How to Eat Healthy with Dietary Restrictions

 

There’s no time like Nutrition Month to make sure you’re getting all your nutrients. But what if you have life-threatening food allergies that keep you from eating certain nutrient-rich superfoods?

Consider the top allergens in Canada: egg, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sesame, soy, tree nuts, sulphites, wheat. Of those listed, more than half are recommended as healthy, protein-rich snacks.

With this in mind, a food-allergic individual’s Number One concern—after avoiding their allergen, of course—should be ensuring they are getting enough nutrients, despite the limitations a food allergy has imposed on their diet.


Where there’s a will, there’s a way

If you were recently diagnosed with a food allergy and are feeling overwhelmed, the good news is, life with food allergies is easier than you think.

While there are still a lot of misunderstandings, we are living in a time of great change. These days, finding a replacement for your allergen, or the specific nutrient you are missing out on, is as easy as (allergen-free) pie. Check out a select list of healthy substitutes in the table below.

 

Allergen Replacement
Edamame (soy) Craving Asian food? While seaweed is linked to a ton of health benefits, they aren’t exactly identical to the little green pods we love to pop. Still, the satisfying crunch of a good seaweed chip makes them  just as fun to munch. Plus, they’ll give you an energy boost that will get you through the afternoon slump.
Hummus (sesame) Pretty in purple? Yes, please. This delicious beet hummus lets you enjoy the health benefits of beets and chickpeas all in one.
Milk Dairy-free “milk”? All the rage these days. Explore the refrigerated section at your grocery store to make some fascinating discoveries: almond, coconut, pea, soy, and even something called tiger nut (which is, incidentally, 100% nut-free).
Muffin (egg) Love to bake? From chia seeds to unsweetened apple sauce, when it comes to baking, you’d be surprised at just how many healthy egg alternatives there are. Find dozens of egg substitutes for baking here.
Trail mix (peanuts & tree nuts) Want to mix things up a little? Make your own trail mix with Goji berries, nutrient-rich seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), and some dark chocolate chips for a healthy sweet treat.
Low-sodium peanut butter If peanut butter & banana used to be a staple breakfast food, use one of these yummy subs instead: Almond butter, pea butter, pumpkin seed butter, soy butter, sunflower seed butter. (Note that I’ve linked to brands that do not have a “may contain peanut” warning. Always triple check that an ingredient list is free of your allergen before you make a purchase.)
Low-sodium soy sauce No need to say bye-bye to stir fry! Coconut aminos is a soy-free substitute that has less salt and more health benefits than soy sauce. And it tastes really, really good. There are a ton of different brands out there. Google and enjoy!

 

 

Allergy “friendly” products aren’t always your friend

While it is certainly exciting that so many new allergy-friendly products continue to hit the market, it’s important to read (and re-read ingredient lists)—simply because an “allergen-free” product might not be free of your allergens. And keep your eyes peeled for allergy statements, or warnings like “may contain” or “made in a facility that contains.” Once triple checking becomes second nature to you, don’t let the excitement of finding yet another safe product mean forgetting to read the label for its health benefits (or lack of).

Try to limit the number of highly processed products you are buying for their “allergen-free” label. It doesn’t hurt to reduce your intake of the processed stuff with long lists of ingredients & preservatives. So our best and most simplest advice?  Eat in, eat clean, bake from scratch.

 

A change may do you good

Life with food allergies can be challenging, but eating healthy isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here are my tops 3 tips for getting your nutrients in despite your food allergies.

  1. Invest in a breadmaker. If you’ve got an allergy that makes most breads off limits, this is one of the best purchases you will make this year. Not only is it surprisingly simple, but you get to wake up to the lovely aroma of freshly baked bread in the morning. (Yes, most breadmakers include a functionality that allows you to time when your bread is ready. And yes, it is awesome.)
  2. Join an online support groups for people with food allergies. Not only will you be surrounded by an encouraging community of people experiencing the same challenges as you, you’ll benefit from a ton of great tips and suggestions, including allergy-friendly recipes galore! Warning: Create a spreadsheet before joining because soon you won’t be able to keep up with all those wonderful recommendations.
  3. Commit to eating clean with help from a brand like Epicure. This line is entirely nut-free, and they’re transparent when it comes to their ingredientsso depending on what your allergies are, you can check to confirm that an item is safe for you. Not to mention they make it really easy (and quick!) to eat well.

 

Bonus tip! If you’re really committed to making a change, try eating root-to-stem. When it comes to food allergies, the more natural the food, the safer. We all know that something you pluck from the tree or pull out of the earth isn’t going to come with a “may contain” warning.

 

 

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