Gail’s AIP Kitchen: How She Manages Hashimoto’s in Ontario

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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: Gail Shankland

Location:Ontario, Canada

AI Disease: Hashimoto’s and eosinophilic gastroenteritis (a rare digestive disorder)

How long have you been eating AIP? Just short of a year. I began shortly after my diagnosis in spring of 2017.

Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
Happily, Yes! It was important for me to try adding nuts (not peanuts) and seeds back into my diet as soon as I felt up to it. I needed every major source of protein I could get my hands on (in addition to meat), as my digestive disorder was causing severe nutrient deficiencies and protein loss with edema that my doctors couldn’t figure out. Fortunately I don’t seem to have much of a problem with nuts and seeds and spices derived from them, so I’m very grateful — this opens up a lot of options for me.

Chocolate! Yes — my beloved chocolate is my friend too. I’m oddly not great with the really dark chocolate they say is healthiest, but can happily have a little gluten free semi-dark to milk chocolate without any problems.

Chickpeas were added back fairly early on, and while I miss lentils and beans I’m not ready to jump back into that just yet.

I have no intention to go back to being a regular consumer of eggs (I believe eggs to have played a big role in the my autoimmune bucket overflowing), or dairy (I’d already removed that from my diet prior to going AIP), though I can use ghee occasionally without any issue, and I don’t get too concerned about friends and family adding butter or a splash of milk to a dish they’re serving me.

I’ve been fortunate to have the occasional gluten-free treat without incident, so I’m thinking eggs in baked goods and grains in extreme moderation are probably also going to be just fine.

I miss tomatoes — we used to eat a lot of them in sauces. I’ve tried fresh tomatoes and tomato paste in small quantities and had no real issues, but I’m going to refrain from overindulgence for sure. But what a treat to have a little tomato paste on an AIP pizza!

Next up will be some of the nightshade spices — my hubby and I LOVE spicy foods, so it will be nice to try that and hopefully start having the odd spicy dish in moderation if all goes well.

How has the AIP changed your life?
I don’t quite know how to express what a dramatic change it’s made. without it I might well be in hospital, on a feeding tube or elemental liquid diet, or at minimum having to attend a lot of doctors appointments where they wouldn’t be able to tell me much of anything.

My doctor is quite frankly astounded by the improvements to my health in just short of a year (all without traditional medical intervention beyond the diagnosis). Knowing little about my disease, the doctors and nutritionists at the hospital were stumped as to what to tell me to do, so they simply told me I should “Google it” and start learning about my disease (no joke — they told me that).

At the end of next month I’ll return to my specialist for my one-year follow up — a Gastroenteroligist who also had little to suggest for me and therefore didn’t invite me back any sooner than a year! I’m tempted to cancel the appointment because I don’t need his input, but I’m eager at the same time to tell him that controlling inflammation through diet and lifestyle is the answer, and that they should be learning more about this so they can help others. It’s not that hard — if I can do it, anyone can!

The list of improvements I’ve seen is a LONG one! My hair has grown back in (I lost at least 1/3 of it according to my hairdresser), my finger and toenails have all grown back (after having fallen off due to malnutrition), I’ve got my sense of taste back, my mystery rash has cleared, I’ve put just the right amount of weight back on and have been able to maintain my happier, healthier new weight, I’m getting stronger every day, and the list goes on! People tell me I’m the healthiest looking sick person they’ve ever seen! Ha! Thanks AIP!

Size of your kitchen: 17 x 9.5 feet

Favorite thing about your kitchen:
That’s a tough question! I guess if I had to narrow it down, I’d say that I have plenty of storage, which allows me to keep things neat and tidy and ready to get cooking!

Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
It doesn’t come with my own personal chef! Ha!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my kitchen, though I’d love to have a nice big bay window above my sink… the current window is a little too high for me (I’m pretty short), so a lower, bay window would allow me to see into the yard more easily (including my little bird bath) and to grow some herbs and sprouts without taking up counter space.

Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
I’m not much into gadgets, so I’d have to make the super practical recommendation and say good knives. I know some may not consider these to be cheap gadgets, and yes there are LOTS out there that carry a hefty price tag, but in reality, just a good set of decent knives shouldn’t make much of a dent in your wallet. We spend so much time chopping and prepping, this should be number one on your list if you haven’t already made the investment.

A simple mandolin slicer is a nice item to have as well — I had one (a wedding gift) and never used it prior to AIP, but now I use it ALL THE TIME! So easy to make quick ribbons of veggies for quick cooking under the broiler — awesome!

I will admit I seriously considered buying a counter-top spiralizer since I figured I’d never be able to live without pasta, but I’m happy I waited on that, as I’ve learned to live with less pasta in my life, and I’m not that crazy about “zoodles”. I did however invest in a small hand-held spiralizer which more than meets my needs.

What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
Before going AIP I’d already been gluten-free for several years and had made a start detoxing my kitchen; upgrading frying pans and cooking utensils, switching to glass storage and spice containers, upgrading cutting boards, etc., so there really wasn’t a huge adjustment.

HOWEVER, there were two big changes we did make.

  1. After some research, we decided it was time to get serious about our water, and we invested in a Berkey water filter. Living on a farm we already had a need for bottled water and a basic gravity-fed water dispenser in our kitchen for drinking, but that got moved to my home office (we still bring bottled water in but it gets filtered) and the Berkey took center-stage.
  2. Food washing became a priority for us when my Functional Medicine Practitioner shared some information about parasites and how she was seeing more and more patients dealing with parasitic involvement as the root cause to their autoimmune diseases. It just makes sense, considering our food comes from all over the world — never mind the risk of germs from people touching it in the stores. So, now I have some economical, super absorbent dish drying mats that I use every week. No fresh produce is put away until it’s had a good bath in some vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oils. Sometimes I resent the extra time it takes on grocery day, but in the long run it’s time saved because this means I’ve already washed and pre-trimmed or scrubbed my produce and meal prep becomes a breeze.

If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
Some would say an Instant Pot, but I’ve refrained from buying one of those, so, I’d have to say a good sized slow cooker is priority. Bone broth becomes such a big part of your life on this healing diet, I don’t see how you could be without one.

If I’m allowed to add others to this list, I’d suggest that a food processor and/or blender would be next in line. I’ve probably used my food processor more in the past year than I have in the prior 25! Our blender gets a good workout as well (my hubby loves his smoothies), and I use it a lot for things like sauces, blending plantains for waffles and making one of my favorite AIP desserts. I originally thought I’d have LOVED to have the most expensive one on the market (because the Vitamix is capable of high enough speeds to make and cook soup in the container), but we’re super happy with our considerably less expensive Ninja and find it’s more than up for the tasks at hand… so spend wisely!

Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
Stay organized! I find cooking to be a much more enjoyable experience when my kitchen is neat and tidy, when my cupboards and drawers are organized and everything is where I expect it to be so I can grab it quickly.

It’s also helpful to keep the pantry, fridge and freezer sorted with things in the same place all the time — I find this super helpful when I need a hand in the kitchen (I can easily tell my hubby where he can quickly lay hands on an ingredient I’m after) or when I need to check what I’m getting low on for my next trip to the grocery store.

How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
Convert them! Ha! Just kidding… sort of.

My number one piece of advice for anyone trying to please non-AIP eaters in their house is to keep it simple! Make an AIP main dish and round it out with non-AIP sides for your family. Typically it’s just my hubby and I that I’m cooking for, so it’s pretty easy.

In the beginning I used to make alternate side-dishes, like regular potatoes or rice for him, but since he suffers from his own autoimmune diseases he decided to join me (for the most part) on the AIP journey.

