Tips and Tricks for Managing Special Diets

Have you ever had friends or family members try to persuade you try a certain diet? Or have a medical professional advise you to eat a certain way based on some study? Like me, you were probably thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s not going to work! I have celiac disease, or my kid has a nut allergy, or my other kid is lactose intolerant.”

Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet and enjoying food can most certainly be a challenge if you or your kids have autoimmune issues like Celiac Disease, severe food allergies, or any myriad of health challenges related to foods.

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in the spring of 2013, almost 5 years later I still sometimes struggle to maintain a gluten-free diet.

However, I have learned some key things along the way that enable me to enjoy eating and get the nutrients I need. My goal is to pass along tips and tricks of the trade, so to speak.

Don’t buy it unless you are certain you will use it.

For the first year or so after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I would buy gluten-free breads, convincing myself I would eat it. The truth is I rarely ate it because I could not get used to the texture and taste, which was much different from regular bread. I wasted bread and money repeatedly. Now I “buy to try” and if I don’t like it, I don’t keep buying it.

Take the time to research the good, the bad and the ugly of your particular food challenge.

Researching is a bit time consuming, but it will pay off in the end. Right after my diagnosis, I had a family member gift me a bread maker so I decided to start exclusively making my own gluten-free bread. For a while, this worked great! Then I decided to research what I was actually spending on ingredients and it came out to be close to $20 for one small, crumbly loaf of bread.

Do not be afraid to advocate for your health and nutrition.

I have learned this the hard way. In addition to Celiac Disease, I have a couple of other food allergies. However, I didn’t speak up about them until I was diagnosed with Celiac.

For example, in my line of work, we occasionally go to conferences where meals are provided. The option to ask for alternate meals free from allergens is usually presented, but I did not speak up because I did not want to be perceived as “that” person, the fussy eater who complicates meal preparation for a whole conference. At one such conference there was almost nothing I could eat. It was not until I talked with a fellow co-worker with similar food allergies that I realized it is okay to advocate for your own health and nutritional needs.

Find a doctor you trust.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a primary care provider that will listen to your concerns, address each of them, and treat you with a respectful bedside manner. It is also very important to follow your provider’s advice and instruction. I know I feel my best when I am practicing a gluten-free diet!

Remember these tips for thriving with food challenges, allergies, etc.

  1. Do not buy it unless you are certain you will use it!
  2. Research the details of your particular food challenge.
  3. You are your own best advocate for health and well-being

I hope this gives you some helpful tips, and to find inspiration to live your best life with all the food allergens that are in today’s world!

Here’s to happy and healthy eating in 2018!



Shawnna Filer is a Certified Nutrition Tech and Certified Lactation Counselor for the Healthy Gallatin WIC Program. She holds a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences from Montana State University.