When I tell people that I'm allergic to wheat and dairy they usually look at me with pity and ask how I manage without pizza and ice cream.
Ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed, I had to do without a lot of my favourite foods. Thankfully, today that is no longer the case.
People who live with food allergies now have plenty of options, several of which can actually be healthier than the original.
There are plenty of readily available alternatives to dairy, although it is important when replacing dairy to make sure your diet contains other calcium rich foods.
Calcium is found in green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, and in tofu, nuts and seeds. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, so make sure to get plenty of sunshine!
Many dairy-free products are also fortified to provide essential nutritional requirements.
Almond milk is naturally high in calcium and is of a good consistency for cereals and blended beverages.
Soy and rice milks are other popular alternatives to traditional cow's milk; however, soy can be chemically processed and genetically modified, so try to find an organic non-GMO brand when possible.
Coconut milk is another delicious option and is high in iron, magnesium and vitamin C.
Most milk alternatives can also be found for other non-dairy food items like cheese and yogurt.
Some of these cheeses come pre-shredded for easy melting on pizzas and pastas, and yogurts are sometimes enriched with probiotics for healthy digestion.
Rice Dream makes a delicious dairy-free ice cream and comes in plenty of tasty flavours.
By definition, vegan products are dairy-free, so any grocery store or restaurant that caters to a vegan clientele will offer alternatives to dairy.
Most baked goods can be made without dairy and there are several companies who specialize in vegan desserts. Sweets from the Earth makes tasty vegan treats, which are also often free of other common allergens like gluten and nuts.
If you prefer cooking at home, try making your own dairy-free desserts. Vegan chocolate mousse substitutes avocado or tofu for milk or butter and tastes delicious!
If you are buying pre-packaged foods or baked goods and are gluten sensitive or intolerant, you will want to look for labels that specify the product is gluten-free.
Some companies are specializing in entirely gluten-free foods to meet the increasing need for allergy-friendly products. You may often find whole sections of your health food store or specialty supermarket dedicated to wheat and dairy alternatives.
If you are trying your hand at gluten-free baking you also have several options for non-traditional ingredients.
Most baked goods can be easily made without glutinous flours. Potato, rice, almond and chickpea flours are just some of the alternatives. There are even companies who have created their own signature blends of gluten-free flours. These flours are conveniently pre-packaged and perfectly proportioned for baking at home.
As the need for allergy-friendly menu items increases, some more traditional restaurants are responding with gluten free options.
Magic Oven Pizza in Toronto offers a gluten-free crust for their pizzas or gluten-free pasta. Several sushi restaurants offer gluten-free tamari sauce as an option to replace soy sauce. Fresh, a vegetarian Toronto eatery, has recently switched to a gluten-free tamari sauce, and now prints a gluten-free version of their main menu.
With all of these delicious and healthy alternatives to dairy and wheat, living with food allergies is easily manageable and, in fact, encourages us to eat with awareness.
By carefully reading the labels before we put food into our grocery carts or into our mouths, we can be confident that we are making the best decisions for our own health and well-being.
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