Plan It- Don’t Panic: The Official Start of the Meal Planning Challenge

Welcome to the “official” (see last week) start of the Plan It- Don’t Panic Meal Planning Challenge!

This challenge will be running for the next 6 weeks (Sept.26- Nov.7). Every Monday I will be posting both my own menu plan for the week, some tips on aspects of meal planning OR some recipes I want to share with you, as well as a link-up for any bloggers to join in with their own meal plans.

Unsure of what this challenge is all about? Go back to the initial introduction post for more information, and check out this post full of resources to help you get started!

Perfect Timing for Our Family

This challenge could not have come at a better for our family, although I didn’t know it when I planned the dates. As our first 3 children have all had some level of food sensitivities and eczema, which we have treated holistically using diets and supplements, we have sought out my midwife/naturopath’s help with my current pregnancy. The goal is to improve my own health, digestion and gut flora so that I am less likely to pass on a compromised digestive system to my new baby (read this post for more on my own health history and why my gut is in such bad shape, although it has certainly improved by leaps and bounds over the years).

Last week she had me tested for my Candida (yeast) overgrowth levels, which came back moderately high, and for various food sensitivities (indications of a leaky gut and poor digestion). For the next 4 weeks at minimum, she will have me on a strict but carefully planned diet to avoid the foods that are bothering me, while boosting my system with heavy-duty probiotics, homeopathics that fight Candida and strengthen my liver, and digestive enzymes to ensure my meals are better broken down and easier on my gut.

That said, the level of restriction in my diet will necessitate careful planning (as you will see in my menu plan further down). I will be off most grains, most dairy (except raw milk and goat’s dairy products), many fruits, various nuts, nightshade vegetables, a few meats/fish, and all sweeteners/cocoa/caffeine/food chemicals, etc.

If that sounds crazy and daunting to some of you, it doesn’t at all to me. Why, you ask? Because our family has been on umpteen various restrictive diets over the years for various family members, and I’ve learned to roll with the punches and make things work on special diets.

I’ve noticed that food restrictions/allergies an extremely popular topic on the Plan It- Don’t Panic Facebook group page, so I thought I would share some of what I have learned over the years of doing this.

Image by perspicacious

Here are some of my tips for meal planning with food allergies and restrictions:

1. It ALWAYS goes better with a plan. I know that it can seem challenging to even come up with a plan in the first place on any special diet, but without the plan, it is just that much harder.

Not only do I like to plan out meals, but I even try to plan out snack options, because it can be very tempting and frustrating to figure out what to eat when you’re already hungry and those blood sugar levels are dipping.

So if you’re approaching this feeling overwhelmed from the start, I really want to encourage you that although making your initial meal plans may be a challenge, it will most certainly pay off and you will be so grateful that you pushed yourself to do it.

2. Start with what you already know. Does your family love Shepherd’s Pie but you’re off of white potatoes? Try making it with sweet potatoes, yams or squash topping instead. Are you huge muffin fans when it comes to breakfast but wheat is out of the question? Try experimenting with gluten-free recipes or even coconut flour to make wholesome muffins that are diet-legal. Love smoothies with yogurt or have a soup recipe that requires cream? Something like coconut kefir or coconut milk can make a simple substitution, allowing you to keep the rest of the recipe the same.

3. Make a list of what you CAN eat, rather than what you can’t. It’s infinitely more helpful and encouraging to see a list of the things that are allowed.

Additionally, this list can serve as a starting point and inspiration for meals that you can make. Pick some favorite ingredients that you like off of the list and start brainstorming meals that use those ingredients. You could try plugging the ingredients into a recipe search engine like AllRecipes.com for more ideas, or search through the index of your recipe books.

You’ll probably still have to adapt many recipes and bypass some altogether, but I often find new inspiration when I approach my restricted-diet menu planning with an attitude of “what yummy things can I make?” rather than, “gosh, I can’t make this or that or…”.

4. Find meals your family enjoys and then repeat. It sometimes feels like a cop out to make the same thing every week, but really it isn’t. When you’re starting out with new food restrictions and trying to figure out what your family will actually eat, there is nothing wrong with eating something again in a short period of time.

