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Benefits of a Rotation Diet

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rotation diet benefits

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.

rotation diet real food menu

Monday
Breakfast: eggs, whole grain toast, grapes
Lunch:  taco salad with black beans
Snack:  popcorn, berries
Dinner:  zucchini spaghetti, sauce, meat or chickpeas

Tuesday
Breakfast: yogurt fruit smoothie and almonds
Lunch: broccoli soup with cheese, rice
Snack: hummus with cucumbers and red pepper strips
Dinner: stuffed cabbage casserole

Wednesday
Breakfast: pumpkin overnight oats
Lunch: chili, gluten-free cornbread
Snack: homemade Larabar
Dinner:  lentil sweet potato casserole

Thursday
Breakfast: Swiss chard quiche
Lunch: pesto and sundried tomato sandwich on whole grain bread
Snack:  popcorn or nuts, orange
Dinner:  spaghetti squash, sauce, meat or chickpeas

Friday
Breakfast: raspberry vanilla smoothie and almonds
Lunch: carrot soup, cheese and rice crackers
Snack: hummus with carrots and red pepper strips
Dinner: stuffed cabbage casserole

Saturday
Breakfast: single-ingredient puffed rice cereal with milk and banana
Lunch: chili, gluten-free cornbread
Snack: homemade Larabar
Dinner:  lentil sweet potato casserole

Sunday
Breakfast: apple overnight oats
Lunch:  potato salad with hard-boiled eggs, green salad
Snack:  popcorn or nuts, berries
Dinner: beef stew, green salad

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.

9 Comments

  1. This was extremely helpful. I just received my results and this make it more manageable and simple. I am embracing this as a food adventure and journey to feeling fabulous. Thanks for sharing.

  2. One thing I am having a hard time comprehending is does this mean every food- such as lettuce, onion, garlic? I put garlic in everything…I know I can do it but boy that will be hard. Also, how long do you wait to re-introduce a food you think may be an allergenic trigger? Thanks so much for this blog – I have been reading all day and your blog makes the most sense for me so far!

    1. Lisa, I’ve heard different answers about whether foods like lettuce, which are rarely allergy triggers, should be rotated. My doctor says, “Don’t eat anything every day,” but the nutritionist in her office says it’s okay to eat some things every day. Confusing, right? I’m actually allergic to garlic, so I only eat it on occasion. If you suspect an allergy/sensitivity to a certain food, you can wait three days before eating it again.

      1. Thank you so much for the quick reply. I think at first I understand it is better to rotate everything but I am guessing if you slip with something like lettuce it won’t be too detrimental. Thanks again!

      2. That’s a good approach, Lisa. And if you eat something for two or three days in a row, you can then take a few days off. It’s not an exact science.

  3. I had NEVER head of a rotation diet, though the word diet I feel has a different type of meaning. My daughter of 2.5 years is always catching a cold or bug from just about anywhere and I have begun to wonder about food allergies.

    1. Many people have food allergies or sensitivities that go undetected for years. It’s worth looking into it if you think that could be the cause of your daughter getting sick so frequently. Good luck!

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