In the past, when I thought of people who ate a “healthy” plant-based diet, I assumed that their life consisted of lots and lots of salad.
But one thing I discovered very quickly when I completely changed the way I eat one year ago is that I do not like eating salad. I don’t really enjoy eating cold food, in general. I especially don’t like eating a bowl full of cold, crunchy lettuce.
Salad makes me angry.
Salad has even made me cry a few times.
In fact, the only time I DO like eating salad is when it’s topped with something warm, like taco meat. I don’t eat most salad dressings or croutons or cheese, which are all of the things that WOULD make a salad bearable.
So, what’s a girl to do when she is trying to eat one to two pounds of veggies every day? What’s a girl to do when she loves warm comfort foods? How does she go from waking up most mornings to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal to trying to figure out how to make veggies feel like breakfast?
Well, it’s taken me most of the year to answer these questions, but I’ve finally discovered the golden ticket. SOUP!
Soup makes an amazing breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be warm and creamy to fill that need for comfort food. And when you make it with lots of veggies, it’s packed with flavor and nutrition.
Think about it this way. It’s perfectly normal to throw a bunch of fruits and vegetables in a blender with liquid and eat a smoothie for breakfast. Soup is basically the same concept, but it’s hot. We can just call it a hot smoothie if that makes it more appealing.
The last few months, I got my soup making down to a science, so I thought I would share my formula. I usually make several soups a week and store them in the freezer in mason jars. This makes it super easy to grab one when I’m headed to work or any place food will be served (since I usually have to bring my own food).
Another crazy thing that has happened to me in the past year is that I get “cravings” for foods I’ve never eaten before. Recently, I knew without a doubt that I MUST have some beet soup ASAP even though I wasn’t even sure if beet soup was a real thing. I’ve loaded my cart at various times with lots of little-known fruits and veggies: jack fruit, jicama, delicata squash, plantains, parsnips and white yams, to name a few.
This week, the same thing happened, but this time with Celeriac (also known as celery root).
I have not ever in my life eaten celery root, and yet it seemed to be calling to me from the produce section. Celery root is delicious, by the way. It has the tang of celery, but the crisp, starchy consistency of a potato.
So, I will share my soup making formula, using celery root soup as an example. This method applies to any “cream” soup since those are my favorite and feel most like breakfast to me.
Step 1: I always start with one 32 ounce container of chicken stock. I buy mine at Costco because it’s gluten free and has the best ingredients of any I’ve found. Pour this in your electric pressure cooker.
Step 2: Add veggies. In this case, I sautéed in olive oil:
- several cloves of garlic and
- two leeks
I added those to the pressure cooker, along with:
- two celery roots, peeled and sliced
- two parsnips, peeled and sliced
- one green apple, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus any other herbs or spices that would work well with the veggies you’ve chosen
Step 3: Cook for 18 minutes. My pressure cooker has a “soup” setting, so I press this button and then adjust the time to 18 minutes. Why 18 minutes and not 15 or 20? I have no idea. I just made up the time. But trust me. It works.
Allow the steam to naturally release.
Step 4: Put the cooked veggie mixture in the blender. Puree until smooth.
Step 5: Return everything to the pressure cooker. Stir in one cup of full fat coconut milk.
I’ve done this in tons of different variations.
As I mentioned earlier, I recently made a beet soup using the formula above, meaning 32 ounces of chicken stock at the beginning and one cup of coconut milk at the end. The creamy red soup was amazing. The veggies I used were:
- 3 beets, peeled and sliced
- 1/4 head of red cabbage, sliced
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
The vibrant color of the beet soup inspired me to make a purple soup. This one used the same formula, but the veggies were:
- 1/2 head of red cabbage
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 large clove of garlic
- about 1 inch section of ginger root, peeled and sliced
Another one of my favorites is carrot pumpkin soup. Again, it’s the same formula, but the veggies are:
- six carrots
- one 15 once can of pumpkin puree
- 1 inch slice of ginger root
I’ve also done this with two heads of broccoli, which is amazing.
And I’ve just randomly thrown in a selection of whatever veggies I have on hand. You really can’t go wrong! Add a sweet potato if you want the soup to be sweet. Add cauliflower to make it more creamy.
Oh… so I should give you the verdict on the celery root soup. I feel like the parsnips overwhelmed the celery root in this batch. I think I’ll try again next time with carrots instead of parsnips or maybe a sweet potato. I really love any type of cream soup, so I enjoyed it. But just a warning that the parsnips have a very strong flavor!
I would love to hear from you. Do you love soup? Do you like salad? Could you eat soup for breakfast?
I have a photo of myself on my phone that I have been looking at the past few days. I took the photo in early January when I was at a really low place.
