Good morning! Today I’ve got a guest post to share with you guys that I think you’ll love. A topic that comes up very often with clients and patients is sugar. Our country’s food culture does not make it easy to be moderate with our intake, and it can be really challenging to find a balance.

I recently spoke with Self about sugar allergies/intolerance. As a dietitian committed to providing evidence-based recommendations, I feel I have to be extremely careful when it comes to terminology. I may not be comfortable using the word “allergy” when discussing sugar, but I definitely believe that it’s a powerful substance that can have serious and harmful effects. You don’t have to have diabetes to look at sugar as a potentially poisonous thing, but different people may draw the line in different places. For some, the effect is so strong they need to cut sugar out of their life completely, same as someone with an allergy (in the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics sense of the word) would.  I support taking an approach that feels like the right fit for your body and your mind.

Today, I’m sharing an inspiring guest post by Rochelle Rickoff Wilensky about how making drastic dietary changes helped open up a whole new world of flavors and approaches to cooking. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did!

cute tiny eggplant

The Journey from Take-Out to Home-Made

When I was a kid, my mother’s answer to, “What’s for dinner?” was “Where do you want me to pick-up some take-out?” I grew up in the deep south. Macaroni and cheese was treated as a vegetable, and my mother viewed TV dinners, microwaves, ready-made frozen casseroles and take-out as the BEST things to happen for women since earning the right to vote. Yet, my beloved mother – who couldn’t find a vegetable peeler in her kitchen if her life depended upon it – raised a daughter who A) enjoys healthy cooking and B) developed serious food intolerances as a young adult – necessitating the need to avoid most of her tried and true take-out options.

When I was 28 years old, I found out that I was unable to tolerate sugar, flour, caffeine, and even fake sugars. These foods travel too quickly to my brain and cause a slew of negative emotional and mental reactions. The only way to feel well and calm is to rid my body of these foods entirely. When I first told my family that I could no longer eat sugar, I was met with responses of, “Well, what on earth will you EAT?” A life without sweet tea and red velvet cake seemed pretty terrible to most people that I knew. My mother still celebrated her lot’s recent emancipation from the kitchen…Why would I want to spend any time in one at all?

But, I discovered unique opportunities within my new food restrictions. I began exploring healthy alternatives to sugar and flour in my own kitchen. I read books on healthy food and learned interesting recipes from the internet. I developed an alternative to eggplant parmesan (without using bread crumbs) by frying the eggplants in olive oil and then coating them in a mix of oat bran and nutritional yeast. It’s amazing how yummy a banana ice cream made of only frozen, mashed bananas can taste. I discovered the beauty of the crockpot and Romertopf: Juicy chicken and fish dishes could actually be made without smothering them in sweet sauces that I could not eat. I still hosted large dinners for family and friends and most of my guests never even realized that their food didn’t include sugar or flour. And to top it all off, my husband and I also keep Kosher!

I have a blast in the kitchen and cook nearly everything from scratch. I’ve never felt like I have such huge food restrictions that I cannot eat delicious and healthy food. Sure, I remember how tasty a cupcake used to be, but I have a life that is so happy, joyous and free today that I cannot imagine putting sugar back into my body and suffering the terrible emotional and mental fall-outs that used to occur after eating it. I enjoy a good challenge and have a great time figuring out how to accommodate my – and friends’ – food restrictions. I have never met a guest I could not feed at my Shabbat dinner table – including the “gluten-intolerant, allergic to sugar, lactose intolerant, deathly allergic to soy” among us. I’ve learned that healthy cooking and eating really doesn’t take that much time.

Regardless of your personal food allergies or intolerances, it is completely possible to develop that creative, healthy cooking side of yourself that pleasantly surprises your nearest and dearest…even your mother!

Do you have any food allergies, intolerances, or restrictions? What are some of the ways you’ve changed your diet to suit your needs? 

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