Kara’s AIP Kitchen: How She Manages Graves in Seattle

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Kitchen Tour

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: Kara Dowdall

Location: Seattle, Washington

AI Disease: Graves, pernicious anemia, celiac

How long have you been eating AIP? About 2 years

Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
Over time, I’ve reintroduced some foods, mainly in the area of organic spices and nuts, mostly for cooking. And for a sweet treat, 80-100% dark chocolate. I allow myself a splash of almond or hemp milk in my matcha too!

I was able to replace a lot of the “seed-based” spices with using certain dietary essential oils, which offer a lot of flavor in one drop.

How has the AIP changed your life?
I started Paleo about seven or eight years ago and saw a dramatic improvement in my health. My skin was glowing, digestive issues were (almost) resolved and experienced some initial weight loss as well.

Over time, I did what I advise my clients not to do — I snuck in some “gluten-free” food and started living on nuts and eggs. This was a big mistake!

I took out eggs, all dairy, and nuts under AIP. What a world of difference that made! Eggs were always my go-to food under Paleo. However, it turns out that I’m highly sensitive to them as confirmed by my belly and two different food sensitivity tests.

So eating AIP “compliant” is always the answer for me to feel and perform my best and it’s what I recommend for the majority of people I know who want to thrive despite having an autoimmune diagnosis.

Size of your kitchen: 20 x 15 (300 square feet)

Favorite thing about your kitchen:
I have to admit. I’m in LOVE with my kitchen. Most of it was made from reclaimed materials including an old bowling alley lane, high school bleachers and a large classroom chalkboard.

My favorite part of this kitchen is the big center island! It’s a great conversation piece as well as it gives us plenty of space to prepare food and pull up a barstool and eat as a family.

The kitchen is where I’d like to be most of the time. I have four children and two are teenagers and still at home. My better half Ron is a firefighter. What that means is that we are cooking all the time for people who love to eat!

Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
I do wish I had a pantry. That said, one of my favorite sayings is, “Eat fresh from the refrigerator, not the pantry!” So, I’m fine not having a big pantry because it wouldn’t be filled anyway!

Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
Instant Pot! I pretty much make a fresh soup every day and then save the bones for making organic bone broth.

What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
I’ll admit that getting rid of peppers in my spice drawer has been very challenging. I’m originally from Arizona (way down near Mexico in fact) and I grew up with pepper in everything!

In terms of kitchen set-up, I’ve learned to be very organized and tidy. I keep glass containers for storing food and for storing chopped up ingredients to make mealtime easier.

My advice — just like clothes, don’t keep any kitchen tool you haven’t used in over a year!

If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
Titanium (safe) and a cast-iron pan. You need a pan that can safely brown meats, clean up without having to use tons of soap and is safe for our bodies. Chicken thighs in a cast-iron pan are so delicious almost without any other ingredients! (My in-house firefighter Ron taught me this and he cooks for the fire station so you know it has to be good!)

Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
Only have ingredients in your kitchen that you can use! Do the work once — the clean out and the re-stocking of AIP approved ingredients. It will make meal prep much more enjoyable and you won’t even worry anymore about what you can and can’t eat.

I also recommend growing herbs, whether you only have a ledge or an entire garden. Growing fresh herbs yourself (it’s so easy!) really reconnects you with this earth and dramatically changes the flavor of your meals. To know you grew something and then it’s nourishing your body — wow!

How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
This is a big one because I have family members who don’t follow AIP! However I do most of the dinner cooking so they don’t even realize they are eating AIP.

I do keep healthy, (even if non-AIP) foods in the house and instill home-cooking as a first choice over eating out. With teenagers, you have to pick your battles and teach by example rather than by lecture.

Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
We didn’t need the massive breadmaker anymore!

What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
Soup! My kids tell me I should open up a soup restaurant! 🙂

I make a batch almost everyday or at least every other day. Then it’s soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a couple days. I batch cook bone broth and also refrigerate shredded beef or chicken for meals in the next day or so.

What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
I really like to adapt recipes by swapping out ingredients if the cookbooks aren’t 100% AIP. I love the base recipes in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. The Forest Feast is visually stunning and a great place to find inspiration to cook as many vegetables as possible.

Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?
I do! I’m a Functional Medicine and Integrative Health Coach specializing in women with autoimmune and hormonal imbalance so I have more advice than space on this page!

For starters, decide if you are all-in or you need to go slow. You have to respect yourself and you know yourself better than anyone else!

If you are an “all-in” kind of person, dedicate one full weekend to your clean-out. Enlist friends or the help of a health coach if you need support. Donate your food to the local food bank so you can feel good about this process rather than looking at it as a loss.

If you are a “take it slow” kind of person, start with removing the big food categories — dairy, gluten and all grains, eggs and nuts.

In both cases, go through every drawer and clean and organize them. Get great chopping tools, a generous colander (for rinsing produce) and lots of glass storage containers (ridding your home of plastics, even those that say BPA-free)

Remission from autoimmune also means looking at the soap, household cleaners and personal care products you are using. Look for 100% plant-based products with no synthetic aromas.

You can connect with Kara on her personal Instagram, or learn more about her health coaching work on her business webpage or Instagram account

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!

About Grace Heerman

Grace Heerman is a writer, content coach and yoga teacher from Seattle, and the Blog/Social Media Director for Autoimmune Wellness. Grace designs websites and creates content that capture how great her clients are so they can effectively and authentically share their expertise with the world. She also shares recipes and explores how to live her most vibrant life on her blog.

2 comments

  • Kacie W. says

    I love the white and wood in the kitchen! I hope one day my kitchen has as much character. Shout out from North of Seattle! It was fun to read about a local kitchen :).

  • Carol Annibella says

    So much useful info in Kara Dowdall’s tips, kitchen setup & how she manages everyday eating w/her family. Impressive efforts. Will esp learn from her big mistake…reintrod GF foods & eggs. Thank you so much.
    Have been on AIP and initially forgoing all FODMAPS w/complete remission of all IBS symptoms. Very slowly reintrod first the fodmaps learning I cannot tol nightshades…as terrible joint pains. Thank you Kara, Mickey T, Angie Alt & Sara Ballantyne so very much.
    Carol Annibella

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