These days, traveling and getting away for a vacation takes a bit more planning and organizing to accommodate our lifestyle and dietary restrictions for Crohn's disease. In fact, almost anything we do these days takes more planning and organizing, but it has almost become second nature to me. Almost. The last thing I want to do is slip up and my son have a setback. It is not worth it! Hopefully this message will resonate with him one day and he will continue on the path of clean eating as he becomes more independent and enters high school and college.
In the meantime, he has his personal chef (ahem, me!) by his side.
Here are a few tips and suggestions I have gathered over the past couple years that have helped me stay on track when we travel. Traveling by car is obviously more convenient because we can pack a large cooler with cooked meals, supplies and ingredients but when we fly to our destinations it takes more planning and time to ensure that we stay within the strict guidelines of the SCD diet.
RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
We always stay somewhere that has a small kitchen or kitchenette so we are guaranteed space to cook and prepare meals and we have a refrigerator to store all the prepared food I pack. You'll want to scout out the grocery store and dining options. Try and find a local health food store if you can, but if not stick with fruits, vegetables and basic proteins and try and buy organic and non-GMO when possible. Consider writing out a grocery store list of basic items before you leave for your trip. (See sample list at the end of this post)
When we travel we usually cook breakfast and lunch in the hotel, condo or house we are staying in and go out for dinner. Since dining out can be expensive, especially on the SCD diet, cooking in may be the best option. However, as restaurant owners, I feel confident in telling you that dining out on SCD is doable! I'm in the process of writing a post on tips and suggestions but in the meantime, use these few ideas as a guideline.
Spend time researching the restaurants in the area you plan on visiting. You can quickly narrow down your list by crossing off fast food restaurants, some chain restaurants and bars because chances are they will have very limited options. Higher end restaurants are usually a safer way to go and often they are willing to work with you and accommodate your dietary needs. If the restaurant is local, organic and farm-to-table then you hit the jack pot! I strongly suggest calling ahead and don't hold back on saying your diet is allergy related. The word "allergy" will always grab their attention. While making your reservation let them know about your dietary restrictions. Ordering a plain meal is always best. Steak or salmon with no sauce, marinade or seasoning except salt, pepper and olive oil and ask for steamed veggies as a side. I would be cautious with chicken, unless it is guaranteed all-natural or organic. Most chicken served in restaurants contain fillers that are not SCD legal and contain preservatives. Salads are okay but make sure they don't have croutons, processed cheese or dressing on them. Always stay away from salad dressings and soups in restaurants! Ask for olive oil and lemons to use as dressing and then add salt and pepper as needed.
When traveling I usually pack these staples and carry them in my purse: salad dressing, ketchup, mustard and honey.
I bring snacks everywhere we go. My purse is always loaded with various snacks and you can usually find additional snacks in my son's backpack, soccer bag and even in our car. When they pass out drinks and goodies on the plane you can dig into your snack pack and pull out your own treat. Plus, it's always good to have a small bite to eat for long car drives or long waits at the airport. I always put a snack bar in my son's coat pocket, as well as honey drops and money in case he needs to purchase a water.
Here is a list of my go-to travel snacks: (click on the item to purchase or view more info)
Dried Fruit Snacks*
Hard Boiled Eggs
Nuts or Homemade Trail-mix
Mini Muffins, made ahead of time and frozen
Honey Drops or Honey Sticks
Homemade Yogurt in glass jars
Banana Bread, made ahead of time and frozen
DON'T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS
I've found that sometimes I get so wrapped up in preparing food, researching my destination and packing snacks that I forget about the essentials! It's best if you make a checklist before you even begin to pack for your trip. You'll want to consider your activities and what you will be doing on each day of the trip. What snacks should you bring on those adventures? Will you have a picnic one day and if so, what do you need? Are you eating out and will you need to bring condiments? And remember, your goal while away is to adhere to the SCD diet. You'll want to continue making and eating yogurt in order to ensure you are feeding your gut with beneficial bacteria. I know it sounds complicated and making yogurt may be the last thing you want to do on vacation, but I promise, once you get it down it is extremely easy and you can't beat the benefits.
