Guide to Special Dietary Needs

Posted on May 28, 2015



Trying to eat better is difficult, but living with specific dietary needs is an entirely different battle. As more Memphians start joining the healthy movement, it is important to understand the differences and purposes of the most followed diets, especially because people often follow diets without having a full understanding of them and do not realize diets are not just for weight loss. There are a multitude of reasons why individuals follow these diets, including religion, overall health, and animal welfare. Some of the most prominent special dietary needs in the Memphis community include vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or raw lifestyles.

Most people know that vegetarians exclude meat from their diet; however, there are multiple subgroups. The most known group lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is the exclusion of meat but do consume dairy and eggs. There are also pescetarians, who exclude meat products from their diet but consume fish. Vegans exclude all animal products from all aspects of life, making it more of a lifestyle than a diet. They choose to not consume, wear, or purchase animal products in consideration for the well being of animals and earth. It is also important to remember that individuals choose not to eat or consume meat for religious beliefs like Hindus and Buddhists.

The raw foods diet is similar to the vegan lifestyles but takes it to another level. I actually had a chat with Laura, from the Raw Girls Food Truck, to find out more about it. She told me the diet is comprised of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and nuts/seeds. So, no meat.  It also eliminates cooking in order to decrease the damage and loss of nutrients from heat. However, I learned that many raw foodies use dehydrators, which take the moisture out of food, and eating out can be more difficult since most foods are cooked. However, Laura suggested sticking to guacamole, salsa, and veggies when out with friends. And just so you know, The Raw Girls Food Truck is parked outside the Hollywood Feed at Poplar/Yates. They offer fully raw prepared raw meals, juices, and smoothies. It’s not just for raw foodies, everyone is welcome to check it out. As a non-raw foodie, I had the taco salad with spicy walnut meat and it was incredible!

The gluten-free diet has gained a lot of traction in recent years. However, despite popular belief, this diet was not developed for crossfit/paleo enthusiasts. Gluten is a protein, responsible for the elasticity in baked goods, found in wheat, rye, and barley. Individuals who are prescribed a gluten-free diet often suffer from Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine, specifically the villi. Celiac is incredibly difficult to diagnosis since damage has to have occurred and it is hard to know if gluten is the culprit. So, you could have a blood test that indicates Celiac disease, but you need a biopsy of the small intestine to know for certain. Basically, if an individual starts a gluten-free diet without previous knowledge of villi health, then diagnosing Celiac disease is not possible. Some people may be sensitive to gluten but villi damage does not occur. Often, people sensitive to gluten may actually be sensitive to a certain food, not gluten in general. Of course, in the same breath, many self-proclaimed gluten intolerants are also cutting back on processed foods/baked goods, which would make anyone feel better. However, Celiac sufferers certainly appreciate the growing interest in and availability of gluten-free foods.

Meeting dietary needs at home is simple, since one has complete control and knowledge of what goes into the meal. However, eating out can be a daunting task since one has to rely on the wait and kitchen staff to be knowledgeable of specific needs. theGRIND has a little cheat sheet for those who have special dietary needs or for family and friends who just want to know where they can take their loved ones. Print it out, save it to your phone, and share with your friends!dietary

Posted in: Health