One of the cornerstone tools of functional medicine is the elimination diet, be it a straightforward gluten/dairy free plan, or an involved, customized removal of many different foods. On top of this, we want our patients to choose clean, organic sources of foods. This dietary prescription is a tall order for many of our patients. Many years ago, Jen Fugo (author of The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank) was prescribed just such a diet. With very limited funds, she figured out how to navigate the myriad pitfalls and change her life. Today, she’s dedicated her career to assisting individuals on therapeutic diets make the transition healthfully, affordably and successfully.
Pearls from Jennifer Fugo
- How to get grass-fed meats on the cheap.
- “Working” the grocery store to save money, buy quality
- Hidden sources of gluten? Wow, I didn’t know that!
- Organizing the kitchen/creating a plan
- Tips for clean eating (and etiquette) at restaurants.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Hi everybody and welcome to New Frontiers in Functional Medicine. We’re bringing you the best minds in functional medicine. I’m your host, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald. And today, I am excited to say we have a great guest who will give us lots of again user-friendly tips, which is what I’m aiming to do here in guiding our patients around eating healthy and affordably.
My guest’s name is Jennifer Fugo. She’s the founder of the Gluten Free School and teaches gluten-sensitive individuals simple savvy and empowering steps for getting healthy. I do want to reiterate that she extends beyond gluten, but that’s her jumping point. We will actually talk about some hidden sources of gluten that as doctors, we can often miss in advising our patients. So we’ll talk about that today.
Jennifer has been living gluten-free since early 2008 after she was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. She knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by the cost and seemingly complicated aspects of going gluten-free.
She’s a sought-after expert, advocate and speaker about healthy gluten-free living. She’s been featured on Dr. Oz, Yahoo! News, eHow, CNN and Philadelphia Magazine. She was the host of the Women’s Gluten Free Health Summit and she’s the bestselling author behind the groundbreaking book, The Savvy Gluten Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank.
Jennifer, welcome to New Frontiers.
Jennifer Fugo: Thank you for having me, Dr. Fitzgerald.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yes, absolutely, my pleasure. Now incidentally, I’ve spent some time with your e-book and we will provide a link for the e-book and we’ll provide a link to your site. Your e-book is a treasure trough of resources, so bravo. And I know it’s done very well. Yeah, absolutely.
Jennifer Fugo: Thank you.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah.
Jennifer Fugo: That was my goal. I was actually speaking to a client yesterday and she said that she’s been recommending it to everyone regardless of whether they’re gluten-free or not because really when you look at it, I framed it around gluten-free, but in reality, the tips are universal to helping anyone start to eat better, especially if someone’s on a budget.
For example, the process of going through seeing a functional medicine specialist, they’re spending a lot of money on supplements and things. You want to make sure they stay compliant. So there are concerns like, “Where can I maybe save a little bit? And are we to do that while still eating a really healthy, clean, nutrient-dense diet?”
So it’s a great way to share some information with patients that will keep them happy and they don’t feel like they’re spending exorbitant amounts of money on everything and then they just can’t continue on.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yes.
Jennifer Fugo: That was my goal. It’s to help with compliance and get people to a state where they actually feel better.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely. And we do prescribe, as you and I were just talking about before we started the podcast, I routinely prescribe some challenging elimination diets. And on top of doing the diet, I want them to buy clean sources of foods.
And before I had a nutritionist on staff, I needed to do all the advising around those pieces and it’s extremely difficult. You are truly a treasure in stepping up to the plate and doing this.
I want to talk about your background because I know you needed to do an elimination diet and ultimately your main food issue was with gluten, but you had to tussle through all of this yourself, implementing elimination diet, and doing it in a way that was realistic and affordable. So tell me a little bit about your story.
Jennifer Fugo: Sure! So back in 2007, I was about 27 years old at the time. And during your life, maybe late-20s, you’re this vibrant person. I don’t know. That’s just how I thought my life should be. I should be able to go out. I should have fun. I should feel great.
And instead, I was so tired, so exhausted. I was constantly sick with my stomach. I had terrible gas and horrible bloating. And I had started to gain, in probably less than a year, I had put on almost 20 lbs.
I had gone to all these doctors. And traditional doctors in the more conventional side don’t always recognize some of these things that we talk about. They are starting to come around this stuff. Even my family doctors are starting to, which is wonderful.
But the recommendation was, “Your blood work looks fine, so why don’t you just take some B vitamins and call it a day?” That didn’t really resonate with me because I felt that something was really wrong.
I had a bunch of other symptoms. I had chronic headache since I was a teenager, so I’ve been taking Tylenol for a very long time, multiple times a week. I had skin rashes. I didn’t even connect any of that to my digestive issues.
And I finally landed in an office with a nutritionist who was more functional minded and she was actually the one who told me about the Institute of Functional Medicine.
She was looking over my food. I come from a pretty traditional Italian American family. And actually, my sister and I are the only two in our family that are 100% Italian. Our great grandparents came here from Italy. So we still have a lot of traditional things that our family does and eat. We love to garden and all sorts of stuff. And literally, everything in my diet was making me sick.
She looked over and saw how much gluten was in my diet. She was just like, “Do you know what gluten is? You might want to try taking this out.”
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right.