These items may vary, depending on how far you are traveling and if you are driving or flying, but here are some essential items to consider:
Spices - I always travel with Paleo Powder
Medical Kit (I always bring this with me)
Benadryl (Another item I never leave home without)
BPA Free Water Bottle
Small Soft Cooler
You may want to pack additional foods in your suitcase, especially if you're checking it at the airport. By bringing nut butters, ghee, coconut oil, frozen bone broth, olive oil and so forth, you are able to save money at the grocery store. In the past I have packed an entire small suitcase with food, but I'll be honest, these days it is easier for me to purchase these items at the local store and bring home what I don't use.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED
I have found it's always better to be over prepared than under prepared. Bring more food than you think you may need. Pack the medical kit, you never know. Toss in the heating pad, you never know when a stomach ache could occur. There have been moments when I pulled out the SCD legal ketchup and it literally made my son's night. I've come to realize that these little moments mean so much to him and offer a chance of "normalcy" when it comes to eating out or enjoying the dining experience.
RELAX AND ENJOY
Whether you're going across the country or away for a weekend soccer tournament, prepping to go out of town while on the SCD diet is extremely time consuming and exhausting. The majority of the hard work takes place before you even leave. When you get to your final destination, relax and enjoy yourself. For me, I work hard before we leave so I can actually relax and enjoy the time away with my husband and children. Even if we're just going two hours away for a weekend tournament, I know I have plenty of food and I can focus my time on having fun with the family.
SAMPLE GROCERY STORE LIST
fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, aged cheese, olives, honey, tea, Welches grape juice or other legal juice, eggs, bacon, coconut oil, olive oil, peanut butter (use with apples & celery and make sure it is legal and free of sugar & additives), chicken for roasting, fresh fish, organic free-range meats, almonds, almond flour, bananas and other smoothie ingredients, kale & beets to make chips, avocados, salt, lettuce for salads and wraps
When traveling I usually keep breakfast and lunch simple. Scrambled eggs with sautéed kale and bacon, smoothies or banana bread. For lunch it's usually salads, roasted chicken with veggies, fish with veggies, or sautéed veggies in lettuce wraps.
*These items appear SCD compliant but I have not verified this with the company, therefore if you try this item proceed with caution and only introduce when you are symptom free.
We waited until there were NO symptoms before adding prepared products to the diet.
It's hard to believe that just a few months ago we were strolling the sandy beaches of North Carolina. I have officially fallen in love with the October ocean; when the breeze is slightly cool with the smallest hint of warmth and the soft, tender waves are mild and tranquil. Combine this calmness with quality family time, great food and fine wine, a good book in a swaying hammock and nights of endless conversation and you're speaking my language.
We were fortunate enough to sneak away for a week with our family (plus the grandparents and one amazing aunt) this past fall and it was incredible in so many ways. The beach was quite and empty, the air was warm and our days lazy. In fact, there were no complaints when it was time to take a break from the waves and come inside for snacks and homework lessons. I can't tell you the last time I felt so peaceful and relaxed. No schedule, no school, no activities, no sports, no stress.
Lately, we've been talking about traveling and future trips we want to take with, and possibly without, the children. The world is an open atlas and there are so many adventures ahead of us. But in order to embark on these expeditions we need to prepare and organize our life. In other words, we need to save money. With high school and college ahead of us we are in a position where we should be saving, and saving quite a bit, in order to prepare for those times. At the same time, we don't want to compromise our desire to travel and experience the world. I strongly feel that knowledge is one of the best gifts I can offer my children, and what other way to gain knowledge than through travel and experiencing new lands and cultures?
In an effort to save, I am focusing on simplifying; a concept I talk about often. But when I really think about it, I can't help but wonder if I truly am simplifying. It is so easy to become distracted by the "stuff" that surrounds us, the clutter in our home and the materialism pushed onto us by society. We can all relate. We run into Target for two items and the next thing you know your cart is almost full. The dollar section had irrestiable prices and cute merchandise that calls your name, there are sale items at the end of every isle, and the kid's cloths are stylish and cheap. But then I find myself doing the same thing at the grocery store, and the clothing store and the beauty store (darn you Sephora). So at what point do we say, "ENOUGH WITH ALL THE STUFF!" I can't help but think we live in a society that feeds off instant gratification. Is it possible that consumerism has gone too far?
At the end of the day, I don't want stuff, I certainly don't want clutter and I definitely don't need cheap merchandise from the dollar section. But what I do need are the precious moments spent with my family. Sure, I don't need a fancy beach or the mountains for these moments, but if we can save a little and buy less then these getaways sure would be nice. And we all know with any trip comes a bundle of memories.
