Your Close-Up Look into my Kitchen
Living with autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s Syndrome, diet is critically important. First I’ll share the fresh and frozen foods we eat, and down in the pantry section you’ll see the shelf stable stuff we always keep on hand.
You’re going to want to save this link – this is a really comprehensive list of foods with links to recipes! I will probably think of things after I publish too, so check back for updates.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that this is not a list of AIP-approved foods. If you’re doing the protocol to identify sensitivities, go here first. These are foods worth considering as you gradually add things in to find your sensitivities, and you may find some of them are “no-go”s for you due to your own body chemistry.
That being said, I’m going for balancing anti-inflammatory based on the most available research, weight conscious, and cost conscious at the same time. Jumping right in, here’s what I eat and why:
Some people swear by exclusively plant-based diets. I won’t argue with them, but they’re not for everyone. I know, I was vegetarian for ten years. I won’t bore you with all the details, but in hindsight, I wish I had known then what I know now.
It’s a fantastic source of lean protein. Pretty much every non-vegetarian healthy eating plan includes chicken, so it’s kind of a no-brainer. Here are a few recipes I love:
Those last two recipes need a pressure cooker/air fryer. I am in love with mine!
Despite the back-and-forth about how many is too many, we eat them in our house pretty much every day. Here’s something I love to have on hand for a satisfying and quick snack: Ninja Foodie Egg Bites
Turkey is an all-the-time staple in our fridge. We eat it in sandwiches and toss it on to salads too, but sometimes I’ll cook up a breast or tenderloin and have it for dinner.
From tacos, to chili, to casseroles, to meatloaf, to bulking up pasta sauce (I’ll explain later), we use TONS of ground turkey. As with chicken, it’s lean and high in protein, and also versatile. Here are a couple recipes I love:
Wild caught has the health benefits that farm raised doesn’t, so read the label. It’s packed with protein and Omega 3s, which help keep inflammation down. If you can get it at a good price, stock up! You can keep it simple by roasting it with some dill and lemon, or dig out a recipe that takes a little more time but is worth the effort. Here’s a recipe I love:
Speaking of fats and inflammation, I made a handy downloadable infographic a while back. Sign up here to get a copy!
Grass Fed Lean Beef
With ongoing battles with brain fog and anemia, this is important. I NEED heme-based iron. Not too surprisingly, what the cow eats makes a difference in how healthy the meat is for us. Too much per week isn’t good for you, and it’s expensive, so this one’s definitely in moderation for us.
Here’s a recipe I love: Low Carb AIP Paleo Hamburger Soup
Here’s a recipe I love: Roasted Pork Tenderloin
When you saw “carbohydrates” did you think “WHAT? No! Not CARBS!”? Vegetables and fruits are carbs, but low density, so we want lots of these – we wouldn’t have any energy otherwise.
Seasonal is huge here – you’re more likely to get it from somewhere closer to you and the prices come down. Depending on where you live, this may vary but I’ll share my favorites according to their peak seasons where I live.
Especially good in springtime, asparagus is great just tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasted at 400 for 10 or so (we like them more well-done, so 15-20) minutes, depending on thickness. When buying fresh, be sure to use it within a day or two or it will get mushy.
We always have a package of fresh greens in the fridge. I love to keep spinach on hand, so I can add it to a sandwich or toss some into all kinds of recipes as an extra. It adds tons of nutrition and helps bulk up a meal to make it more filling. We sometimes keep power greens (combination mixtures) or romaine lettuce around.
These are a great substitute for potatoes (check out my starch substitutes board on Pinterest). As a child and most of my adult life, I’d never even seen a parsnip, let alone try one. Now that I have discovered them, I could eat them all.the.time. Not to mention they hold up in the fridge decently, so I don’t have to use them within a day or two of purchase. Here’s a recipe I love: Oven Roasted Parsnips with Fresh Thyme
In the spring they are so delicious and inexpensive. We eat them straight, or add them to cereal, pancakes, or put it on ice cream. I know I just mentioned starchy and sugary foods, but I’ll explain that in a minute.
Yes, they’re nightshades, but they don’t seem to bother me.
I hated these things as a kid. They are so good for you, though, so I trained myself to like them. Now I cook them about once per week and love them. Funny how that happens, huh?
Instead of traditional tacos, I make fajita-style ground turkey soft tacos, or regular chicken fajitas. I also add them to casseroles and pasta to bring down the carb density when I do cook those things.
