I vaguely referenced this in one of my first posts, but I became dairy and soy-free about a year ago, when I found out that I had Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus. I basically felt sick all the time – I was nauseous, dizzy, my throat felt super tight which then led to horrible migraines and had horrible acid reflux. Getting to the root of the issue took several doctor’s attempts and years of discomfort, so when I finally found a specialist at Northwestern that identified the issue I’ve never felt more relieved. And then I found out there was no cure for EoE yet and that the most common cause for the flare-ups was food-related.
Enter the start of my six-food elimination diet and the start of an emotional roller coaster of a ride. The diet consisted of eliminating the top known allergens from my diet including milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts/tree nuts, and seafood (so basically EVERYTHING). I had to take out all these allergens from my diet for a month and a half, then get an endoscopy to see if my inflammation went down, and then if it turned out clear, add one food type back into my diet for a month and repeat the process (get an endoscopy, check the inflammation, if it looked fine then I move on to my next allergen, if it swelled up then I have to go back to a clean slate and start the re-introduction process over).
I’ve never been one to really pay attention to what I was eating in terms of ingredients, so getting in the habit of checking every single label, on every single product (even my vitamins!) was a tough adjustment and one that I would not be able to complete without Ryan. Not only was he there to support me emotionally (because when you have to go cold turkey and stop eating every food you’re accustomed to, the word “hangry” takes on a whole new meaning), but without even batting an eye, he switched up his diet to match mine. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being in awe of this man, or stop wondering how I got so dang lucky.
It’s been a very long and difficult journey, and although I’m still learning new things about my diet and EoE daily, I did find out that I’m allergic to dairy, wheat and soy (which is a more common ingredient than you’d think). Definitely not an easy pill to swallow – I mean who doesn’t love cheese?! – but well worth the trade-off. Since eliminating cheese, my migraines haven’t been as frequent, my eczema is completely gone (something I’ve suffered from since childhood) and my EoE symptoms have subsided! I’ll take feeling better over a plate of cheese any day, especially since throughout this dieting journey, I’ve been forced to try some new dairy-free alternatives that have quickly become staples in my house.
So, in honor of the big game, I’m sharing my go-to snacking foods that I’ll be munching on and treating my guests to. These are quick and easy alternatives so those that are dairy-free can still indulge in all the goodies, without sacrificing how you feel.
Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips: This is one of those snacks that you keep on hand at all times for when that savory craving kicks in. I think what I like most about them is that they’re saltier than some of the other brands I’ve tried. To me, these taste like potato chips, but are a little more dense, which I personally like. I like serving these as an option for guests who have food allergies, along with some of these Trader Joe’s snacks, so everyone has something to much on!
Garden of Eatin’ Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips: Does anyone else love snacking on tortilla chips? Like, I love just plain tortilla chips. I don’t know why but if I’m starving I’ll just munch on a few until dinner. I also found that if I’m feeling nauseous, they’re the only thing that help. Anyway, these chips have been with me since day one of my diet and are now the first thing I grab at the store. I serve them every time I have people over with guacamole, or salsa, and I always end up opening up a second bag. They’re the perfect combination of crispy, yet not too hard. I get mine from Whole Foods.
Amy’s Vegan Margherita Pizza: When I found out I couldn’t eat dairy anymore, in my mind, that was it. I was skeptical about dairy-free cheese and didn’t want to settle for a taste less than the real thing. And then I was over not having pizza in my life and decided to give this one a try. My only regret? Not trying it sooner! The cheese is obviously a little different, but if you’re dairy-free and want to indulge, this is the way to go. When my friends have movie nights or order pizza in, I just bring this instead, or order from Blaze pizza (which I LOVE)!
Daiya Homestyle Ranch Dressing (with veggies, wings, or pizza!): I mean as a girl who bought a ranch fountain, I can’t follow up pizza without mentioning ranch dressing! I’m obsessed with ranch dressing and sadly that obsession had to go when I went dairy-free. So, when I decided to try dairy-free pizza, I needed to find its perfect match and THIS. IS. IT! It’s the closest tasting thing to ranch and my taste buds could not be happier. It’s also the perfect dip alternative for a veggie dish if you’re hosting and need a dairy-free app idea! I buy it at Whole Foods.
So Delicious, Mocha Almond Fudge Bars: Ice cream was one of the hardest things to give up with my diet and after testing out multiple dairy-free ice cream brands and flavors, this one is by far my favorite! It’s so good and it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing the delicious, creamy taste. I have these stocked in my fridge at all times for when my sweet tooth strikes – which is every night. I get mine from Whole Foods, but they’re also available at Target!
Let me know what you think of these and if you’d like me to continue sharing more of my dairy-free favorites! And if you have any recommendations – please share them as I’m always looking to try new products 😁