I'll take those memories over materialism any day!
*More thoughts on simple living and minimalism coming soon, but what are your thoughts? Do you believe in the philosophy of minimalism and a simple life? I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things awhile back and it has inspired me to continue simplflying my life in order to focus on the true joys around me; family, friends, food (of course), health, nature, knowledge and traveling. And for me, simplifying not only means clearing the clutter, but also clearing clutter that takes on other forms such as technology and social media.
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
To be simple and sophisticated? Yes please!
Last note: my friend Miranda is absolutely inspiring and has challenged her family to go a year without buying anything! I think that is amazing, and honestly, I don't know if I could pull it off but I sure would love to try! I admire her for thinking outside of the box. You can read her original post here and follow along with her journey.
Jessica's lovely headbands are from Knot Hairbands.
Between our hectic soccer schedule, basketball, ballet, tennis and school work, I have little time to focus on dinner. It's no secret that the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) diet is extremely time-consuming, as all meals and snacks need to be made by scratch to ensure they are free of starches, sugars, additives and preservatives. After a year of the clean-eating lifestyle, I have finally figured out that casseroles and the crock-pot are my best friend! I honestly think I couldn't survive these crazy days if it weren't for simple meals that can be prepped and made ahead of time.
"Tuesday Taco" night is a huge hit with the kids, but we like to get a little creative and whimsy with the concept of the taco. Since we don't eat corn, and tortillas and shells are out (unless I make them with coconut or almond flour) we came up with a "de-contrucdted" taco dish. Think of all the savory flavor of a melted enchilada minus the hard-to-digest ingredients and you have one amazing casserole bursting with zest.
LAYERED TACO CASSEROLE
SCD, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free
Yield: 8 servings
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
16 ounces (2 cups) salsa, homemade or store bought*
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cups gruyere cheese
15 ounces black beans*
1/2 cup spinach, choppped
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Juice of 1 lime
Kale Powder, optional
2 Tbs. salsa
salt & pepper
13x9 Baking Dish
A good knife, I've been loving the ceramic knives
1. Combine the peppers, onions, salsa and shredded chicken in a large bowl and mix well. Spread over the bottom of a casserole dish.
2. Sprinkle the gruyere cheese over the mixture.
3. Add the black beans on top of the cheese.
4. Combine the spinach and tomatoes in a bowl and spread over the black beans.
5. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese.
6. Bake at 400 degrees until the top layer of cheese is melted and slightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.
7. To make the guacamole combine the ingredients and blend well with an immersion blender.
8. When serving the casserole, top with guacamole and enjoy!
*While black beans are allowed on the SCD diet, only introduce them when you are symptom free and after being on the diet for 3 months. They MUST be soaked for at least 10-12 hours prior to cooking. Make sure to discard the water since it contains sugars that have been removed from the legumes during the soaking process. After soaking the dried beans, cook according the the package.
*Salsa should be homemade to ensure it is compliant with the SCD diet.
In addition to the homemade yogurt and bone broth, I would say applesauce is another essential item for the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) diet. This is one of the first foods that we eased into after we completed the introduction phase. By peeling and cooking the apples they are easier to digest, which allows the intestinal lining of the gut to heal if inflammation is present.
Plus, apples are extremely nutritious. They are rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may even help reduce the risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Apples are also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, which is essential when you have an autoimmune disease and take an immunosuppressive medicine.
If you have just finished the intro diet, skip the spices and only use apples and water. Just like introducing new foods, you'll want to gradually introduce spices. As you introduce a new spice, you'll want to wait 3-5 days before introducing another one. Take notes in your food journal and document any reactions. Don't forget, it's important to read labels! Unfortunately, many spices contain additives and anti-caking agents which are not disclosed on the label. Stick with a reputable brand, I've had great luck with Frontier and Simply Organic.
For those of you who have kids that take medication ands supplements, applesauce is a great way to to help swallow those pesky pills, especially the large ones!
Simple Homemade Applesauce
SCD, Gluten-free, Vegan, Paleo
Yield: 6-8 servings
4 lbs apples, peeled, cored and cut into one inch pieces
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
1. Place all the ingredients for the applesauce into a large pot on the stove. Cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes until apples are soft. Add spices.
2. Using an immersion blender, mix together the applesauce mixture until smooth.
3. Let cool and enjoy!
*If you are coming off the INTRO DIET of SCD omit the spices and only use water and apples.