We eat these all summer long! They are super-nutritious, plus perfect for a Sjogren’s Syndrome diet: loaded with water! I think my daughter would survive on cucumber salad if I let her. I cut them up with fresh tomatoes, and toss with olive oil, vinegar (I change up the vinegar each time), salt, pepper, and dill.
Zucchini and yellow squash – I buy them regularly and use them often. They’re good to roast but also work great to bulk up things like casseroles and pasta. I will share with you a secret: My daughter “hates” zucchini. When I make pasta, I saute it up and blend it into marinara with this immersion blender. She doesn’t know it’s in there, and can’t get enough.
Yup, I know they’re nightshades, but I don’t think they bother me (sometimes I wonder, though). I can’t imagine life without eating tomatoes.
It’s been all over the health news for several years now, blueberries are the bomb! We don’t hold back on these beauties during the summer – they taste better and the prices are low. Throw them on cereal, pancakes, on ice cream, or eat them plain.
Summer cherries are one of my favorite things to keep around – clean them off, and keep them grab-ready. If I’m up for it, I’ll use this cherry pitter to have them for cereal, pancakes, ice cream (are you seeing the pattern here?), etc.
I keep these around most of the time – sitting on the counter so I don’t grab another convenience snack that’s not good for me (I have a family, so having some junk food in the house is unavoidable – much to my chagrin).
Really it’s available all year, but fall is within its peak range. We use it almost weekly, and my favorite thing to do is roast it, but it’s great for bulking up casseroles, quiches, and other things.
Here’s a recipe I like: Beef and Broccoli
The beauty of cauliflower is that it really is available all year. Not only do I buy it fresh sometimes, I love to use it as a starch substitute, so frozen is great to have handy. It works really well when you want to top “rice” with something flavorful.
One of my favorites: Lemon Garlic Shrimp Over Cauliflower Mash
These too are great all year. When I was working full-time, I brought them to lunch every day for something crunchy. I still keep them in the house all the time and cook them regularly.
This right here is my go-to recipe for carrots: Simple Air Fried Roasted Carrots
Once again, a vegetable I hated much of my life has become a staple in my house. They are fantastically nutritious, so I trained myself to like them by finding different ways to prepare them.
Turns out it was a really simple recipe that we love in our house. Crispy Balsamic Brussel Sprouts
They really are better in the fall. We love apple picking, but the ones at the grocery store are just as good. Not only do we just eat them as they are, but they are great for baking desserts and cooking entrees too.
Here’s a recipe I love: Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Red Onion, and Fennel
It appears there are no other non-starchy vegetables that peak in the winter – but onions do! There’s not much I know about onions that you probably don’t already know – they’re good for you and go in practically everything.
We love those little mandarins or clementines. They taste good and they’re easy to peel, so it’s an easy nutritious snack.
Now, on to starches!
Yes, there’s room in a healthy diet for these too, but keep it proportionally lower than the non-starchy ones. These are mostly in season through the colder months, so I won’t break this section down by season.
I have only met one person who doesn’t like sweet potatoes. We love them and they are always in our basket on the counter. They work perfectly in the AIP diet list of foods, too, so that’s a bonus. Here’s how I prepare them most often:
White, red or yellow potatoes
We generally just cut these into cubes and roast them at 425 with olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley, paprika, or other seasonings, but it also gives me an excuse to use my Ninja. Remember, portion size matters here – not only for your waistline, but when cooking in the air fryer don’t crowd the basket. Here’s a recipe for Potato Wedges
These take a little effort to prepare, but they’re worth it. They are versatile and very filling, so check out some of these recipes I love:
There’s probably plenty of interesting stuff you can do with peas, but most of the time they’re my “I don’t know what to have for dinner” standby and I steam them in the microwave with this gadget.
Before I started my journey on building my healthy diet, I had no idea how versatile corn is. It’s another good “I don’t know what to have for dinner” standby, but I can also add it to plenty of dishes. Our whole family can’t get enough of this recipe:
Here are the healthier fats we eat/use: Avocados, nuts, olive oil, avocado oil and reduced fat coconut milk. Dairy fats do come into play, since calcium is so important. We use 1% milk for drinking, on cereal and in some recipes, plus plain Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese, bulked up with fruit. We do add Colby jack/cheddar and provolone cheese to quite a few things but we don’t go overboard.
