Real life AIP tips and tricks features stories from people like you who are using the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol to manage an autoimmune condition and live well in spite of the obstacles they may encounter. Healing from an autoimmune disease is not just about the food though. While the food you eat (and don’t eat) is extremely important, other lifestyle factors are at play, such as reducing emotional stress, cultivating quality sleep, practicing regular exercise, or keeping a positive outlook on life. My wish for you is to draw strength and inspiration from these real life stories from all over the world. To contribute your own story of recovery on the blog, click here to download the submission form. To read more real life AIP tips and tricks, click here.
Name: Jo Romero
Location: United Kingdom
When did you start AIP? I started the Autoimmune Protocol in the summer of 2013.
Have you reintroduced any non-AIP foods yet? Yes! I can handle cooked tomatoes in very small amounts, like in a little homemade Paleo ketchup. I’ve introduced seeds and eggs, although eggs took me about 18 months to reintroduce. I can eat some mild nightshade spices like paprika, but nothing too spicy like chili powder. Aubergines/eggplant give me achy joints, while nuts usually result in digestive trouble.
Which tips or tricks made your life easier in the kitchen and helped you stick with the AIP diet?
- One of the biggest things that helped me stick to AIP was to plan. Before AIP, I always used to decide what I was having for dinner as I walked around the shops, generally choosing convenience foods. To make AIP easier for me, I started to plan my meals for the week and then shopped for the ingredients I needed to make them. I found that once my fridge was stocked with AIP foods, it was very easy to make a salad, soup, or stir-fry in a few minutes.
- I don’t batch cook as such, but I make extra portions when I cook a stew or a curry, for example, so that I have something quick to reheat the next day. I also sometimes chop vegetables and keep them in the fridge in glass containers so they’re ready to be dropped into something else I’m cooking.
- The slow cooker made my life much easier – being able to put a stew or slow roast in there and forget about it all day until I’m ready to eat helped a lot. I also make my bone broth in it, leaving it on Low overnight.
What are your top three AIP go-to meals that are easy and quick to prepare?
I eat some kind of salad every day (left plate). I love prawn or shrimp salads, because AIP and Paleo can become quite meat-heavy, although I also like to make a salad using beef liver if I have that handy. To add color, I add radishes, leaves, and half an avocado. I used to think it was weird to eat salad for breakfast, but now I eat one quite regularly as my first meal of the day.
Another meal I rely on often is a soupy hash made from minced or ground beef and vegetables (right plate). I always like to add some bone broth and heat it through at the end to make it a bit more like a soup because this gives it a beautiful flavor and also adds nutrition.
One of my favorite meals to cook on weekends is a breakfast bake using whatever meats and veggies I have in the fridge. This one is a steak (I was lucky that day!) bake with sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I just chop everything up, tumble it into a roasting dish, then slide into the oven until it’s all cooked and sizzling. This works best for me on weekends because we’re all usually at home and it’s easier than cooking individually for everyone.
What are your favorite AIP snacks?
- I love Nim’s fruit crisps, which are just made from fruit – not even any oil – so their apple crisps have helped me out of a situation when I just needed to crunch on something. (note: look for the Bare apple crisps here in the U.S.)
- I also love salted plantain chips. But I don’t tend to rely heavily on packaged food for snacks. Usually I’ll pack some leftovers in a small container with some prosciutto or leftover meatloaf and nibble on that if I get hungry between meals.
- If I’m in the mood for something sweet, I love CoYo coconut yogurt with some honey swirled in.
How do you manage to stay AIP outside of the house (at work, restaurants, travel, etc)?
I haven’t found it easy to eat AIP in restaurants in general, although some places I’ve found do sell plain salads with the dressing in a little container so you can leave it out if you like. “Pret A Manger“ sells a prawn and avocado salad box, which I’ve eaten quite a few times. When I was strict AIP, I just didn’t use the mustard dressing that came with it. I’d much rather just pack my own food. If I’m going out, I’ll pack a banana in my bag at least, which will keep me going until I can get my hands on some food.
What other lifestyle components have you implemented in your healing routine (sleep, stress management, exercise, etc)?
When I started monitoring my sleep, I found that it was really one of the big missing parts of the puzzle for my healing. I really make an effort to go to bed early and I wear orange-tinted blue-light-blocking glasses that help me feel sleepy. I put them on when I notice that the sun’s gone down. I don’t need an alarm clock anymore, although I still set it just in case – I usually wake up at the same time every day.
I started yoga about the same time as I started AIP and it helped me feel relaxed. I also like to troubleshoot certain pains or aches with yoga by stretching myself out, which helps.
Recently, I’ve started using essential oils in a diffuser, which not only makes the house smell incredible but also has a soothing effect. My two favorites are lavender and frankincense, and sometimes a combination of the two.
What advice would you give to a beginner just starting the AIP diet and lifestyle?
I would say that while it’s so important to focus on the food we eat (and the food we don’t eat), don’t overlook the other lifestyle factors-things like getting plenty of sleep and easing anxiety by using mindfulness techniques. It can seem like a lot to do at first, but just start with sleep. Go for a walk in nature and listen to the birds and the rustle of the leaves. Notice all the colors. You’ll be amazed at how easy you’ll find it after a while.
What are your favorite AIP resources?
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook is a brilliant resource for me as it helps remind me of all the other lifestyle factors I need to take into account. It can feel like a juggling act keeping everything going, but the book helps me get it all together.
I also like Mickey Trescott’s Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, which was the first AIP book I owned, and I still refer to it when I need some inspiration in the kitchen. The Healing Kitchen is another great cookbook and always helps me out when I’m stuck in a rut with my dishes.