Image by Mallory + Justin Photography
Like any parent, when my son was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in October 2014 I was in shock and denial (you can read this post and this post for our story.) After slowly accepting the devastating news, I dedicated myself to research and studying various forms of treatment. This is when I discovered the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall, a biochemist and cellular biologist.
The book discusses in great detail how to conquer the inflammation in the intestines through diet and which foods help the healing process and which foods cause harm. It made perfect sense to me! Time and time again numerous doctors told us diet has nothing to do with Crohn’s Disease, but common sense told me that diet has everything to do with an inflammatory bowel disease.
After thoroughly reading Elaine’s book, our son started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, SCD for short, in the fall of 2014. The concept of the diet is actually simple; complex carbohydrates, which are not easily digested, feed the harmful bacteria in our intestines causing overgrowth, which in turn leads to inflammation in the intestines. But if you can eliminate the bad bacteria by “starving” them out then you can obtain a healthy and balanced gut flora, which means no inflammation or symptoms of the disease.
I cleaned out my pantry, stocked up on organic, fresh produce and began to fight our battle with food.
I am asked almost daily, “What do you eat?”
We eat a clean, well balanced diet that focuses on organic meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts and low-sugar fruits. We DO NOT eat starches, grains, pastas, complex sugars, preservatives or processed foods. That’s right, no sugar and no preservatives! It is difficult? You bet! I’m not kidding when I say that I literally live in the kitchen. The majority of my day is spent cooking, baking, preparing foods or cleaning up after my whirlwind through the kitchen.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. A month after he started the SCD diet his symptoms slowly subsided. It has now been almost two years and we are symptom free and his Crohn's disease is in remission. While he is still on medication, Imuran (Azathioprine), our goal is to eventually be med-free and use diet alone as treatment.
SO HOW DO I GET STARTED ON THE SCD DIET?
Chances are if you are reading this, you have an Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) or someone you know does and you may be interested in seeking alternative treatment in addition to what you are already doing. Here are a few steps to get started:
1. UNDERSTAND THE DIET.
The first step is to purchase and read Breaking the Viscous Cycle. Read it front to back, I encourage you to read it twice. I've read it so many times my copy is held together with a rubber band. It is imperative that you understand the diet before you begin.
In addition to the book, these are some great resources to to use as references and guidelines:
Breaking the Viscous Cycle Website
No More Crohn's For Me
2. GIVE YOUR PANTRY A MAKEOVER.
I suggest getting a few large boxes before you get to work. You'll want to get rid of all cereals, oatmeal, pancake mixes, grains, processed foods, canned foods, flour, sugar, pop, juice with added sugar, candy, starches, granola bars, cereal bars and anything else that is not SCD legal. For a full list of legal and illegal items visit this page. But keep in mind, if it's packaged and pre-made it's probably not legal.
Once those items are gone, you'll want to stock your refrigerator with tons of fruits and veggies (preferably organic when possible), meats that are organic, free-range and grass-fed, fresh fish, aged cheeses (note that not all cheese is legal, please see this list for info) Welch's bottled grape juice, Knudsen "Just Juice" drinks, organic milk for making yogurt, a yogurt starter, dry curd cottage cheese, ghee or butter and eggs.
For your pantry make sure you get almond flour (this is my favorite), coconut flour, honey, pure vanilla extract (no additives), gelatin for jello and fruit snacks, baking soda (baking powder is illegal due to starch), unsweetened coconut flakes, cocoa butter and coconut oil. As you dive into more complex recipes, you'll notice this list will grow, but in the beginning go slow.
3. BEGIN WITH THE INTRO DIET.
Please note that you will not be able to consume all SCD legal foods in the beginning. You will need to start with the INTRO DIET and gradually add easily digestible foods. The intro diet is fully outlined in the book but I have included some great resources below that I encourage you check out. As you begin to introduce foods go slowly and proceed with caution. After our son completed a few days on the intro diet, we slowly added in additional COOKED vegetables and fruits. In the beginning, all vegetables and fruits should be COOKED and PEELED so they are easy to digest. When you introduce a new food give it 3-4 days before introducing something else. We spent the first six months on the diet gradually adding cooked fruits and vegetables, bakes breads made with almond flour, eventually coconut milk and homemade almond milk and, after a year and a half, we are into the advanced stages of the diet and our son can tolerate raw nuts, raw foods and fruits and veggies with their peels on (although I limit the peels).
