What is the AIP diet?
The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is a temporary elimination diet that works to help reduce inflammation or other symptoms caused my autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The theory behind the AIP diet is that certain foods trigger inflammation and consequently exacerbate autoimmune conditions. The AIP diet has two phases—a strict elimination phase followed by a slow reintroduction phase—to help you figure out which foods that may trigger your autoimmune symptoms.
Are you feeling nervous, overwhelmed, or excited at the idea of trying this diet? Whether you love cooking or have no idea how to cook, you can do the AIP diet successfully! Kristina Cegla of Mindful Thyroid shares ten tips to help you find success on the AIP or any other elimination-style diet.
10 tips for success on the AIP diet
Cultivate a positive mindset
Set realistic expectations at the beginning of the diet. You may feel worse before feeling better as your body adjusts to less sugar and caffeine. During this adjustment period, you might experience a roller coaster of emotions as you work through sugar and caffeine withdrawal symptoms. To stay motivated and on track, give yourself lots of gratitude and compassion. Try "talking back" to any negative thoughts that come up by replacing them with a positive compliment. It helps to write it down and read it back to yourself.
Cravings are going to happen, so be prepared. Have a sweet or salty treat on hand that's AIP-approved to help you get through them. My personal favorite is two or three Tillen Farms maraschino cherries or a small serving of berries with coconut butter or warm homemade cinnamon applesauce. Having something quick and readily available helps so you never feel deprived.
Try simple meals first
Start with making straightforward, easy meals. This tip is especially important if you are new to cooking. Get comfortable cooking simple meals before taking on more complicated ones to help increase your confidence in the kitchen. One suggestion is to buy frozen organic veggies to steam or cook in the microwave to always have veggies on hand.
Cook meal components
Instead of cooking specific recipes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, think about cooking "meal components." Cook a few protein choices like chicken or ground beef and a few veggie choices, including complex carbohydrate veggies like sweet potato or butternut squash. When you're crunched for time or don't feel like cooking, pair a protein with a veggie and/or dark leafy greens. You can rotate or swap the veggies and proteins, so it doesn't feel like you're eating the same thing each meal. Cooking meal components is a good place to start and then fill in your other meals with specific recipes like soups, skillets, or crockpot type meals.
Choose high-quality produce and meat
Since you're trying to heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation during the AIP diet, it's important to select the best quality food you can afford during this time. Often people can react to the pesticides/chemicals in food rather than the food itself. By adding organic, grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs (during the reintroduction phase), and organic fruits and veggies, you get more nutrients and less toxic chemicals and potential reactions.
Do batch cooking
If the idea of cooking every day doesn't appeal to you, try batch cooking. Pick two days a week to spend several hours preparing your meals. You'll want to make larger portions or double the recipe sizes so that you have enough food to get you to the next cooking day. Have enough storage containers to accommodate more food.
Infuse some joy
Think of this as an adventure and find ways to bring joy and excitement into the process. Buy a cute apron or cookbook, put on some fun music when you cook, or invite friends and family members to try out a new recipe with you. If you like to dance or sing, add that in while you cook. My mantra is, "This kitchen is for dancing!"
Practice mindful eating
Enhance your dining experience by setting the table with placemats, lighting candles, or putting on music. If you perceive the meal to be enticing, it will taste better to you. You can also try using smaller plate sizes to look like you're eating more food visually (the same portion would look small and sad on a larger plate size). Fill a wine glass with water or your favorite smoothie. While these seem like little things, it can bring more satisfaction to your meals, especially if you're eating the same meal several times a week.
Overcome food fears
Try not to categorize foods as good or bad or tell yourself, "I can't eat that!" Instead, tell yourself this food doesn't work for me right now. Think of reintroductions as an experiment and that you're just gathering data. If you have reactions to a food group, remind yourself it's just not working for you right now. You'll want to reintroduce it again down the road. If you feel fearful of adding back in a restricted food, try just one or two bites at first rather than a whole meal or recipe with that food. Taking small steps can help you break through that fear. Often, you'll find you can tolerate a small amount even if larger serving sizes were problematic for you.
Eat glorious greens
One of the essential foods to eat during this diet is dark, leafy greens! They are full of nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and folic acid, detoxify the liver and blood, and good fiber sources. Put them in your smoothies, salads, soups, or sauté them in olive oil. Experiment and try different types of dark, leafy greens and rotate them into your meal plans.