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AIP Kitchen Tour is a monthly feature in which we profile a member of the AIP community and their kitchen setup in hopes that it will further inspire us to get our kitchens organized and set up for success! We’ve interviewed folks who are making the AIP lifestyle a reality in everything from college dorms and small city apartments, to large households with non-AIP family members, and everything in between. Through these interviews, we hope to share how they make it happen across a variety of budgets and living situations, and give the community a wealth of inspiration. Read more Kitchen Tours here!
Name: Kat Woods
Location: Seattle, WA
AI Disease: Chronic Autoimmune Lyme Disease, Celiac suspected
How long have you been eating AIP?
Over two and a half years. Before going AIP, I tried a number of other diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and raw. It was after going vegan at age 17 that I first became aware of the effect food had on my physical and emotional symptoms. Back then, going vegan meant switching to a whole foods diet, as there weren’t many processed vegan options. Because refined cane sugar isn’t considered vegan, I also ended up sugar detoxing, which was much needed. Later on, when vegan cookies and ice creams became more available, my health began to decline again.
That was my first real lesson in the benefits (and in my case, necessity) of sticking to a whole foods diet. From there I began seriously researching the food-mood connection and holistic nutrition. I devoured health and diet books and experimented with a large array of health-specific diets. To date, AIP is the only diet that I’ve been on where I’ve experienced continued and accumulative healing.
Since initially adopting AIP, I’ve modified it to be uniquely nourishing by including ideas from other diets, such Wahls Paleo Plus’s emphasis on vegetables (8 cups a day,) the P.K. Protocol’s use of ketogentic states to manage Lyme-related neurological symptoms including seizures, and the alkalizing benefits of raw juicing while undergoing treatments. These modifications support my individualized healing path, and may change as I heal, but I will likely always be AIP. I love how I eat and how I feel on AIP.
Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
I’ve reintroduced some high quality nut and seed oils, a few specific brands of organic coffee, and a few specific brands of very dark chocolate. I also occasionally have a glass of organic red wine. For two years I was fine with raw, grass-fed dairy, but currently I’m dairy-free. With all of my introductions, the most important thing has been quality. How a food is grown, processed, and prepared makes a huge difference in whether or not it causes a reaction, and if so, how severe.
A perfect example of this is coffee. Regular, conventionally grown “drip” coffee destroys me. I specifically tolerate organic, mold-free, freshly roasted and ground beans, made into either cold brew or espresso. And yes, discovering that took some trial and error, but for me it’s been worth it. I love savoring a great shot of espresso, and going out for coffee has become an easy way for my husband and I to enjoy a cheap and easy date. We all need special treats and opportunities to get out and feel “normal.”
How has the AIP changed your life?
My first year of AIP didn’t bring me much relief, unfortunately. I figured I’d tried everything, and I kept reading about people who felt better after just a few weeks on AIP. I felt lot of frustration, fear, and hopelessness at that time. That’s when I started doing more research into food intolerance testing. I’d been tested in the past and it hadn’t been helpful, but I decided to try again since I’d read the new tests were more sensitive and had better accuracy. I was (and still am) devoted to food journaling, but food journaling alone wasn’t helping. I seemed to be having a reaction to everything.
After taking the MRT LEAP test, I discovered that I am in fact intolerant of most common grocery store foods. To give you an idea: I’m intolerant of chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and buffalo, and that’s just the meats! The test results weren’t perfect, but they gave me insight into what foods I could experiment with and which I should remove.
Within three weeks of removing the offending foods, I felt better than I had in years. It was amazing. I stopped having debilitating chronic pain and fatigue. I started digesting my food. My levels of anxiety and depression were greatly reduced. Because I was already eating a very clean AIP diet, it hadn’t occurred to me that so many of my symptoms were still the result of dietary inflammation. Changing my diet, based on a personalized model of AIP, has absolutely changed my life. More than that, it’s given me my life back!
Size of your kitchen:
You know, I’ve never tried to measure it. But as you can tell from the pictures, it’s a small apartment kitchen. And I’ve further downsized it’s storage capacity by using two cupboards to hold books. However, since I make good use of the space, I’m happy with its size. When I had a larger kitchen I just made larger messes!
Favorite thing about your kitchen:
I enjoy it’s open layout. I like to be able to look out over the sink and into our living room/dining room where I can see houseplants and fur-babies. I’ve put up curtains that allow me to block the kitchen off when I don’t want the space to be so open. This helps a lot when there’s a pile of dishes I want to ignore while enjoying dinner four feet away.
Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
The dishwasher door opens across from the refrigerator. So when my wonderful dish-washing husband is cleaning up, I can’t easily open the fridge. It’s not a big deal, but it comes up most nights. Just one of those “What were they thinking when they designed this?” kind of situations.
What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
We’re really strict about not allowing foods I’m highly intolerant of into the house. Even if they’re in a package or on a “Hubby Shelf.” I have a much better understanding and awareness about cross-contamination so we’re extra careful. I’ve also put effort into transforming my kitchen into a space that feels cozy, inviting, and nourishes my authentic self.
My kitchen features a “healing shelf” in the cupboard for all my supplements and Lyme treatments surrounded by pictures of loved ones. I’ve also created a little work space where I keep my journals for meal planning, food rotating, treatment protocols, and recipes. My kitchen isn’t just a kitchen. It’s the place from which I actively heal myself.
Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
The little things that I use for my AIP cooking are often more about presentation than function, like my cute shaped vegetable cutters and molds. They’re just fun. My handheld mandolin is indispensable for making my “quick pickles,” and various graters allow me to experiment with different textures to keep meals exciting. Since nightshades are out, I use my microplane (zester) to add a bit of heat to recipes by adding finely grated ginger, garlic, or fresh horseradish.
If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
When I first went AIP, I was using my VitaMix blender for everything because I wasn’t able to digest solid foods. My digestive health was that poor! Now the “kitchen robots” I use daily include my Instant Pot pressure cooker, juicer, and FoodSaver with mason jar attachment. Because I’m histamine sensitive and follow a low-histamine diet, I seal up all of my fresh meats as soon as they get home, as well as any leftovers. Doing so helps me to stay low histamine without constantly preparing fresh food.
When it comes to everyday AIP, getting a pressure cooker last year was a real game changer. I still need most of my food to soft-cooked and my Instant Pot creates easy-to-digest foods with minimal effort. Now that I’m not boiling foods for long periods of time I’ve also stopped burning pans, which is great! The Instant Pot also makes rich bone stock in as little as two hours. Before I was cooking my bones on the stove for over 24 hours. As a result, the InstantPot has noticeably reduced our electric bill.
All three of these items were investments, and they’ve all been important for me because of my individual health challenges. So what do I recommend? It all depends on what you feel would best benefit your healing. If histamine intolerance is a big issue, the FoodSaver is a health saver. If your digestion is especially weak, blenders and juicers make for digestive ease. For most people, I’d recommend the Instant Pot. It makes cooking so much easier. And with all the cooking us AIPers do, that’s important, especially with fatigue as a symptom.
How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
True story: when I first went AIP I couldn’t let my husband have any off-limit foods in the house. He ended up (out of love and support) keeping his gluten-free granola bars and corn chips in his work bag or car. Now that I’ve learned enough times that it’s not worth it to touch the foods that aren’t “safe,” he get’s his own designated shelves in the cupboard, fridge, and freezer. I know that the food kept in those places isn’t for me, even if it’s been a really hard day and “Hey look, he’s got Lara bars!” Having off-limit food zones has certainly helped.
Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
Our rice cooker and microwave. My husband still uses both, so we’ve kept them.
What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
I don’t often batch cook for myself since I rotate my foods. And given my long list of food intolerances, it’s rare that I find recipes I can follow without lots of modifications.
What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
I don’t have many AIP or Paleo cookbooks but I did just get Simple French Paleo by Sophie Van Tiggelen. I’m quite excited about her book because it’s got a number of recipes I’ll actually be able to make! It’s also got a great introduction to AIP, including what the different reintroduction phases are. If you’re just getting started on your AIP journey, I highly recommend it as a cookbook and resource.
Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?
First, get rid of everything you can’t have. Just do it. If it’s not opened, donate it to your local food bank, otherwise toss it. Better yet, make a party of it. Invite a friend over to help you, and let them have their pick of the “no no” items. This is a beautiful, loving thing you’re doing for yourself: celebrate it!
Second, don’t shop hungry. That’s when inflammatory foods look tastiest and tend to find their way into shopping carts and pantries. Apart from that, focus on what you can include, not what you’re removing. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, good quality fats, and fancy-pants salts. AIP isn’t restrictive when you open yourself up to receiving and embracing real food abundance.
Third, remember: it may be work some days (especially as you’re just getting started and creating your healing kitchen) but you are always worth it.
Would you like to be featured in an AIP Kitchen Tour? We feature members of the community who are willing to share the real spaces where they cook, as well as their stories of transitioning to this lifestyle. If you are interested, fill out our interest form!