Use these recipes for the intro diet:
Introductory Diet Chicken Soup
Introductory Diet Jello **I only use Great Lakes gelatin
Introductory Diet Cheesecake
4. LEARN HOW TO MAKE YOGURT & BONE BROTH.
You can make the SCD diet as complicated or as simple as you like. These days, I enjoy getting creative and developing new recipes, but in the beginning I kept it very simple. I was extremely overwhelmed with my son's diagnosis AND the concept of the diet. The last thing I wanted, or needed, was to complicate our meals. HOWEVER, yogurt and bone broth are essential to the success of this diet.
Remember, this diet is designed to control the gut bacteria. Adding homemade yogurt to your diet will aid in the process of repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria and ridding it of harmful bacteria. Yogurt that has fermented for 24 hours allows the bacteria to consume the lactose, which is a type of sugar in milk that can be difficult to digest. Since store bought yogurt is not fermented for this long and usually contains additives, it is not complaint with this diet. Here is a recipe for SCD yogurt. I use Yogourmet yogurt starter packets.
The book doesn't go into detail about bone broth, but I know it played a key role in my son's healing process. The collagen in bone broth heals your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation. When he was very sick he would drink it 3-5 times a day. Now that we are in remission, I use bone broth as my base stock with all my cooking. Every soup I make begins with bone broth and I have a freezer full of it at all times. I don't use a recipe for mine, I just wing it, but here is a good recipe that is very similar to what I do.
*Please note, on the INTRO DIET you should make the chicken soup per the recipe above. Once you have moved on to the next stages, you can slowly add in bone broth. While we had no reaction to bone broth, some may not be able to tolerate it in the beginning.
5. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT.
The SCD diet and clean eating do not require special equipment, but there are a few kitchen staples you'll want to make sure you have. Click on the items below for pricing and purchase info.
Vita Mix or Blender (I recommend a Vita Mix<, it's worth the investment! I have this one)
Parchment Paper for baking
6. AVOID COMMON MISTAKES.
Yes, the SCD diet is extremely strict, but if followed correctly it could prove to be very beneficial. Common mistakes include skipping the intro diet. Don't do it! The intro diet allows the intestinal tract to begin healing while the bad bacteria dies off.
Ease into new foods, adding foods too quickly is another common mistake. Remember to avoid raw food in the beginning. While nuts, dried fruits (with no added sugar), lentils and black beans (when soaked for 24 hours)and peanut butter are legal foods, they are also difficult to digest and are considered very advanced foods. Gradually introduce these foods. We waited months before starting raw foods and didn't introduce them until labs and blood-work were normal. And don't forget, too much of one thing isn't always good. If you eat nuts all day long the chances are high you will have a difficult time digesting them. Moderation and eating a variety of foods is key.
Learn to read labels and be strict! Elaine Gottschall stated that SCD demands "fanatical adherence." By allowing the wrong foods into the diet, even just once, it could result in serious setbacks. The bad bacteria found in the gut are very resilient and can thrive on additives, preservatives, starches and sugars. Even in small amounts.
And lastly, don't cheat! If you find yourself cheating then you are not ready to fully commit to this lifestyle change, and that's ok! When you are ready, you will take it serious and adhere to the strict requirements.
7. KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL AND TRACK YOUR PROGRESS.
As soon as you start the diet start a food journal. Write down what you eat daily, but also monitor your symptoms and how you feel. As you introduce new foods write down any details; how did you feel, did you have any reactions, how did you sleep and so forth. I keep our lab and test results organized in a three-ring binder and in chronological order. I often refer back to our food journal and test results.
I tried to include as much information as possible and there is so much that I didn't even cover! With time I will be adding more articles to my site, in addition to recipes and tips. If you notice I missed something of great importance please leave me a comment or send me an email. I'm also comprising a list of FAQ about the SCD diet so feel free to leave questions below.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, researchers from Seattle Children's and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, led by Dr. David Suskind, a Seattle Children's gastroenterologist, found that diet alone can bring pediatric patients with active Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) into clinical remission.
Click HERE to read the study.
***The information provided in this article is from personal experience, it is not the intention of the author to diagnose, prescribe, or replace medical care. Please consult your doctor or a nutrionalist before making any changes to your diet.