This healthy elimination diet plan helps identify food intolerances and sensitivities to alleviate digestive issues or other common symptoms.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.
April 16, 2020
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People may start an elimination diet for several reasons, with one of the main reasons being to try and pinpoint food intolerances and sensitivities that cause digestive issues like gas, bloating or stomach pain. A food intolerance is where your body processes a certain food (or foods) in a different way than others, which can cause that gastrointestinal discomfort or other symptoms. Food intolerances are different from a food allergy, which involves an immune response that can be very dangerous. If you suspect a true food allergy, we encourage you to discuss this with your medical provider or allergist.

In this elimination diet plan, we map out a week of meals and snacks that include delicious flavors and easy recipes. What didn't we include? The top 8 foods most commonly associated with food intolerances, sensitivities and food allergies—milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. We set this plan at 1,500 calories a day but included modifications to make it 1,200 calories or 2,000 calories, depending on your needs.

Exactly What Is an Elimination Diet?

A food elimination diet is a systematic approach used to identify food sensitivities. Food elimination diets can take on a number of different forms. In this plan, we excluded foods that contain the 8 most common allergens, but if you strongly suspect that, for example, dairy is the culprit and choose to only replace dairy items with nondairy alternatives, you can modify this plan as needed.

There's also something called the low-FODMAP diet, which is most often used to help people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. The low-FODMAP diet limits certain types of carbohydrates that can cause gastrointestinal distress in those with IBS.

How to Do an Elimination Diet

If you're wondering how to start an elimination diet, we would first recommend that you meet with a registered dietitian who can help safely guide you through the process. They will discuss your current diet and symptoms and help you think about what your possible food triggers may be. Then, they will likely advise you to completely avoid those trigger foods for at least two weeks, which is where this meal plan can come in handy. You can use this plan as a guide and template for what to eat (or not to eat) and adjust it according to your individual needs.

After the designated elimination phase, the next phase is reintroduction, where you introduce one possible food trigger back into your diet at a time. You should space out these reintroductions by at least three days, so it's easier to determine what trigger foods cause what symptoms. It can be very helpful to keep a food symptoms diary during this time. This means you'll keep track of what you eat as well as what symptoms you're having and when.

Elimination Diet Foods List

The foods to avoid on an elimination diet are very individualized. Some people may want to start by avoiding lactose, the carbohydrate found in some dairy products, as it's the most common food intolerance. Other people suspect gluten, the protein in wheat, may cause their symptoms. In this plan, we excluded the top 8 foods most commonly associated with food intolerances, sensitivities and allergens. See the full list of what to avoid with each allergen here.

Milk, including dairy products like yogurt, kefir, butter, cheese, cottage cheese, creamer, half-and-half, sour cream, ice cream, whey or dairy-based powders, any packaged products made with dairy and more.

Eggs, including foods made with eggs like some mayonnaise brands, baked goods, egg-based powders and more.

Tree nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans, pralines, pine nuts, nut butters, nut milks, nut extracts or pastes and more.

Peanuts, including peanut butter, peanut oil, peanut flour and more.

Wheat, including wheat-based bread, cereal, pasta, breadcrumbs, crackers, flours and more, bulgur, farro, matzoh meal, seitan, wheatgrass, wheat germ oil and more.

Soy, including soy sauce and tamari, edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso, soymilk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soy oil and more.

Fish, including salmon, tuna (fresh or canned), tilapia, bass, anchovies, sardines, haddock, pollock, swordfish, trout and more.

Shellfish, including crabs, crawfish, lobster, shrimp, prawns, clams, mussels, oysters, scallops and more.

What You Can Eat

While you may end up cutting out quite a lot of foods during an elimination diet, there are still so many delicious items you do get to eat! Here are just some of the delicious foods you'll find in this meal plan

Fruits & veggies and plenty of them!

Healthy proteins like beans, chicken and steak.

Seeds to snack on in place of nuts, like pumpkin seeds and sunflower butter.

