I’m a creature of habit, so I was skeptical when I first heard about a rotation diet. After years of eating the same things for breakfast and lunch most days, food sensitivity testing showed that I was sensitive to many of the foods that I ate often, including dairy products, gluten, eggs, and peanuts. I also had a number of mild health issues that I never associated with food. I was generally “healthy,” but there was room for improvement. Seasonal allergies, frequent cold and sinus infections, and an afternoon nap had become a normal part of my life. My doctor recommended I switch to a rotation diet.
Following a Rotation Diet
Following a rotation diet means not eating the same things day after day, but waiting a few days before eating a food again. It’s especially helpful to use this technique for foods that cause a negative reaction. For example, let’s say you’re following a three-day rotation diet and you’re sensitive to eggs. You could eat eggs on Monday and then not again until Thursday. Oats can be part of breakfast at the beginning of the week and then the end of the week, but not day after day. A rotation diet helps to diminish food sensitivities. In addition, it pushes us to eat a more varied diet. If I’m eating oatmeal or granola for breakfast every day, my body isn’t getting enough variety.
Three Steps to Success
I changed the way I ate in three steps. First, I gave up dairy completely for a month. I lost 10 pounds without effort and I started to feel more energetic. After that first month, when I tried eating dairy again I felt bloated and uncomfortable. It was clear that the sensitivity testing was accurate even though I hadn’t previously recognized a problem with dairy. Several months later, I removed gluten from my diet as well. I lost another 10 pounds, bringing me back down to my healthy, pre-baby weight. In addition, my seasonal allergies disappeared completely, I stopped getting sick every time a cold came into our house, and I no longer needed that afternoon nap. That’s when I knew it was time to bring my family on board as well.
I implemented a real food diet for the rest of my family, rotating food categories as much as possible. It was difficult at first to eliminate processed food while also expanding variety, but it was worth the effort. The changes have been dramatic for all of us. The kids used to come home with every cold and stomach bug that passed through their elementary school. Colds would last for weeks and we’d go through box after box of tissues. My son would get a cough that he couldn’t shake all winter. After switching to real food and practicing a rotation diet two years ago, sickness stopped coming through our door. On the rare occasion that one of my children gets sick now, it seems to disappear before it has a chance to take hold. I no longer cringe when I hear that something is “going around” at school because it doesn’t affect us.
How to Plan a Rotation Diet
Even if you’re a creature of habit like me, you can implement the principles of a rotation diet. Meal planning is essential because it helps you keep track of what you’re eating from day to day. When you’re getting started, think about the foods you typically eat every day. On your meal plan, put those foods on the first, fourth, and seventh day of the week. Then fill in other things for the remaining days. It’s easier than you’d think. Foods like rice, which is easy to digest and rarely causes an allergy, can be added to the meal plan more frequently if needed. Here’s a sample real food meal plan where the same foods aren’t repeated day after day.
These days, I do eat some dairy and whole-grain gluten without a problem. I don’t always follow the rotation diet precisely, but I do regularly ask myself, “Did I eat this yesterday?” If I grab a handful of peanuts for a snack one afternoon, I can choose pistachio nuts the next day. There’s always another option in the fridge or cabinet, and it’s worth the effort when I think about all the health benefits of a rotation diet.