Jennifer Fugo: We took out gluten, but I’m still getting really sick. So that’s the funny thing. I’m known for gluten, but the reality is I actually have a much worse sensitivity to eggs and I also have an equally strong sensitivity to dairy. And then, we also found through doing some IgG blood work that I’m also sensitive to cruciferous family and the cashew family.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Wow, wow! Alright! So, Jennifer, you had to figure out how to do this.
Jennifer Fugo: Yes.
Dr. Fitzgerald: From reading your book, not only did you have to figure out how to implement this diet. I’m sure that it was incredibly daunting as it is for, really, most of my patients. I have some savvy people come through the door already, but really, it’s an intense process. So you had to figure out how to do the diet and because of some circumstances that you can share about, you had to do this on a serious shoe string.
Jennifer Fugo: A year later, that’s when the shoe string part comes in. I actually felt a lot better from taking all these things out. I was able to do it. I lost that 20 lbs. of inflammatory “weight” and all the other problems resolved themselves until about a year later. The one mistake that I made that I was never told was don’t binge on gluten-free products.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right!
Jennifer Fugo: So I became a big fan of anything that was gluten-free. And a year later, I ended up with stage three adrenal fatigue and Candida. At the same time, my husband (this was 2009, it was around the time when a lot of companies were laying people off) my husband was suddenly laid off and we lost two-thirds of our income.
So I’m now faced with having to pay for all these expenses out of pocket, seeing the functional practitioner, getting the supplements and now I’ve got to clean my diet out even further.
I freaked because I thought, “How am I going to be able to make ends meet? I don’t want to go through my savings. My husband is not going to be able to help me and that was an added stressor for him.”
That was the thing. It was a defining moment in my life because I realized that I was faced with this conundrum of what I am going to do because everything is pointing towards I actually can’t do this. I was determined to find a solution to that problem.
And I really did. That’s how the book came about. I started thinking about what can I do on a daily basis that will allow me to be compliant and to take steps in the right direction.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right. Let me just…
Jennifer Fugo: Because I can’t eat well. Yeah, go ahead.
Dr. Fitzgerald: I want to just interject because I want to hear the details around that. I know you’ll have some tips for us too. So originally, you’ve got adequate money to basically go and buy what you need and you get into the habit (as some of our patients will) of just buying these gluten-free grain alternatives. And so you’re eating this heavy carb diet and you end up getting really sick because you’re eating probably lots of rice flour and rice flour cookies, et cetera.
And so you’ve come to the awareness that a) you’ve got to pull out all of these gluten-free processed foods that they are making you sicker and b) this incredibly expensive diet isn’t working for you. So now, you have to implement a new elimination diet without the processed foods and you need to do it on a budget.
So pick up from there and talk about that.
Jennifer Fugo: So what I figured out with that number one of the stages that you can go through to start making changes, and this is where the book – and I’ve actually done this before. As I have shared with you, I’m in the process of going through my master’s in nutrition and I had to start working on meal plans and doing all this stuff. It’s like, “How do you get a person that, number one, is unaware of the numerous quality issues with food, plus the cost issue involved in products?”
And just in case you have a client or a patient that objects to eating more whole food and they are making the same mistake that I did, which was eating all these gluten-free products, they actually did a study on this and they found that gluten-free products on average are two and a half times more expensive than your conventional gluten-filled counterparts. But that’s low from what I found because I go to the supermarket and I also often cost-compare.
So what I discovered was, number one, if you start taking out the gluten-free products and integrating in more whole foods, you are going to save money there.
But then, it’s a matter of prioritizing. I think that that’s the most important thing because you’re going to have patients that will come to a practitioner that have varying degrees of financial means. And for some, it may be saying, “Okay, let’s take a look at the dirty dozen list. Let’s prioritize what is most important.”
I personally think that if you have to make a decision, I say go with the dirty dozen list and then, also, too say, “Hey listen, maybe you want to look for the wild caught fish and the grass-fed beef and maybe some of these other things like avocados and onions and sweet potatoes. We’re not going to worry about those so much to be organic. We’re going to save money there.”
How can you go to stores and work the system essentially because the stores are working us?
A lot of shoppers don’t realize that there’s a lot of marketing and psychology that goes into a grocery store. They don’t just randomly throw things up on shelves or organize them so that you know, “Okay, I’m going to go through and I am going to pick up these items here and there.” There’s heck of a lot of psychology that goes into people buying more things than they really want to buy and oftentimes not finding things that are better for them because the company that may produce them doesn’t have the marketing budget to say, “Get our products from the shelves that are at eye level.”
Dr. Fitzgerald: That’s such a great pearl. Thank you.
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah. It’s a combination of a bunch of different factors here and what I found is that when you learn how to do all of that – and it’s actually not that much. It’s just becoming savvy and aware of this stuff. And top of it is learning how to meal plan, which is the most unsexy practice that you could ever share with a client or a patient, but it is the most effective.
Everybody is like, “Oh, meal planning, I know I need to do it. I don’t want to.” But if you can teach someone how to do it and then they get to a place where they can just do it in their heads, that’s ultimately my goal when I work with clients.
