Hi! I’m Haley, a low-FODMAP, Paleo-inspired, Vegetarian and the chef and author of Scrapbook Kitchen!
Yes, you read that correctly! Over the years I’ve learned to cook and create my own unique recipes, full of flavor and creativity to fill the void of what I could never find: a cookbook that specifically fit my food needs. But first, let me explain how I got here and what that long label even means…
I became a vegetarian in 2005, on a whim, just to see if I could do it. It turned out that after just a few months, my body felt so much healthier and happier I decided to stick with it.
Following that decision, I began college and majored in biology with a concentration in ecology. Through those courses, I was introduced to a host of environmental issues and learned that vegetarianism was not only the more humane option but also more sustainable for the planet. That sealed the deal – I couldn’t go back to eating meat after considering the negative consequences for other animals and the earth.
Until 2013, I had a fairly normal vegetarian life: I dealt with being able to order fewer items off a menu, skipped meat dishes at family and friend events, and learned to substitute tofu or mushrooms for meat in my own dishes. But things soon took a complicated and drastic change for the worse. During my grad school years, I began to experience a variety of gastrointestinal issues ranging from severe stomach cramps and pain to bloating, constipation, and…other things.
At the time I was living in South Africa without medical insurance, so I turned to self-treatment: food. The first items I recognized as GI-offenders were wheat, oats, and lentils. I cut these out and immediately began to see improvements. It was then I discovered the inspirational and inventive Paleo blog, Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker. Her gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and legume-free recipes allowed me to enjoy my favorite baked goods again like bread, cookies, and pancakes!
But my flares didn’t completely stop. Upon returning to the United States, I visited a doctor to see if an underlying gastrointestinal disease like celiacs or Crohn’s disease was to blame. Test after test came back negative. So, what was I to believe? That everything was a figment of my imagination or randomly caused by stress?
The doctor said it appeared I had some form of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which would most likely oscillate between good and bad bouts throughout life. Because the causes of IBS are not well understood, and the symptoms vary widely from person to person, it’s difficult for doctors to identify effective treatments.
Despite this, my doctor suggested I look into the low-FODMAP diet (short for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols; different types of carbohydrates) following some promising research published out of Australia.
In a nutshell, some people have greater difficulty digesting certain carbohydrates, which can lead to excessive fermentation in the gut by bacteria and can cause the suite of IBS symptoms. In short, you can think of FODMAPs as indigestible sugars. If you avoid foods with these indigestible sugars, gut fermentation is kept at bay and your IBS symptoms are likely to lessen or disappear.
You can think of FODMAPs as indigestible sugars.
With nothing else to lose, I did look into it and, after a good solid cry over the amount of food I’d have to give up until I knew which foods to avoid, I buckled down and cut them all out (for a list, check out this post) for eight weeks.
Within one week, my GI system had done a full 180. I felt exuberant, pain-free, and encouraged, albeit hungry, but it was worth every day of the initial eight weeks. Gradually, I tested different food groups by introducing them one by one until I found one that didn’t agree with me. I would mark that one with an “X” and continue on down the list. The whole process took about a year, but during that year I learned a lot about what foods I could tolerate completely, what foods I could tolerate in doses, and which ones I’d have to avoid completely.
That brings me to today: I’ve gone through the wringer to arrive at where I am now, but through that process, I became more in-tune with my body’s needs, more knowledgeable about food and cooking methods, and as a result, became a creative chef myself! Now, all I needed was some way to experiment and compile my recipes for later reference and to share them with other low-FODMAP, Paleo-inspired, Vegetarians.
Scrapbook Kitchen was born, playing on the cut, paste, and edit methods I’ve had to use to create almost all of my recipes. I hope this cookbook will be a resource and light to all who have had a difficult struggle with food and are searching for healthy and flavorful alternatives to your classic favorites.