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Whoo boy, this is a big question. As you know if you’ve read my past few posts, I recently embarked on a month-long plant-based (totally vegan!) AIP diet in order to help pinpoint which specific foods were causing me problems. It was moderately successful, and I have some insights on how to make it even more effective in the future, but that’s a topic for a different post. Anwyays, let’s get to the question(s) at hand – is it possible to eat a vegan or vegetarian AIP diet long-term? Is a plant-based AIP diet sustainable?
As you likely know, the autoimmune protocol (AIP) is pretty restrictive, not allowing for dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, nightshades or processed and artificial foods and ingredients. Removing nuts seeds and beans really eliminated a lot of my protein sources, and was definitely the most difficult aspect. In order to increase my protein intake, I modified the protocol to include hemp seeds. If you want to know more about the specific foods I ate at this time, check out this post!
So, in order to fully answer the sustainability question, I thought I’d chat about the experience first. I had anticipated this being fairly difficult to accomplish…and that’s pretty much exactly what happened. I ended up eating the same handful of recipes pretty much every day and snacks were actually a bit difficult to come by. While I typically eat a low carb vegan diet, I ended up consuming about twice the carbs I normally do, as most of the food options available are pretty carb-heavy.
I also had to make every single meal. Since I work from home, this wasn’t too much trouble, but there is definitely a time commitment involved. While I ended up making certain things in bulk to save time (flatbread recipe forthcoming!), I still spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. In August (and we don’t have central AC!).
The one positive (aside from feeling better and being able to pinpoint the “problem” foods during re-introduction) is that I didn’t end up spending as much money as I thought I would! I made the decision to eat more carbs, as that was affordable, so I fortunately didn’t break the bank trying this.
I lasted about a month on this protocol, and here are the aspects I found most difficult:
- time-consuming: lots of cooking & planniing
- a bit boring: there aren’t really recipes out there, so I had to come up with meals from scratch (recipes to come!)
- eating at a restaurant is almost impossible: you can basically have a heavily-altered salad topped with balsamic and olive oil, which you can easily make at home for a tiny fraction of the cost
- a bit carb-heavy: not ideal if you are a person who needs a lower carb diet!
- restrictive: while you can certainly obtain all the necessary nutrients from the “allowed” foods, it’s a whole lot easier when more plants are included!
Because of the aforementioned factors, this protocol is not a great long-term solution for me and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone for more than just a elimination diet. A more sustainable option would be to eliminate just the Big 8 allergens (dairy, eggs, shellfish, fish, nuts, peanuts, soy wheat and other gluten-containing grains), grains and nightshades (all inflammatory foods to boot), as well as processed foods and artificial ingredients and go from there. If you don’t notice an improvement on the modified protocol, then it might be worth giving a vegan/vegetarian/plant-based auto immune protocol a shot!
So, the TL;DR is that it is technically possible to do a plant-based AIP diet long-term, but you probably aren’t going to want to. 🙂