Restricted Diets: Focus On What You CAN Eat, Not What You Can’t

We are thrilled to welcome back Beth of Tasty Yummies for a new series about restricted diets and how to make the most out of what you eat!

I have been gluten-free for over 8 years. This wasn’t exactly a choice I made willingly at the start. I discovered it had been making me sick and causing a slew of health issues for many years. Removing gluten from my diet was the first step of many to taking control of my health and well being. In addition to gluten, over the last few years I have since (willingly) removed almost all dairy products and all processed foods from my diet and though I eat a mostly vegan diet, I will only eat meat when I know how it was raised (grass-fed, free to roam and antibiotic and hormone free), where it is from and even better, can speak directly with the farmer.

Having so many restrictions, some self-inflicted and some for medical/health purposes, may seem like it leaves very little for me to eat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Restricting my diet has actually allowed me to find more foods and ingredients than I ever even imagined existed. There was a time when I first went gluten-free that all I could do was think about what I couldn’t eat. Cookies, pizza, cake, pasta, sandwiches…the list goes on and on.  I was so sad over what I could no longer eat, that I couldn’t even focus on all of the many things there still were, and many that I didn’t even know about, yet.  I began eating anything that I knew was gluten-free and even just closely resembled the food I had been missing so dearly. I gained weight and I felt terrible. It was all over-processed, filled with preservatives, and lab created junk made to make you think you were eating it’s gluten-containing counterpart. It all tasted terrible, was expensive, and I was even more unhappy. That is when I decided to take control of my eating and get adventurous and explore a little.


There had to be more out there and I was ready to find it. I discovered there are so many amazing gluten-free grains that I never even knew existed until I went searching (some of my favorites are pictured at the top of this post). Amaranth, millet, buckwheat, so many various rices – just to name a few. I also decided to start focusing more on fresh and whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. After I decided to go dairy-free, processed and packaged food-free and eating very little meat, I really had to get creative with what I was eating. I have discovered so many fun things – for example:

– Using nutritional yeast in a recipe can give a cheesy flavor to vegan pasta sauces.

– Use ground flax seeds with hot water to replace eggs in many recipes to make them vegan.

Psyllium husks give a great texture to gluten-free breads and baked goods that I had never found before.

– Make absolutely delicious baked goods totally grain-free by using almond flour – you would never know there isn’t a single grain in there.

– Make a delicious flatbread with literally just chickpea flour, water and oil.

The list of my discoveries just goes on and on! Instead of looking around and seeing all of the things that everyone else can have and I cannot, I now think about all of the creative ways to play with all of the amazing ingredients I have discovered. One of my favorite things to do is to go to the farmers market each week and with each trip I challenge myself to find and buy a food I have never heard of before or have never cooked with and get creative with it. It is so exciting and it keeps me on my toes.

This same philosophy can work for you, whether you are gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, corn-free, sugar-free, soy-free, grain-free, etc. Get out explore the rows of food at your farmers market and your local grocery store. Buy something you normally wouldn’t (as long as it is safe for you) and play. You might actually surprise yourself and learn to love a food you never even knew existed. Focus on the long list of amazing fresh and healthy foods that you can eat, instead of dwelling on the list of things you cannot. It is so freeing and inspiring!


Check out some of my recipes here on Free People as well as on my site, Tasty Yummies, for some examples of all of the many things you can eat with a restricted diet. Then get in the kitchen and start playing with your food!

1. Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash Salad (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

2. Roasted Garlic & Kale Hummus (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

3. Raw Butternut Squash & Kale Salad (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

4. Polenta Rounds With Eggplant Caponata (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

More healthy recipes from the BLDG 25 Blog.

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Anais Bokanovsky
8 years ago

Great post! You’re right, food really is about creativity and curiosity!

8 years ago

What a super inspiring post! I love the idea of forgetting about all of the things you cannot have and directing your focus to the rest. Such a positive way to approach eating with limitations. Thanks for sharing.

I seriously love this post and am glad to see you back here!

