People have dietary restrictions for a number of reasons. Sometimes the reason is medical, other times it’s a personal choice, and often it’s a combination of the two. Many believe that the food we put into our bodies has a profound effect on our health, wellbeing, and even the presence or absence of disease. Although the surge of nutritional information and dietary advice seems to be a recent trend, the concept that diet can be used to treat or prevent disease is actual quite historical. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek Physician is known for saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
So, can someone on a restricted diet still be considered a foodie? My answer is, yes! Maybe even more so, as eliminating certain common foods allows for experimentation of foods and food groups that had previously been ignored. For instance, eliminating wheat or gluten may lead one to try alternative grains such as rice, quinoa, or buckwheat. Having tried both wheat-free and gluten-free diets myself, I’ve found that ditching the bread actually enhances the taste experience. With a bun-less burger, I truly experience all the tastes of the meat and toppings.
Giving up dairy in addition to gluten was more difficult for me, as I love, love, love cheese. Did I mention I like cheese? But I thought this restriction was worth it as part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I still eat eggs (and man do I eat eggs!) but I avoid all animal milk products. Alternatives to dairy that have come to be a regular part of my diet include almond and coconut milk, and dips like hummus, guacamole, and pico de gallo (instead of crackers and cheese).
While restricting certain foods is, indeed, a restriction – it can also expand your palate beyond what you used to eat. If the particular diet is also curative, or at least makes you feel better, then it’s a win-win. That is not to say that living with a medically-necessary diet is easy or carefree; in fact, for those who do not have a choice it can be a huge hardship. But I hope that with the increasing awareness of gluten-free and other special diets, alternative food choices become more and more convenient.