I am very excited to introduce one of the very inspiring women in the MS Diet community. Jenni Heineman is keeping her MS symptoms under control and attributes this to strictly following the MS Diet lifestyle. She is not only making the diet work for herself but she has her whole family eating this way and loving it. It can often be a challenge to keep the meals going for the family and then being inspired to cook a meal for yourself as well. Jenni has decided that she will only be making one meal each night, one that she and her family can all enjoy. In this post, she shares her story along with ideas and tips on making the MS Diet, family friendly. She has also included some tasty recipes that she cooks for her family regularly. You are going to LOVE her ideas and creativity. Over to you Jenni!
When I was diagnosed with MS, I knew the information as presented in my neurologist’s office was not the end of the story. It seemed impossibly silly to think that I was simply to go home and read about which drug I wanted to go on, choose it, and continue on as normal. Ugh uh. No way! But what’s a girl with MS supposed to do? For me the answer was simple: I read.
But let me back up. My story is going to be so familiar to you. Four years ago when my son was not quite one, my left leg went numb, dead numb, hip to toes for three days. I went to the chiropractor and the feeling came back. I didn't think anything of it, even though I had residual pain and achiness in that leg. Also, my left hand suddenly couldn't write the way it once could, but of course, I didn’t notice that until I started back at school that fall and was writing comments on paper after paper. Fast forward to last February 1st when my right eye started getting double vision. It seemed fine in the morning and by the time I went to bed it would be terrifying. After the eye doctor, the eye specialist and an MRI, the eye specialist called to say I had lesions on my brain, seven in all. That was February 20th. I booked an appointment with my neurologist and waited. In the meantime, I researched what I could, as did my husband, and we agreed that the medicine was scary. We went to the bookstore and found two books, 'Managing MS Naturally' by Judy Graham and 'The MS Recovery Diet' by Ann Sawyer.
I immediately started subscribing to the diet of no gluten, no dairy, no red meat, no sugar, no additives, with healthy, fresh, raw a big part of life. By the time I went to the neurologist, on March 1st, my symptoms were gone. Also, my annoying leg issues were gone. I felt like a fog lifted. I started supplements and felt even better. Since then, I've also kicked legumes out and kicked coffee, although I still drink some tea in the morning. This regimen, combined with hot yoga three to four times a week, has me feeling better than I have in years.
Now one of the favorite parts of my day is my 'normal' family dinner, but it didn’t start out that way. At first it was by far the hardest part. Since my boys are four and seven, navigating their tastes and mine seems sometimes like a minefield! I mean, just how many stir-fries did we eat in those first few weeks? But just like this diet of ours, persistence is key in all things with kids and cooking. And in the past year, we’ve really gotten quite good at it. I was telling Kim a bit about my story and she asked that I share some of our favorite recipes. Here goes!
For the record: All meat is organic and free range. I have a brother-in-law that hunts, so my venison comes from him in South Dakota. I also have a friend who works on a fishing boat in Alaska each summer; it’s from him that I get amazing Salmon. All produce is organic, and is either from my CSA or from our co-op. Also, I use a variety of different oils for sautéing, but I know Kim prefers coconut oil or no oil. Regardless of what you use, try doing it in cast iron: I’ve got a wonderful cast iron skillet that makes sautéing a snap! It makes cooking easier, which is what we all need.
One additional note: we have a policy on our house that we have four things on the table for each meal and everybody has to try two of the offerings. Thus, we often have our main dish, a couple of side dishes, and one bowl of fruit. Our policy is to try to ‘eat a rainbow’, so sometimes those sides are veggies and dip, sometimes its a steamed root vegetable (have you tried celery root?), sometimes its olives or a plate of tomatoes, sometimes it is bread and butter. I am never guaranteed to be able to eat everything, but being together over the bulk of the food feels great.
Getting the Kids Involved
Also, my kids are in charge of setting the table and cutting up fruit. They use these great spreader knives to take the tops off of strawberries or rinse blackberries or blueberries or finish the job I’ve started with the pineapple or cantaloupe or watermelon.
Salmon with Collards
This recipe is adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, a true resource for our diet and us. Plus, he’s so knowledgeable, it’s just fun to read! I often cut up the fish prior to cooking, but he rarely does. I find it easier to serve that way.
2 lb. Salmon Fillets
1 pound of collards
2 T. oil 1 t. minced garlic
2 t. minced or grated fresh ginger
1 t. dark sesame oil
Rinse fish and let it rest. Wash the greens well. Drain, squeeze dry, and chop. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté. Add greens, stirring occasionally for about 4-5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook another minute, then turn off heat. Score the salmon in a crosshatch pattern. Season the salmon and slide under the broiler, skin side up. Cook undisturbed until done, 5-10 minutes.To serve, place still-warm greens on platter, with salmon on top.
Spaghetti with Gluten Free Noodles
This is a no-brainer in our house. My boys also love “green noodles”, which is gluten free noodles with cheese-less pesto. I adore it as well. If you want to be super healthy and blow their little minds, try spaghetti squash instead of noodles. I usually put one, whole, in my crockpot and turn it on high with a little water. Two hours later, it is ready to roll. Crack it open and pull out those noodley-looking fibers. Its pretty great. This recipe is adapted from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s marvelous book “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys”. Serve with a giant salad, or roasted spinach and kale.
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
½ cup red or white wine
1 28 ounce can best-quality tomatoes pulsed in blender or food processor
½ cup hemp, almond or rice milk
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. gluten free noodles
Parmesan cheese (not for us, silly)
Heat a skillet and add the onion, carrot and celery, about 10 minutes. Saute in a little water. Add the salt. Pour the wine into the mixture and deglaze the pan, loosening the bits of yummy off the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes and stir in the milk and the two kinds of peppers. Let it simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until it has reduced and thickened. Cook the spaghetti according to the package and then drain. Spoon sauce or noodles and let them grate their own cheese over the top (fun!).
Spanish Rice with Sautéed Kale
This recipe is also from her book and is a real favorite. It tastes like the filling for stuffed peppers, and we have adapted this recipe to make those.
2 bunches kale
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ green pepper, chopped
1 lb. turkey, venison or chicken (for the family)
2 t. salt 1/8 t. pepper 1 14-ounce can finely diced tomatoes
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
Heat skillet and add the onion, garlic and pepper. Sauté until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add meat, salt and pepper. Increase heat until everything is browned, 12-15 minutes (unless meat is browned already). Add tomatoes, the rice and the water. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is gone. Serve. While this is simmering, rinse, pat dry and chop 2 bunches of kale. In another pan, sauté the kale. After it has sautéed a while – around 5 minutes – add some dates or raisins. Stir periodically to mix and after 4-5 minutes, remove to dish and serve.
Trout with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Beets and Brussels Sprouts
When buying the trout for this last year, my son announced at the grocery that “We have to eat more fish now that mom’s got these hiccups in her brain (His way of describing my MS symptoms). But I don’t mind because fish is brain food.” He had everyone cracking up. The good part: he eats this meal with relish now!
1 lb. Trout fillet, which I cut up into 4-5 pieces
Salt and Pepper
2 Sweet Potatoes, thickly sliced and cut up into 2 inch pieces
4-5 beets, depending on size, thickly sliced and cut up into 2 inch pieces
20 Brussels Sprouts, halved or quartered, depending on size
2 TBPS Coconut Oil
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Season and roast the vegetables until tender, 25 minutes or so (this can be done without oil). Move them to the bottom rack so your fish can come in and play. Raise the heat to around 475F/250C degrees. Melt the coconut oil in a medium roasting pan. Sprinkle your trout with salt and pepper. Put your trout in the oil, flesh side down, and roast for about 6 minutes. Take out and flip, about 6 minutes longer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley and serve with your roasted vegetables.
Chicken Stir Fry
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. The gist of this is that you puree this sauce ahead of time, then sauté chicken, then vegetables, then pour this over the top. Voila! Additionally, I really vary the kind of rice I use: jasmine, purple jasmine (which the kids love), white, brown, black. Shop around because some of them are fantastic!
½ cup herbs (basil, mint, celery, cilantro)
½ cup spinach 2 inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
3 T. Toasted Sesame Oil
2 T. Sesame Seeds
2 chicken breasts (for the family, not me)
4-5 cups of vegetables
2 cup. rice, your choice
2 cup. water, for rice
Blend or Food Process the first 6 ingredients and taste. Add what you need to make yourself happy. Add the sesame seeds. Set aside. Put water and rice into steamer. Sometimes I add a little sesame oil to it, but not necessary. Sauté 2 chicken breasts in a tad of oil, over medium heat. Remove when no longer pink. To that skillet, add your vegetables, whatever you fancy, remembering that the more colors you’ve got in there, the better you feel! Big favorites in my house: red pepper, shitake mushrooms, red onion, button mushroom, eggplant, carrots, cabbage. Sauté for 5-6 minutes. Add the chicken back in and pour your sauce over the top. Sauté all of that together for a minute or two. Sprinkle with cashew pieces.
Note From Kim
Thanks Jenni! Those meal ideas are incredible and we can't wait to try them out for our families. We just know they are going to help with our MS symptoms. Just a quick note about the meat in the recipes. Jenni says that she ends up taking most of the meat out of her own serving of the meal because she is quite strict about keeping her saturated fat intake under 15g a day, which is what Swank recommends. Obviously, it is great for all the boys! Jenni, you are an inspirational and creative woman and we so value the time you have taken to share your story and recipes with us. A huge thank you from all of us!
If you need help and support to take the next step with your lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Love and nutrients,