Over two weeks Amanda and I challenged ourselves to each cut out two of the top eight allergen in an attempt to better understand the struggles so many of our patients with food allergies face. If someone would have told me a couple months ago I needed to avoid gluten and dairy for two weeks I would have thought that was impossible. Pasta and cheese are two of my favorite foods and a huge part of my daily diet! However, for many of our patients, avoidance of certain food allergens isn’t an option. This challenge proved to be just that..a challenge!

While we here at San Tan Allergy & Asthma have patients and families who have learned to be experts in food avoidance, I myself am very new to this. This post will include my food journal, some of my thoughts, and things I learned over the two weeks of avoiding gluten and dairy. My beginner’s beginner guide if you will!

In preparation for this challenge I began looking up blogs and different sites online that could offer advice on grocery shopping for those needing to avoid certain foods. While initially it may seem easy to avoid one ingredient on your shopping list, I quickly found it challenging trying to think of what meals I might be able to make with these limited items. I came across this blog managed by a woman name Rachael Roehmholdt (https://www.rachaelroehmholdt.com/blog/). Her website has a lot of content with tips on gluten-free, dairy-free living. She provides a helpful grocery list that contains only gluten-free and dairy-free items. Click here to download the PDF: GFDF_Food_List! This list was beneficial for me because I could just look at the foods that I could eat rather than the foods that I couldn’t.

Day One

-Omelet: 2 eggs, green onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, ham, avocado

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and almond milk

-Chicken kabobs and brown rice

-Popcorners chips and pistachios

-Heidi, our PA here at the office, brought me a bag of these Popcorners chips. They are delicious! They don’t really have much nutritional value, but they are a good filler as a snack (especially while still learning which foods are okay and how to better meal prep).

-gluten free pasta, sautéed yellow squash, and sauce (olive oil, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes)

Day Two
UPDATE: How I feel today..
-Banana, Kind cinnamon granola, grapes

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Popcorners chips

-Salad w/ green onion, salt, pepper, garlic, roasted garlic dressing.

-Brown rice, and kidney beans.

-Steak, grilled asparagus, brown rice

Today I went at BJ’s Brewery for dinner. I will say, having to carry around my EpiPen two pack in my pocket was not very convenient or comfortable. I imagine this is more convenient for women who can carry a purse. I did a Google search to see what I could find as far as EpiPen/AuviQ carriers and I found this website: http://www.allergyapparel.com/ Although not practical for everyone, this site does have some cool options for both children and adults looking for different carrying options.

Day Three

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Gluten free popped rice crisps (Apple Cinnamon), Pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and almonds.

-Popcorners chips

-ground turkey, black beans, green onion, avocado, gluten free Mission tortilla chips, and salsa.

UPDATE: One of our Facebook friends posted a site with some awesome recipes I wanted to try out. I love tacos and burritos, but am not a huge fan of corn tortillas. This site had a recipe for tortillas made from plantains. The picture of the finished product looked delicious and the recipe only called for three ingredients so I thought this would be perfect! I WAS WRONG! After about an hour of trying my hardest to make this ball of mush into a tortilla, I finally gave up and threw all of my taco ingredients into a bowl to eat for dinner.

Day Four

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Chipotle: Bowl with brown rice, black beans, pinto beans, chicken, steak, guacamole, and lettuce.

-Left overs: Brown rice, ground turkey, black beans, green onion and avocado

Day Five

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Snack: Gluten free popped rice crisps (Apple Cinnamon)

-Kneaders: Turkey, bacon, avocado salad, with raspberry vinaigrette

-Macayo’s: corn chips, salsa, corn tacos with chicken, cabbage, lime, guacamole and refried beans

Day Six

-Flower Child: Flying Avocado wrap – Smoked turkey, romaine, avocado hummus on a gluten-free pita (Delicious, but this restaurant was a bit pricey).

-Starbucks: Decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Popcorners chips

-Postino’s: Mixed Green Salad with no gorgonzola

Day Seven

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-4 gluten-free waffles from Fry’s

-Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge non-dairy frozen dessert.

-Popcorners chips

UPDATE: This is what your food journal looks like when you don’t meal plan. I’ve never been the best about meal planning. While on an unrestricted diet I would typically just go home, open the pantry and find something to make. I’m realizing this approach does not work as easily when you have to avoid certain foods. When your refrigerator is low on produce, options tend to run thin. I did buy gluten-free waffles from Fry’s and they were delicious. In my opinion they taste exactly the same as Eggo waffles. Also, the Ben & Jerry’s gluten free ice cream is really good! It is expensive at about $6 for a pint, but if you are craving chocolate hardcore and can’t have dairy, I would happily give up six bucks.

