- An elimination diet can be a helpful tool to identify possible links between foods and sensitivities.
- All elimination diets should be temporary: you should remove the suspected food trigger, maintain your progress, and then reintroduce the foods to challenge the results.
- A registered dietitian specializing in elimination diets can safely guide you through each step.
Food sensitivities can occur when your digestive system has trouble breaking down certain foods. Sensitivities can cause several reactions, including itching, tingling in the mouth, upset stomach, bloating, and headaches.
Some sensitivities are mild and tolerable, while others can interfere with daily tasks and quality of life. The good news is that you may not need to eliminate these foods; eating them less frequently may relieve symptoms.
Identifying food culprits that cause your sensitivities can feel like a big undertaking, but a registered dietitian can help you make this process easier. Try our 7-day elimination diet meal plan to get started.
Elimination Diet Basics: Getting Started
There are three key steps to an elimination diet.
- Eliminate foods from your eating plan and observe any change in your symptoms. Keep track of your symptoms with a food journal, app, or voice memos—whichever method is easiest for you.
- If you feel better after removing these foods, continue to avoid them. This is referred to as the maintenance phase of an elimination diet.
- End the elimination diet by reintroducing trigger foods back into your diet. You and your dietitian will try to establish the threshold (or portion size) you can tolerate and still feel comfortable. This step is often overlooked but is very important for maintaining a robust diet long-term.
Elimination Diets Are Diagnostic Tools, Not Long Term Solutions
It’s essential to understand that elimination diets are meant to be educational, empowering, and temporary.
The information you learn about your digestive health should increase your confidence in making dietary decisions to help you feel your best. Gaining this knowledge should ease anxieties around eating and support a better quality of life.
Safely eliminating possible trigger foods from your diet requires planning.
You don’t want to remove too many items because it can make it hard to follow a nutritionally balanced diet that provides enough energy. If you want nutrition support, book an appointment with a registered dietitian through Nourish.
What to Eat for Food Sensitivities
Several factors can influence the intensity of food sensitivity, including your medical history, the severity of your food sensitivity, and the amount of food consumed. To start, focus on eliminating foods that you suspect are affecting you.
Ask your dietitian for advice if you have yet to learn what these could be.
Common dietary culprits include dairy, different nuts and seeds, and high FODMAP foods—foods that contain a carbohydrate that can be difficult for some people to digest, especially those with irritable bowel syndrome.
Below are examples of common food intolerances you may want to avoid in an elimination diet:
- High FODMAP foods.
- Food additives.
You may have sensitivities not mentioned in this list. Keep track of your intake and document your symptoms to uncover possible links between your diet and sensitivities.
Elimination Diet Meal Plan
Below are examples of meals you can eat while following an elimination diet.
There is no validated meal plan to follow if you have food sensitivities, and you may have to modify the recipes to be appropriate for your needs. You can ask your registered dietitian for serving size recommendations.
- Breakfast: Hot oatmeal served with cinnamon and mixed berries.
- Lunch: Quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomato, feta cheese, and shredded carrot. Serve with a poached egg on top.
- Dinner: Roast chicken with basil and lemon slices, served with rice with green and yellow long beans.
- Snacks: Trail mix with your favorite nuts; fresh fruit with cheese.
- Breakfast: Egg omelet with spinach, chives, and shredded sweet potato.
- Lunch: Leafy green salad with chicken, berries, walnuts, and goat cheese.
- Dinner: Sheet pan salmon with broccoli, served over herbed quinoa.
- Snacks: Rice-based crackers with nut butter; fresh-cut vegetables with dip.
- Breakfast: Cold cereal (choose puffed rice for great crunch) served with milk and diced apple. Add a mix of nuts.
- Lunch: Buckwheat soup with carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and chicken breast.
- Dinner: Grilled chicken thighs with apples, served over brown rice and a side salad with fresh cucumber salad.
- Snacks: Fresh fruits with cheese; fresh-cut vegetables with hummus.
- Breakfast: Hot oatmeal with berries and nut butter.
- Lunch: Brown rice bowl with scrambled eggs, bok choy, carrots, and bean sprouts. Dress with olive oil and grated ginger.
- Dinner: Grilled tilapia tacos served in corn-based shells. Decorate with shredded red cabbage, carrots, avocado, and lime juice. Add your favorite vegetables on the side.
- Snacks: Rice-based crackers with hummus; trail mix which includes some of your favorite nuts.
- Breakfast: Banana and egg pancakes spiced with ground clove and cinnamon.
- Lunch: Spiraled vegetables served with turkey meatballs and dressed with olive oil, fresh herbs, and garlic powder.
- Dinner: Seared tuna steaks served with brown rice, pan-fried bok choy, and carrots. Garnish with oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Snacks: Fresh fruits with cheese; fresh-cut vegetables with avocado dip.
- Breakfast: Cold cereal with milk, nuts, and berries.
- Lunch: Shrimp lettuce wraps served with peanuts, cubed parsnips, and fresh herbs.
- Dinner: Black bean bowl with cooked millet, avocado, orange salsa, cucumber, and turnips.
- Snacks: Rice-based crackers with nut butter; fresh fruits with cheese.
- Breakfast: Hot oatmeal served with cinnamon and a side of cubed melon.
- Lunch: Spinach salad with cucumber, fennel, apple, and baked trout. Dress with olive oil and white wine vinegar.
- Dinner: Grilled chicken with vegetables (zucchini, kohlrabi, and carrots) served over polenta. Dress with olive oil, fresh herbs, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
- Snacks: Fresh fruits with cheese; fresh-cut vegetables with avocado dip.
Tips for Meal Preparation
If you struggle to find enough time to prepare your meals every night, consider batch cooking once or twice a week. To do this, you will cook three to four servings of a recipe at once so you can eat leftovers throughout the week.
Try packing lunches and dinners into individual containers to make them easy to load into your lunch bag.
Other time-saving tips include buying precut vegetables and fruits, which can appeal to people who don’t enjoy washing and cutting fresh produce. Frozen vegetables are also ready-to-eat and are very convenient and nutritious.
Sometimes, not knowing how to prepare certain foods and vegetables can be a barrier to including them in your diet.
If so, ask your dietitian for recipe recommendations or cooking tips on preparing certain foods.
They may have some answers but can also provide helpful resources, such as cooking blogs, cookbooks, or YouTube channels.
An elimination diet can help you identify possible food triggers. Avoiding these foods or reducing your portion sizes may relieve symptoms related to food sensitivities.
You can follow an elimination diet to deepen your understanding of your food sensitivities, but it’s not recommended to follow them long-term because they can be very restrictive.
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