Gradually, your repertoire will grow and the need for repetition will lessen, but until it does, don’t expect yourself to cook gourmet like Martha Stewart or come up with intriguing menu options for every day of the month. Simple, nutritious, filling, tasty. Good enough for me.

5. But don’t be afraid to bring in extra reinforcements. You might usually be able to meal plan and cook with very little help from recipe blogs or cookbooks. But when you are eating in a very specific way, and particularly when you first start eating that way before it becomes the new “normal”, you’ll want to give yourself every tool that makes it easier.

The last time we were on GAPS, I started really strong but then one of the biggest struggles I had was family members growing tired of the same meals and simple recipes over and over again, and all of us becoming frustrated by the mutiny in our kitchen. I spoke afterwards with a friend who said that the best investments she had made during that time, though a little bit pricey, were the cookbook Internal Bliss and the GAPS Guide.

Image by Vega Team

All that said, here’s our Menu Plan this week:

Monday

  • Breakfast: Smoothie and leftover Pumpkin Walnut Bread
  • Dinner: Chicken meal salad (we didn’t eat this last week because a few meals got switched around- someone asked what it was and basically it’s a large salad with things like tomatoes, peppers, avocado, carrots, etc. all chopped or shredded small, with cooked chicken, diced hard boiled eggs, shredded cheese, and a honey-mustard dressing, based on a salad I love at a local restaurant)
  • Prep: Thaw ground beef.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Coconut muffins with raspberries, and frozen fruit smoothie with raw milk.
  • Dinner: Shepherd’s Pie and homemade bread (I’ll have rye sourdough instead of our regular yeasted kamut bread).
  • Prep: Soak oatmeal. Thaw bag of soup broth.

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (goat yogurt for me), fruit and nuts.
  • Dinner: Baked potato bar (various veggies, cheese, sour cream, leftover meats, etc.)
  • Prep: Thaw package of stew beef.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Fried eggs and toast
  • Dinner: Beef Stew (I use this recipe as my base, but using real onions and broth instead of the onion soup mix, carrots for baby carrots, etc.)

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Coconut flour/banana pancakes (no recipe yet- this will be experimental!), with stevia-sweetened fruit sauce.
  • Dinner: Salmon Cakes (the Fish Cake recipe in Nourishing Traditions that I make using canned wild salmon), leftover baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Prep: Take ground beef out of freezer, soak quinoa.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Yogurthomemade granola (made in a double batch previously), fresh or frozen fruit
  • Dinner: Spicy Meatloaf (Nourishing Traditions), quinoa (we like it with butter and fermented soy sauce), and vegetables.

You can read more about how I do lunches, and why I just say “vegetables” for dinner rather than making more specific plans some nights in last week’s menu plan.

Now it’s your turn… share your menu with the rest of us!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Wow how wonderful you have these types of resources available to help you like the midwife you are seeing. I am seeing a midwife but there is only one I can see and it looks like she will actually not be able to be at the birth so I will have to transfer to a doctor for that. Disappointing, but I’ve prayed and so I know God knows my desires and will lanswer according to His perfect plan, not mine! :)

    I think its great you are doing this special diet during pregnancy but wow I certainly cannot do it right now. I am trying to do my best right now for my oldest who is sick but its hard and today I simply had no strength left for giving her the “right” thing and so I didn’t. God’s grace is with us too and so I try to keep trying my best and that is all I can do. I’m hoping that all the work I’ve done for yeast issues will pay off as my levels last testing were very low/almost normal so that is good. I certainly feel that the issue has been dealt with more. So far only my oldest has the most issues and my 2 year old has had no signs.

    • @Nola, I am so blessed with this midwife. I’ve never had a midwife like this before, and was just so surprised when I actually got in with her (she’s very difficult to get in with, as she is so in-demand!). But God does know what we need, and he always has a plan for us for good. I will pray that the Lord will answer in His perfect way!

