Migraine Diet Recipes and Flavor Combinations
I’m an improvisational cook, so these suggestions are more about flavor combinations than detailed recipes. Many of my suggestions are simply legumes or browned meat, sautéed veggies, and a grain all mixed together. Add allowed herbs and spices to increase the flavors.
There are migraine-focused cookbooks, but few also omit histamine-containing foods. Some of those recipes even include other potential trigger foods. Migraine diet cookbooks can be a good starting point, even if you have to cut out additional ingredients. The same can be said for pretty much any recipe. It can feel like you’re cutting out practically everything from the recipe, but the instructions are good guidance for how long to cook the individual parts. If you want more guidance, here are some basic, modifiable recipes for stir-fries, soups, and casseroles.
Vegetable juice is a great breakfast option. You can find tons of juice recipes online, just be sure they use allowed ingredients. Apples, pears and carrots are good sweeteners. Ginger adds bite that you usually get from citrus. I love this apple-beet-carrot-ginger juice (made with golden beets) and it’s an excellent replacement for citrus or vinegar in salad dressing.
Hot cereal: Any whole grain cooked can make a good cereal and most are relatively high in protein. They can also be cooked in large batches and frozen. You can add sweeteners and/or fruit. Amaranth and apples are a great combination, especially sweetened with honey. Quinoa and coconut milk make a nice porridge with a little sugar. Teff and cream of wheat are delicious with a little butter or cream and maple syrup. (Some people find sugar a trigger, so try not to go overboard with the sweeteners.)
Salad made of allowed ingredients and topped with meat or beans is also quick. For dressing, you can use a little olive oil and herbs (like you’d put in a vinaigrette sans vinegar). To add some bite or tang, put the oil in a blender and mix in fresh ginger. The apple-beet-carrot-ginger juice I mention above is an excellent replacement for citrus or vinegar in dressing, as is pomegranate juice.
Any of the freezable foods from the dinner category, which is all of them except freshly grilled meat and the fajitas.
Grilling, sautéing, or poaching meat and serving it with a side of steamed or sautéed vegetables and a grain is simple and fairly quick.
Chicken soup: Sauté chicken in oil until lightly browned and set aside. In a large pot, sauté garlic. Add celery, carrots, and parnips, any herbs on the allowed list, and a little water (or homemade vegetable stock from allowed ingredients) and steam. Mix in chicken and, if desired, rice or wild rice. Poached chicken also works, but sautéing adds a little more flavor. (Vegetarian/vegan version: replace chicken with white beans.)
Lentil soup: Use the same veggies as above, but cook lentils with the veggies (add enough water to cook the lentils, according to the instructions). Zucchini, bell peppers, and onion are also good in lentil soup (just remember that zucchini and bell peppers cook faster than harder vegetables).
Kale with chicken: Sauté chicken in oil until lightly browned and set aside. Slice kale into thin strips, grate carrots, slice leeks. Sauté leeks in oil for a couple minutes. Add kale and carrots and sauté until done (putting a lid on the pan for a few minutes so the kale can steam will cook it more quickly). Mix in the chicken and, if desired, precooked quinoa. (Vegetarian/vegan version: omit the chicken and use quinoa to boost the protein levels. You could also add garbanzo beans.)
Meat and veggie stir-fry. Slice meat and sauté it, set aside. Sauté any combination of veggies, I like zucchini, bell peppers, and garlic. Serve with rice or another grain. (Vegetarian/vegan version: replace meat with beans of your choice.)
Fajitas. Slice meat and sauté it, set aside. Sauté onion and/or garlic in oil or butter for a couple minutes, then add diced bell peppers and desired spices and sauté. (Vegetarian/vegan, replace the meat with beans of your choice.)
Roasted vegetables. Veggies that are diced, tossed with oil (and garlic, if desired), and roasted in the oven become delicious and a little sweet—even cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Search online for any roasted vegetable recipe to get details on oven temp and cooking time. Roasting works for most vegetables. It can even turn squash into dessert when roasted in coconut oil.
Kabocha squash with ginger and honey. Search for instructions on how to cut kabocha’s hard skin and cooking it in the microwave. When cooked, mash it with some diced ginger and honey. You can also dice it and roast it like any other vegetable, then add the ginger and honey at the end.
Popcorn is a fantastic snack, but you have to make it from scratch. If you don’t have a popper, search online for how to make it in a pot. You can cook it any allowed oil (the oil you choose will influence the flavor) and dress it up with salt, allowed herbs and spices, or even sugar.
It's relatively easy to find simple prepared snack foods, like tortilla chips, root vegetable chips (like taro chips), plain crackers, pretzels, and rice cakes. (Rice cakes drizzled with honey and sprinkled with salt are a good salty-sweet treat.)
If you have a sweet tooth, look for shortbread that’s made with allowed ingredients. You might also be able to find sugar cookies that fit the bill. For simple homemade desserts, try plain gelatin made with fruit juice, macaroons made with corn flakes, or apple cobbler. It can be difficult to find ice cream made of allowed ingredients, but some are available. Homemade ice cream or ice milk (which is super easy and can be made without an ice cream maker) might suffice.
A lot of diet books recommend fruit as an alternative to dessert. I used to scoff at those books, but now I do find it a reasonable substitute. If that's not the case for you, a simple cobbler or fruit sauce to drizzle over ice cream are good ways to turn fruit into dessert.
A note: These suggestions probably seem absurdly restrictive and unbelievably boring. If I'd read them three years ago, I'd have thought the author was delusional. Being a food person, I never expected I could stand such a restricted diet, but it's how I eat now. It turns out that I'm willing to give up a lot to avoid having a migraine attack every day. My current diet is actually more restricted than the lists I've given you. I have 40 ingredients to choose from and I eat each one only every fourth day. I complain about it a lot, but am acutely aware of what I get from my sacrifice. Most of the time, the rewards are worth the frustrations. You may decide it's not worth it for you, but I urge you to at least try it to see if there's a difference. I feel so much better than I ever thought I would.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?