The day after I started writing Low Oxalate Family Cooking I had my biggest pain flare-up in ten years.  At first I felt like a hypocrite for giving others advice on how to follow a low oxalate diet when I’ve done such a poor job myself these last few weeks.  Then I realized this was a great opportunity to share with you  some of my biggest diet challenges and how I’m addressing them.

Helping himself to more salad.

Aidan helps himself to a low oxalate salad served family-style.

So, why the flare-up this week?  It’s simple really.  I’ve trusted my willpower way too much, and I’ve been too lax in my portion control–the same reasons I haven’t lost the pregnancy weight yet.  In  other words, I’ve been so busy with my day-to-day responsibilities as a single mother of twin boys that I’ve let things slide.

The day after my flare-up began, I started Operation Oxalate Control.  With a few simple strategies (and a few that are much harder–at least for me), I’ve recommitted to my diet.  Now almost a week later I’m feeling much better.

Here’s what I do when I’m serving the Low-Oxalate Diet Family-Style:

1.)  If the low oxalate dieter in your house cannot resist some high oxalate food despite her best efforts to do so, do not bring that food into the house.  This is especially true if the low oxalate dieter is a young child who hasn’t learned will power yet or doesn’t understand how her diet affects her health.  This is also especially important if the low oxalate dieter is only seeing gradual improvement on the diet or if she does not react quickly to a high oxalate food (it takes 2-3 days for me to feel the full effects of eating high oxalate foods).  Let other members of the family eat that food at restaurants, school or at a friends’ house, but not at home.

2.) Serve only low oxalate foods at the table in family-style bowls.  Keep all high oxalate or medium oxalate foods in the kitchen where portions are easier to control.  For example, I set the peas, chicken, and watermelon on the table in easy reach of anyone who wants seconds, but I keep the whole wheat rolls and carrots on the kitchen counter where I won’t be temped to reach out and have “just one bite.”

3.) If you use the “eyeball” method to cook or to serve foods, keep yourself honest by actually measuring your ingredients or servings once in awhile.  When I stopped counting each mg. of oxalate in my diet, I also stopped measuring every piece of food I put in my mouth.  What a relief that was!  And after measuring foods for so long, I knew exactly what a cup of salad greens looked like in my blue Aztec bowls.  Over the course of weeks or months, however, it’s easy to let a half cup of strawberries slowly increase to a cup without realizing you’ve done it.  I was a little shocked and definitely chagrined when I measured some of my servings this week and realized what I thought was two or three servings of medium oxalate foods a day was probably more like five or six.

4.)  Don’t cook separate meals!  As a parent, you are way too busy to cook different foods for everyone.  Learn to fix simple, nutritious foods that can be modified at serving time (or right at the end of cooking) to keep everyone in the family happy without a lot of extra work for the cook.  For example, I like to make a low oxalate version of apple pineapple salad, then let the non-low oxalate dieters add shredded carrots at the table.  At my house, we all eat the same low oxalate main dish, then I add a few low and medium oxalate side dishes (and an occasional high oxalate treat for the boys).  This way, we eat most of the same foods but the rest of my family and guests get a little more variety and oxalate than me.

5.) Keep plenty of low oxalate snacks in the refrigerator so you always have something quick for the low oxalate dieter to snack on.  In the summer try cut up melons and cucumbers, grapes, cottage cheese, or cauliflower.

6.) Plan your menus at least a day ahead, so you know what low or medium oxalate foods the low oxalate dieter is going to eat and what other medium oxalate foods you are going to prepare for the rest of the family.  If you know ahead of time that you’re going to serve your favorite medium oxalate vegetable on Tuesday for dinner, you won’t use up your oxalate allotment eating something you could do without at lunch. (And yes, I admit this is the hardest one for me.  How many busy parents get home from a long day’s work and just wing it for dinner?  Or worse, pick up some high oxalate treat for the non-low oxalate dieters in the house, then try to resist temptation as they hunt through the refrigerator for something low oxalate to eat?)

7.) Don’t eat in front of the TV, computer, or a good book.  It’s easy to eat mindlessly in front of a TV without tasting your food or realizing how much you eat.  Cultivate the habit of mindful eating instead where you are aware of the taste, texture, and sensations of every bite.  This will help you keep portion sizes under control and help you really enjoy the food you’re putting into your body.

8.)  Don’t get discouraged if you mess up.  Plan to learn from your mistakes and let them go.  It’s only through mistakes that I’ve learned (and re-learned :->) how to manage my diet and feed my boys in a way that I feel good about.

What do you do to help balance a household of low-oxalate and non-low oxalate dieters?  Let us know at Low Oxalate Family Cooking.