As a child I was happy to eat pretty much everything other than tomatoes. Tomatoes are, when you really think about it, weird. Fruit? Vegetable? Alien plant? And why are they so squidgy? Almost as gross as chocolate! An uncommon view, I’m aware. Regardless, other than the aforementioned weird red things I was very happy to eat whatever I was given… I could even handle tomatoes provided they were cooked down.
That all changed 10 years ago, at the age of 17, when the slightly annoying tummy troubles I had coped with all of my life became a full blown issue. I was in hospital being diagnosed with my neurological disability when I had a lumbar puncture that went wrong. I lost all of my spinal fluid and couldn’t even stay conscious never mind eat! A year and a half of fuzziness and drugs later, I was still throwing up every day. But then it spiraled down to being sick after everything I ate and then everything I drank and then I couldn’t hold down water. Water made me sick! Ridiculous.
The doctors and dieticians weren’t particularly helpful (see my “What CAN You Eat?!” video for more) but there was one diet that worked for me and allowed me to stabilize my stomach- being entirely starch free. My body wasn’t processing starch so I had to cut it out: that’s no wheat, oats, rice, corn, maize, millet, potatoes, beans, sugar, alcohol, dairy, bananas… That last one was very specific. Basically, no grains, root vegetables or sugars: including lactose, fructose and alcohol.
However, any diet, once you get used to it, isn’t that bad. 10 years without starch means I’m managed to work my way around the major issues (largely: “What fills the carb space on my plate?!”) and can confidently order in restaurants or make food for friends so good they don’t realize it’s grain, sugar and dairy free!
In the 10 years since my diagnosis food culture has changed greatly- now we can buy free from items in the supermarket and most restaurants will have at least one option I can tweak to be suitable. However, the hardest part of a diet like mine (and any medical diet or even just low carb ones) is the difficulty finding things to grab on the go when out-and-about. Oh of course there are paleo bars or specialist ‘low carb’ snacks etc but they all seem to either have thousands of additives or just two ingredients… and I can’t eat either of them (I’m looking at you, oats. Bloody oats.)
This is of course because carbohydrates are very stable, don’t go off quickly and are easy to transport whilst proteins need to be refridgerated and carrying around a Tupperware full of cold, steamed vegetables isn’t necessarily the most appetizing thing in the world. I could do a whole series on great low carb lunches but for now here are my absolute favourite life-saver cookies. They can be kept in your handbag for emergencies or made to look pretty for a party. I love their great pumpkin-y taste but you can make them all year round thanks to the wonder that is tinned pumpkin.
Makes 24 cookies… or 12 if you’re like me and love big cookies with soft middles!
- ½ cup creamy almond butter
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup ground almond
- ¼ cup Splenda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
Combine all ingredients, dollop on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, flatten, bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes… done! Allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from baking tray. Unless you like a big, tasty mess in which case go ahead.
You could make this recipe vegan and egg free by substituting the egg for ¼ cup almond butter. Equally if you’re not an artificial sweetener fan then just sub in your preferred sweet sensation, whether that be regular sugar or maple syrup (but do expect a looser mixture with the latter).
Aesthetically I like the look of a whole almond pressed into the centre but watch out for your teeth!