How to stick to a low histamine diet - something I definitely needed advice on back when I first had to transition to following the SIGHI list due to having MCAS! It's always tough to have to restrict your diet, and potentially cut out favourite foods. And especially tough when a low histamine diet isn't really known about too much.
I hope these tips are helpful in sticking to a low histamine diet, and help you enjoy all the foods you can eat. There are still plenty of tasty foods to cook with and savour with friends and family, and perhaps you may like to have a look at my low histamine recipes page for some ideas!
This post does not constitute medical advice and is for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional about your health and dietary needs.
- 1. Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot
- 2. Take the 'yes' list to the supermarket, or have when online shopping
- 3. Find a new low histamine food!
- 4. Don't let yourself get hungry
- 5. Meal prep by freezing food
- 6. Make low histamine treats
- 7. Remember your 'why'
- 8. Check in with a dietician or your doctor for support
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1. Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot
This was the game-changer for me and the most important way that I personally continue to stick to a low histamine diet. When I was first advised to follow the SIGHI list by my doctors and dietician after being diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome, all I did was focus on the 'no' foods. I moped about being annoyed that I couldn't eat tomatoes or strawberries anymore. All that made me feel was resentful, and I'll admit I cheated a few times . . .
But then I sat down and wrote a list of the 'yes' foods. It made me focus on what I could eat and I realised a few things:
- The 'yes' list was really quite long!
- It had lots of foods that I loved on it, such as blueberries and sweet potatoes.
- There were low histamine foods I didn't tend to eat, but could give a try.
So perhaps consider writing a 'yes' list for yourself. It can include all the foods you enjoy and remind yourself of the favourites you may like to cook with.
2. Take the 'yes' list to the supermarket, or have when online shopping
Perhaps this is kind of obvious, but don't buy higher histamine food. Even if it looks tasty or is on sale!
Having it in the house will only be a huge temptation. I know this is more difficult if you live with others, but I have a rule that the higher histamine stuff goes on a separate shelf in the fridge so I know it's not for me.
When shopping, especially if you are more new to the low histamine diet and so still trying to remember what is OK and what is best to avoid, have your 'yes' list (or the SIGHI list or list you follow) with you. It will keep you on track with your choices, and what goes in the shopping trolley.
3. Find a new low histamine food!
I have a browse through the SIGHI list a couple of times a month, especially if I am feeling a bit in a rut with my meals. It's a great way to remind yourself of the foods you like that are OK, but more than that you may find a new food you had forgotten about, or one you don't usually try.
A while back I was scrolling through the SIGHI list and was reminded of fennel, and so ordered it for my next food delivery. I've been adding it to dishes and making slaw, and it's felt like a nice change to have it.
So have a scroll through your list and see what you find!
4. Don't let yourself get hungry
Restricting foods from your diet can be tough, and I definitely had a huge phase of just being plain grumpy over it. I would look in the fridge and decide there was nothing I could eat and so not make a meal or snack when I needed to. Of course, there was plenty in the fridge I could eat, but when you're grumpy, you get blinded by that fact . . .
Letting yourself get hungry will only make you feel more resentful about the diet and perhaps tempted to eat higher histamine foods that could make you feel unwell.
So make sure you have plenty of snack foods in the fridge - carrots, celery and radishes are good, as is fresh fruit, and you can make things such as my seed crackers or cookies if you have a sweet tooth.
If they work for you as a snack, this list on low histamine nuts and seeds should be helpful!
5. Meal prep by freezing food
It is usually advised not to consume leftovers if you have MCAS or histamine intolerance, due to histamine formation. As the SIGHI note: 'Cook only small portions in order to avoid leftovers. Allow any leftovers to cool quickly and freeze or store in the refrigerator for a maximum of 12 to 24 hours'.
One way you can meal prep is by making larger quantities of foods such as soups or stews and freezing it into portions. I do this a great deal, as it makes it easy to make lunch or dinner when I am rushed due to work or being at medical appointments. That way I won't grab less-than-great choices I will later regret.
The advice from SIGHI on defrosting food:
'Defrost deep-frozen food quickly (in a cold water bath or in the microwave using the defrost setting). Heat it quickly after thawing and consume it immediately after cooking. In particular, fish should never defrost slowly in the fridge or at room temperature. Do not refreeze food that has been defrosted' (SIGHI).
This post on cooking with chronic illness may be helpful if you live with disabilities that make this task more difficult.
6. Make low histamine treats
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that food and mealtimes can't be fun because you are on a low histamine diet! I know there are restrictions, and let's face it, it sucks. BUT there are lots of tasty foods too!
So if you have a sweet tooth, as I do, then make some sweet treats to have a nibble on for a mid-afternoon snack. Some ideas you may like to try:
Blueberry and blackberry crisp
There are lots of ideas in my low histamine sweet treats ebook too! Think mini blueberry cheesecakes, tahini honey energy balls and fruity popsicles for summer.
7. Remember your 'why'
Remember why you need to stick to a low histamine diet - to try and help manage your MCAS, histamine intolerance or other medical condition. Whenever I cheat my body lets me know quite quickly that I did so. My cheeks start to flush and burn, and it is so painful. My tummy starts doing backflips and there are other symptoms too.
So try and remember that your health is so, so important and that you want to feel as well as you can do. Nourishing it with the foods you can enjoy without bringing on symptoms is the best thing to do, and hopefully will make you feel happier and healthier in the long run.
8. Check in with a dietician or your doctor for support
If you need professional guidance in sticking to the diet, it is always worth talking to your doctor about how you find it difficult. I know it is often hard to find someone, but hopefully some research will help you find the right doctor for you. I actually heard of mine through a Facebook group.
I would also highly recommend seeking the advice of a dietician. Speaking with a dietician who is a specialist in the diet, and is knowledgeable and experienced can be so helpful. It can give you a bit of a morale boost when finding it tough, but also they can help you identify any nutritional deficiencies, or particular foods that are problematic for you.
And aside from professionals, rope in friends and family! Explain you are finding it tricky and ask them for support. It can be so helpful to have those close to us to help us cook and know what foods you can eat and those to stay away from.
I hope this post on how to stick to a low histamine diet was helpful! If you are into cooking then you may like to follow me on Instagram and Facebook for lots of low histamine recipes!
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