All Year-Round/In the Pantry
Nuts and Seeds
We keep mixed nuts around for a quick handful when we’re a little peckish. Remember, though, nuts often have Omega 6 fats and we need to keep those in the right proportion with Omega 3s. A handful or so per day should get you what you need without being too much.
We also keep chia seeds in the pantry, but my husband gets more use of them than I do. They’re great in smoothies and there are dessert recipes that use them, although I’m not a big fan. He loves them, though, and they’re excellent for you, so I make sure to have some all the time.
Depending on who you read, beans are either really inflammatory, or anti-inflammatory. How’s that for clear? I’ve noticed that I’m more sensitive to some types than others so I avoid chick peas, for example, but eat black beans with no problem. Here’s a recipe I love:
Awesome for lean protein, I just dump some on greens and add whatever fresh salad-type veggies I have with some homemade salad dressing. Done.
Artichoke Hearts, Black Olives
We keep these in our pantry all the time. They are great for making salads more filling or adding a little extra non-starchy bulk to starchy meals. Here’s a recipe that uses both: Greek Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Artichoke Hearts
So many great recipes include canned tomatoes in some form. They add moisture (those of us with Sjogren’s appreciate this), flavor, nutrition, and cut down on carb density in things like pasta dishes.
It’s delicious, nutritious, and versatile. ‘Nuff said.
The things you learn when you go digging – did you know wild rice is actually a grass? Wild rice is great for an anti-inflammatory diet, but it’s really expensive. We use it sparingly.
We do use brown rice often – while keeping portions on the smaller side. As for store-bought flavored rice, if you’re avoiding gluten, be sure to read the ingredients. I had no idea how many of these have gluten in them. Better yet, just use riced cauliflower and flavor it up or top it with your entree.
If you’re OK with eating gluten, go with the whole grain varieties. If you’re on a gluten-free (like I am) diet, there are options available. Portion size and proportion is key here.
Adding lean protein and lots of non-starchy veggies will bulk up your meal to be more filling without overloading yourself with calories. For real, each forkful should have less pasta than all the other stuff.
We rarely use regular bread these days – wraps/tortillas will hold your sandwich fixings at a lower calorie count than two pieces of bread. I’ve been using gluten-free wraps, but honestly, they are so sticky in the mouth. It helps to put it in the toaster/oven briefly, but it still sticks to my teeth to a degree.
Dill pickle slices
These are incredibly low in calories, just make sure it’s not a variety with added sugar. Bulk up your sandwiches with these babies!
As with pastas, proportion is key. I sweeten them and bulk them up to be more filling with fruit. If someone were to say to you “Have some cereal with your fruit”, you’re doing it right. I tend to have at least about 1/3 of the bowl filled with berries or something, so there’s less room for the cereal.
We usually keep steel-cut oats on hand, but they take long to cook so we also have Old Fashioned Oats. With those, I eat about half of the amount in the directions – they’re really high in calories.
I usually don’t name any particular brand, but when it comes to cold cereal, I stick with Cheerios. Toasted oats are relatively low in sugar, but the generic/store brand options aren’t gluten free. When it’s on sale and I have a coupon, I buy a couple boxes.
Easy and convenient, and they can sweeten that cereal when you don’t have anything fresh on hand. Just don’t overdo it with these, because the sugar gets concentrated when you dry a fruit.
My husband used to say “they taste like dirt”, but either he hadn’t tried the right ones, or he got used to them. Now he asks me to buy them. We actually prefer the canned/refrigerated ones to the fresh ones I’ve roasted. Go figure. I love to have them as snacks, and in my favorite salad with chicken on top: Beet and Goat Cheese Salad.
This is a must. We eat it for a quick snack, and use it with pork dishes. Be sure it has no added sugar, you will need to look at the ingredients if it doesn’t say that on the label. Luckily, there are more flavor options available now, but again, check for added sugars.
In juice, not syrup. Not even the light syrup!
I’m going gluten-free, so in the event we bake things, here’s what we keep around: Almond flour, coconut flour, gluten free baking mix. Like I said “in the event”. These are high in calories and expensive, so we have things like gluten-free pancakes every now and then. Then pile on the fruit, of course!
What Works for You?
What do you eat? How close is my diet to yours? Tell me about it in the comments! Maybe you’re just starting to figure all this out. My Sjogren’s symptom tracker might be what you need to get you started – sign up and I’ll send it to you!
Want more recipes I love? I am constantly saving new stuff. Follow me on Pinterest, or just see what’s new on my Facebook page.