Sadly over the first week of the school holidays, I found myself lying in bed for 10 days with Influenza.  I have gone nearly seven years without any support when sick – but boy was I grateful I had my mum helping out this time. Staying both days and nights for a week, mum was a huge support.  She cooked our meals, did all the normal household chores and helped look after my daughter.  The whole situation got me thinking about health in general including what my family eats and the potentially hazardous household products we use. Feeling on death’s door became a catalyst for change in our household.  Although we eat healthy food and I was already about 80% gluten and dairy free, my daughter regularly complained of stomach aches and passionately talks about not eating gluten.

There were obstacles to going ahead with my planned changes.

  • I had spent an hour in an organic health shop two weeks prior – and was overwhelmed by prices of basics like flour and all the ingredients I had seen in recipes that cost $13+ for a tiny packet. How can we change our habits and still find it affordable?  It’s not easy being a solo parent, in many ways; financially can be one of the hardest. I realised my reluctance to go cold turkey on what we ate was driven by fear of the expense of buying gluten free.
  • I had a lot of assumptions about a healthier diet that have not necessarily turned out to be true.  A friend recently had been chatting to me about RAW diets, which I learnt wasn’t about living 100% raw like I thought, but aiming for 75-80% raw – so you could still have meat and bread etc. Looking at a list of raw foods, I noticed that I already have or crave items that are actually on the RAW list, for example: goats cheese (being dairy free I can’t eat normal cheese anyway so have eaten goats cheese for years), bagels and wraps (my favourite and would prefer over bread anyway). We have already been using Himalayan salt for quite some time now and the nuts I crave the most are almonds! Salmon is a favourite of ours. Carrots, celery, apples, bananas and broccoli are our staples and quinoa has been a love of mine for a wee while. We were already half way there!  I have discovered that going raw as much as possible not only feels better (I find my body regularly craves raw foods anyway – our bodies really do know what we need), it takes away a huge part of the battle and expense with gluten and dairy free. The more natural and home grown food you use instead of packaged and bottled ingredients, the more raw and gluten/dairy free foods you are consuming. There are a huge range of flours that are gluten free.  You don’t have to use the expensive ones because they are in the recipe, substitute for brown rice flour or coconut flour – and as I discovered, a small amount can go a long way!
  • I had made it out to be harder than it is.  Inspiring people are doing great things for changing the way people eat. For example, Jamie Oliver has a huge range of Gluten free recipes and as I am learning as Ellen Allard says “Its so easy to be gluten-free”.  Type gluten free in Google and you will find a huge resource, but even easier than that is simply checking out the recipe books you already have.  If you have a recipe that needs tweaking to fit your diet, start writing in substitutes for the gluten or dairy ingredients. It can be that simple.

How did things go when we finally decided to go ahead and make some changes?

  • My mum cleaned out our freezer and I got her to put anything containing gluten in the washing basket, which a friend appreciated taking away for me. When some of my energy returned, I cleaned out the fridge and most of the pantry cupboard of anything containing gluten.
  • We already use eco-friendly bath soap, disinfectant and sometimes dish detergent – but as each household product becomes empty it has been replaced with a more eco-friendly, natural version; now it will just be an automatic choice at the supermarket. Yes they are often a couple of dollars more, but they are regularly on special, and sometimes cheaper than the standard products. It feels good knowing fewer nasty chemicals are in our household and in our bodies, and we are doing a little bit more for the environment and helping to encourage eco-friendly businesses.
  • This week I made a gorgeous gluten and dairy free mince lasagne (see recipe below), and a beautiful batch of gluten dairy free banana coconut and orange muffins using a combination of brown rice flour and coconut flour. They are absolutely delicious and so moist. I used my standard banana bread recipe and just swapped the flour, added orange juice and a grated pear, a bit of guar gum and rice milk. Both recipes were a hit! Now I just need to work on my portion sizes instead of pigging out!

So in short, don’t be afraid of the change you know you need to make in your world. Often the fears you hold will be worse than the reality of the change.  When you weigh up all the positive changes you can have in your life, is the fear worth holding on to?

Time for change in your life? Change your thinking and your world can change: just do it!

Michelle’s Gluten and Dairy Free Lasagne

1 packet of prime mince
1 box of Diamond gluten free lasagne (just the least expensive one I found on special)
1 can beans (kidney beans, baked beans, chilli beans – whatever suits that is gluten free)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 celery stalks chopped
1 carrot grated
Tomato sauce to taste
2 cups of spinach leaves
Vegeta Gluten free “Gourmet Stock”
BRAGG All purpose seasoning (use as much as you like to taste)
3 tsp curry powder
3 tsp mustard powder
5 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
1 onion chopped
1⁄2 packet of Goats cheese (or other cheese if you can)
Paprika to sprinkle on top
Himalayan salt and cracked pepper (to suit taste)

Stir fry onion, celery, garlic, stock, curry and mustard powder.
Add mince and stir until browned.
Add all purpose seasoning, grated carrot, tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce and Himalayan salt & cracked pepper to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 45 minutes (or less if you like, I was busy working so just let it sit, but the flavour intensifies the longer it simmers).

Spray oil a baking dish, add 1⁄4 of mince mixture. Add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add layer of white sauce (from recipe below). Add layer of spinach leaves. Add layer of mince. Then repeat the layers ending with a layer of lasagne sheets and white sauce on the top. Crumble goats cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes at 180 degrees celcius. Serve with a simple salad fresh raw salad.

White Sauce

Rice oil (or use butter if you are able to) 2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp mustard powder
1⁄4 cup coconut flour

1⁄2 cup brown rice flour
1⁄2 litre rice milk (or any other soy, goats, almond etc will probably all work fine)

Bring oil or butter to heat, slowly add in brown rice flour and mix, gradually add rice milk a bit at a time, continuously stirring. Add in curry and mustard powder and coconut flour, keep adding milk until you have enough white sauce to use between layers.

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Michelle Woolley is a qualified nanny, has worked in hospitality, accounts and advertising, and is now studying Bachelor of Social Work full-time, working part-time as a support worker for people with disabilities. In her teens, she volunteered at kids' camps and listened to real life stories, dried the tears of many young girls struggling with living in a broken family. She didn’t realise that one day she would be drying the tears of her own child while parenting alone. Join her as she writes about her journey.

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