Finding Your AIP Food Groove
A focus on nutrient density, with a smattering of what is easy to prepare, coupled with finding what tastes #bloodyfabulous to you…
One of the commonest things newbies to AIP talk about, lament even, is the amount of cooking required.
It’s true. When you start out it can take a bit of getting used to. First, is the fact that you have to cook. There really is no getting around it. Then, you need to factor in things like:
- the foods you remove in the elimination phase, and all that entails
- the myriad of foods you should be eating more of, not to mention the variety you should be aiming for.
- all the ‘stuff’ you have in your cooking arsenal using processed foods that are no longer an option
- dining out is bloody complicated in the elimination phase, so having emergency rations for those nights you really don’t feel like cooking matters.
I’m sure there’s more.
My AIP Food story
Despite living my personalised AIP way of life for a number of years, I now cook less than when I began my AIP caper in early 2014. A lot less. I’ve well and truly found my AIP food groove, although I continue to tweak it. I just spend less time in the kitchen.
Back in the beginning, I was a smidge obsessive about doing ALL the things. Being a perfect little AIPer. I didn’t understand that this AIP caper is a process, and a very personal one.
While it’s certainly true that my cooking has improved since I started the AIP, so has my confidence in the kitchen. I’m a pretty good home cook. I’m not all spiffy and chef-y about my meals. I want them to taste good and be good for me. And, I’m a bit of a ‘near enough is good enough’ girl when it comes to exact amounts and ingredients (with the exception of baking where exact measurements rule)
Today I’m sharing my tips on finding your AIP food groove by usinG 3 simple ‘rules’…
RULE #1: Nutrient DensE
Of course, the AIP starts with the elimination phase which involves removing a whole lot of potentially inflammatory foods as a way to reduce inflammation and give your gut an opportunity to heal.
When it comes to choosing your food on the AIP, taking an above-the-line approach and, focusing on what you add can make all the difference. I like to think of it as crowding out the stuff that doesn’t serve you.
You will not become an AIP expert overnight. As with most things, becoming proficient takes practice. So go easy on yourself. Take it one step at a time.
Consider the nutrient density continuum. All your food choices sit somewhere on a nutrient density spectrum. At the highly nutritious end, you have foods like liver and oysters and other foods that give you LOTS of bang for your buck when it comes to nutrient density. As you move down the scale, food contains progressively fewer levels of nutrient density. To get maximum benefit, it makes sense to make choices towards the high end of the continuum.
Take a leaf out of Dr Terry Wahls’ book and remember that variety matters. A common mistake early in the AIP is to stick only to foods you know how to prepare that fit the protocol. Instead, build a diverse microbiome by aiming to eat at least 200 different types of plants in a year. If you have young kidliwinks (or even if you don’t), you can make a game of this by keeping a journal. How about setting a goal to try a new vegetable (new to you, at least) every week?
When it comes to making nutrient-dense choices, here are some of the things I do:
- Create kitchen rituals to help you stay on track – My rituals are like positive routines and habits on crack. They help to keep me on the right track, even on days when I don’t feel like my head is in the game.
- Leafy greens kitchen hack
- Aim to add a vegetable to every meal (including breakfast)
- Make nutrient density my hobby
- for me, fermenting my vegetables
- My weekly cooking rituals include making:
- Layer your plate – Ask yourself, “What can I add?”
- Can you add condiments and ferments?
- What about herbs and micro-herbs as a garnish?
- Create an interesting salt collection (I’m a fan of seaweed salt)
Don’t be afraid to stick to your AIP knitting. By this I mean: you do you. I can’t stand mushrooms. Really. CAN’T STAND ‘EM. I wish it weren’t so, because I know they are super good for me and my preference is to always try to get my nutrients from whole foods. But that’s ok. I compensate. Just as if you really and truly can’t face eating liver, there are ways around it. Personalising your AIP caper is a big part of making nutrient density work for you.
RULE #2: Easy to prepare
Easy to prepare means easy to for you to prepare. That last bit is the important bit. If it doesn’t work for you, you won’t do it.
In AIP-land, meal planning is a big deal. I’m not a meal planner. SO not a meal planner. I like to go to the farmers market and see what’s in season and go from there. Perhaps it’s my little rebellion against being told how to do something? But, maybe that’s not you. Perhaps planning ahead is the only way you can stay sane. This is about finding recipes and systems and rituals that work for you.
While meal planning isn’t really my thing, I am a big fan of the “cook once to eat twice (or even thrice)” ethos. More is more. If I’m going to slow-cook enough for four, it makes sense to me to double the recipe and have extra.
Slow cooker, pressure cooker (Instant Pot!), or dutch oven – there is no right choice. What’s your choice? Me, I favour a traditional le Creuset dutch oven. I’ve had my oval casserole for almost 30-years and I love it. But, I make my bone broth in a stovetop pressure cooker. Maybe you at work all day. Maybe a slow cooker is your jam.
RULE #3: Tastes #bloodyfabulous
As in you love it and so do all the AIP muggles you live with. As in you don’t have to cook different meals to satisfy different members of your household because you know this recipe works.
When it comes to having a repertoire of AIP recipes that taste #bloodyfabulous, my top tip is to create a family recipe book filled with the recipes that you have on permanent repeat; the ones that everyone loves. Pick up one of those display books with plastic sleeves from your local stationer and start printing off a collection of recipes that your family loves.
As an added bonus, when it’s your husband or teenager’s night to cook, you can simply,y hand them the recipe folder and tell them to pick whatever tickles their fancy.
Play with the things that work for you. If you like a roast on Sunday nights with enough extras for a couple of days – great! You’d be amazed at what you can make with leftovers. Maybe you’ve created the perfect AIP meatball. How would it taste with an alternative protein? Different herbs? If you have the basic ration down, experimenting can be kind of fun – especially if you have kids to help.
Finding your AIP food groove doesn’t have to be complicated – Nutrient density + Easy to prepare + Tastes #bloodyfabulous
Create some signature dishes. Dishes you’d be happy to serve to company. One of the very best things about nutrient-dense, AIP-friendly foods is that they taste great. Only you know that no gluten or dairy or nightshades went into the making of the meal. Have people around for a meal.
Don’t be afraid to own this.
And speaking of owning this…