Food Allergy Substitutions Made Easy
Sometimes, people with food allergies and sensitivities feel left out, longing for a classic treat or itching to try a new recipe. But with a few substitutions, it’s possible to make delicious dishes that are free of major allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat. Follow our tips for simple food allergy substitutions – and start enjoying safe and delicious meals today!
Replacing Peanuts and Tree Nuts
Peanuts and tree nuts—such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews—are two of the most common food allergens, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Both peanuts and tree nuts are used to add crunch to baked goods, salads, and stir-fries. Enjoy the same crispy textures without the nuts by swapping in sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead. This is especially delicious if you lightly toast them first. You can also use sunflower or pumpkin seed butter as a substitute for peanut butter in cookies, sandwiches, and Thai-style peanut sauces. Check the specialty aisle of grocery stores for seed products labeled as peanut- and tree nut-free.
Milk allergy can be a very serious condition, warns FARE. Lactose intolerance is a milder condition, but it can still cause people discomfort. If you have milk allergy or lactose intolerance, you can look for dairy-free milk substitutions at the grocery store. These may include rice, oat, soy, or almond beverages. Many of those food allergy substitutions taste great, sipped cold from the glass or added to baked goods. You can also look for dairy-free butter alternatives, such as allergy-friendly margarines, in the specialty aisle of grocery stores.
Eggs add structure to many dishes, as well as protein and flavor. But don’t settle for limp cookies and flat muffins just because you have an egg allergy! Start exploring the egg substitutions recommended by Allergic Living, such as mashed banana or blended tofu. Unfortunately, some of those substitutions won’t work for egg-focused dishes, like quiche. Instead, look for special recipes designed with allergic diners in mind.
Soy sauce adds protein, savory depth, and saltiness to many Asian-style recipes. If you have soy allergy or sensitivity, skip the soy sauce and add concentrated beef or mushroom broth instead. Remember to opt for low sodium options. If you eat meat, swap tofu for chicken in stir-fries, stews, and kebabs. If you’re a vegetarian, substitute cubes of parboiled potatoes or cooked white beans (e.g., cannellini) instead. Those dense, savory ingredients will give your meal substance and flavor.
Wheat is ground into flour, which is used in most North American baked sweets, breads, and pastas. It can be tricky to replace with a one-to-one substitution. So if you have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, use a blend of wheat-free flours, recommends Living Without. For example, a mix of brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and cornstarch may be the perfect base for your next batch cookies.
If you have multiple food allergies or sensitivities, it can be difficult to find allergy-safe ingredients and recipes. Follow Kids with Food Allergies’ advice and visit a qualified dietitian who specializes in food allergies and sensitivities. Ask them how you can enjoy a wider variety of foods and meet your nutrition needs, while avoiding your allergens. Sometimes, a little support is all you need!
Care and Caution
When it comes to food allergies, there is no substitute for care and caution. The Living Confidently with Food Allergy Handbook recommends reading food labels every time you buy a product, even if you have eaten it before. If you have a serious food allergy, avoid products that list your allergen in the ingredient list or “may contain” warning. And never eat without your emergency medicine (i.e., epinephrine auto-injector) on hand. With a little bit of extra care, you can enjoy delicious, nutritious, worry-free meals every day of the week.