Do you avoid certain foods for health reasons, ethical reasons, or due to food allergies and sensitivities? When your diet restricts certain foods or entire food groups, it may be lacking in certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are abundant in those foods.
While it is totally possible to meet your nutritional needs on a restricted diet, there are some things you should know to ensure that you’re getting what you need. Here are some key nutrients you might be lacking plus easy ways to correct it.
Optimizing Nutrition on a Gluten-Free Diet
If you have Celiac disease, wheat allergies, or gluten intolerance, committing to a gluten-free diet can dramatically improve your health.
In fact, if you continue to eat gluten when you have one of these conditions, it could lead to inflammation of the digestive tract and even an inability to absorb nutrients efficiently. In extreme cases, you may even develop iron deficiency anemia.
However, eliminating most grains and other gluten-containing foods from your diet can also make it deficient in several important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and calcium.
Prioritize nutrient-dense, gluten-free meals that include a variety of legumes, leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and lean meat to counteract potential deficiencies.
Meeting Your Nutritional Needs on a Plant-Based Diet
Many people choose a plant-based diet to boost their health and longevity, or for ethical reasons.
There’s no doubt that switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet can have some benefits for your health because it’s lower in fat, higher in fiber, and rich in phytochemicals that may prevent chronic disease.
However, anytime you eliminate an entire food group from your diet, it becomes more difficult to get certain nutrients. While many people worry about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet, it’s actually pretty easy to get protein from plant sources like legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and soy.
There are other common nutrient deficiencies to watch for on a plant-based diet, though. These include vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and iron.
Prioritizing a diet that includes a variety of legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables each day can help to counteract many of these potential deficiencies.
Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is only found in tiny amounts in plant-based food sources, so be sure to supplement it in your diet by drinking vitamin-fortified milk alternatives or taking a high-quality multivitamin.
Ensuring Good Nutrition When You’re Lactose-Free
Milk allergies and sensitivities aren’t all that uncommon and they can range from very mild to severe. If you commonly experience stomach upset after consuming dairy products, you may be lactose intolerant without realizing it.
Lactose is actually a simple sugar that’s found in milk. Some people have difficulty digesting it, which causes gas, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and bloating. Some people who are lactose intolerant also develop serious intestinal conditions, such as Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
But, eliminating dairy products from your diet also makes it more difficult for you to get enough of several nutrients that are crucial for good health. These include calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D.
Be sure to include a variety of leafy green vegetables, fish, lean meat, eggs, and vitamin-fortified non-dairy alternatives in your diet each day to counteract potential deficiencies.
Nutrition on a Ketogenic or Low-Carb Diet
Ketogenic and low-carb diets have become popular in recent years for weight-loss and overall health. However, eliminating foods that contain carbs may also restrict your intake of key nutrients like calcium, vitamin E, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, and thiamin.
Eating a varied diet that includes nuts, seeds, lean meat, fatty fish, leafy greens, and Greek yogurt can help to counteract any deficiencies you may develop.
A Special Note About Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for a variety of body functions, including strong bones and a healthy immune system. Many Americans are deficient in vitamin D, whether they have dietary restrictions or not, because it’s so difficult to get enough through food sources alone.
While your body can synthesize its own vitamin D, that requires exposure to sunlight. If you live in a colder climate or avoid sun exposure for health reasons, you’re probably not meeting your daily requirement of 600 IU of vitamin D.
In addition, the most common dietary source of vitamin D is fortified milk. So, it’s safe to say that if your dietary restrictions include eliminating milk from your diet, you’re at an even greater risk for being vitamin D deficient.
To counteract any deficiency, add vitamin D fortified orange juice and non-dairy milk alternatives to your diet and take a high-quality supplement.
Some Final Tips for Proper Nutrition on Restricted Diets
The key to proper nutrition and overall health and longevity is to consume a wide variety of unprocessed, whole foods each day, no matter what your dietary restrictions are.
Fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and they should be acceptable on any diet. If your diet allows, be sure to also include fatty fish at least a couple of times every week for valuable omega-3s and other healthy fats.
Adding a high-quality multivitamin to your daily routine is a smart way to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. Look for one that’s organic and make sure it contains adequate amounts of the nutrients you’re likely to be deficient in, as outlined above.
Rest assured that there are lots of plant-based, gluten-free, and lactose-free multivitamin formulas out there to accommodate special diets. If you’re not sure where to start, the coaches at Fitmo are here to help you create a personalized plan for overall health that takes your dietary restrictions and personal fitness goals into account.
Remember, your health is your greatest asset, and improving it is probably why you chose a restricted diet in the first place. Taking the time to learn how to meet your nutritional needs on your special diet is an important part of protecting it, too.