When it comes to cooking for friends and family, I just don’t tell them what they’re eating! AIP is just REAL FOOD after all. But, if we’re having folks in, I’ll often make additional sides or round out the meal with good quality gluten-free rolls or a baguette, or just regular bread and send any left-over dishes or bread that I can’t eat home with them. Sometimes I’ll have guests bring their favorite dessert, but most times folks are quite happy to try the AIP treats I serve, and they’re always surprised by how good they are.

My second piece of AIP advice is keep it on a “need-to-know” basis. I find for the most part, if you don’t tell people that the food in front of them is “AIP” or “Paleo” or “gluten-free” or otherwise… they’d likely never guess! Telling them it’s special just puts false ideas in their head that they might not like it.

Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
My bread maker has been pretty useless for a number of years now (since I’ve been gluten-free), but it’s been completely decommissioned now.

What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
Mickey will probably shoot me for saying this, but I’m not much of a batch-cooker. It should be right up my alley because I’m all about being organized, but in reality, when it comes to cooking I’m pretty lax.

I’d probably refer to my cooking style as “big-cooker” rather than “batch-cooker” Since there are only two of us, I find it works for me to simply cook a few bigger meals (or double a batch of something) throughout the week so that we have left-overs once or twice or throw a few meatballs in the freezer.

A couple of my faves would be Spatchcocked Chicken from Autoimmune Wellness (makes a great dinner and left overs for a second meal or chicken to be used in any number of other dishes) and Zuppa Toscana from Unbound Wellness (makes an enormous batch of soup for us that we’re happy to eat any time of day). Butternut Breakfast Bites from Adventures in Partaking are one of my favorite meatballs — I usually make a double batch at dinner so we have them as a meal and then leftovers for snacks, breakfast or to freeze. Since I’m a lover all things treat, I will make a good size batch of Carob Avocado Mousse and store it in individual size serving dishes (it does well for over a week in the fridge and freezes and thaws well too).

What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t have a favorite AIP cookbook. I have a whole bundle of AIP e-cookbooks but for the most part my recipes are found online and saved or pinned on Pinterest.

A few of my favorite go-to sites for recipes are Autoimmune Wellness (obviously), Unbound Wellness, A Squirrel in the Kitchen and Adventures in Partaking.

Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?

  1. Have an attitude of gratitude. I know that sounds cliche, but keeping a positive attitude about making the change to AIP is so important in the healing process. I often have folks tell me how they think the AIP is so restrictive, and they’re so sad about what they’re missing out on. I try to focus their attention on all the exciting new foods they’ll be trying and enjoying before long. A little perspective never hurts either, and I often can’t resist reminding folks that there are many people in the world that have to restrict their diet even further than the AIP — I personally was faced with the potential of having to go on a feeding tube if I couldn’t turn my disease around, and in the beginning EVERYTHING I ate had to be cooked. That makes folks realize that “I’m bored with salad” is quite an insignificant complaint.
  2. Keep it simple! Don’t think you have to break the bank going out to change every tool in your arsenal or replacing every item in your pantry. Balance and reasonableness need to prevail. Take it slow and steady or you’ll be ready to throw in the kitchen towel before you even get started.

Gail moderates an AIP Recipes Facebook group which you can join to get some AIP inspiration in the kitchen.

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 and website designer based in New York City. Through her business Said with Grace, she helps coaches clarify their message and create authentic websites that actually bring in business. Here at Autoimmune Wellness, Grace writes book reviews, manages blog content, and organizes Facebook publishing. She is an avid traveler and loves spending winters in Asia. You can connect with Grace and learn more about her writing and design work on her website, Said with Grace.

1 comment

  • Cindy Leonard says

    I love reading these stories of healing. I have been aip for 1 1/2 yrs now with some reintros. I think you need to keep that appt. so you can educate the Dr. on the effects of diet on our health. Your Drs. say to google and my Drs. wont even look at what I google and bring with me. Reading about washing veggies when you get them home will be on my to do list now. Wow never thought about it. Thank you and continued good health

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