Living with Food Allergies and Alternate Diets

By: Michael Greeves

Food allergies put a big hindrance on life in general because, depending on your allergic reaction, eating the wrong food can be deadly. With all of the preservatives and flavorings in foods now, it can be hard to identify what you may be allergic to because it will not be clearly outlined on the packaging. Baking also becomes a challenge, because if you have a corn allergy and need something in a recipe for thickening, alternates can be difficult to discern. Following are some safe foods and baking substitutions for the most common food allergies and alternate diets.

Gluten-Free (Wheat Allergy)

- For baking (leavening), use whipped egg whites or agar-agar.
- Instead of flour derived from wheat, use flour derived from corn or rice.
- Soy products are safe for consumption.
- Most milk and dairy products are safe, except for sour creams, chocolate milk, non-dairy creamers, and yogurt.

Soy Allergy

- Dairy products are safe for consumption.
- Meat can sometimes contain soy as an extender, so as long as soy is not used, most meats are safe.
- Most canned soups and frozen entrees contain soy, so homemade soups and entrees work best.
- There are several condiments that can prove to be troublesome, like Worcestershire sauce, malt vinegar, and soy sauce. This will give you the opportunity to experiment with other condiments and seasonings to achieve the flavor you desire.

Milk Allergy (NOT the same as lactose intolerance)

- Soy or rice based frozen desserts are a good alternate for ice cream.
- Use milk substitutes for baking.
- Dairy-free margarine can also be used in recipes requiring butter or margarine.
- Avoid foods with batter on them when eating out because the batter usually contains some milk products.
- Make sure you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables to supply calcium and other nutrients.

Corn Allergy

- Corn syrup is a big ingredient to steer clear of, and unfortunately, it is used in many things as a sweetener.
- All foods and beverages that are not sweetened with corn syrup are safe for consumption.
- In recipes that require a sweetener, fruit juices, honey, and maple syrup provide equal alternates.
- For baking, instead of using corn starch, use rice, potato, or wheat starch instead.

Vegetarian Diet (Ovo-Lacto)

- An ovo-lacto vegetarian will eat milk and egg products.
- For this diet, meatless products can help provide nutrients such as iron and protein.
- Tofu is a good supply of many nutrients.
- Eggs and dairy products will provide B-12 as well as more protein.
- Dark green vegetables will supply calcium for non-ovo-lacto vegetarians.
- Whole grains will also provide iron.

Vegan Diet

- A vegan does not eat and animal products, so this diet excludes meat as well as dairy products.
- Oatmeal, cereal, toast, and fruit juices are good foods for this diet; they will provide a wealth of nutrients for the body.
- Tofu lasagna is a good alternate to lasagna with meat in it.
- Soy ice cream is a good option over milk-based ice cream.
- Rice pudding and banana muffins contain no animal products and are good variations from other foods.

Eating nutritiously with food allergies can be challenging, but definitely not impossible. With the organic and healthier lifestyles becoming more popular, grocery stores will likely carry an alternative food to the one you are allergic to or choose not to eat. For people with more serious food allergies, your doctor will be able to provide you with more complete guidelines on living safely with your allergy.

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