Picnics, barbecues, weddings, family reunions — it’s social extravaganza time. I’ve always loved this time of year, but I’m learning to love it in a different way this summer.
This past January, I made a commitment to eat better and I’ve kept it. I’m eating organic in every way possible, plus eating way more fruits and veggies, exercising more, and just thinking more overall about what goes in my body. It gets even harder to maintain this lifestyle in the summer with so many activities — and temptations — happening.
I recently had a few tests done and as a result, my doctor recommended I go off dairy, wheat and gluten for three months (possibly longer). My first reaction was, “How am I going to survive without cheese, especially during the summer?!” However, knowing it was doctor’s orders, I’ve maintained a commitment to stick to it.
I have a whole new level of appreciation for people on special diets, but I have to admit, once you start learning more about your other options, it’s not really that bad. And believe it or not, you can survive without cheese. I’ve really had to change how I think about food and my approach to things, but it’s working. And most importantly, I’m feeling great.
Here are my 3 tips to surviving socials with special dietary needs…
1 Get creative. Going out to eat at restaurants was hard at first. I felt like there wasn’t going to be anything I could eat, let alone enjoy, but boy was I wrong. Checking out the restaurant’s menu online before you arrive is super helpful, if possible, but be sure to ask your waitress if they can make some changes to fit your needs.
Most restaurants are super accommodating. One of our favorite local restaurants serves my go-to shrimp tacos, but when I couldn’t have gluten any longer, they wrapped them in lettuce for me instead of a tortilla. Now, I like them even more that way and wouldn’t go back to the old way. I even found that my favorite grilled cheese restaurant makes a vegan, gluten-free sandwich. It’s easy to stick to a plan when you have so many options.
2. Plan ahead. Going to a summer picnic and fearing there won’t be anything for you to eat is the worst — so bring something you (and everyone else) can enjoy. Bring your own gluten-free chips or a fruit salad to share. I recently went to a picnic and brought two different brownies — both dairy, gluten and refined sugar free — and they were a hit with everyone. Not only do I like them more than regular brownies, they are so much healthier. (Find the recipes here: Black Bean Brownies from Dr. Axe at bit.ly/1UcRvi4; Almond Butter Brownies from the Food Babe at bit.ly/1tZ8iXi)
3. Do your research. If you’re new to a diet or just want to be healthier, Pinterest is your best friend. I’ve found so many awesome recipes that are guiding me through my options and making it so much easier.
One of my most recent “favorite finds” is a recipe for spaghetti squash in the crock pot. It’s so good that I don’t even use regular pasta anymore — and my kids love it! Here’s the recipe:
1. Prick the outside of a spaghetti squash 10 to 15 times with a fork and place in a slow cooker. Pour water into the crock.
2. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Remove squash to a cutting board and let sit until it’s cool to the touch, about 15 to 30 minutes.
3. Halve the squash lengthwise. Scoop seeds from the cavity and discard them. Shred flesh from the skin with a fork to make strands.