Navigating your local supermarket can seem like a daunting task when living on a low protein diet. So many foods, so many temptations and so many choices to be made to make sure you leave with foods that will protect your brain.
Here are a few little tips I’ve picked up over the years that help me manage food shopping.
1) Meal plan and bring a list
What really helps me is planning my meals for the week. I write out a few options from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and then form a shopping list from that. This way you know what you’re eating and are less likely to stray during the week because you’re unprepared.
2) Research products online before you shop
If you have an idea of what low protein replacement foods you might be interested in – coconut yoghurt, alternative milks – make a list and do a search. I always browse online looking for the best options. Many sites now include nutrition panels which makes it all the easier to choose your replacement product.
3) Target key supermarket areas
So, you could stroll up and down every aisle looking for lower protein products, but I find some key areas of the supermarket come up with more hits than misses. Fresh fruit and veggies are the number one go to option. Lots of low protein options here such as zucchini, parsnip, mango, figs, grapes, eggplant and how can we forget, the potato? Also be on the lookout for herbs and spices that can change up the flavour of our veggies like basil or parsley.
Don’t forget the freezer aisle or the canned veggies too! Frozen pre-cut veggies are great for stirfrys and frozen fruits work fantastically in my medical supplement smoothie. And then canned foods like olives, capers, sundried tomato, marinated eggplant and artichoke I chop up and use obsessively in my salads to add great flavour. Tinned corn and tinned beetroot are some of my favourites too.
Apart from the above, you can also seek out the health food section which generally has shelves stocked with great low protein alternatives. Supermarkets have become so fruitful with gluten-free foods, some of which work great for our diets. Have a look at the bread section too for gluten free products. What is important though, is to always read the label to check the protein content.
4) Read the label
So what do you look for? Now this will depend on your protein allowance, and how you structure your day. I am on 6 grams of protein a day so generally try to stick to around 2 grams of protein for my meals with free snacks. Alternatively, lower main meals make way for some snacks with a bit of protein. It’s all a puzzle – you need to work out what fits.
I look at the protein content – per serve and per 100g. The lower the better. Snacks around 1g work well for me – like these chocolate bars. (fibre one bar video)
This alternative for milk is a great choice, coming in at only 0.5g per cup (250mls). Great for days where you need multiple cups of coffee!
These jackfruit parcels are a great find too in the freezer aisle, at less than 1 gram per serve. Pair with a salad and low protein medical foods and you have a pretty low protein meal.
Apart from protein, I look at the ingredients list. From this I can make sure there are no artificial sweeteners used that contain phenylalanine. I also make sure the ingredients are generally healthy. No point looking after your brain and not the rest of your body too.
5) Explore the shops
Now I don’t live in a fantasy dreamland where I can walk out of one shop with everything I need. The truth is, our diets are very specific and finding all our favourite bits and pieces needs a bit of shopping around. So, don’t be discouraged.
Look outside of your comfort zone. My favourite part of shopping is going into different shops, based around other cultures. There are great things to find. The Brazilian tapioca pancakes make delicious desserts (strawberry and chocolate drizzle) or versatile and virtually protein-free soft taco shells.
Your local Asian grocer is a gold mine as well. Young green jackfruit, rice paper rolls and noodles are some of my favourites here.
Next time you’re at the store, try following these tips and see what you can find. Explore and enjoy!