8 years ago

Wooh! When I read the Tweet for this post, I was extremely worried about the contents. Love, love, loved the article, but maybe something that couldn’t be taken the wrong way? Still, a wonderful and positive message in this post!

8 years ago

Thank you! This means so much to those of us out there who also have restricted diets, and have gone through the initial overwhelming feelings (I cannot eat nightshades, soy, sesame, wheat, cow dairy, etc.). It does, after time, become so much easier & your taste-buds do change- I don’t even crave the things I used to eat anymore, I prefer the the new discovery staples. It is a huge change to make in your life, but not only does it become easier, there is a whole new joy to be found in cooking with alternative ingredients. There are A LOT of us out here- thank you for your lovely post!

8 years ago

I am a vegan who has acid reflux disease, celiac disease (gluten intolerance), and lactose intolerance. At first my restrictive diet seemed like a death sentence. Growing up, kids in school would tease me for what they considered my strange dietary needs and I became extremely self conscious when I had to eat in public. I think I am kind of lucky that I have such a restrictive diet as it has made me more aware of the ingredients in my food and overall made me a healthier individual.I found that I know food products that most people have never heard of. I hope people reading this post will indulge themselves in your delicious recipes and seek out more information on alternative ingredients rather than sticking with the standards. As I have found out and this post notes, there are a whole slew of ingredients and recipes out there that do not include processed factory foods and are extremely healthy for the mind and body…and the environment. Thank you for the inspiring post and yummy recipes that I cannot wait to try out!

8 years ago

What a wonderful outlook! I feel the same way (: I’ve been vegan for five years now and I feel like I’ve discovered so many new foods along the way and become much more adept at cooking. Creating recipes is always a fun little experiment for me. I love learning new tricks that entice the senses and using ingredients that were once so foreign to me.

8 years ago

Yay! I’ve recently found out I have a malfunctioning pancreas and should cut back drastically on sugar. The first two weeks were easy but I fell back into old habits, but this post is inspiring me to get back on the right track!

8 years ago

Thank you so much for this! I have been a vegan for more than two years for environmental, health, and ethical reasons. I love too cook and find that my diet has allowed me to be MORE adventurous in the kitchen and out! There are so many amazing plant-based foods that our world has to offer. I wish more people understood that it’s not about restriction, but nourishing your body in a way that suits it best.

8 years ago

Love this article- have been considering going vegan for more than a while now, and it turns out I’ve been focusing more on what I couldn’t eat if I were to give up meat rather than approach it as an opportunity for exploration. Very inspiring! :)

8 years ago

I think one thing you are really not addressing here in the inability for most middle class Americans in landlocked (inland states) locations to afford or find these types of food.
As a fellow gluten-free person (5 years), when I am traveling to visit family or friends, or going anywhere that is not metropolitan, it is RIDICULOUSLY difficult to find fresh, healthy food (not even including finding anything gluten free).
I do agree with you though, that the first mistake people who are new to being gluten-free make is to gravitate toward processed foods labeled as gluten-free, because naturally as humans, we are creatures of habit and when under pressure we gravitate to what is familiar to us for comfort. That being said, I still have my moments of weakness where only Annie’s Gluten Free White Cheddar Mac and Cheese will do.

But, my first point of advice to people who cannot access foods that, let’s be honest, are “exotic” to Middle America, is to just consume more produce. Making your diet produce and lean-protein centric is the easiest way to avoid (and eventually stop thinking about) gluten.
Starches should be approached like a side dish – rice and potatoes are always cheap and available anywhere.

But, if you do have the advantage of living in or near an area with an asian population, explore those grocery stores. (But remember that soy sauce has wheat!)
You can find unlimited amazing, new options for gluten free food and other cooking techniques and supplies at usually very low prices.

The fact that more people are educated about gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease is both a blessing and a curse – I find that while grocery stores and restaurants now offer health conscious options, processed food manufacturers are also cashing in on this awareness, and we need to be as conscious about what we are putting in our mouths as we would if we had no dietary restrictions!

