Sweetened By Nature – Fighting Crohn's Disease with Nutrition
My name is Jamie. I have suffered from gastrointestinal problems for as long as I can remember and was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and gastroparesis in January of 2016. On this blog, I share my journey with Crohn's disease and passion for healthy cooking. I hope to empower others that they too can take control of their lives, feel well, and improve their health.
Yes, you read that right. Paleo Chocolate Frosted Donuts. These gluten and dairy free chocolate frosted donuts will be a crowd pleaser at any event. Who doesn’t love a good donut, but on a special diet, safe donuts can be hard to find.
Dating with Crohn’s disease or any chronic illness can be hard. Especially when eating or drinking the wrong thing could ruin the rest of the night. Growing up, one of my biggest fears was that I would never be able to go on a real date. A stereotypical dates involves dinner and a movie or going back to someone’s apartment. I always got sick after going out to dinner. As a result, little elementary/middle school me feared my future dating life would not exist. Something that most kids don’t think about.
Find an understanding partner – This is easier said than done, but if your partner is not willing to put in the effort to consider your health, condition and special needs, then you may want to re-evaluate the relationship.
Share your story – When you are comfortable, let your date know about your condition. After all, it is a major part of your life. I don’t like Crohn’s to be the first thing people know about me, but it is something that should come up within the first few dates
Always be prepared – If there is something you may need on a date, bring it. This could be emergency flare up medications, travel wipes, or a safe snack.
Have an emergency ride ready – If you think you may need to leave somewhere early, have transportation available so you are not stuck there. I remember being at a bar orientation week of medical school. I was 6 months into the worst flare of my life and already did not feel well before going out. At the bar, I was miserable with stabbing stomach pains that prevented me from standing up straight and frequent bathroom trips. This was the first time I had met many classmates and did not want to seem lame by leaving. It also was not a safe walk home. At this point, our city still did not have Uber or Lyft. I did not want to call a sketchy cab or make my friends leave early, so I stuck it out. What I should have done was drive myself to the bar, so I could have left whenever I wanted.
Be honest – If you’re not feeling well, you need to cancel or modify plans or you do not want to do something, speak up. Your partner will appreciate an honest explanation rather than you flaking on the plans without reason
Make time for yourself – If you are not taking the time to practice self-care and fulfill your personal needs, it is hard to truly be present with your partner. It is key to do what you can to keep your disease under control, sleep well and really take care of yourself so you can be there for your partner.
Be understanding – Remember, you also need to be understanding of your partner’s needs and feelings. Your chronic disease can also be very challenging for your partner. No one likes to see another sick or struggling. Open communication is one of the best ways to really check in with your partner and make sure all is going well.
Dates That Do Not Involve Eating Out
Get Dressed Up
Movie night – grab your fluffiest blankets and prepare for a cozy night in
Mario kart night
Grab some friends and play fishbowl, drawful or your favorite party game
Board game night
Stargaze at a planetarium
Get your palms read (couples palm reading)
Visit a cute bookstore (and pick out books for each other)
Go to the movies
Check out a museum
Board Game Cafe
Visit a farmer’s market – you don’t have to eat, but if you do, likely the food is farm fresh, organic and can suit many dietary needs
Take an art class (painting, pottery, etc.,)
Volunteer together (there are so many different community activities to do that suit every interest)
Hit up the track (race cars, horses)
Let your adrenaline on a roller coaster at an amusement park
Go bungee jumping
Visit a haunted house
Murder mystery night
Ride the Ferris wheel at a carnival
Adopt a pet together
Physical Date Ideas
In my opinion, physical dates are perfect for one of the first dates. Most are done within a few hours, you are active the entire time and you are usually trying something new. The conversation will never be boring.
Explore a new city
Walk around somewhere beautiful
Curling – actually so fun with a small group!
Horseback trail ride
Do a local habitat for humanity build
Do a race together
Summer Date Ideas
Picnic at a park – pack your own safe foods, and this is an easy date
Butternut squash is such a versatile vegetable. You can make it into soups, roast it, and spiralize it into noodles. You can even make a vegan macaroni and cheese sauce. This vegan butternut squash mac & cheese will blow your mind. It is creamy, has an impeccable flavor and is completely dairy free. If you use a different type of noodle, this recipe is paleo compliant.
Much of the population has problems with dairy whether it be from digestive issues, inflammation or personal beliefs. Many of the dairy free cheeses are full of processed, unhealthy ingredients, making this homemade butternut squash “cheese” sauce so much more attractive.
Place the butternut squash slices and onion into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the squash is fork tender
While the squash is simmering, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Set aside in the serving bowl when done
Once the squash is fork tender, drain the squash but save 1/4 cup of the liquid, unless you are using broth, dairy free milk or liquid from the pasta
Drain and pat dry the cashews
Place the cashews, butternut squash/onion mixture, your liquid of choice (broth, DF milk, pasta or squash liquid), lemon juice, nutmeg, garlic powder, Dijon mustard, sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and turmeric into a food processor or blender. Blend the ingredients until smooth (my food processor didn't work the best, hence the larger cashew pieces seen in the pics)
Drizzle the butternut squash "cheese" sauce over the pasta and you may top with nutritional yeast for a Parmesan-like effect
Warm soups are all I want when my Crohn’s flares. There is something more filling and satisfying about a thicker, creamier soup than a thin broth. Today, I felt like soup but did not have any more of my favorite butternut squash soup (vegan, AIP, SCD). But I had a bag of carrots, ginger, onion, garlic and broth, so I experimented to create this Healing Ginger Carrot soup.
