Substituting Ingredients: An Allergy Free Holiday

(Originally posted on on Dec 22nd, 2011)

It can be very confusing when first trying to eliminate a food sensitivity from your diet. Most of the common sensitivities are incredibly basic foods that are extremely prominent in the standard diet. This can make the idea very daunting and make people quit before beginning. Let’s take a moment to look at how it`s not really as scary as it sounds.

The first thing we have to remember is that we are not alone. There are almost seven billion people on this planet and about 30% have access to the internet1. The probability that someone out there has gone through what you are now and written about it is very high. There are blogs and recipe sites galore dedicated to special diets of all kinds. Even YouTube has channels showing how to make diet-friendly foods. There is lots of help. We just need to look for it.

Baking is one of the main temptations during the holidays so alternatives to wheat flour are needed. Try a gluten-free flour like almond or chick-pea flours. But these can be expensive and sometimes hard to find so why not try a flourless recipe. Be careful with your other ingredients as well. Wheat and gluten can show up in other places like baking powder.

But baking is not the only place gluten shows up. Anything with grains in it will be full of gluten. Instead of having grains as your carbohydrate in a meal try replacing them with beans of a larger portion of crunch vegetables. You’ll get a better quality of carbohydrate from these sources anyways.

Gluten-Free Resources:
Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom
She Let Them Eat Cake
The Super Allergy Girl

Eggs are used in almost everything. There is nothing really like them and they are very versatile. In baking they are used as an emulsifier and a lubricant. In casseroles they are used as a cement to hold everything together. In omelettes they are…the main ingredient. So what to do? There are many egg replacers on the market but they can be hard to find and are generally only usable in baking. To get around this we can use the knowledge of what they are used for we can find different replacements for different situations.

In baking, one tablespoon of oil (use healthy oil of course) can replace an egg very easily as both the emulsifier and lubricant. 1Tbsp flax seeds, ¾ cup of water blended. A banana is also a good egg replacement in baking but will change the taste of the end product.

In casseroles a good egg replacement is Ener-G Egg Replacer and it does not alter the texture or taste of the dish where things like apple sauce or mashed bananas would.

Egg-Free Resources:
Madhuram`s Eggless Cooking
She Let Them Eat Cake
The Super Allergy Girl

Soy and nut milks are extremely common and easy to find in any grocery store (usually in either the cereal or baking isles). These milks can substitute dairy- milk in every use without changing the outcome and are similarly priced so they are not more of a strain on our wallets.

Butter is a different matter. Many people just use “lactose-free” margarine but the problem is those products is that they still have Whey (dairy) protein in them which is the inflammatory component dairy products. As well, with margarine we run the risk of getting trans-fats in our food which is not a good thing (even if the nutrition chart says there are non). Like eggs, we can find different things around the kitchen to take the place of the source of fat that butter and margarine provide. Some sources suggest using apple sauce or puréed sticky fruit like prunes or dates. If you are making something that does not need the solid consistency of butter vegetable oil is always a good option. Coconut oil has a similar consistency to butter but a very strong and unique taste.

When replacing dairy products the main alternatives out there are soy based which is a common allergen and inflammatory as well. So try to avoid these substitutes and find others like nut milks and vegetable oils.

Dairy-Free Resources:
Dairy Free Betty
She Let Them Eat Cake
The Super Allergy Girl

Soy is usually a replacement in itself and very few recipes actually call for it by itself. The place we need to be vigilant for soy is in prepared products from the grocery store as it is an ingredient in many things as a protein source or thickener.

Soy-Free Resources:
Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom

Corn is very similar to soy in that it is not called for often in recipes and when it is, it is usually in its whole form or as a thickener as in gravies and sauces. So when a recipe calls for corn starch, try using a gluten free flour instead like tapioca which is readily available in most grocery stores.

Again, just like soy corn is used as a common ingredient in many prepared products as a carbohydrate source or as a thickener. We should always read the ingredient lists of what we are buying to be sure we know what we are getting.

So this holiday season I challenge you to try out a few recipes on friend and family. Try to remove one of the allergens from your diet and see if your guests even notice the difference. Remember to read the ingredients lists of everything you buy. Be an example to your friends and show them how anyone can change their health just by changing their diet.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays,
Dr. Ben



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