      I think that I am a little further along, aren’t I? I wouldn’t have been doing this 4-6 weeks ago, anyways. Even now, it’s still a bit much but I’m very motivated to do it. You may have dealt with your issues better than me, because although I’ve dealt with them, I also don’t experience the same strong symptoms as you do when I go back to foods that aren’t best for me. It takes me a while to notice when I make compromises, which makes it far easier to do, of course. Plus those antiobiotics I had to do 2 years ago when I was in the hospital really messed me up, which was sad after all the work that I had done, but again, the Lord has a plan, right? :)

  2. Stephanie, I just wanted to let you know that there is a banana pancake recipe (with coconut flour) in the Against the Grain recipe e-book. It’s very yummy and definitely kid approved. Mine keep asking for it back :-). I saw that on your Saturday breakfast and wanted to save you headache & time, if I could. Good luck with your restricted diet. My family is on GAPS right now due to repeated health issues (including Candida overgrowth) and the autistic tendencies of one of my children, so I can totally empathize with where you’re at. I pray God blesses your efforts and this new little one can start life on a positive health note :-)

  3. I posted my meal plan today. I guess I need to end my Facebook fast and go join in the fun over there, too!

  4. Thanks so much for your thoughts on meal planning on restrictive diets. We had my husband on a primarily gluten free diet awhile back since he was having adverse reactions to gluten. He’s since felt better so we are back to eating it, but I try to limit it as much as possible.

  5. Thank you for sharing Stephanie! My daughter has eczema (she is 9 months) and has struggled with it since birth. Being breastfed I was hoping it was something I could change to help her out. I have an appointment scheduled with our DO and hopefully I will find some solid answers or at least get pointed in the right direction! I have included my meal plan for the week. Thanks!

    • @Nikki @ Christian Mommy Blogger, I hope that you find some answers for your daughter’s eczema! For each of our children, it has been a weak digestive system and food sensitivities, although once we dealt with that through diet and supplements, they grew out of those sensitivities and the older ones now eat whatever we eat. So even if you have to restrict her diet for awhile, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. :)

  6. Hi Stephanie,
    I was so excited to see your post this morning! I had somehow missed the earlier post about the challenge, but just yesterday I started my weekly posts for our Fall menu on my brand new blog. This is our first Fall eating real foods, so it is quite a challenge for us. We are expecting our second baby in mid-November and I’m determined to get back into the meal planning that works so well.
    Thanks so much for a way to encourage each other and a fantastic resource for those of us who need some ideas!

  7. Thanks for the inspiration for the week! There are some food restrictions in our family that I work around. #3 and #4 on your list are helpful reminders!

  8. Stephanie, I hate that you are having to take on this restrictive diet while pregnant, but I can already tell you you will really minister to others! I think you know from my comments, etc. that we recently found out about our 3-year-old’s food sensitivities. Looking back, I am SURE I did not eat well when pregnant with her (I didn’t begin my journey towards real food until AFTER she was born). I am interested in that your midwife got you tested for the Candida. I am going to ask about that next pregnancy. Of course, I think your midwife might be a CPM? Mine was a CNM. I absolutely LOVED her, but I know CNMs are not quite as holistic, especially since she had to answer to the OBs and hospital.

    I am sure my daughter’s doc would help w/ any testing because she is completely integrated.

    ANYWAY, I have already been reading up on some of what you and Kate@ModernAlternativeMama have written about GAPS. I really want to read the book itself before delving into it, but I have been talking to my husband about it because I KNOW my daughter’s gut needs more healing than JUST avoiding gluten and eggs (and minimizing the dairy and other sensitivities). AND, I really, really think the rest of our family would greatly benefit from gut healing.

    Long comment to say–prayers for you during this time and THANK YOU for sharing!

    • @Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker, Thank you so much for the prayers, and I’m just glad to have this community in which we can all share the different things that we’re working through. I don’t love doing a restrictive diet right now, but on the other hand I’m very hopeful that we will have a baby with less food and gut issues, and as a perk, I will probably feel a bit more energetic as well. :)

      And yes, my midwife is a CPM and a registered naturopathic doctor as well. It’s a fantastic combination and the main reason that I chose to go with her instead of my previous midwife (whom I loved).

      Praying that the Lord will guide you with your daughter’s needs and what that looks like on your end!

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