This soup is SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) compliant, AIP (autoimmune paleo) compliant, paleo, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. The coconut milk provides healthy fats and gives the soup a thicker, creamier texture. You can eat the soup as is, add a protein or even more veggies. If you are looking for other safe foods to eat when flaring, check out my Crohn’s & Colitis Flare Guide.
What do you eat during a Crohn’s, colitis, IBS flare or when recovering from a stomach virus?
This is the best gluten free banana bread I have tried. It is light, fluffy and not too sweet. Your gluten-eating friends will have no clue this bread is gluten free and contains no refined sugar.
The Best Gluten Free Banana Bread
I fell in love with Pamela's Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix years ago before I was even gluten free. This is not sponsored at all, I just love the taste of Pamela’s goodies. A co-worker with Celiac disease always brought these delicious chocolate chip cookies to work. Everyone loved these cookies. They were devoured in minutes. After all these years, I saw the mix at the grocery store and had to try it again. The best gluten free pancakes are also made with this mix. The regular mix contains buttermilk but there is a dairy free version.
Mash 3 ripe bananas to get about 1 cup of bananas. If your bananas are not ripe or you prefer a sweeter bread, bake the bananas with the peel on for 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until the peels are black
Combine the mashed bananas, maple syrup, coconut sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla
Mix in the flour blend and sea salt
Grease one large loaf pan or mini loaf pans and spread the batter evenly
Bake 50-60 minutes if using the large loaf pan or 15-25 minutes if using the mini loaf pans. I always recommend checking frequently as every oven cooks a little differently. The banana bread is done when the toothpick comes out clean!
Alternatively, you can use 1/2 cup of honey or regular sugar instead of the maple syrup and coconut sugar.
I was so excited when I saw that Trader Joe’s created cauliflower gnocchi. Others posted on social media like crazy, and stores couldn’t stay stocked. When I finally purchased the gnocchi and tried it, I was disappointed. The gnocchi tasted chewy and gummy. I did not know the taste of true Italian gnocchi but knew chewy was not right.
Hello Crispy, Goodbye Chewy
How to cook Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi well? The secret to making this cauliflower gnocchi delicious is completely defrosting the gnocchi prior to cooking it. You also must dry the gnocchi. Make sure the cooking fat is hot before placing the gnocchi into the skillet, then cook at least 2 minutes on each side. The edges will be golden brown and crispy. This made all the difference. The gnocchi tasted light, crispy and much less chewy. I used my favorite sauce, Rao's homemade marinara, and this meal was perfect!
Defrost the gnocchi naturally or in the microwave. If microwaving, pour the contents of one bag into a large cereal bowl. Cover with a wet paper towel and microwave 3-6 minutes on 50% power or until the gnocchi are defrosted
Pat the gnocchi dry and repeat with the second bag
Heat the cooking oil in the skillet on medium heat and cook the gnocchi 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy
Chop the sausage into bite sized pieces and fry them in either another skillet or the same one you just cooked the gnocchi in, browning the sausage on each side (follow the directions on the sausage in case they are not fully cooked)
Combine the sausage and gnocchi, top with warmed marinara sauce and sprinkle the basil, sea salt and oregano on top
These Vegan Paleo Chocolate Chip Muffins (or cupcakes) are the most mouthwatering, chocolatey, moist cups of deliciousness. The edges are perfectly crispy while the inside is soft and full of dense chocolatey goodness.
In addition to tasting amazing, these chocolate chip muffins are paleo, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free. The muffins are sweetened with dates. The dates also give the muffins a moist, dense and rich but not overly sweet consistency. They are also sweet enough to double as cupcakes for a birthday treat. A little frosting on top, and these would be a delectable treat.
The batter will take on a pudding-like consistency. The muffins taste best when the muffin cups are filled to the brim and topped with more chocolate chips.
Silicone Baking Cups
I found these amazing silicone baking cups on Amazon and was excited to give them a try. I have had them for months but had not made a cupcake or muffin recipe. There are so many different types of silicone baking cups but not all are food grade quality. These pass the pinch test, work well and are easily hand washed or thrown in the dishwasher. I will never go back to regular baking cups that stick!
Let me know what you think when you try these vegan paleo chocolate chip muffins!
Blend the dates and 1/4 cup almond milk in the food processor until the dates are smooth. If your food processor can handle it, put all the almond milk in. If yours is like mine and leaks all over the place, don't do it!