They’re saving so much money, they’re reducing food wastes at home and they have food that’s saved up and ready. I call it fast food because it’s in the freezer and it’s something they could pull out and heat up. Their life becomes so much easier and they’ll notice that their grocery bills start to really diminish because there’s more intelligence building into the whole process of buying, preparing, cooking and then sometimes often reheating food that’s safe for them to eat.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right. So entering the grocery store for you, obviously, you’re avoiding the processed foods. I appreciate you bringing in the idea of eating cleanly because that’s as important for me when I’m working with my patients as the elimination diet because I know toxins promote the diseases I’m attempting to treat. So I do address clean eating.
But we need to make it reasonable and I absolutely agree with you that the dirty dozen is where to start. So those are the top foods that are laden in multiple different pesticide residues.
So you’re in the grocery store, you’re armed with the top dirty dozen, so you know you can avoid those (and the Environmental Working Group also gives us the Clean 15). So, you know the foods that are going to be safer for you to eat in non-organic form. You’re avoiding the processed stuff. It sounds like you’re looking for less popular brands, ones that aren’t marketed so aggressively.
Are there any other grocery store tips before we move into the home and talk about some home tips?
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah, absolutely. I’m more than happy to share any particulars about meat or anything else as well. But one of the core things that I suggest to people is checking out – I know that it is not necessarily fresh, but it isn’t not fresh either – frozen vegetables.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely.
Jennifer Fugo: They can cut down on your cooking time dramatically. And there’s so much food now. You can find chopped up onions. You can find butternut squash chopped up. You can find collard greens chopped up. You can just easily throw them into a soup or a stew.
If you’re asking your patients or clients to get more nutrient-dense food, you have to think about what are the hurdles that they’re going to cross. And one of them is always going to be, for the most part, financial and the second will be time.
If you can solve those two problems, those are usually the two biggest reasons why they don’t comply with them because at the end of the day, you can’t give a patient a really beautiful elimination diet that you’re like, “This is going to do amazing things. I think we need to give it a shot” and they’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that sounds great” and when we get to the grocery store, they will do what they want to do because they don’t have the tools to know how to make it feasible for them.
So I do recommend that the first time – if a client comes to me from a doctor and they have a pretty strict protocol, the first thing that I will do is ask them to go to the grocery store ones without even intending to buy anything. So it’s like you’re spending 30 minutes just getting yourself acclimated to the pricing. That’s it! That’s part of it, this knowing.
A lot of people don’t know things, what their value is. Knowing that you can spend let’s say $2.59 on a bag of fresh green beans, but you could go on to the freezer aisle and get them, especially if they’re on sale, for like a dollar.
You might say, “That’s just a small savings.” But the reality is if you’re doing that every week on multiple items throughout your grocery list, it actually adds up to be quite a significant saving. And then, with time, as you continue to do this, it now becomes more feasible for your clients to buy grass-fed meat or to buy wild sockeye salmon. All these other things that are perceived as being more expensive, they now have the budget to do it.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right, I got it. So your homework assignment to your clients is to just go to the grocery store, start paying attention to price differences. I like that tip. I absolutely agree with you. There are appropriate times to use frozen.
The other piece is that we can buy in bulk at certain groceries. I grew up, interestingly enough, working in our local food coop where my mom shopped and everything was in bulk back then, back in the ’70s and ’80s. But now, it’s not quite as popular.
So, maybe you’ll find bulk in local health foods stores. I know Whole Foods has some. If you’re moving people into legumes, that would be a great place to get bulk. Are there any other comments around that or additions?
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah, absolutely. So I think the one thing I have to say is you’re telling your patients that they have to be gluten-free, you have to advise them that bulk is great, but they cannot go into bulk food aisle of any grocery store unless that is a gluten-free [inaudible 00:18:24] far between, they certify gluten-free stores because there’s so much contamination in the bulk food aisle.
Number one, you don’t know what was in that bin prior. You don’t know where that person put the tongs or the spoon because people just don’t care and they just put it wherever. You don’t know if the wheat or something else that’s up above may be contaminated if the dust has settled and drifted down through the various cubes that hold different types of food. So it doesn’t matter if it’s nuts or grains or beans. You don’t know what was in that prior.
And there also was a study done at some point several years ago about the idea that unfortunately our grain supply, even though there are gluten-free grains out there like rice, quinoa, millet, et cetera, they tend to be pre-contaminated with gluten.
So, I know it’s silly and we hear all these jokes about gluten-free water and gluten-free nuts. There is a benefit at the least to having bags that are marked gluten-free because now with the FDA, the growth company has to comply with that statement.
So, what I do not say to people, “Oh, go to the grocery store. Just find the cheapest brand of rice or quinoa and you can buy that bag in bulk.” Some stores will probably be bags. I don’t even know how heavy my parents like to buy them. But you can’t do that if it’s not marked gluten-free.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Oh, I got it.
Jennifer Fugo: So you do, even with legumes, you have to look for companies that are actually testing the products because you can’t wash it off. You don’t know that it’s gone. And especially for some with Celiac Disease and who has pretty high sensitivity to gluten, they could end up with a really big problem.
One of the nice things about Amazon is that you can buy from companies that – I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Amazon offers bulk auction to buy cases of something. And Costco is everywhere! I’ve heard wonderful things about Costco specifically. So maybe getting a membership to Costco would make a lot of sense as far as buying some of these dry ingredients as well in bulk.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay! When you’re buying any form of gluten-free grain or if you are buying legumes, you cannot go to the bulk bins where you just drop some into your plastic bags that they give you because it’s contaminated.
