If you’ve considered a rotation diet for food allergies or digestive problems, it can likely seem overwhelming and scary! Here are some rotation diet basics and tips to help you ease in to a rotation diet successfully
Are you eating the same food day in and day out? Finding it hard to break out of your food rut? It’s hard not to when you live with food allergies! Finding healthy foods that taste great while still maintaining a special diet can be tough. Oftentimes, we find foods that work for us and we eat them…a lot…sometimes too much!
Eating the same foods daily may feel safe, but it can actually set you up for new food intolerances and it raises your risk of developing nutrient deficiencies from lack of dietary variety. What’s a person to do? You might consider a rotation diet.
Why A Rotation Diet?
Hmm…sounds weird…what exactly is a rotation diet? A rotation diet is a food/dietary plan that encourages rotating your foods based on food families. Following a typical 4-day rotation diet, you would eat certain foods in a 24-hour day, and then you wouldn’t eat those foods until 4 days later. Food families are rotated are important in rotation diets so you can avoid consuming the same food families (in different forms) on a daily basis.
A rotation diet can be beneficial because…
- It helps promote overall health by encouraging variety and a well-rounded diet
- It helps your gastrointestinal system heal by reducing the physical stress caused by overeating and consuming the same foods repeatedly
- It helps individuals identify food intolerances that may not show up in allergy tests
Over time, a rotation diet may even help some people re-introduce problem foods back into their diet on a rotational basis. Of course, this doesn’t apply to severe or anaphylactic food allergies, so always consult a physician before trying to re-incorporate foods back into your diet. Even if you don’t have food allergies, you can still benefit from rotating your foods and incorporating more variety into your diet.
Rotation Diet Basics and Tips
It might sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. I am currently doing a rotation diet for the second time around (my first attempt failed, ha!). Here are 5 tips I have learned for starting and maintaining a successful rotation diet:
Focus on Progress, not perfection
Following any kind of a structured meal plan or diet can be tough! When approaching a rotation diet (or any diet), ease into the diet. It isn’t a race – your goal is to create life-long health habits, so it’s okay if you mess up as long as you stick with it for the long haul.
And here is the beauty of a rotation diet: even if you can’t stick to the diet 100%, your health will still benefit from the variety of foods. Planning a menu around a rotation diet encourages mindful food choices and thinking outside of the daily food box, which is a win-win for your health even if it’s not completely perfect. If your rotation diet causes more stress, take a break from the diet and try again later. Being stressed out over a rotation diet will cause more harm to your health, so take it easy.
Focus on Whole Foods
Focus your diet on whole foods rather than trying to squeeze in too many packaged and multi-ingredient foods which probably won’t fit into a rotation diet. You will give yourself a headache trying to fit certain foods into your rotation, so pick simple, single ingredient foods first. If you want to get creative and make more elaborate meals, look at your day’s foods and try to get creative with what you can have for that day. As you get accustomed to the diet, you can work to incorporate multi-ingredient foods on a rotational basis.
Start out small and go from there
Start out small by picking a couple foods to rotate first. For instance, you can begin rotating grains (and pseudo-grains) first. Once you have adapted to the routine, start rotating meats, then nuts, etc. You can also choose how complicated you want your rotation to be depending on what works best for your body. Be flexible! Instead of rotating fruits and vegetables, you can focus on rotating high-protein foods instead (like nuts and meats), or you can get really tedious and rotate everything down to your spices and seasonings.
Listen to your body and find a rotational diet that fits your needs. There are different types of rotation diets you can follow (2-day, 3-day, 4-day, seasonal, etc.), but ultimately the best diet of the one you will be consistent with.
Organization and planning are essential
Making a plan and sticking with it is essential for a successful rotation diet. Try color coding by assigning a color to each day and label foods and menus with the day’s color. Use stickers, labels, and post-it notes on food items (like cartons of milk, nuts/seeds, or dried fruits) to help remember what foods go to what days. Post your meal plans and lists on your fridge, pantry, or cabinet doors so you can quickly and easily determine what your day’s meals will be.
Right now I am using Tupperware boxes (1 for each day of the rotation diet) to organize non-perishable food items. This works great for me, but everyone is different. Find organizing and planning methods that make life easier for you. If you have a pantry, you could try dedicating a space or a shelf for each day. Create a system that makes sense to you and your family even if it takes a bit of time to figure out what works best.
Frozen Foods are Your Friend!
Stocking the wide variety of foods for a rotation diet can get pricey, especially if you stock a lot of fresh produce can spoil easily or is out of season. Don’t buy too much food: if you prefer fresh produce, buy just enough to get through the rotation cycle. This is one reason frozen produce is a life saver and money saver! You can cook only what you need and save the rest for later without it spoiling. Plus, frozen produce is generally more affordable. If you have leftovers from one rotation day but you have moved on to the next day, simply freeze the leftovers and label them for the next rotation.
The biggest key to success in any diet is compliance…execution…doing vs. knowing. Find ways to make the diet work for you, otherwise it will be stressful, burdensome, and ultimately ineffective. Incorporate your favorite foods on a rotational basis instead of cutting them out completely so you won’t feel deprived. And don’t forget to think positively and enjoy! Imagine a rotation diet as an opportunity to explore a greater variety of foods and flavors.
Resources for rotation diets and menu planning:
- Rotation Diet with Food Families sheet: http://www.metametrix.com/files/test-menu/interpretive-guides/allergix-ig.pdf
- Rotation Diets Tips: http://www.tacanow.org/family-resources/rotation-diet-and-hints/
- How to Use a Rotation Diet: http://www.food-allergy.org/rotation.html
- Food Families: http://www.coloradoallergy.com/pdf/ho085.01.pdf
Have you done a rotation diet before? Got any great tips? Share in the comments below!
Disclaimer: this article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the medical advice of your physician.