Tina’s AIP Kitchen: How She Manages Hashimoto’s in Orlando

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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: Tina Wells

Location: Orlando, Florida

AI disease: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

How long have you been eating AIP? Almost 7 years

Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
Yes! Eggs, white potatoes, some peppers, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts on occasion are non-issues.

How has the AIP changed your life?
I struggled for so long trying to figure out what all of these seemingly unrelated issues were, and the cause. I had miserable brain fog, I had to literally stop working around 3pm every day, I just could not focus. I was always cold, and gaining weight at an unreasonable rate. My hair was falling out, I was a wreck and attributed it to menopause, because I was about that age at the time. Which was also actually happening, and when I discussed with my gynecologist, she ran some tests and diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s.

I had never heard of it but upon doing some research, it really tied together everything I was going through. She gave me the book It Starts with Food. As a chef, it made sense to me to change my diet first. I could wrap my head around food. It was a fun challenge to think about foods in a new and different way, as a healing tool. (I was a pastry chef so I wasn’t making anything healthy!). I discovered Dr. Sarah Ballentyne and got her book The Paleo Approach Cookbook. So inspiring and made so much sense. Rachel Bryant’s book Meatified really helped me as well. So now all of these discoveries have led to a new career path, which is so exciting.

I started my website livingdelishandnutrish.com right after I was permanently laid off from my full-time job, due to COVID. I graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and am currently enrolled in the Hormone Health class. I know there are people out there who are struggling the way I did, and I want them to know there is a solution.

Size of your AIP kitchen:
The cooking/prep area is 10 ft x 26 ft. If I include the dining area it is 23 ft x 26 ft. I converted the former family room area into the eating/entertainment area with a large farm-style table.

Favorite thing about your kitchen:
I love so many things. My commercial faucet/sprayer is a non-negotiable! I love my butcher block countertops, and my big island gives me lots of space to prep and do live IGTVs. When we renovated we added an “appliance garage” with electrical outlets. Having a dedicated space for storage and use of small appliances is super convenient. My stove is 20 years old and it almost died a few months ago. My husband was able to fix it and I’m so grateful because wait times on appliances are several months right now! One day I would like to get a range with an induction cooktop. I have one induction burner I use for my cooking videos and it’s very quick to heat!

Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
Ugh, I’m not a fan of my refrigerator. I don’t understand the design of residential appliances these days. The produce drawers are so small. I have containers for produce in addition to the drawers. I used to have a commercial 2-door reach-in True refrigerator. The compressor was so loud we finally had to get rid of it, but I loved it.

Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
I’m not a gadget person. I do love my scale and portion scoops, which are tools from my pro days in the kitchen. My Instant Pot was not expensive and I use it several times per week. As far as gadgets, I used to work for a chef who, when one of the staff would bring in a cute tool (from Pampered Chef or such a place), would always answer, “Take it home to your mother.” He had no patience for things like that, and that’s how I was trained.

What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
Not much really. I still apply all of my pro techniques to everything I cook. I think being trained that way has made me efficient in prepping and cooking. Having a good understanding of how to build a nutritious plate is key, and I try to teach that to my clients.

If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
Knives for sure. Invest in a good quality set and keep them sharp. Try different brands and get a good feel for them in your hand. They should fit like a glove. Maintenance is so important. The safest knife is a sharp knife!

Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
Keeping staples in your pantry is important. I always have ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil and avocado mayonnaise, olive oil and several balsamics, etc. I’ve gotten good at making simple swaps with ingredients to recreate “regular” recipes with AIP and paleo ingredients. If a recipe calls for butter or heavy cream, for example, I will swap ghee and coconut milk or cream. Knowing how to make basic sauces with AIP ingredients is a simple way to add flavor to a dish.

How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
They eat what I cook and love it! if they want to add cheese, for example, to their grain-free tacos, go for it. We’re Greek and so much of the cuisine is already so healthful. I started making tzatziki with Greek-style almond milk yogurt and my family likes it better than the dairy version. They say it’s lighter.

Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
Not really. As far as recipes, I don’t bake any of my old, gluten and sugar-laden recipes anymore. The only exception is a traditional Greek bread made for holidays. I have a grain-free recipe that I like, but I also make the traditional recipe for everyone else.

What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
Instant Pot “naked” chicken is a weekly prep item. I’ll cook 6 boneless, skinless breasts in the Instant Pot with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes I slice them, sometimes I shred them. It’s perfect for breakfast casseroles and chicken salad. I also love having shredded pork on hand, so I’ll slow-cook a pork butt that I’ve stuffed with garlic cloves. Simple, set it and forget it. Having cooked proteins on hand is a game-changer.

What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
Sarah Ballentyne’s The Paleo Approach Cookbook, Rachel Bryant’s Meatified, some recipes from Well Fed. Honestly I’ve created so many recipes on my own, I could write a book!

Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their AIP kitchens for the first time?
Get really good at reading labels. Know things like names for additives and sugars. Really scrutinize your pantry. Donate anything that you no longer want to eat. “Crowd out” the less healthy options with more nutrient dense selections and before you know it, you’re eating a healthier diet. Make everything count and give yourself credit for small changes every day. 1% improvement is still improvement!

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.


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