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah.
Dr. Fitzgerald: That’s a great pearl. So your recommendation is that you actually purchase these items where the company that’s selling them is labeling them as gluten-free and they’re complying to FDA that they indeed are not contaminated with gluten. Is that correct?
Jennifer Fugo: I mean, there are arguments around this 20 ppm FDA gluten-free definition, but for all intents and purposes, yes, if they were tested, they meet the 20 ppm threshold.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay, okay.
Jennifer Fugo: So anything that’s loose like, again, flours and even like sugars, any type of loose ingredients, you can’t just buy on their own unfortunately.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay. So then, the good resources for doing this bulk purchasing could be Costco. You could check that out. I’m not too familiar with it. But yeah, I am absolutely familiar with buying bulk on Amazon. I think that’s a really good idea.
So then, with regard to beans, I mean, it’s infinitely cheaper to buy them dried if your patients are eating legumes. I sometimes prescribe a low legume diet or a full Paleo diet, so not everybody is eating them in my practice. But for those folks who do, but they need to remain gluten-free, are you recommending canned beans at this point or are there dried sources that have been tested?
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah, absolutely! There are companies that do all sorts of really great things and offer sprouts. They’ll offer soaked and slightly sprouted versions of legumes, which is great because it reduces the cooking time. They’re a little more expensive because the company did the work for you, but you know that they’re gluten-free. And sometimes, the cooking time is cut down to half, which is really great.
But I always recommend to people, if you are eating legumes, if you have the time, cook them yourself because by far, hopefully, you will be able to soak them and then maybe even cook them with some tofu which will add in some really great minerals and help reduce the gassiness that can happen when people eat beans. We really want to try to encourage people to prepare food.
Whe we think of food prep, people want to do it in like10 minutes or less and that’s not always perhaps the goal. However, if you can, say, buy some of these legumes that are in bags or in companies that are certified gluten-free or at least marked as gluten-free and then cook them yourself, you can keep it in the fridge for a few days, but you can also freeze them, which is great because they will stay three weeks to a month. So you might only have to cook legumes once and then you can freeze them and have them in single serving containers or baggies or whatever it may be to help you manage time a little easier.
If you think about one can of organic beans (and I know BPA is certainly an issue, you’re looking at cans that can cause $2 to $3 or so for a can), you could get a whole bag for maybe five and you’re looking at a pound, two pounds of beans that grow dramatically in size. So ultimately, if you do eat legumes, it’s actually much more cost-effective to make them yourself.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely. And you’re avoiding the BPA, which you pointed out, bisphenol-A. It’s an endocrine disruptor that promotes allergic disease. There’s been a lot of research out on it and the secondary compound that’s replacing some BPA cans.
That can be tricky. So if you are going to buy canned goods, do you have any advice around avoiding BPA? How one might do that because it’s not always stated on the cans?
Jennifer Fugo: No, it’s not. I just tell people to try to not buy that. If you’re going to buy canned products, you really want to look for that label. If you don’t see it, then try and look it up. Maybe search the company’s name and BPA-free on Google.
Most of us have smart phones at this point, so we should use them more. I’m notorious for standing in the middle of an aisle and looking things up. If you don’t find it there, just call the number on the back of the can. I’ve done that many times and usually they’ll have customer service reps pick up quickly. You can ask them any questions you want about the nutritional information or the gluten-free status or any other allergy concerns or BPA concerns with cans and packaging.
Don’t be weirded out with the idea of having to make a phone call in the middle of the grocery store because that might open up a whole new avenue of food possibility for you at the end of the day. Or you might say, “You know what? Oops, I probably should find another thing or I’ll get it on Amazon.” At least Amazon can ship it to you and you’re going to avoid the BPA.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely, I know. It’s a shame that some organic brands don’t look into BPA and other packaging toxins, but I have confronted that myself.
Alright! So, you are moving people over to a whole foods diet, you’re getting them familiar with the dirty dozen, Clean 15 and some of the toxins in packaging and also the contamination in bulk. I think that that’s huge and that’s a nice little aha for me.
Now, their home, you’ve talked about freezing, but how do they move into this whole foods?
Actually before we talk about home, I want to talk about home, but I realized actually the other two points I wanted to talk to you about are eating locally and going to farmers market and your thoughts on that and also community supported agriculture, having produce delivered from the local farms to your house.
Do you have any thoughts on that, Jennifer? Are you doing that or recommending it?
Jennifer Fugo: I absolutely think that they are wonderful if you have them available. But for me, I don’t have a CSA that’s local for me. There may be more. If I lived into Philadelphia, the city proper, butI actually know that there’s none in the suburbs. But I have access to a farmers market, which is wonderful. And I do frequent my farmers market.
I encourage people to look those up because ultimately you can talk to your farmer and you can get to know them. I mean, my one farmer that I visit religiously every Saturday, they even told me, “Come to our farm anytime you want. You’re more than welcome to come around and see the cows and see the field.” That’s the best, when you can really talk to them and know what they are doing.
