It seems that AIP is as confusing or as simple as you want to make it.
You literally could spend all day (and would probably need a calculus degree) trying to make sure you don't eat too much fructose, but you get enough carbs and you always have fat/ protein with your carbs, and you eat enough shellfish, but not too much high-mercury seafood, and you get 12 cups of veggies in the right combinations, and you don't eat too many carrots that you start turning orange, and, and, and....And, that doesn't leave you time for all the grocery shopping, cooking, bone broth making, dish washing, moderate exercising, sunshine soaking, sleep getting....
I don't know about you, but no one is paying me to live the AIP life. I AIP (and write this blog) in the spare minutes I find around working my full time job (I'm on my lunch break now) and being involved in my church and living my life. Thankfully, AIP isn't about perfectionism, which is a great thing, because if it were there wouldn't be anyone on this healing journey.
For me, AIP boils down to two simple truths... "Eat REAL food" and "Take it one day at a time."
With those basic truths in place, I thought I'd share my top tips for doing this AIP thing as simply as possible.
Read....but not too much
Let's face it, there is a TON of info out there now about AIP and it doesn't all say the same thing. Wading through all the material can get really messy and can make the AIP seem impossible.
When I first started out, I read AIP recipes from all the sites that were then available, but I stuck to The Paleo Mom for my AIP whys & hows.
My advice is to choose 1-3 well established AIP bloggers and stick to their research. My top three choices for the 'hows & whys' are:
And, if you want a whole list of AIP bloggers who all follow the same guideline, check out this list of 'Paleo Mom Approved Blogs.' All of these blogs provide great recipes and resources.
If you prefer books over blogs, these are my top recommendations:
The Paleo Approach - Sarah Ballentyne
A Simple Guide to the Autoimmune Protocol - Eileen Laird
Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook - Angie Alt
Reintroducing Foods on the Autoimmune Protocol - Eileen Laird
Develop a support system
It is impossible to do this thing (or anything in life for that matter) alone. It's important to surround yourself with people who will listen to you and love you and do what they can to keep you on the right track.
Hopefully you have these people in your life already - parents, spouse, friends, co-workers, etc. If you don't have real-life friends to help out in that way, consider connecting individually with someone in one of the AIP facebook support groups or joining a community meet up group in your area.
You don't need to tell everyone everything about your health and diet, but you do need people you can talk to when you're struggling, people who will listen and give you a hug and maybe even cook you dinner. Speaking of friends cooking you dinner....if you have someone willing to cook for you, consider sending them this post on cooking for your AIP friends.
Keep your meals simple
If you browse through the AIP recipe archives (on pinterest or the Phoenix Helix Roundtable, etc.) you might see a lot of complicated time consuming recipes and you'll be tempted to think that this is what/ how you should eat every meal.
In reality, most of us eat/ cook very simple meals and rely heavily on leftovers. A simple AIP meal is a meat & 2 veggies with the occasional piece of fruit.
Some simple meal ideas:
- burger, avocado, sweet potato fries, wilted spinach
- grilled chicken, slaw, parsnip fries
- meatloaf, roasted carrots, celeriac mash, salad
- baked salmon, mango salsa, roasted broccoli
- meatballs and a big salad with some berries on top
Shop Smarter - Not Harder
Grocery shopping on the AIP can easily turn into a full time job with farmer's markets, organic stores, asian markets, traditional grocery stores, online shopping and more.
My advice is to choose 2 shops that have 90% of what you need/ want and stick to them 90% of the time. I get 90% of my food at one of two chain grocery stores in my town - one I like the meat better at and one I like the produce at, so I do a big shop over the weekend at one, and quickly run into the other on a weeknight. Then, every few months I place an amazon order, or go to one of the specialty stores - organic markets & asian markets.
One of my favorite stores for AIP goodness in the states is Aldi and here's a great post on all the AIP foods you can find there.
Get the Right Tools for the Job
While it's true that the food part of AIP basically boils down to veggies, meat, fats and fruit and cooking these items can be very simple, there are some tools that make the AIP life a lot easier.
