How to Get Proper Nutrition with Food Allergies
Getting the necessary nutrition is challenging enough, let alone if you have food allergies that restrict what you can consume on a daily basis. Let’s face it- the best foods tend to include wheat, dairy, meat, and a variety of other things that many people just can’t stomach (pizza- the best food to ever grace our planet). But if you have food allergies of any kind, you’re not alone. Research has estimated that up to 15 million people in America alone have some form of a food allergy including approximately 5.9 million children under the age of 18. With food allergies on the rise, it can be difficult to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition in your daily meals especially if you’re accounting for the nutrition of yourself and your family.
Luckily, with the extensive amount of people dealing with food allergies, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires food manufacturers to disclose ingredients in plain language so we know what’s in our food. Additionally, with the awareness of food allergies increasing, allergy friendly products are becoming more available making it easier for people to consume safe foods that provide similar, if not the same, health benefits. If you’re wondering how to get the proper nutrition with a food allergy or are looking to get more creative with restrictions to your diet, here are a few ways to substitute potential allergens in your meals:
Milk is pretty easy to replace in a recipe, but without it you can lose some key vitamins and minerals such as protein, calcium, and vitamins A & D. If you’re cooking or baking with milk, simply replace it with water or 100 percent fruit juice. To keep these nutrients in your diet, increase other protein foods in your diet such as meat, fish, poultry, leafy greens, or fortified milk substitutes.
If you or anyone in your family enjoys drinking milk or having milk with cereal (or cookies!) try milk substitutes such as almond milk or rice milk. Check to make sure they are fortified with calcium and if they aren’t, consider a calcium supplement to make up the difference.
Substituting eggs in a recipe can be a little tricky, but there are options. If you are baking or cooking with recipes that call for 1 to 3 eggs, try any of these:
- 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tablespoon liquid, 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 tsp yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
- 1 ½ tablespoon water, 1 ½ tablespoon oil, 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 packet gelatin, 2 tablespoon water- don’t mix this together until you’re ready to use it!
Similar to milk, eggs hold key nutrients such as protein and vitamins A & D, but you’re also missing out on iron and biotin. Incorporating similar foods when replacing milk such as meat, fish, poultry, leafy greens or legumes, fruits, vegetables, and enriched grains will help keep those nutrients in your diet.
Being allergic to wheat or being gluten intolerant deprives you of B vitamins and iron- which you can find in the same type of foods you’re using to replace milk or eggs (meat, fish, poultry, leafy greens, etc.) but you also can find these nutrients in fortified alternate grain products such as rice, corn, oats, barley or buckwheat.
For baking or cooking, using wheat free flour is usually going to be your best option. Feel free to blend a few options together and find one that will work for you. Try replacing 1 cup of wheat flour with any of the following:
- 7/8 cup rice flour
- 5/8 cup potato starch flour
- 1 cup soy flour, plus ¼ cup potato starch flour
- 1 cup corn flour
If you’re suffering from food allergies, all is not lost. Replacing the missing nutrition is easier than we anticipate and in fact, we can find similar nutrients in the same foods for those who deal with multiple allergies. The most important thing to remember is to check labels- food manufacturers have gotten much better about providing alternatives that are free of common allergens, but double check that label (just in case).
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