My farmer is not certified organic because it was too expensive. However, they actually farm beyond organic. So they are looking at the grass farming techniques and other farming techniques that are well beyond that certification being used by Joel Salatin down Shenandoah Valley and other farmers that are really pioneering this, getting away from even just the organic standard, which they feel is not good enough either. So you need to talk to your farmers.
And one of the cool things about farmers markets is some of them do – if you have patients or clients that are strapped for finances and some who might have access to food stamps, a lot of farmers markets actually take food stamps. That shouldn’t be a limiting factor. They could actually go and buy better quality food there.
But one of the cool things about farmers markets that I discovered is if you go towards the end, so you’re at the mercy of whatever is left over, but a lot of times, farmers would want to get rid of things. And so you will be able to bargain with them. And instead of getting a pound of tomatoes for a few dollars, I have, at a time, gotten a whole box.
Dr. Fitzgerald: That’s great.
Jennifer Fugo: I mean, it must have been five or six or seven pounds of tomatoes for four or five bucks.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Oh, that’s really great.
Jennifer Fugo: They just want to get rid of them. So that’s the only thing. You don’t know what’s going to be left and you don’t know if they’re going to be willing to do that, but that can be a really great thing to do as well.
And then, the thing is a lot of times, they’ll want to get rid of stuff that’s on the verge of going bad. So they’ll mark it down. But that means if you’re going to buy it, you’ve got to be committed to processing it in your home.
If it’s tomatoes, you’re going to make tomato sauce or you do something with them to process the tomatoes, otherwise they’re going to go bad. If you get fruit that’s on the verge of going bad, if you cut it off and take the skin off or whatever it may be, you should freeze a lot of it in your freezer for a good month or two, which is great.
So if you haven’t figured out already, you can get a second freezer. That is amazing.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Absolutely!
Jennifer Fugo: Not all of us have the room, but having space in your freezer – your freezer should be more than just a place for ice cream. It really should be a place to store food. And I do highly encourage people to go to those different outlets.
But I also think too, I think it’s also important for people to know you get across a lot of places that will offer grass-fed meats now in the grocery store. You just have to look around and even ask the butcher that’s at the grocery store if they offer anything like that because typically, there is a point during the week that if you start looking at the expiration or the sell-by date, I should say, of meat, you will figure out what date you need to stop at the grocery at because they mark down meats about 50% a day or so before the sell-by date to get rid of them.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Wow!
Jennifer Fugo: That’s when I bought organic chickens, pounds of grass-fed beef, all sorts of stuff, from 50% off. I just bought it. I’m like a person who buys it all and I put it in my freezer. That way, I don’t have to buy meat for a couple of months because I have plenty in my freezer to go through because it’s all vacuum sealed and it’s able to sit perfectly fine in the freezer that way. So that’s a really great way to stock those.
Sometimes, you’re going to spend more, but that’s okay because long term, if you’re not spending all that money, if you’re not spending $8 to $10 a week per pound of grass-fed beef, it’s great that you bought it at $5 a pound and you’re set for a few weeks.
Dr. Fitzgerald: That’s such a cool tip. Thank you so much.
I want to get into the home and talk more about freezing, but I just had one more question. Are you cutting coupons? Are you looking at sales and stuff like that? I mean, are you spending a lot of time? Are you recommending people to do that?
Jennifer Fugo: No.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay, all right.
Jennifer Fugo: If they really feel so inclined. To be honest with you, what I found is that coupons typically work for packaged products. A company is offering a coupon on its products, so if you need paper towels, then I guess that would be great. But if you’re going to look for apples, there are usually no coupons for apple.
So, you can look at the circulars. I’ll get a circular every Friday and I typically throw them away at this point or I recycle them, but you’re going to be able to look at the front page, maybe the one half of another page, that’s about it. The rest of the circulars are loaded with junk.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay.
Jennifer Fugo: So you’re pretty limited from that perspective. No, I don’t cut coupons. And if you really feel so inclined that you want to try a product – when I say a product, I don’t think that all products are bad because technically if you were to look at – I mentioned a company and I have no relation with them. I do buy their products. They’re sprouted, the company that sprouts their beans ahead of time. And they are certified gluten-free. Their cultured roots are organic, so it’s all these sprouted Mung beans, sprouted lentils, sprouted all sorts of stuff if a client is looking for that. But that’s technically a food product because it’s bagged.
So you can go back to a company and you are like, “Hey, I’d really like to try some of your products. Would you mind sending me a coupon to give it a try?” And a lot of times, the company will send you a coupon as a first time customer because they like you to try things.
So that’s another way if you’re on the fence about buying something that’s new. You just go to the company and see if they’ll be willing to send you a coupon or two. If you don’t like it, the worst thing in the world that could happen, you can give it away to a friend or whatever.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, good tip. I really appreciate that you are not a coupon person. I mean, that’s a huge time saving right there. I think a lot of folks shopping the standard American diet put a lot of attachment around the circulars and coupons. Eliminating that from your whole foods clean diet that you’re talking about is a big time saver. So I like that.
Jennifer Fugo: It is! And I also think that there’s a mentality there that you need to realize that somebody who’s cutting coupons and looking at groupons, they’re someone like, “How can I get deals?” And really, I’m not looking for a deal when I go to a grocery store. I’m looking for good value. So for me, it’s different.
