The Best Substitutions for the Top 8 Allergens
Eating well in today’s world can be a challenge for those of you juggling your sport, studies, family and social life. For those of you dealing with food allergies, you know that this becomes even more of a tangled web to weave!
The vast majority of the human immune system can is found in our gut, hence why it is critical for athletes to fuel themselves with excellent nutrition, especially those suffering from food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances. A solid nutrition routine should be the foundation of every athlete’s regimen. This may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but for those of us with wheat, dairy, soy, egg, tree nut, fish, shellfish, or peanut butter allergies/sensitivities, we have to think a little harder and plan a little further, or else we end up miserable and starved!
I coach hundreds of individuals with food sensitivities, so I know how real that struggle is during their first few trips to the grocery store. It breaks my heart to see my athletes spending 3-4 hours on ONE shopping excursion because they are frantically flipping over food label after food label in an attempt to not accidentally contaminate themselves. OK, in the words of Sweet Brown, “ Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!” Or, even worse, they come back to my office saying they bought everything that looked “legal” but they ended up spending a fortune. Alright so at the same token, no one should have to sell a kidney on the black market to be able to pay for decent groceries.
Listen friends, I work around the clock so you don’t have to when it comes to eating well. My sole focus is to help you eat in a way that best supports your unique immune system and personal performance goals. Ideally, I want to help you do this in the most time-efficient and cost-effective manner. Below are my favorite substitutions for the top 8 allergens commonly encountered in cooking.
Eggs are an awesome source of nutrition, particularly amino acids, B vitamins, and choline. However, if you are unable to tolerate eggs, this can be a tricky situation to navigate.
If you were accustomed to eating eggs for breakfast, try a few homemade turkey or chicken patties. You can throw salsa, hot sauce or guacamole on the patties just like you would for eggs and feel just as satisfied when the meal is over.
If you typically use eggs for baking, try flax eggs or aquafaba, the liquid found in canned chickpeas. Strange, I know, but it works wonders and the person who figured that one out deserves a Nobel Prize. Flax eggs are purchased in the grocery store or you can make your own at home by using this recipe:
For one egg, follow this template. It can be exchanged for one egg in any recipe:
If you are looking for more of an egg white consistency or a meringue texture, aquafaba works best. Keep in mind that 1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons of aquafaba and 1 egg white = 2 tablespoons of aquafaba. When looking for a replacement for meringue, you will need to beat the aquafaba for approximately 10-15 minutes until you reach the texture that you desire.
Please do not shed any tears. Avoiding wheat does not mean you can never eat pasta again. There are dozens and dozens of wheat and gluten-free pastas on the market now, although not all of them are created equal. Two of my favorite brands are Tolerant and Banza. Tolerant is pasta made strictly from lentils- literally, red and green lentil are the only ingredients! Banza is a little more protein dense as it is made from chickpeas and pea protein. I love these brands and I eat them on a monthly basis but if you try these and you are not sold on the taste or texture, check out Tinkyada organic brown rice pasta. The flavor is bit more mild and the texture comes closer to traditional pasta made from flour.
Pro Tip: I would highly recommend cooking all of these pastas 2-3 minutes less than the directions on the box, or al dente as the Italians say. Otherwise, you will have a mushy bowl of pasta and for most people, that is not appetizing.
Lucky for you, non-dairy milk is completely mainstream at this point. Almond milk, rice milk, pistachio milk, hemp or flaxseed milk, hazelnut milk, and the list goes on. For those of you hoping for a taste and texture that is somewhat similar to cow’s milk, check out Almond Breeze, Silk, or Diamond regular or vanilla almond milk. These can typically be found at any grocery store. Add the nut or seed milk to your smoothie, oatmeal, pudding or just drink it straight.
Worried about all the gums and fillers in your non-dairy milk? Check out the brand Elmhurst. They offer a variety of gourmet, plant-based nut milks each containing only 4 natural ingredients and no artificial flavors or binding agents.
Looking for a nice little cube of cheese to pop in your mouth? Maybe a little shredded cheese for your salad? Daiya takes the dairy-free cake! With options like mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack, what’s not to love?!
Are you more of a cream cheese lover?
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Tree Nut & Peanut Allergies
To all my peanut butter lovers out there- Don’t panic. Sunflower butter has come to the rescue! The brand Sunbutter is my favorite because they make mini portable cups of sunflower seed butter, perfect for athletes on the go. Sunflower seed butter is an excellent substitution to peanut/nut butter in smoothies, oatmeal and also a great spread for fruit. You can dip your favorite cracker in sunflower seed butter and carrots actually work as a nice dipping vehicle too. Looking for an even easier version of sunflower seed butter? Yumbutter offers a squeezable nut butter pouch. The pouch contains a little spout for your eating convenience. Lastly, sunflower seed butter is a great alternative to peanut butter in the famous Pb & J sandwich. Or, if you are anything like my husband Michael, you can just polish off large spoonfuls of sunflower seed butter by itself. No judgment! (Well, maybe a little, ????).
Are you the type of person who prefers the convenience of eating large handfuls of nuts? Try a handful of seeds or a trail-mix-esque mixture instead. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts taste better than you might think when you add a few raisins and a variety of dried fruit.
Love the crunch and convenience of dried edamame? Try toasted chickpeas instead for a similarly delicious protein packed snack. There are several brands to choose from, but I love the flavor selection that The Good Bean has to offer. Chocolate? Mesquite BBQ? Thai Coconut Lemongrass? Yes, please.
Is soy sauce the condiment of your dreams? Check out Coconut Aminos made by Coconut Secret. This tasty, slightly sweeter version of soy sauce is a magical replacement for soy sauce in stir fry. Bonus: it is soy AND gluten free!
ProTip: Not interested in paying full price for some of these luxury items? Me neither. That is why I mention Thrive Market. As mentioned above, here is a link for 25% off your first order with ThriveMarket.com. Thrive Market is an online (Dry goods) grocery store selling your favorite specialty items at 25-60% off! The items from this article that can be found on Amazon (which most of the links are to), or for a small membership fee you can get a great discount on them through Thrive Market. Many of the items which can be bound on Thrive include: Banza Pasta, Tolerant Pasta, Tinkyada Pasta, Yumbutter Organic Sunflower Seed Butter, The Good Bean Chickpeas, Coconut Aminos, Sophie’s Vegan Tuna, Wild Planet Tuna & Salmon, and Canned chickpeas (aquafaba)>
Where is your favorite place to shop for allergen-free food items? What are your favorite substitutions for the Top 8 Allergens? Do you use any substitutes that we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!