I get a lot of people asking me what foods are safe to eat for people who have gut issues. This is a hard, if not, impossible, question to answer because neither IBD nor IBS seems to affect any two people the same way. There are many IBD and IBSers who find that what they eat has no affect on their symptoms at all. My father falls into this category. He’s had Ulcerative Colitis for 40+ years but can eat and drink anything he wants. I, on the other hand, have had to make huge changes to my diet since being diagnosed with both Colitis and IBS more than ten years ago.
In the past ten years I have found eating a whole foods diet to be the most helpful and healthy for my gut. By whole foods I mean food in their natural state, things like fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, and milk. Foods that are pre-packaged, pre-made, canned, bagged, etc. tend not to be a whole food. Think of it this way, if it’s in a box, package, can, or bag and has a UPC code on it it’s probably made with preservatives, fillers, and other unnatural ingredients that your body might find hard to break down.
I should point out, however, that I am also careful of the meat and fish that I eat. I have found that I must eat meats that are hormone, antibiotic, and preservative free or I end up feeling bloated and gassy. This means I pay extra to buy organic meats, and am even looking into joining a local farm CSA - community supported agriculture - so I can get meat, fruit, and veggies that are raised organically within 50 miles of my home. And as for fish, I buy only wild fish, not farm-raised fish as they tend to be fed with poor-quality feed.
I like to cook, and find it even more enjoyable because what I prepare to eat doesn’t make me sick. I can’t say the same for when we eat out since 9 times out of 10 I come home from a restaurant feeling unwell. The key in cooking for me is to choose fresh ingredients and to prepare their simply. When people come to our home for dinner they are often surprised to see that I don’t use sauces or gravies to smother my food. And more often, our dinner guests comment on how good our meals taste. Simplicity is often the best way to go.
Below are three examples of the kind of meals we like to make in my house. The basic key is quality ingredients prepared simply. All three recipes can be made in 30-60 minutes.
Salmon, Asparagus, and Herbed Rice is one of our favorite meals.
Rice: Cook rice first according to instructions on package and set aside. Dice 1/3 of a medium onion and 1 clove of garlic. Sprinkle a sautÃ© pan with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and sautÃ© onion and garlic over medium heat. When softened, add ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon mild curry powder (all of these spices are very good in aiding digestion), and sautÃ© until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add rice to spice mixture along with ½ cup yellow raisins and ¼ cup water then simmer on low until water is absorbed and all ingredients are combined.
Salmon: I buy wild salmon fillets, cut them into single serving sizes, then brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. We broil our salmon for about 6 minutes per side depending on its thickness.
Asparagus: Break off the woody portion of each asparagus stem - usually the last 2-3 inches. Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a light coating of olive oil and sea salt. Then broil for about 5 minutes, turning a few times as they bake.
Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli
Potatoes: Peel and cut potatoes into chunks - I like to use baking potatoes. Put chunks into a large pot and cover with water then bring pot to a boil. Boil until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked, drain water and put potatoes back into hot pot. Mash potatoes then add enough milk to get a creamy consistency (I add ¼ cup at a time), salt to taste.
Pork: I buy hormone- and preservative-free boneless pork chops. Heat a pan large enough to fit chops into in one layer. Brush pan with a thin layer of oil then add pork. Let cook until pork loosens itself from the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Turn over, cover pan, and cook until done, about 4 minutes.
Broccoli: Cut broccoli into bite-size florets and steam in microwave until a little more than fork tender - for people with gut issues you want to err on the side of more-cooked than undercooked. Cooking time will depend on your microwave, so check owner’s manual. You can also steam them in a pot on the stove-pot. We eat our broccoli naked and it’s delicious.
A great side for this meal is applesauce which you can find in the grocery store. Mott’s makes a natural applesauce that is nothing more than apples and water.
Baked Chicken with Potatoes
This recipe is so easy and delicious it will become a staple in your house.
I use a combination of chicken legs and thighs and typically allow one of each person adult.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Arrange chicken pieces around the perimeter of an oven-safe dish large enough to hold chicken and potatoes - for 2 people I use an 8"x8" glass baking dish.
Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces. I like to use red potatoes, but baking potatoes work just as well. Put cut potatoes into center of baking dish. Drizzle chicken and potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle with paprika for flavor and added color. I also like to slice garlic and sprinkle over the top, but you can omit this if you prefer.
Put dish in oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. Stir potatoes 2-3 times during cooking.
Make a veggie of your choice and voila dinner is served.
These are just a few ideas of how to cook simple yet delicious meals with whole foods. It’s better for you than take out or pre-packaged meals and it can even give you a chance to get the whole family involved in preparing dinner together.