These are the items that I find myself reaching for the most often:
- lime juicer
- good skillet
- pressure cooker/ instant pot
- immersion blender
- a sharp chef's knife and good cutting boards - choosing a knife is an individual decision. You want a knife that allows you full control and a proper grip. You're going to be using it a lot, so go to a good store and hold several knives til you find the one that feels right in your hand.
Never let your fridge get empty
If I had to choose just one piece of AIP advice, this would be it.
EMPTY fridges lead to bad choices.
FULL fridges mean you always have something compliant to eat.
There are several options for making sure you always have AIP foods on hand.
Order from Paleo on the Go
"Paleo on the Go" is a frozen meal delivery service that has a full range of AIP compliant meals and dishes, plus staples like broth and bacon. These meals are perfect for travel or for just having a stash in the freezer for days when you're too tired to shop or cook.
Meal plan & prep your foods
In my opinion, this is the easiest way to save time in the kitchen and is a good stepping stone for batch cooking. Meal planning and prepping involves two steps... (1) thinking of what you want to eat for the week and buying those things and (2) prepping your ingredients when you come home from the store for quick and easy cooking throughout the week.
Some of the things I do when I meal prep are: browning several pounds of ground meat, forming meatballs or burger patties, cutting chicken into pieces, chopping lots of veggies (carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, cabbage, etc.), ricing cauliflower. All of these prepped items get stored in the fridge in bags or containers ready to be used throughout the week.
If you're looking for an easy way to meal plan, check out Real Plans, which is an easy to use meal planning program with TONS of AIP & Paleo recipes, including favorites from 'The Paleo Mom,' 'AutoImmune Paleo,' and 'Nom Nom Paleo.'
This entails actually cooking all your food for a week (or more) in one afternoon and storing it in the fridge or freezer in individual portions or portions ready for a meal for your family. Some of the best foods to batch cook are casseroles, soups and stews. Here's a whole post on recipes that are good for batch cooking.
Try new foods - You might like them
Years ago, I had friends who moved to a new country with 4 young boys. One of the new family traditions they put in place was trying a new fruit or vegetable each week. The boys would take turn choosing the item at the grocery store and they'd come home and give it a try. When I heard about it, I started doing it too. Whenever I see someone buying a vegetable I'm not familiar with, I approach them and ask them how to cook it and then buy it and come home and try. Some I've loved....parsnips and celeriac. Some I'll have to try again. The point is that although you can do AIP with chicken and broccoli every meal....that's not the best way to do AIP. The best way to get all the nutrients you need is with a variety of foods.
So, give me some accountability here. I'd like to try oysters and rutabaga next. Not together...but they are two things I've never tried. Feel free to ask me in a couple of weeks if I've tried them yet. I might need a little push - especially for the oysters (they're high in zinc, they're high in zinc, they're high in zinc).
Plan for travel and special occasions
Once you get into the routine of AIP, handling everyday life starts to come easily. You figure out how much food to buy, how to prep food without spending all day in the kitchen and you get used to eating soup or salad for breakfast. BUT, life isn't always about routine and you need to be prepared for whatever life throws your way.
Here are just a few tips to get you started as you prepare for life:
- Date/ Dinner Out - If possible, choose the restaurant. My go to places are burger joints, or anywhere I can get a steak. Check the online menu and figure out a safe order (plain grilled steak with steamed veggies). If you know there is nothing you can eat at the place, offer to cook or prepare a picnic for the 2 of you.
- Party - eat first, munch on some crudites (carrot sticks) and make sure to keep a drink in your hand (sparkling water with a lime) and no one will notice you're not eating.
- Potluck/ BBQ - bring a dish you know you'll enjoy and make sure you're at the front of the line.
- Travel - research where you're going, pack food to take with you and plan on visiting local markets on arrival. For more tips, check out my ebook on AIP Travel.
- Wedding - find out what the dinner will be, pack a similar, but AIP, meal and ask the caterer to plate it for you.
**This post has affiliate links. That means that if you click on a link and buy something I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to keep trying new things and writing recipes for you to enjoy. All of the things I recommend are things I use and love, or I wouldn't recommend them.