Wheat-free grains, like quinoa, oatmeal and corn tortillas.

And plenty of herbs and spices to keep your meals flavorful and exciting.

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

Here's how you can prep ahead for the busy week:

  1. Prepare Meal-Prep Vegan Moroccan Lettuce Wraps to have for lunch on days 2 through 5.

Day 1

Breakfast (322 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (360 calories)

P.M. Snack (125 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin seeds

Dinner (540 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,479 calories, 54 g protein, 167 g carbohydrate, 41 g fiber, 75 g fat, 1,172 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Switch to 1 medium orange instead of a pear at A.M. snack, and don't have the Cucumber & Avocado Salad with dinner.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk yogurt to A.M. snack, increase to 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds at P.M. snack, and increase to 2 servings Cucumber & Avocado Salad at dinner.

Day 2

Breakfast (322 calories)

A.M. Snack (180 calories)

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (50 calories)

  • 2 oz. deli turkey

Dinner (542 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,520 calories, 53 g protein, 167 g carbohydrate, 41 g fiber, 80 g fat, 1,769 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Switch to 1 clementine instead of pumpkin seeds at A.M. snack, and don't have the Cucumber & Avocado Salad with dinner.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 large banana to A.M. snack, add 15 gluten-free crackers to P.M. snack, and increase to 2 servings Cucumber & Avocado Salad at dinner.

Day 3

Breakfast (261 calories)

A.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 1 medium banana

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (292 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower butter

Dinner (422 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,506 calories, 65 g protein, 177 g carbohydrate, 35 g fiber, 66 g fat, 1,246 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Switch to 1 clementine instead of a banana at A.M. snack, and switch to 1 medium orange and don't include the sunflower butter at P.M. snack.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds at breakfast, add 2 Tbsp. sunflower butter at A.M. snack, add 1 medium banana to lunch, and increase to 1 cup cooked quinoa at dinner.

Day 4

Breakfast (261 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (180 calories)

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Dinner (503 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,501 calories, 52 g protein, 198 g carbohydrate, 45 g fiber, 64 g fat, 1,282 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Switch to 1/4 cup sliced cucumber at A.M. snack instead of a pear, and replace the pumpkin seeds at P.M. snack with 1/4 cup blueberries.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds to A.M. snack, add 1 medium apple to lunch, and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad at dinner.

Day 5

Breakfast (322 calories)

A.M. Snack (275 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (50 calories)

  • 2 oz. deli turkey

Dinner (450 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve 2 servings of the Mediterranean Cabbage Soup to have for lunch on Days 6 and 7.

Daily Totals: 1,522 calories, 53 g protein, 182 g carbohydrate, 47 g fiber, 73 g fat, 1,733 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Have 1/2 cup sliced cucumber instead the apple and pumpkin seeds at A.M. snack, and switch to 1/4 cup blueberries instead of deli turkey at P.M. snack.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium orange to lunch, and add 1 large banana with 3 Tbsp. sunflower butter to P.M. snack.

Day 6

Breakfast (322 calories)

A.M. Snack (275 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Lunch (310 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (447 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,485 calories, 57 g protein, 204 g carbohydrate, 41 g fiber, 58 g fat, 1,011 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Don't have the pumpkin seeds at A.M. snack, and switch to 1 clementine instead of a pear at P.M. snack.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 10 gluten-free crackers with 1 1/2 Tbsp. sunflower butter to P.M. snack, and add 1/4 cup guacamole with 1 oz. corn tortilla chips to dinner.

Day 7

Breakfast (261 calories)

A.M. Snack (302 calories)

  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower butter

Lunch (310 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (495 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,500 calories, 62 g protein, 197 g carbohydrate, 39 g fiber, 59 g fat, 1,085 mg sodium

How to make it 1,200 calories: Don't have the sunflower butter at A.M. snack, and switch to 1 clementine instead of a pear at P.M. snack.

How to make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Berry-Coconut Smoothie to breakfast and add 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds to P.M. snack.

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