maybe it is cutting back on processed snack foods. Whatever it is, make it manageable – as Lauren of Celiac Teen said in her great post, focus on small, healthy changes instead of drastic decisions or quick fixes. Before you know it, you will have given your food life a makeover!
- 2. Next time you are at the grocery store or farmer’s market, pick up one vegetable you don’t recognize. Put it in your cart or basket. When you get home, look it up online and find a recipe that uses it. Do this every time you shop. Be brave, just do it!
- 3. Switch up your starches. Substitute rice or potatoes with whole grain quinoa, millet, buckwheat, or sorghum, or starchy vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, sweet potato, beets, celeriac, winter squash, taro, or yucca.
- 4. Research different ethnic cuisines. Once a week, make an authentic recipe from the cuisine of your choice. Try Indian, Thai, Japanese, French, Ethiopian, or Cuban, or one of the other many, many ethnic cuisine options. It is like taking a vacation in your very own kitchen! I love doing this, and sometimes even find music from the culture to play while I’m cooking. It makes cooking and eating an adventure.
- 5. Incorporate new foods at the breakfast table. There is such a wonderful world beyond eggs, cereal, sugary pastries, and toast! There is no rule that says you must eat that stuff for breakfast. What about beans, sauteed or raw vegetables, or whole grains? Or my favorite thing in the next point….
- 6. Drink green smoothies! The combinations are endless, and provide so much wonderful nutrition in an instant. You can easily shove multiple servings of fruits and vegetables into one great big smoothie – it is a great way to sneak healthy foods into your diet.
- 7. Eat seasonally as much as possible. By eating seasonal foods, change is inevitable as you take advantage of the wide variety of foods available through the year. Your body will be more in touch with the cycles of nature, and you will learn to appreciate small changes in the world around you. Alisa from One Frugal Foodie, Dairy Free & Fit, and Go Dairy Free wrote a great post about eating seasonal foods.
- 8. Keep a well-stocked pantry. This will keep you from falling in to old habits of “Meatloaf Monday” (and Tuesday, and Wednesday…meatloaf lasts forever!) or making that boxed macaroni and cheese because you don’t have any other ingredients in the house. A pantry of basics will allow you to try new recipes more easily and will provide a good, solid base for experimentation of all sorts.
- 9. Share with a friend! If you’re nervous or hesitant about trying a new food, invite a friend to try it with you and split the cost. It becomes more affordable, and it gives you a support system while trying new things!
10. Rotate your foods. If you can, don’t eat the same food more than two days in a row, or only eat it every other day. Not only is this better for your digestion and provides more thorough nutrition, it reduces the risk of allergic reactions. It will force you to try incorporating new ingredients in your diet and make falling into the dreaded “food rut” much harder.
In the spirit of shakin’ it up, I’m sharing a recipe with you today that was born of total experimentation. I really wanted a shake one night, but didn’t have any non-dairy milk, coconut milk, or any kind of non-dairy ice cream. I looked through my fridge and pantry for white and creamy things, found a jicama, and decided to give it a shot. Much to my delight, it turned out great. It is creamy and sweet, but is totally free of dairy, sugar, and grains. It’s even raw! Ah yes, this shake has become one of my favorite nourishing treats, and I’m excited to drink it all summer long.
I hope you find courage in the kitchen and trust yourself to shake it up, starting with this tasty shake. Let’s raise a glass and have a toast to Real Food!
Sugar-Free Dairy-Free Raw Strawberry “Milk”Shake
Yield: about 2 cups
This raw “milk”shake is sweet, creamy, and thick, and full of awesome food energy. It provides a balanced mix of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates, and is a nourishing light breakfast or guilt-free treat. Feel free to elaborate on this basic idea and make it your own. For example, my mom uses banana instead of soaked nuts, ginger tea in place of water, and omits the chia and maca entirely, and absolutely loves it. If you have it, maca powder adds a malty flavor that makes it more like a traditional strawberry malt; it also adds energy boosting nutrients vitamins, and minerals. If you don’t have it, no worries, it will still be delicious!
1 cup strawberries
1 cup peeled, chopped jicama
2 tsp chia seeds
optional: 1/2 tsp maca powder
15-20 drops liquid stevia, to taste (plain or vanilla flavor)
1/4 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract or vanilla flavoring or 1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup raw cashews or almonds (preferably soaked 2-4 hours)
1/4 cup water
6 ice cubes
Place all ingredients except ice cubes in a blender, and blend on high until smooth. Let sit a couple of minutes to allow chia seeds to absorb moisture and thicken the mixture. Then add ice cubes and blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately. Original recipe by Kim Christensen of Affairs of Living.