The 3 Most Common Mistakes When Starting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and How to Avoid Them

Starting an anti-inflammatory diet can be really confusing! Conflicting food lists online, quitting sugar, and annoying requirements for cutting out wheat is enough to make anyone take pause. But I promise the benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet far outweigh the learning curve!

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

In case you don’t know me, I’m Laura, and I’m a nutrition specialist, certified health coach and founder of TRUEWELL.

And I’ve spent pretty much the last decade figuring out how to overcome sugar addiction and find the perfect dietary start to alleviate my anxiety and depression, my crazy hormone issues, erratic blood sugar levels, calm inflammation in my body, and lose the weight after having babies…which is why I am a die-hard fan and teacher of the anti-inflammatory diet. 

But it wasn’t easy for me to get here, and countless other women make a few of the same mistakes when trying to go anti-inflammatory as well which is what I’m about to share with you, and how to avoid all that so you can really get started. So let’s get into the top most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet and what to do instead.

Mistake #1: not knowing how to read food labels

Mistake number one is blindly trusting food labels. The bottom line is that to go anti-inflammatory you must know what’s in packaged foods. When you don’t know what’s actually in your foods you can’t stick to an anti-inflammatory diet very well because this dietary style doesn’t really rely on counting anything.

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

It’s all about the specific foods and the quality of them so when you have no clue how to read a food label and don’t know what any of the information means on it, it gets really tricky to pick out correct ingredients and to pick out anything that fall within the guidelines.

The problem is that food companies are really good at trying to trick us with labeling. Things are getting a little bit better, but for the most part those companies really rely on us just blindly trusting whatever they tell us on those food labels. 

So what we want to look at is the ingredients list and then we also want to look at the top box that is the nutrition information. Really for the anti-inflammatory diet the things that you’re looking for are indicators that there are no added sugars and you want fiber to be in there; that’s going to indicate that there are more complex carbs in it versus simple carbs, refined flours, things like that. 

Know your sugars

But you still just need to make double sure and still be able to understand the ingredients on the food label underneath. I always recommend becoming familiar with the different names of sugars because food companies know that we’re starting to get smarter and they start using different words to disguise what sugars are.

Click here to see the list of foods that are actually sugars.

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Know your grains and flours

Grains can be super tricky because food companies list a ridiculous number of ingredients, and they also are very good at finding loopholes in laws regarding labeling.

So for example, if you see a packaged food that says, “Made with 100% whole grains” on the front label, that could very well mean that they used SOME whole grains, and then the rest are refined. 

You can verify this by checking the ingredients list on the side or back of the package. 

Tip: The ingredients are ordered by largest quantity to smallest quantity. 

So just start to become very familiar with how to read food labels and understand what’s actually in those foods because I promise you this: Food companies do not have your best interest in mind, and they’re going to do their very best all they care about is their bottom line.

Mistake # 2:Not knowing what grains and forms of those are okay to include 

So when it comes to carbohydrates, we do need carbohydrates to have energy.

But what happens is when grains are ground up and the bran part removed, they’re also taking out all of the fiber that’s in it. Now we need fiber because it helps our digestive systems move but it also binds to simple carbs so that they don’t make our blood sugar spike.

When we have spikes, it’s going to crash and this roller coaster that happens is really bad for inflammation. What you want is steady blood sugar all day long but it’s never going to be a flat line. Rather, you need within a good range versus the dramatic up and down roller coaster. 

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

So what we’re looking at is whole grains but what we need to understand too, is that even if you’re looking at say refined flour like all-purpose baking flour vs. whole wheat flour, the difference between those two is that the whole wheat is going to have some fiber…but what’s happened is that since it’s ground up into that fine flour it’s still giving you a blood sugar spike very similar to what the refined flour does. 

So if you really look at the basics of a Mediterranean diet, the true Mediterranean diet does not include flours like that.

What you are able to include are whole actual grains like rice, quinoa, and couscous. Grains in this form have the entire piece intact or partially cracked so that it really slows down the digestion of those carbohydrates and their absorption. 

That way you have a kind of lengthened version of energy coming in for a while after you eat versus getting that blood sugar hit then all absorbing at the same time with this spike because then it’s going to crash later.

Read next: Are Grains Inflammatory?

Gluten-containing grains

I do personally recommend also taking gluten out because it has been shown to be inflammatory even in people that don’t have Celiac or sensitivities to gluten. But it still can induce that inflammation and so if you have other issues (even if you don’t have like IBS or IBD or other inflammatory issues) you can be affected by gluten

Grains that have gluten include:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat derivatives (like the ones used for pasta)
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malts

And think about replacing it with a different type of grain that’s going to be really beneficial for your body to get those complex carbs while keeping your blood sugar under control .

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Mistake #3: Not cooking enough

When you cook more you have better control over what you’re eating and you learn to enjoy just learning about different foods and cooking and that really ends up tying back into the number one mistake–when you cook more you can rely much less on food labels.

The exception of that would probably be unless you use sauces, that sort of thing, within your recipes. For example, spaghetti sauce is already mixed together with ingredients so you still need to be able to read that food label to make sure that the spaghetti sauce is made without sugar.

So number one still applies because you need to know what ingredients you’re adding into your recipe as a whole.

Take away #1:

Learn to read food labels and learn the terms, especially for sugars and grains.

Takeaway #2:

Kick flours to the curb and replace with truly whole (or cracked) grains.

Take away #3:

Learn to cook and learn to love it.

Let me know in the comments below which of these problems you have had yourself and what you’ve done to fix them!

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most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet
Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Laura is a Nutrition Specialist and Certified Health Coach with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her goal is to help women reverse prediabetes by balancing blood sugar and reducing inflammation with a personalized Anti-Inflammatory Diet + Lifestyle.

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