Variety in a Food Allergy Diet

Our good friend is renowned for his delicious pizzas, everything is homemade, including the crispy crust and an assortment of delectable sauces and mouthwatering toppings. While he was visiting, he wanted to make his famous feta, spinach and pine nut pizza, but we weren’t sure if our daughter could have pine nuts with her tree nut allergy. He quickly suggested substituting toasted pumpkin seeds for the pine nuts, and it certainly was a fantastic pizza with a delicious taste combination. One of the biggest keys to managing food allergies is avoiding the allergen, but that doesn’t mean your diet should suffer, neither in nutrition nor variety. So knowing your options with substitutions can really come in handy.

Like I said, pumpkin seeds, as well as sunflower seeds can be great nut substitutions. If the allergy is tree nuts, there may be another tree nut or two that is safe, as well. For instance, my daughter can have almonds, so those can be used in place of other tree nuts in certain recipes (*make sure you know a nut is safe before substituting, if unsure DON”T use it!). Soy nuts are a good alternative, too, as they aren’t nuts at all, but beans.

If your allergy is peanut butter, you can use another nut butter (if you don’t have tree nut allergies). Many stores now regularly sell almond or cashew butter, even yummy Nutella with chocolate and hazelnuts. If you are allergic to tree nuts, try soy nut butter to replace peanut butter. Depending on the need, substitute cream cheese (great in a jelly sandwich), apple butter or hummus.

Many people with milk allergies feel comfortable with soy or rice milk, which can stand in for cow’s milk not only in drinking, cereal, and coffee, but also in baked goods, casseroles, and anything else that calls for regular cow’s milk. If you can find goat’s milk (most health and specialty food stores carry it), its taste is very similar to cow’s milk. Keep in mind, it must be fresh or the taste becomes too tangy. Water or fruit juice can be another substitute for cow’s milk where it makes sense; you probably don’t want to add grape juice to your chicken casserole, but it is delicious in a smoothie.

In addition to the actual milk varieties, these days many stores are carrying a variety of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses along with vegan cheeses made with tofu that can replace the standard cow’s milk cheeses.

For wheat, there are a number of other flours which can be easily substituted, such as rice flour, soy flour, barley flour, spelt, plus more, including various nut flours. These other types of flour will add different nutritional benefits as well, so you may choose to even vary your substitutes in your recipes.

There are some egg substitutes (Ener-G Egg Replacer) on the market which are allergy free for those with egg allergies, or you can try tofu or bananas in place of eggs. Of course, a banana obviously won’t work for egg dishes, like scrambled eggs, but for baking or binding, it’s a great choice.

An interesting website with more substitutions, recipes, and cooking ideas, is

– Heather Legg

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