This is a great suggestive post, though, and I definitely think that you have some great suggestions, just trying to build on that. Sorry for the rant! <3

8 years ago

Thanks so much everyone, I am so glad this post was so well received. I am excited to bring you more like it in the future.

Dani thanks for taking the time for such a well thought out response. I definitely agree with you to a point and I know I mention quite a few what seems to be “exotic” foods, but most can easily be purchased online in bulk, for not much more than if you had a store locally. It just takes a little planning and some extra work, but in my opinion it is worth it. If you look hard enough fresh fruits and vegetables can be found anywhere. I travel the country throughout the year, many times to areas in the middle of the country that don’t have Whole Foods or other organic markets or CoOps. I usually just plan ahead by baking and making stuff to pack and purchasing fresh fruits and veggies to bring along. If you put the extra time in ahead of time, it doesn’t matter where you are headed, you should be well stocked and ready for whatever awaits. But yes, if you live somewhere where options are limited, fresh produce is ALWAYS a safe bet and is ALWAYS available, best to focus on all that goodness!

In regards to the costs from fresh, healthy and organic foods and more “exotic” ingredients, yes you are right it is definitely a financial commitment. For me though, it has drastically improved my health I find it to be a fair trade off. I may pay more now, but I am saving BUNDLES on health care and OTC meds, etc. I used to suffer from chronic migraines, sinus and upper respiratory infections that lasted months and so on. I would visit doctors and take meds to keep it under control, but I spent quite a bit in a years time on treating health issues instead of paying to prevent them. I am happy to say no more doctors visits, no more meds and a lot less money being spent on top of feeling amazing. Thanks again for your additional thoughts and suggestions, I am so glad you enjoyed this post.

8 years ago

Great post! I follow a mostly vegan diet and I’m cautious about sugar and processed food, but I don’t feel that my habits are super restrictive. However, I have friends on every point in the spectrum. I think allergy-friendly cooking is a useful skill for everyone. Even if I don’t have a particular restriction, I like being able to serve those who do. It feels great to know that everyone has a place at the table. I’m sharing your post on my fb page :)

8 years ago

I’m not sure what Dani means by “exotic.” Chickpea flour, almond flour, etc can all be purchased online & even made at home in your blender. And the expense of healthy eating is barely there when you see the lack of medical expenses!

Love your posts, Beth. I look forward to more!

Instagram: organicandhappy

8 years ago

Love this post! I’m gluten free because of an intolerance, and my sister is for Celiac’s Disease. I tried to eat vegetarian before this, but after having to cut out gluten it felt like there wasn’t much to eat if I didn’t include meats. Now there’s hope! Hopefully I can eat vegan and only humanely raised meats like you soon, college makes it difficult. Excited to try the recipes, thanks again :)

7 years ago

I recently found out I have a tomato allergy. I didn’t always have it, and tomato sauce used to be my FAVORITE food in the ENTIRE world! *sobs* It’s a pretty uncommon allergy, and I dread Mexican restaurants for this reason. Luckily it is not life-threatening and it is more like an intolerance, so I don’t have to worry about cross contamination, but tomatoes give me digestive problems. :-(
I have been trying to find different ways to eat pasta as I am also intolerant to dairy. I’m getting tired of pesto. I find many types of ravioli are delicious simply drizzled with olive oil. But as for plain pasta, olive oil isn’t enough. I found a butternut squash jar sauce and got really excited, but it was BLENDED WITH TOMATOES.
I am still hoping my tomato allergy will disappear one day. My mom was allergic to shrimp in her 20’s but is not allergic anymore.

7 years ago

I want to sincerely thank you so much for this post! I am currently working on my own health and wellness blog, but keep getting stuck on food. I want to enjoy the food that I eat, but a lot of the recipes I’ve found are bland and leave me craving for the junk food that I’m used to. I think if I can branch out with my food choices and be patient to find ones that I enjoy that the whole process will get much easier.