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Elimination Diet: How To and Is It Right for You?

author image Maggie Moon, MS, RDN
Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Los Angeles, and author of "The MIND Diet" (Ulysses Press, 2016). She holds a Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Education from Columbia University. Connect with her at

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Elimination Diet: How To and Is It Right for You?
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Do you have a hunch that something in your diet is preventing you from feeling your best? It may be a sign that you have a food sensitivity, and a qualified health professional can help you know for sure. Not all food sensitivities are easy to test for, and that’s why clinicians may use an elimination diet as part of the diagnosis process. Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, CLT, of attests, “Elimination diets remain the gold standard in confirming food sensitivities.” Strange as it may sound, it’s important not to dwell on the “elimination” part of the process. Elimination diets should be about finding the foods that work best for your body.

Why Would You Try an Elimination Diet?
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Why Would You Try an Elimination Diet?

If you’re experiencing consistent symptoms, including stomach upset, skin rashes or fatigue, an elimination diet might be right for you. By eliminating some foods for a short-term period, you can identify “trigger foods” that may be causing these side effects. More importantly for the long term, an elimination diet helps identify the foods that will nourish and delight without negative side effects. Elimination diets are unique to the individual, therefore there is no one “best” elimination diet. An elimination diet may not be right for you if you know you have a food allergy that causes anaphylaxis, in which case you should be working closely with your health care team, including a qualified dietitian, to manage your condition.

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What Is the Elimination Diet?
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What Is the Elimination Diet?

Briefly, the elimination diet includes five steps: assess, plan, avoid, challenge and change. The assessment phase includes keeping and analyzing a food and symptom tracker. The plannning phase involves preparing yourself, your household and your kitchen for what you’re about to do. The avoidance phase is when you eliminate all of the trigger foods identified in the assessment phase. This is the phase when you are putting a lot of your preparation and planning into action. The challenge phase is when you start to reintroduce foods, one at a time, back in to your diet to determine whether they are safe for you. The change phase is when you incorporate changes to the way you will eat for the long term so that you can keep your symptoms at bay. Your diet during the change phase is the foundation for an ongoing maintenance diet.

Related: 16 Steps to Spring-Clean Your Kitchen

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