Living With Dietary Restrictions: Know Your Substitutions

Living With Dietary Restrictions: Know Your Substitutions

Living With Dietary Restrictions: a.k.a. How to cope with a therapeutic diet.

This is one of the most common issues that surfaces for my patients: how to actually live, day in and day out, on a therapeutic diet. For so many of my patients, it seems like a dream to learn that some chronic, nagging health concern can be addressed simply by changing how they eat. Hallelujah! Until, that is, they realize how challenging it can be to adhere to their dietary prescription in many real-life situations. Allergens, blood sugar issues, detox, whatever…I speak from experience when I say that therapeutic diets can be tough! This series will share the best of what I’ve learned to help make your therapeutic diet a viable long-term option.

Tactic #8 : Know your substitutions.

This tactic is an extension of boiling it down. It’s a bit of a pro-level skill in that it might take a bit of experience with your particular therapeutic diet before you have a sense of precisely how to execute this one to meet your specific tastes. It takes a little experience to cultivate this skill, but it’s an effort well worth making in order to decrease your overall dietary frustration index. 

Knowing your substitutions is about being able to prepare or order food that you find tasty and satisfying. A therapeutic diet shouldn’t be torture. It should build you up and make you stronger, not be the bane of your existence. Being able to swiftly substitute off-plan ingredients allows you to keep enjoying your food without having to reinvent every dish or menu item that were your previous go-tos.

A simple example is in the case of a dairy-free diet. Does it work for you to have your food cooked in olive oil instead of butter? Can your baked goods have coconut oil or a nut milk in place of dairy? Maybe avocado or guac can add a bit of flavor and satiety in a sandwich that would’ve previously been provided by cheese.

Maybe those ideas work for you, or maybe they don’t. Substitutions on a therapeutic diet are highly subject to individual preferences. It takes some time to tease out what works for you. The point is this: knowing what will work for you to help you avoid what you need to in various food-consuming situations will make it easier to live a normal life while you’re doing your therapeutic diet. Since we have to eat multiple times per day, easier eating makes for a nicer life. Doing yourself the favor of knowing your go-to substitutions is a great quality-of-life improvement measure. 


Photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan.