Rotating cabbage and linseeds

Food-sensitive Nicki Greenham decided to start the new year with a rotation diet... For information and support for those with chemical or food sensitivities check Nicki’s website at

Forget Rosemary Conley and the Atkins, my new year’s resolution is the rotation diet. Not to lose weight but to manage my food sensitivities. Rotation diets are supposed to be good for you; just organise all the foods you can tolerate into a four-day menu and you won’t develop any more allergies. Brilliant, definitely worth a try.

So armed with a steaming cup of nettle tea, a pen and a large stack of paper I’m ready for the big brainstorm: which foods am I not allergic to?

The book...
Of course the first step of any new year’s resolution is to buy the book. I bought three. The trouble is they all seem to have different ideas: colour code your foods, a three-day rotation, a seven-day rotation, rotate everything including sweeteners, oils, herbs… (Sweeteners? Is there something other than sugar? Perhaps this diet’s going to be easier than I thought...)

The warning shriek of my dietician echoes as I close the books ‘You can’t rotate everything! You’d have to plaster the walls and ceiling with charts and bits of paper!’ She might have a point.

Natural sweeteners apparently include honey, fructose, fruit concentrate, 16 varieties of natural syrup and the ever mysterious wonder herb Stevia – the magical sweetener you can use even if you’ve got candida. Only it’s banned in the UK. Ah well, one less thing to put on the chart.

The lists...
In fact the list is going well. Vegetables, meat and fish, grains (only two – that’s easy), fruit and vegetables, drinks.

Now to work out which ‘family’ everything belongs to. Luckily book two has an easy colour-coded chart. Who would have thought carrots are related to celery and parsnips, potatoes are in the red pepper family and…

Hang on, the potato seems to be a relative of nightshade… Deadly nightshade? Just how close is this relationship? I mean deadly nightshade? I’m viewing the humble spud with a whole new reverence (and just a little bit of suspicion).

The days...
Now to give each family its rotation day. The books can’t agree here – one family on each day or split families into two different days. Hmm. The first one seems more straight forward for the beginner. So ...

Day one: carrots, celery and parsnips.
Day two: peppers and potatoes.
Day three: lettuce, sunflower seeds and Jerusalem artichokes.
The meats, fish, eggs all going nicely, each different food twice a day. The meals look good so feeling smug I resolve to start the diet tomorrow. (Don’t all new year’s resolutions start tomorrow?)

The reality...
All goes well.
Day One. Pasta in a red pepper sauce.
Day Two. Rice crackers and cashew nut butter.
Day Three. Roast chicken and butternut squash.

Ha! My dietitian’s words refuted – it is possible to rotate everything without wallpapering the kitchen walls with charts. Feeling just a little bit smug. And then Day Four. Dinner time.
With horror I realise the only foods left are linseeds and cabbage. What?! How could this happen? What on earth am I supposed to do with a handful of linseeds and a white cabbage? Only four days into my new year’s resolution. I can’t give up now – stick to the rotation schedule and avoid new allergies – that’s the deal.

Disbelieving I look at the chart again. I must have missed something. Yes! With relief I notice broccoli’s on the menu too. Good grief. Linseeds, cabbage and broccoli, sounds like something from Oliver Twist. Suddenly the Atkins Diet seems appealing. Imagination needed.

Optimistically I decide soup is the answer. You can hide all sorts of things in soup, can’t you? All cooked and blended and then something surprising happens. It appears ground-up linseeds actually do make a good thick soup. Thick verging on porridgy in fact. Who would have thought? It’s actually quite nice as well.

The first four days of my diet complete and safely back to Day One again. Not bad. The diet seems to have kept its promise – no new sensitivities (although it has only been four days). Now, just how many ways are there to serve cabbage and linseeds?

First published in 2008

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