May. 12, 2017

Sharing the Journey: Challenges to Eating Healthy

The Sharing the Journey series is by you and for you. In your own words, we highlight the perspectives and personal experiences of people who struggle with lupus each day. This month, we asked Sharing the Journey participants what are the challenges they face to eating healthy and how do they overcome those challenges.

What are the challenges you face to eating healthy and how do you overcome those challenges?

Eating healthy is vital to my (and everyone's) wellbeing. The better I eat, the better my body feels. As an acting major, I particularly watch what I eat because it not only affects how I look but how I feel during all of my active classes in the daytime and my tiring rehearsals at night. On top of this, I have realized what I eat affects my fatigue and can often counteract or reinforce the effects of my lupus upon my energy level. On a practical level, I find it difficult in college to find time to consistently cook healthy meals. Add that to my mediocre/non-existent cooking skills and you can often find me struggling to eat right. I also have celiac disease and am lactose-intolerant so finding food that I can actually eat sometimes limits my choices to things that may not be very healthy. To combat these problems, I have established a meal routine in college. I have a set breakfast I eat every morning that is quick and easy. And since I have it every day, I know exactly how long it will take for me to prepare and scarf down. I have a salad for lunch every day from a restaurant on campus. This is a great meal to grab in between classes - it's light enough so I don't feel sleepy or sluggish in my afternoon classes and it's quick and cheap since it comes from a salad bar. My dinner changes every night. Sometimes I cook it at home and sometimes I grab it with friends. This system may not work for everyone. But, it helps me to eat always at least 2 healthy meals a day. And, it leaves me time to splurge with friends. — Becca M.

I'm a stay-at-home mom of a four and a two year old. I'd be lucky if I have enough time in the day to take a shower much-less make myself a healthy compliant meal. It's so easy and convenient to grab something processed and pop it in the microwave. I'm slowly getting on track to healthier eating. The freezer is my new best friend. I make bigger batches, and I find that most foods freeze well. I also wash and chop all my veggies and store them in containers in the fridge, so I quickly grab whatever I need to throw together a nutritious meal without needing an additional 15-30 mins of prep time. Baby steps. — Wendy M.

My biggest challenge with healthy eating has been resisting temptations from those around me. Between going out with friends on the weekend, or catered lunches at work, it is difficult to stick to your diet when these foods are right in front of you. A strategy I use is making my own dinner, and then making enough for lunch at work the next day so I know I have a healthy choice. If I do this, then I will be full from my healthy meal and won't be inclined to make an unhealthy choice. I also educated my family on benefits of various foods and Paleo eating, so we are all on the same page under one roof! — Brittany W.

With every passing day I realize more and more the role that proper nutrition plays on my overall wellbeing and success in maintaining control over this disease. I carefully select and think about every piece of food or beverage that I put into my mouth and how it's going to make me feel. Eating is a routine part of life and we often don't give this simple necessity the focus and attention that it deserves. As someone who was plagued with an eating disorder for over a decade, the choice to eat right and properly nourish my body was initially an arduous task. Sometimes I wonder if my poor eating habits contributed to my getting lupus. All the while, despite having control over my eating prior to my diagnosis, I pay even more attention now to what I eat because I know it can be the difference between having a good day versus a bad one. We all know that we should eat right, but as the saying goes, “it's easier said than done.” Moreover, I plan on continuing to focus a significant amount of attention on my eating habits; it truly makes a huge difference.  — Victoria G.

My biggest challenge is time and energy for grocery shopping and cooking. Recently, I started a very restricted diet, which had made it easier to decide what to eat. Since my diet is limited, it has made choosing my weekly menu a little easier. I also portion my leftovers for lunch at work. It seems to be helping! If only grocery shopping were easier on me! — Chelsey M.

The biggest challenge I face is finding fresh fruits and vegetables in my neighborhood. Also, take-out food in my neighborhood is unhealthy. I find that always cooking meals at home helps. Also, I shop for fresh ingredients near my job where the quality and selection is better. Most importantly, I drink water all day and stay away from sugary beverages. That and the help of my doctor helping me with a good medication regiment have helped maintain my lupus. — @harpiesfury

I eventually had to change to a gluten free whole food plant based diet. It definitely helps me manage my inflammation in my body. It is sometimes a challenge, especially during social gatherings. But it gave me an opportunity to become creative with food! It kind of started a new passion in me to cook the foods I love with only the ingredients my body can handle! I surely love eating! — @nakkiescharne


What to Eat and What to Avoid

There is no special diet for people with lupus. However, it is important to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of meats, poultry and fish so you can feel your best. 

A few additional tips:

  • There is no evidence that going gluten-free will help reduce inflammation from lupus. However, if you have Celiac’s disease a gluten-free diet is critical.
  • You may want to avoid alfalfa if you have lupus or if you have a family history of lupus.
  • If you have lupus kidney disease, you will want to stick to a low-sodium diet.

Check out the recipes on our National Resource Center on Lupus to learn how you can prepare easy, delicious meals perfect for anyone with (or without) lupus.