If grass-fed beef is not on sale, I will still buy a pound of it. But I feel like I struck gold when I walk in and, “Oh, it has gone 50% off.” So I really try to reframe it to my clients that we’re not looking for deals. We want to get out of the deal mentality because it’s not going to serve you well. You’re just looking for cheap processed food. That’s one of the biggest problems to begin with.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay, that’s great. Okay, so now we’re home. And we’re setting up our kitchen for really implementing this whole foods clean elimination diet. What are you recommending? What are some foundational tips that we can share with our patients or clients, anyone listening that they can start to implement?
Jennifer Fugo: The first thing we tell people is to think about your week is structured. Not everyone has weekends off and not everyone works the traditional nine to five job. You will need to ask people what they are comfortable doing.
A lot of times, breakfast is an afterthought. So that will need to be adjusted because a lot of times, they’re in a rush, so they are eating something that’s a grab-and-go item that they can throw into the microwave or the toaster oven and heat it up and go. And a lot of times, you’ll need to work.
I know this sounds so simple and sometimes almost silly, but that can be a really big challenge. I’m sure you would agree with this. The way you start your day with food dictates what you’re going to end up craving and eating a lot of times throughout the rest of the day.
But I found that clients that are really addicted to starches and sugar, they always eat a sugar-laden breakfast. And all of a sudden, when they stop doing that, they actually don’t crave sugar quite as much throughout the rest of the day. They make better food choices and they’re more compliant, which is great.
So getting someone to go to bed 15 minutes earlier or have a breakfast ready that they could make in a crock pot and just reheat for three or four days throughout the week. You can make frittatas in a crackpot.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Oh, wow!
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah, crock pots are amazing. Rice cookers are amazing. My sister swears by high pressure cookers. You think they’re for beans, but she makes stock in it and all sorts of things and she’s an acupuncturist and an herbalist. I recommend her to all of our clients.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Oh, that’s great.
Jennifer Fugo: I think that it’s about not just thinking about how your day is structured and when you’re rushing, but also thinking about what tools I can integrate in that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
You don’t need to go out and get a $500 crock pot. I have one that’s not electronic. I just turn them on and it works just fine and it has for the last 10 years.
You want to give people the tools to say, “Okay, how can I cook a bunch of items on one day?”
I guess I technically have the weekends, so I consider Sunday as my big cooking day. That big cooking day (and it could be Wednesday for somebody else), I am going to make sure that I got the crock pot going, the oven going, something on the stove top. I have a little toaster convection, I have something roasting in there. I’ve got maybe some veggies. I’m going to chop up all my veggies for the week. If I know that on Wednesday, I’m going to make something that involves cut up vegetables, if I can, I’m going to cut them up on Sunday.
So doing all these steps ahead of time and thinking about what do I need to do to be prepared for the week to avoid preparation and cooking burnout that happens inevitably come Thursday – because that’s when people tend to give up and start to go out to eat. That’s what happens. They get so tired and they don’t want to deal with it. You take out a lot of those steps earlier in the week.
And then I also recommend to people if you’re going to eat fish and you don’t want to cook every single day, eat fish later in the week because you only have one day really to eat fish. It can’t sit in the refrigerator after you’ve cooked it. You could maybe get away to have it on a salad with lunch the next day.
But that way, if you cook Thursday, you’re cooking maybe two pieces of fish, one, you are going to have for dinner and you’ll have the next one over a salad the next day for lunch. So you’ve got the lunch covered.
And you start to cook enough so that you’ve got enough meals for two to three days covered. And you’re just heating things up or throwing things together. You can get all your salads ready all week.
One thing I’ve actually discovered recently is instead of doing – first, I was doing Applegate Farm’s organic lunch meat. I realized when I thought about it that even though it’s Applegate Farms, it’s still pretty processed and it’s actually really expensive when you look at the weight and the amount that you get for $5 or $6. I don’t even think a half of a pound of meat, lunch meat per se. And plus, it’s processed lunch meat.
So I realized that if I actually bought organic pasture-raised grass-fed beef or even chicken or turkey or whatever and I sautee that in a pan with a bunch of spices, it’s number one, less processed, it’s number two way less expensive and number three, I’m eating a more wholer food for a lot less.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right, right! That’s a wonderful idea.
Jennifer Fugo: So those would be my tips as far as that. I would highly encourage if someone doesn’t have a meal plan, there are meal planning services on the internet that people can buy that will help them plan out their meals. But if they are in a really strict diet, they’re probably going to have to do it themselves and that can be just a challenge in and of itself of getting somebody to not feel overwhelmed of what they’re going to have to cook every day.
And I would say as a suggestion to help with that as well, fresh food, like a salad can’t be frozen, but if you’re making a soup or stew or a pasta sauce or something like that, a lot of meals can be frozen. And by doing that, if you cook additional one week and you’re like, “Okay, I’m just going to freeze two portions,” you then create a list on the front of your refrigerator of when you made it and what it was.
Make sure to mark the containers. That way, they don’t get lost somewhere and you have no idea what it is anymore. You can go through and just cycle through that food.
One week, if you had an emergency pop up and you can’t cook and it’s just not possible, you could use the food in your freezer and still stay compliant on your diet.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right, right. So you have your Sunday as your major cooking day and you’ve got all burners going plus your convection and your slow cooker and all of that. Are you doing your shopping that day too or do you try to bang out your shopping during the week?
