How to Get Started on AIP

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I get it. 

Going from a pasta, bread and pizza-rich Western diet to one that eliminates grains, dairy, nightshade veggies and spices, seeds, eggs and refined sugars isn't easy. What are you going to eat for breakfast? (No toast, or croissants, you see. Not even eggs). 

How are you going to eat grass-fed, quality meats and fish on a budget? 

And how the heck do you get started? 

Like this, that's how. 

Turkey and Cavolo Nero Meatballs with Courgetti Zoodles

Bone Broth
First, you're going to have to make friends with bones. It's cheap - you can pick a bag of beef bones up from the butcher for a few quid - he might even chuck them into your weekly order for free if you're lucky. The reason you're going to need to incorporate this into your life now is that bone broth contains gelatin, which is super good for healing. It's also thought to be rich in collagen and magnesium. It's nutrient-dense, healing food. I always put a load of ginger and garlic in mine, for flavour - but check out this bone broth recipe from Autoimmune Paleo, too. Just cool it all down, store it in the fridge (covered) and then dollop a mugful into a cup and warm up thoroughly before drinking. It'll seem weird, at first, but you'll get used to it. Some people even say it helps them sleep, if they have a cup in the evenings... 

Forget table sugar, ice cream syrups and sprinkles. That's not happening any more, and isn't very good for healing, anyway. Sweeteners should be super-moderated on AIP. Seriously, I've been healing for nearly two years on AIP with my reintroductions - but eat a few too many AIP-approved treats and I get a flare up that sets me back months. You can have maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, pomegranate molasses. In moderation. 

Slow-Roasted Aitchbone Joint of Beef

Get to know what foods you'll be avoiding (there are plenty, at least in the beginning)
Print a list out and stick it on your fridge. Here's a good one, from Autoimmune Paleo. And don't be disheartened, you'll be able to enjoy loads of lush foods and recipes. I promise. More on that later.

Get used to cooking. From scratch. 
Let's face it, you're not going to be enjoying healing, nutritious foods if you eat completely out of packets. Make your own sauces - and yes, you can even make Thai and Indian-inspired curries. (Hurray!) Even if you're not used to it, you'll find chopping veggies quite therapeutic. I do. And don't feel overwhelmed. Remember, you're not on Masterchef. You're just making some dinner. Preparing your foods (chopping veggies in advance, covering it and putting it in the fridge) will help you save time, as will cooking extra and eating the leftovers the next day. 

So. The good news is that you're not expected to eat fillet steaks every day. In fact, on AIP, you're encouraged to eat organ meats like liver, heart and kidney - they're nutritious and cheap. The bulk of my meals are actually made up with veggies - about three-quarters of the plate, so that cuts costs a bit, too. Opt for cheaper ingredients like offal, as well as sardines, mackerel, seafood. Go for unusual cuts like tongue, hocks, trotters and buy mince instead of chops and steaks. Some people say that they find going AIP expensive but then realise they didn't think about foods like this. Oh, and for the best nutrition it's recommended you go for organic, grass fed meat. But if your budget doesn't stretch that far, don't worry too much - eating this way will be a good start. 

Mutton and Spinach Curry

Use Social Media for Ideas
Honestly. I hear people all the time complaining that they can't find AIP recipes or they're bored and want to give up - two days in. There are 29 blogs (including this one!) that have been approved by Sarah Ballantyne, aka The Paleo Mom, that post recipes that adhere to the autoimmune protocol. Add in hers, and that's 30. If each blog is posting on average, say, 3 posts a week - that's potentially 90 new blog posts on AIP each week. Even if half of those are recipes, that's enough to keep you meal planning for quite a while. Follow these AIP bloggers and fellow readers on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. I regularly share my own recipes as well as those from other AIP bloggers on my Facebook page. Come and find me on Instagram and you'll see what I'm cooking up each day.

It's not just diet
Be prepared to make time for yourself as this is really important to heal. Mindfulness, yoga, meditation... meditation doesn't have to mean sitting cross-legged with twinkly music on, it can be simply sitting in the garden on a sunny day, listening to birds in the trees or feeling the breeze on your skin. 10-15 minutes is a good start. Try not to think about the gas bill or what you're cooking for dinner. Think about nothing. Just for 15 minutes. Getting daylight (for your body to convert into vitamin D) is also important, as is managing stress and regular exercise. You might find this post helpful on AIP and balance

Don't expect results overnight
Although I noticed my psoriasis patches were slightly calmer after 2 days of strict AIP, I didn't see anything that got me excited until 8 months in. And now, almost two years later, I'm almost (but not quite) in remission. Give it time. Your body has a lot of work to do. You might find this post interesting. It's based mainly on psoriasis, but refers a lot to the journey I went on and the AIP lifestyle. 

Recipes to get you started: 
These are some of my most popular recipes and posts - and ones I wish I'd had when I got started on AIP. They're easy to make and really good. They'll be perfect to get you started. I hope you find them useful :)

Pork Liver and Bacon Pâté
Thai Meatball Turkey Curry
Breakfast Pork and Leek Burgers
AIP Breads and Wraps
Blueberry Topped Sweet Potato
Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks with Lemon Dressing
55 AIP Recipes From Around The World (curries and noodles!)

Just one more thing... 
In the beginning, you'll probably find yourself asking a lot of questions and that's great. Going on AIP is such a change from the regular Western diet and it's natural to want to know about new ingredients and why certain foods are excluded. And you'll be going on a heck of a journey - you may find your mind is calmer and less foggy after a few weeks on the diet. You'll be making more time for yourself, which is such a precious thing in our busy, modern world. There are AIP sweet treats, but don't go overboard in the beginning - get yourself established first and satisfy your sugar cravings with a cup of camomile tea or a banana. Personally, I feel like a different person since I've been AIP and as well as clearing my skin, it's given me a whole new outlook on life, along with more confidence and health. I'm excited to find out what it'll do for you too! Keep in touch :)

Good luck! 

Useful resources to check out if you're starting AIP

  • As well as the advice above, check out the ebook 85 Amazing AIP Breakfasts for lots of breakfast inspiration - it's often considered the trickiest meal to start with, until you get used to it! 
  • Eileen from the blog Phoenix Helix has written an ebook on how to navigate your reintroductions, once you've done your strict AIP stage and your symptoms are showing some signs of improvement. It's called Reintroducing Foods on the Paleo AIP.
  • Need some more advice about AIP in general? Then have a look at this guide - A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, available on Amazon. It's pocket-sized, so it's handy to take with you when you're travelling and need to look something up. 
  • Want a head-start on recipes? Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom, has produced this Best of AIP 2015 ebook with 200 recipes - yep, that will keep you going for a while! - that are all AIP-compliant. They're also all from AIP bloggers, so it will introduce you to some to read more regularly and follow on social media. Check it out here. 

Some things you might find useful for your AIP cooking:

I've also written two AIP cookbooks, below - check them out on Amazon (affiliate links):

Have I missed anything? What else do you need to know to get started on AIP?