Day Eight

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Kneaders: Turkey, bacon, avocado salad

-Ground turkey, kidney beans, brown rice, green onion, avocado

Day Nine

Two bananas and Kind cinnamon granola

-garlic hummus, crackers, pepperonis

-Swedish fish

-Ground turkey, brown rice and quinoa, kidney beans, green onion

-Mission tortilla chips and salsa

Day Ten

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Starbucks: decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Chipotle (Brown rice, chicken, black beans, pinto beans, salsa, guacamole, lettuce)

-Mike & Ike Zours candy

-Postino’s: Mixed green salad, no gorgonzola. Chips

Day Eleven

-Two bananas and cinnamon granola

-Starbucks: decaf americano with vanilla and soy milk

-Snack: Gluten free popped rice crisps (Apple Cinnamon)

[Didn’t have time to eat lunch today. Too busy at work.]

-Chipotle black bean burgers and avocado

Day Twelve

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

– 4 gluten-free waffles


-Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge non-dairy frozen dessert.

UPDATE: Clearly I didn’t learn from the last time I didn’t plan my meals…

Day Thirteen

-Omelet with bacon and turkey, potatoes and gluten-free toast

-Gluten-free Chipotle black bean burgers

-Gluten-free Mission chips and salsa

Day Fourteen

-Honey Nut Cheerios w/ unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-Chipotle (Brown rice, chicken, black beans, pinto beans, salsa, guacamole, lettuce)

-Left overs: Omelet with bacon and turkey, potatoes and gluten free toast

-Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge non-dairy frozen dessert.

Through this experience I learned a lot! As an adult, implementing this type of diet was a huge adjustment. I learned it takes a lot of planning to figure out your grocery list and meal plan. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to eat a salad every day for two meals a day, and you want some variety in your diet, meal planning is essential. Although it may seem difficult at first, you are not limited to strictly fruits and vegetables.

Over the course of the two weeks I ended up eating out a lot. I’m not the best cook to begin with and after my experience trying to make tortillas out of plantains I was too discouraged and too hungry to try and experiment with all of these new gluten-free ingredients. I found while eating out that a lot of restaurants have gluten-free menus! This is super helpful because it saved me a lot of time having to hunt through the menu for gluten-free options. Also, I recommend asking your server about gluten-free options! I had a waitress who had a gluten-intolerance and was extremely helpful in choosing options. I had a waiter at Macayo’s who was also a chef at a different restaurant who was very attentive to my requests to avoid gluten and dairy which is somewhat difficult at a Mexican food restaurant. At another restaurant, where I had asked for a gluten-free menu, I actually had the manager bring my food out and he let me know he made sure everyone in the kitchen changed their gloves when preparing my food and made sure they took all of the necessary precautions.

I was very surprised how often I saw gluten-free labels, gluten-free options, and allergy signs at restaurants and grocery stores. Maybe these have been there the whole time and I’ve just been unaware of them, but as someone avoiding these foods I found it extremely helpful. For example, shopping at Safeway is very convenient because they have gluten free labels on the shelves so you don’t have to spend as much time reading labels on every single product (Although if you have a severe allergy you are probably better off double checking the ingredients).

While I felt most places I went to eat were very accommodating, I will say I felt a certain level of annoyance from my family and friends who I was going out to eat with. I could tell they sometimes got frustrated when trying to make dinner plans and either having to change plans or run the menu past me to make sure there was something I could eat. If you are reading this, and you are someone who does not have food allergies or intolerances, my advice is to be supportive of those close to you who are often burdened with this added chore of having to make sure they aren’t exposed to certain food allergens. It’s not their fault. I found it was very time consuming and at times very frustrating trying to find food options while fighting cravings for all the foods I wanted to eat and then having to deal with the eye rolls and sighs from my friends and family as if I were being dramatic. While this was just a challenge for myself, for a lot of our patients this is a matter of avoiding a dangerous anaphylactic reaction.

This experience was extremely eye opening for me and I have a whole new level of respect for our patients who have had to make these adjustments on a permanent basis. If you have been newly diagnosed with food allergies, be patient. There are options and resources out there that can help you along as you navigate this new way of eating. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about food in just a short amount of time. Also keep in mind the providers and staff here at San Tan Allergy & Asthma are available to help In any way we can.

-Aaron M.,RN