Jennifer Fugo: I try to do it during the week, but I’m the queen of efficiency, so I usually do it when I’m driving past that particular store. And then Saturday mornings, because it’s really important to me, I go to my farmers market every Saturday morning.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay. And you’ve just gotten yourself into that habit and then you do your Sunday major cooking day, lots of freezing, sort of your rough planning menu up on your refrigerator. It’s very nice. It’s very nice.
Jennifer Fugo: Yeah. And then, I also tell people too because a lot of times, especially if you’re dealing with brain fog and you forget (and that’s okay, I’ve been there. A lot of times, at the end of the week, you’re really tired), I’ll actually write out the steps if it’s really important.
“Oh, I’m going to make fish Thursday night. Well, Wednesday morning or Thursday morning when I get up before I…” – I don’t usually go to work because I work from home. But if I did, what I used to do was I would write, “Take fish out of freezer and refrigerator.”
I would literally write out the steps that I had to do when I had to do it. I trained myself because I’m going to go to the refrigerator anyway to just look what do I need to do this morning. That way, by the time I got home, the fish is defrosted.
A lot of times, people will forget what they have to do in order to cook that night and they get home and it’s not defrosted or whatever. And again, that’s where the food compliance goes by the wayside.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Okay. Thank you so much for that. So we’re heading in the home stretch and I want to save a few minutes at the end for you to talk a little bit about your book because you cover a lot of this. I think your book would be really handy for folks to have. And then you can tell people a little bit about your website and anything else.
But before we go there, eating out in restaurants, I’m sure that you have some thoughts around that. I’m definitely the “Thursday night, let’s go eat out” person because I’m burned out from my weeks. So I fit that. That’s really funny that you said it. We went out to eat last night and today is a Friday, I was chuckling.
But I want to eat clean and I want to eat reasonably healthy. I’ve got some food restrictions. I avoid gluten. So what are some tips for eating out well?
Jennifer Fugo: The first tip is you’ve got to look for restaurants that are more upscale. I mean, I would not expect going to a fast food restaurant to eat well. You know what I mean? That’s such a big thing. If people want to go to IHOP because they say, “Well, I could tell them I’m gluten-free and they’ll keep the batter out of the eggs” and I am like, “Well, why are you in IHOP in the first place if you are looking for quality food?”
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yes.
Jennifer Fugo: So you want to look for better quality restaurants.
And this is actually quite huge, the desserts and eating out because I think desserts have permeated so much of our meal and snacks have become desserts all of a sudden. People are just eating sugars all the time. And the same goes for eating out, people are eating out a lot of the time. And really, those things were a treat.
Why not make it as a treat? If you’re going to go out, don’t think, “How can we spend less than $10?” Why don’t you go out to actually have a really nice meal and make it worth your time and your energy to go sit down at a restaurant that maybe does focus on farm to table or that really does try to make an effort to get things more organically?
I know that we don’t all live in cities or communities where that’s feasible and I understand that and you’re going to have to cess that out for yourself depending on where you live. But one of the things that I always focus on is when I go out to a restaurant, I look and see what kind of vegetables can I get in a big salad.
And I do eat meat. I know at home, I’m not a fish lover, so I know that when I go out, I tend to get fish instead just because I am trying to compensate for what I don’t do at home as much. But I try to look for, “What are my protein options that I can get?”
You want to make sure that if you got meat or fish, that it’s not breaded or dredged in flour and that they’re cooking it on a clean surface because a lot of times, that’s contaminated from other pieces of meat that were dredged in flour.
I would say avoid all of this canola oil and all the stuff. But that’s not necessarily realistic when you’re eating out, unless the restaurant has a firm stance against using those types of ingredients. You can’t go in there and demand that they change their practices just for you.
So I think it’s about making the right choices and then talking to the restaurant ahead of time not when you sit down for a meal and assuming that you’re going to lecture the waiter or lecture the manager. Make phone calls.
I encourage clients to create a list of restaurants that they have researched online, they have looked at reviews, they have called and spoken with someone and that they are comfortable with.
When people say, “Hey, let’s go out to eat,” be the first person to make suggestions, “Oh, my gosh! There’s a really great Moroccan restaurant over on such and such avenue. I love to try that. I know you were saying how much you love Moroccan.” Focus on what would encourage that person or entice your fellow diners to go to that restaurant rather than allowing everyone else to pick a restaurant and you are trying to micromanage a way around eating.
I know too many people that are just like, “I will have a little tiny side salad with some lemon and some olive oil” and they are miserable.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Yes.
Jennifer Fugo: Why bother at that point aside from the company?
So I think it’s important that you do the homework yourself and you’re comfortable with it. And if you are on a really restricted diet, initially, you might have to accept the fact that it’s going to be a challenge to eat out. And if you do need to go out in those cases, eat at home first and then when you go, have a cup of tea.
I even bring my own teabags because there’s gluten in teas and there are chemicals in teas. I do not trust what restaurants serve for tea. So I bring my own tea bags and I’ll get some tea and I’ll just enjoy the company.
I know there are some people feel that they need to eat, but I think that we sometimes focus a little too much on food, but we should focus on being out and being with people and enjoying the moment, especially when you cannot really – if you’re telling somebody they’ve got to be on a low histamine diet or they’ve got to comply with all these things, you’re going to have a hard time with the restaurant that’s not going to be able to meet your needs unless they’re these super high end place that you’re paying $150 or more a place or something like that.