My eyes look tired, and my face is red and puffy. I had been sick on and off most of the previous year. When I look at that photo, I can remember so clearly how bad I felt that day. I remember thinking that it had to be my rock bottom. I was determined to start feeling better, so I wanted a “before shot” as a reminder. (I hope that someday I will be brave enough to share it.)
I had been on a gluten free diet for six months at that point. But it was what I like to call the “gluten free junk food diet.” I was still experiencing all of the symptoms of autoimmune disease on a regular basis: digestive problems, severe heartburn, insomnia, skin issues, vertigo, headaches, foggy brain, trouble concentrating, joint pain, and the list goes on. For years, I also had been trying to exercise regularly to lose a few pounds, but nothing seemed to work.
Nine months later, I’m amazed at how much better I feel in so many ways. I’ve made it almost three months without a “flare” from gluten contamination, which is a small miracle by itself. But I really didn’t expect to experience so many other health improvements from my radical change in eating.
Just to review, I’ve been on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Diet since February. (I did a month of Whole 30 in January.) What that means is I don’t eat any inflammatory foods, which include gluten, grains, refined sugar, dairy, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, coffee, chocolate, nightshade vegetables and spices, such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, Paprika, chili powder and red pepper.
Since about June, I have been slowly re-introducing foods so my diet is somewhere between Paleo and Paleo AIP. I now eat chocolate!! I also sometimes eat tomatoes, eggs, chili powder, almond butter and a few nuts. Once in a while, I eat corn tortillas or rice (which aren’t Paleo). However, for the majority of the time, I eat Paleo AIP because I feel my best when I stick more closely to that diet.
Since I’ve gone on this diet, I’ve seen an impressive drop in the antibodies in my system caused by autoimmune disease. So, you could say that the changes I’ve experienced are from a reduction in antibodies. That improvement goes back to my diet, so in a way, all of these changes started with the diet. Anyway, regardless of whether you want to look at the chicken or the egg, I’m just happy for the experience! 🙂
Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed:
I’ve lost 11 pounds since January. That might not sound like a lot, but on my small frame, it feels great! I’ve gone down one clothing size, and I’m at the weight that makes me feel my best. When you switch to a Paleo diet, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose weight (unless you go crazy eating a container of nuts and dried fruit everyday). I LOVE this lifestyle because I can eat as much as I want, as long as I stick to the foods allowed on the program. I eat tons of veggies, protein and healthy fat.
In the past, I pretty much got through every day on a steady stream of caffeine and sugar. Now that I fuel my body with highly nutritious foods, I don’t have the extreme highs and lows or cravings for junk food. I still struggle with being hypoglycemic, so I try to eat every couple of hours to keep my blood sugar at a good level. But I’m not on a constant craving roller coaster anymore.
Before I started this diet, I woke up every morning looking pretty awful. My face would be so puffy in the morning that I would try to get up an hour early if I had to be somewhere, just to give myself time to look somewhat “normal.” By eliminating inflammatory foods, I can finally get up in the morning and look like ME!
A big part of this was the inflammation in my sinuses that I think a lot of people experience from eating dairy, gluten and sugar. Inflamed sinuses lead to sinus headaches, which in my case led to…
I’ve had chronic vertigo for about seven years. Sometimes, I would experience at least mild dizziness for a month at a time. I’ve had a few very brief instances of vertigo this year, but it doesn’t even compare to what it was like before.
KNOTS IN MY NECK
Another thing that contributed to headaches and vertigo were all of the knots in my neck and back. I was a minefield of knotted-up muscles. I’m so thankful that this has changed significantly!
And without all of those issues, I can sleep like a baby. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Unless I’m under a lot of stress, I don’t wake up until morning. In the past, it was common to be awake half the night with insomnia. Sleep is a beautiful thing!
It’s remarkable how much clearer my brain is. I had struggled with my memory, concentration and focus when I was at my worst. When I stick to my diet, my brain feels so much clearer. I feel (halfway) intelligent again! 🙂
At my worst, I had extreme heartburn that even turned into an ulcer in my stomach. This is the symptom that has taken the longest to get under control. In the last few months, I have had a nice break from constant heartburn.
And, of course, it goes without saying, that my digestive system is a million times better. This was the reason I decided to try the diet to begin with. The reality is that it took about six months even on a very strict diet to get my digestive system to a “normal” place. My digestive system took a beating from the destruction of Celiac Disease, so it doesn’t take much to knock me down. I know if I stray too far, with even common foods like tomatoes, spices or eggs that I won’t feel great for a few days. It doesn’t take much to mess up my digestive system, but at least now I can easily identify the trigger and get things back on track much more quickly.