Add the rest of the ingredients minus the chocolate chips to the food processor and again process until smooth. The batter should be a pudding-like consistency
Place the silicone baking cups in the muffin tin and lightly grease with your favorite oil (I used a little butter)
This recipe makes 9 large muffins - fill the silicone cups to the brim and top with a few more chocolate chips
The muffins are dense and take about 50 minutes to bake. Every oven is different. I recommend cooking for 30 minutes then check on them every 5-10 minutes. When they are done, the toothpick should come out mostly clean (unless you hit a chocolate chip). The muffin tops will also bounce back when you press on them
Allow them to cool a little and enjoy! They taste delicious warm but in my opinion, even better when they're fully cooled
Doctor’s appointments can cause a lot of anxiety for some people, especially when the appointment concerns a chronic disease. Below are some tips on how to make the most out of a doctor’s appointment, minimize your anxiety, and prepare for a productive visit. Also included is a Doctor’s Appointment Guide.
Tips on How to Make the Most Out of a Doctor’s Appointment
Prepare for the visit: Anticipate what you are going to discuss. Consider how you are feeling, any troubles with your medications, and if you think you may need a treatment change.
Write your questions down: Before the appointment, most people remember everything they want to discuss. However during the appointment, many get nervous or lost in the conversation and forget to ask all their questions.
Bring someone with you: Appointments pass quickly with lots of information thrown at the patient. Bringing a loved one to the appointment can help you get the most out of the appointment. This is especially true when dealing with a new diagnosis, a serious diagnosis, or complicated treatment plans. This additional person can help you remember the important parts of the appointment, treatment, and follow up plan. When patients hear difficult news, they often feel overwhelmed and will not comprehend more a few seconds of information from the doctor as their minds are lost in processing the difficult news.
Ask questions: No question is a dumb question when it comes to your health.
Voice your concerns: If you are not comfortable with a treatment plan or want to do more research before deciding on a treatment, let your doctor know. Oftentimes, you can go home, think about your options, and call your doctor with your decision at a later time.
Make sure you understand your treatment plan: Repeat back what your doctor said to you about your diagnosis and follow up plan. This will ensure that you understand the plan and your doctor understands your wishes.
A paleo collagen smoothie is my go to when I am having a tough stomach day. It is so easy to sneak nutrients into smoothies and blend fibrous fruits and veggies into a more digestible form. For example, greens can be very difficult to digest in a salad, but many people tolerate them in smoothies. I add Vital Proteins collagen to my smoothies for a solid source of protein and gut-healing nutrients.
In the following picture, the smoothie has melted a little, but it was initially so thick, like ice cream. If you want more of an “ice cream” consistency, use a whole banana or add more frozen mango and strawberries. Turning your paleo collagen smoothie into banana “nice” cream is such a delicious, tummy-soothing treat (that’s still super healthy).
Do you have a birthday coming up, but you are on a restricted diet? Maybe you do not want to halt your weight loss journey. Perhaps you are one of the strange people who does not like cake. Well this gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, AIP, paleo, SCD, Whole30 approved, healthy birthday cake is perfect for you. It is arguably the healthiest birthday cake ever.
Moderators vs Abstainers
In all the years I have watched my mom diet, I have noticed a pattern. She is always so healthy and sticks to her diet perfectly until her birthday hits. She eats cake, and then, BAM. The diet is over. Thankfully, she has maintained her weight loss the past three years on AIP (three birthdays strong). I find that most people are abstainers at the beginning of their diets when it comes to treats. These abstainers find it easier to completely avoid sugary treats to stick to their diets, as one cheat may lead to days of unhealthy eating.
On the other hand, moderators can eat a treat, like my Perfect Paleo Chocolate Mug Cake and go right back to their healthy eating habits. Many abstainers who have been on a particular diet for a long time can transition to become moderators. Their diets become more of a lifestyle change. One piece of dark chocolate or a small piece of birthday cake will not lead to a binge.
Whole30 Approved Cake
This year, my mom and her twin were mid Whole30 when their birthdays hit. Whole30 is a thirty day reset in which participants cannot eat grains, dairy, legumes, or refined sugar. They also cannot make any treats that resemble unhealthy treats, even if they are made with compliant ingredients. This includes pancakes, cookies, fries, chips, and anything that would trigger unhealthy eating/cravings. I decided to make them a Whole30 approved, healthy birthday cake. It was so easy to make, as natural as a cake can get, and absolutely delicious.
Healthy Birthday Cake AKA Leaning Tower of Watermelon
I kind of made this cake in a rush, so hopefully yours turns out prettier than mine. First, cut the two ends off the watermelon, and remove the rind.
Carve the watermelon into a cylindrical shape, then cut it into three pieces. Carve two of the pieces into cylinders with increasingly smaller diameters. Then, stack the three pieces of your “cake” on top of each other.
Cut the crown and stem off the pineapple. Slice the skin off the pineapple with a sharp knife. Cut the pineapple into thin circular slices. Then, use a cookie cutter to cut the pineapple into beautiful shapes.
Cut the two ends off of two kiwis and peel the skin off with a sharp knife. Cut the kiwis each into four small slices. Place four kiwi slices in between each of the watermelon slices. Next, place the pineapple shapes around the cake, and secure them with toothpicks.
Slice strawberries in half, and secure the halves onto the pineapple with toothpicks. Decorate the bottom of the plate with blueberries and grapes, then enjoy!