I hate to say that, but I was actually at a restaurant like that just this week. It was $150 a head and they were willing to comply with all of my needs. That’s the first time I’ve ever been in a restaurant that was willing to go that far, but that’s the price you pay. I thought, “Well, if it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, I’ll go and I’ll check it out!” It’s great. But I think at the end of the day, eating out should be something that’s more a treat rather than a necessity every day or so.
Dr. Fitzgerald: I love the idea of this energetic shift that you’re proposing where we actually use it to be with community and to enjoy each other’s company, instead of being about the food. I like the tea bag idea. I do have patients who pack their own oil and vinegar or spices too.
Jennifer Fugo: Really?
Dr. Fitzgerald: I think it’s also very practical to have a ready list of safe restaurants. I do for my area here, so I generally know where I can go and get something that’s going to be farm-raised or organic. It’s very useful for those Thursday nights when I am in the burnout mode.
But we’re a slow cooker family. We’re a slow cooker household too and we’re doing it more and more. Especially as it’s about 50° and I’m wearing my little sweater today, it’s definitely some slow cooker time.
Okay, Jen, tell me a little bit about or tell the listeners a little bit about some resources that they can access from you.
Jennifer Fugo: I have an incredible amount of recipes. My website, GlutenFreeSchool.com is not necessarily a recipe website, but I typically propose one new recipe a month and I have a really great library that people can access. Everything is gluten-free. Most of the recipes are also egg-free and dairy-free as well. And if they’re not, there are substitutions and suggestions there.
And then I have plenty of research articles that are not super sciency. They’re meant for your patients. I actually worked for my father for 10 years who’s an MD and a PhD. He’s an opthalmic surgeon. I worked directly with patients and him.
I noticed that there tends to be a leak unfortunately between the knowledge that a patient knows and what they can understand because of their perhaps limited medical knowledge and experience and then what a physician is trying to explain. And what you’re trying to explain to a patient, maybe a very complex situation that is just terribly overwhelming.
So what I found as my super power in life is to be able to take those very complex medical topics or situations and boil them down into something that 1) is valuable for the patient, 2) gets them out of that state of being afraid and overwhelmed and 3) that helps them understand what they can do in their own life as far as food or looking at various aspects of their health, whether it be autoimmunity, gluten sensitivity, any number of things that are involved in this whole sphere of health and wellness from a more functional perspective. And that’s what I am able to provide.
I have a lot of different resources. I do work with clients. I have functional medicine practitioners that will send me their clients that need help, especially when they need help going gluten-free and they were just totally overwhelmed and scared and don’t know what to do.
I have my book, The Savvy Gluten Free Shopper, which is a great resource as well. It also includes I think 27 recipes and it teaches you how to meal plan. And it has an additional bonus that people can go on to buy and download, a step-by-step visual and instructional guide on how I was just explaining to meal plan. I think it’s complicated to explain, but I’m a visual learner. So I plotted it out in how I would show someone step-by-step how to do it.
I am a big believer that we really need to teach people how to fish. There’s that phrase, “If you feed him a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach him how to fish, then he can feed himself for a lifetime.” That’s ultimately my goal, to help people learn to fish so that they can be self-sufficient, they can be more compliant and ultimately they feel better.
Guess what? You can give all the best direction you want in the world, but if somebody can’t follow it, if they can’t do it and they’re not self-sufficient in themselves, they’re not going to get better.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Right.
Jennifer Fugo: So I think it’s a really great opportunity for people who are looking for more support and looking for inspiration and stuff that’s realistic. I am a realist. I live in the real world and I get that people are stretched for time, some people are stretched for money and they want to feel like they’re not the odd person out and that they’re alone in this.
And I’ve got a really great community and great social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera, but the website is really great. I have a great weekly newsletters and other things that people can use as resources to improve the quality of their life.
Dr. Fitzgerald: Jennifer Fugo, it’s been my pleasure to talk to you today. You’ve enlightened me and I really appreciate that. I know you’ve offered the listeners lots of great information. Thank you for joining me on the New Frontiers in Functional Medicine. Again, I’m Dr. Kara Fitzgerald. Until next time…
Jennifer Fugo is the founder of Gluten Free School, a website dedicated to teaching gluten-sensitive individuals simple, savvy and empowering steps to get healthy.
She’s a certified Health Coach named a “Gluten Free Guru” byPhiladelphia Magazine who co-hosts the popular“Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse” to empowers gluten-free folks to take control of their diet, feel great and kick their sugar habit.
Jennifer is a sought-after expert about healthy, gluten-free living as well as a speaker who has been featured onDoctor Oz, Yahoo! News, eHow,CNN, Huffington Post andPhiladelphia Magazine. (Click HERE to see where she pops up in the press!)
She hosts the popular “Gluten Free School Podcast” to share eye-opening health information vital to living a gluten-free life. Her first book, “The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank” is now available.
Contact information for Jen Fugo:
- URL: http://www.glutenfreeschool.com
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- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/gfreeschool
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- Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=jenfugo
- FREE GIFT: http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/GIFT —–>>> Ultimate 7-Day Gluten-Free Meal Plan