Today, when I pulled up that photo on my phone, it made me feel so thankful for how far I’ve come. I know that a lot of people have been praying for me and God has done an amazing work in getting me to this place. I’m also a huge believer in this way of eating, so I just wanted to share my experience in case it might help someone else who struggles with similar issues.
If you want to know more about my journey, you can read about it here or listen to me talk about it on this podcast.
So, what about you? Have you ever made a radical change to your diet that has made a big difference?
I always feel a little weird writing about my health situation on my blog. But now that I’ve put it all out there, and so many people have been asking me for an update, I feel like I need to share some of the significant things that have happened lately.
A few weeks ago, I went to see a functional medicine doctor for the first time. I had been on a waiting list for four months to get into this doctor who specializes in patients with autoimmune disease.
I handed her a thick folder full of my medical journey from the past year. As she flipped through each page, she kept repeating the same reaction: “Impressive.”
After a few minutes, I had to interrupt. “Why do you keep saying ‘impressive’? I get the feeling you don’t mean, ‘Wow! This is awesome!’ ”
Well… she explained. First, you are the first patient I’ve seen whose antibodies were so high on every test that was taken. (In other words, my overachiever immune system has been working super hard to destroy my own body.)
It’s also impressive to see your level of malabsorption. (I knew I had been struggling to absorb the nutrition that I need from my food, but she was actually impressed by just how bad I actually was! Go, me!!)
Finally, she said, “You have had really amazing medical care. It’s impressive.”
Happiness in a cup: My bullet dandelion tea
I thought about all I’ve been through in the last year. It’s true. I’ve been to four different doctors in the past year, including three specialists. I’ve also seen a dietician, who has been an “impressive” part of my journey. I’ve had a colonoscopy, two endoscopies and an MRI to understand what’s going on inside my body. And I’ve had a crazy amount of blood work done. It really has been impressive.
She sent me away with an order to have 10 more vials of blood drawn before I came back to see her in two weeks. I had that appointment on Thursday.
When I walked in, she immediately started asking me what I thought about an immune modulating drug she had recommended at my last appointment.
“Have you seen my lab results?” I asked. “I really think we should look at those first before we discuss treatment.”
She pulled up my 20 or so test results on her computer, and this time I had moved beyond, “Impressive.”
“This is awesome,” she said. “You are beyond awesome.”
Here are a few of the amazing things that she saw in that report:
All of my Celiac antibodies are now negative! This is a huge answer to prayer and it shows how well my body is responding to my diet, especially compared to a few months ago when my other doctor was so concerned that I wasn’t responding to a gluten free diet.
“You are healing, and you are beating Celiac disease,” she said.
I’ve also quintupled my Ferritin level, which indicates my body’s ability to store iron. This has been a major problem for me during the past year. A year ago, my Ferritin was a 3 on a scale of 11-291. Now, I’m at 15, which means, I’m actually IN the normal range! I’m finally not anemic, which has made a huge improvement in my health the past few months. I’m still in the low range of normal, so I am going to try a new iron supplement to help with that. But, hey. I’m so much better!
All of my other vitamins and minerals also were in the range of normal. I’m going to add some new supplements to help with things like vitamin B, D, magnesium and a few others, but I am getting there.
My doctor still had quite a few concerns from my blood tests.
- One of my worst ongoing symptoms is acid reflux. The only test result that had gotten worse was one that looked at my esophagus. This is a bit of a mystery.
- I tested positive for Crohn’s disease for the second time. I’ve already had a colonoscopy and MRI to rule out Crohn’s disease, but for some reason my body is still producing antibodies that would indicate I have it. Again, another mystery.
- My thyroid antibodies also are higher than normal. She is doing some additional testing for that. It is super common for people with Celiac disease to have another autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid (Hashimoto’s), so I’m glad she is looking at that.
- I’m also hypoglycemic. Again, I wasn’t surprised at all by this. I’ve suspected I have some insulin issues because of my need to eat every two hours.
So, lots of fun stuff… but overall, I still see that I am moving forward and making good progress. I’m going to start on a new drug that is supposed to help moderate my immune system, and I’m adding some supplements to help with my nutrition level.
I’m also working on reintroducing new foods into my diet. This is easier said than done. I’ve really grown accustomed to my diet, and it’s hard for me to step out into the unknown by adding new foods. I’ve had some negative reactions to some of the foods I’ve tried, which knock me down again, so it’s scary each time I try something new.
Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for me and all of the continued support. Feel free to leave me a comment!
If you are just catching up, you can read the rest of my story here:
Part One: A new view of food
Part Two: The start of my journey
Part Three: Malnourished in America
Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle
Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease
Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP
Part Seven: What do we eat?
Part Eight: A year later