A friend is on a limited diet for the next month and needed some help coming up with meal ideas. It can be so challenging to move from a wide variety of food to a limited ingredient list. I should know, as I have had to shape my cooking and recipes around the needs of family members and myself many times in the past. Thankfully, I've found that it doesn't have to be a food Hades when working with a limited amount of allowed foods.


This is the list of allowed foods on my friend's diet: Meats, beans, vegetables (minus root vegetables), quinoa, plain yogurt, berries, nuts, spices and herbs. I am assuming that healthy fats and oils are allowed as well as unrefined salt. 


While certainly a short list, there is a long list of ways to use these ingredients. Here are a couple of thoughts and ideas for my friend, and anyone else out there on a similar diet. 


1. Quinoa ideas: Quinoa is so versatile. I shared some of my general and specific ideas on how to use this grain here. You can flavor it with Mexican seasonings and top it with Mexican ground beef, avocadoes (if allowed on the diet), cilantro, roasted red pepper and a dollop of plain yogurt (which acts like a sour cream). You can make a delicious chicken and quinoa soup (just use a chicken and rice recipe, but substitute quinoa). I also love it cold with a favorite homemade dressing poured over it. Especially nice is one made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, lots of pepper, fresh garlic, and a bit of lemon zest. It's a bright flavor to add to quinoa. You can make the salad more protein-rich by adding in cooked white beans, black beans or leftover cold meat. Make it pop with fresh flavors by adding fresh, minced herbs. Make it crunchy by adding in fresh vegetables, like diced cucumbers, peppers or shredded carrots. 


2. Roasted vegetables: Beside the obvious steamed vegetables, I recommend roasting them for better flavor. A simple method for a full meal idea is roasted meat and vegetables. You can use this recipe as a guide, though you will have to replace the root vegetables in the recipe. Roasted zucchini is also delicious. Toss with a bit of heat-safe oil/fat, salt and pepper and finely minced garlic. Roast in a hot oven (I'd say about 400 degrees) until browned on the edges. Of course, roasted asparagus is always good too.


3. Zucchini Noodles: Another vegetable idea is making zucchini noodles. You can do this with a vegetable peeler by simply running a peeler down the side of zucchini making long strips. If you want a finer noodle, stack and cut into thin strips.  You can use a special spiralizer. I show how to use one in this video. These noodles are great for adding to soups (cook just 1-2 minutes), topped with dressing (like a creamy, pine-nut basil lemon dressing), or sautéed in a pan. I make beef broth, salt it well, cook the zucchini noodles in it, and then top with homemade meatballs (gluten-free) and lots of fresh herbs.


4. Berries and yogurt: Because you can have plain yogurt, a nice snack might be a small handful of frozen blueberries tossed into yogurt. Once stirred it semi-freezes the yogurt, making a cold treat. Frozen blueberries are a nice treat by themselves too. You can also cook any type of berries down into a smooth sauce. Generally I would sweeten lightly, but if your berries were sweet, they would still make a flavorful addition to yogurt, once cooled.


5. Protein-rich snack idea: I recently did a post full of nutrient dense snack ideas. Many of these ideas would fall within your diet guidelines. 


6. Legumes: You can make black bean or white bean soups. You can make simple lentil salads to have on hand for snacks or for a side. If you like curry, this recipe for Curried Sprouted Lentils with a Cilantro Sauce has been really popular on my site.


7. Main dish salads: Salads shouldn't be boring. Make enough homemade dressing to have on hand for at least a couple of meals (if you can't have raw apple cider vinegar, use lemon juice). Leftover meats, beans, and quinoa all taste delicious when dressed with homemade dressing. Get a nice spring mix of baby lettuces, or plain chopped romaine lettuce. Leon Salad, a really flavorful favorite from my cookbook, "Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons," could be easily tweaked to your needs. Thai Salad with a Spicy Dressing is also great. 


8. Cookbooks and blogs: You might also like to check out some "paleo" style cookbooks from the library as you are eating very similar to how they cook. Paleo food blogs (or a GAPS diet blog) would be really helpful too, since both paleo eaters and GAPS people eat a high amount of grain-free meals. My blog, The Nourishing Gourmet, will also have some ideas for you. You may also find Mark's Daily Apple, Grain-Free Foodies, or Gluten-Free Fix helpful for ideas. 


Anyone else have suggestions, recipes, cookbooks, or blog ideas to share with my friend? 


More food for thought:

Recipes and tips for planning a protein- and vegetable-rich menu


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Eating on a limited diet: It doesn't have to be boring
Can you survive on a diet that is limited to quinoa, meat, vegetables, yogurt, nuts and some berries? I say yes.