Food Allergies: Meal Plans & Substitutions

food allergy from spicygal.com

Gluten Free * Dairy Free * Soy Free * Peanut Free * Egg Free * Sugar Free

These are some of the latest trends or advice from medical professionals for living a healthier lifestyle.  Maybe this is a choice you’re making for yourself or maybe you’ve been advised to change your eating habits but with so many foods on the “no no” list, how do you begin to know where to start?  I have talked with countless individuals about this very topic over that past few months and everyone starts off in the same boat.  Overwhelmed, unclear of where to start, unclear of what certain foods really contain, missing the foods they could once eat and feeling bored with the foods they’ve been advised to switch to.  I know this feeling because we were in the same boat about 6 months ago.

Yesterday I was out shopping at my go-to store, Costco.  My daughter LOVES seaweed and so we buy it in individual packages in bulk so that she can take it to school for her snack.  Seaweed isn’t a typical snack here in WI so I wasn’t surprised when I was stopped by someone interested in what I did exactly with all of that seaweed I was buying.  Was it part of a new food trend she wasn’t aware of?  I explained my daughter’s obsession with it and she began to tell me a little bit about her story.  Being a cancer survivor her doctor advised her to avoid soy for her health.  Then, recently her husband’s doctor advised him to cut out virtually all allergens listed above.  As a couple they agreed that it was necessary to take the doctor’s advice.  For the past week she had been scouring grocery stores, even driving close to an hour to find gluten free items at Costco.  She was exhausted with the process, her husband was feeling bored and deprived of his usual favorites and I tell you, my heart went out to them!

NOTE: Before I launch into our story and how it can potentially help you, let me be very clear that I am not a doctor or health professional.  If you feel that your situation requires professional help, please see your doctor or healthcare expert.

Here’s our story.  Six months ago we had our son tested for allergies because he was having trouble focusing in school.  He would literally daze off into the distance as if in a trance about 10 minutes after consuming his snack (typically a healthier granola bar or dry cereal).  He missed hearing directions from the teacher and had a large delay in his response time after being asked a question.  This was not a new response.  It is something my husband and I had noticed in him his entire life so for us, this was just our kiddo being our kiddo.  However, when his teacher brought it up as a major issue, we knew we should look into it further.  A good friend recommended taking him to a homeopathic doctor and getting him tested for allergies.

The allergy test was done with a blood draw, testing approximately 200 different allergens.  The results shocked us!  We found out that he is highly allergic to soy and gluten and mildly allergic to peanuts and dairy.  The kicker is that every single day we would send him to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (his all time favorite!!) and many times a cheese stick.  He ate dry cereal for breakfast (typically honey nut cheerios or Mini Wheats) and for snack a few hours later at school he would consume another item full of gluten, dairy, peanuts and soy.  Not once did he ever break out into hives or give us reason to believe that he was allergic to these things.  He did have trouble sleeping and would get agitated easily when things didn’t go his way.  I just figured he was lucky to inherit some of my bad habits.

Per our doctor’s suggestion we immediately eliminated all of the allergens that were affecting him out of our diet.  But, not without first doing a TON of research and asking A LOT of questions!  We made the choice to make these changes as a family.  As you can imagine, and for those of you who have or are going through this, it’s not an easy pill to swallow.

The results 3 weeks later: We saw a large improvement in our son’s attitude.  He began to like school and like his teacher.  Fewer notes were coming home about his attention span at school.  It was becoming easier for him to fall asleep and get up in the morning.

3 months later: We had a completely different kid!  This new kid came home happy after school.  No more complaining about having to go to school.  Not a single note from his teacher had come home within the past 2 months.  Grades improved at school.  No temper tantrums before bed.  In fact, very few temper tantrums at all.  He could fall asleep easily, sleep through the ENTIRE NIGHT (Yippee) and wake up happy (WOW!!).  This new kid was helpful around the house.  The craziest part was that he began to recognize the difference in himself.  FACT: If you offer him one of his favorite treats from pre-allergen days (i.e. A Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup) he is more likely to consider it and turn it down.  Not because he knows he’s not supposed to have it, but because he will tell you that it will affect the way he feels too much.  JUST WOW!

6 months later:  We have learned through trial and error that the allergies that he is mildly allergic to (peanuts and dairy) don’t affect him too terribly if he accidentally consumes them.  However, we can tell within about 10 minutes if he has eaten something with soy or gluten.  His entire mood shifts (he morphs – as we like to lovingly call it).  He doesn’t break out in hives or stop breathing as some people do, but the chemistry of his entire body is affected in a negative way and it is very real.

So, with that being said, if this is what you’re going through or these food changes are something you’d like to make, where do you start?  I’m going to share with you the same meal plan that our homeopathic allergen doctor shared with us.  This is a plan that would eliminate soy, dairy, gluten, and peanuts from your diet (not eggs or sugar).  It has worked fabulously for our family and at least gave us a place to start until we could do some more research and find other options.


sandwich yogurtfruit choco milk

Sample Meal Plan:

Breakfast:

  • Smoothie for 1 person: In a blender combine 5 whole frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries, a large handful of spinach, 4 ounces of almond milk (substitute rice/coconut/hemp milk), 2 ounces of water, a dash of chia seeds and flax seeds, honey/agave nectar if needed – but slowly work to eliminate this over time.  Blend until smooth and Enjoy!  (Our son loves this smoothie and has one every day for breakfast.)
  • Dry cereal with non-dairy milk: Rice Krispies, Corn or Rice Chex, Krispix, Mom’s Best make a great Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Crunch that meet the allergen restriction.  My kids love these for their “Saturday” cereal because they don’t feel deprived.

Snack:

  • Turkey or Ham meat slices (Hormel Natural Choice makes a sliced turkey or ham without Nitrates or Nitrites or MSG ‘monosodium glutimate’)
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Fresh Fruit

Lunch:

  • Turkey Sandwich: Hormel Natural Choice Meat (see above), yellow mustard and 2 slices of Udi’s GF, Soy Free Bread (sold at most grocery stores in the freezer section of the health food isles but I’ve found it the least expensive at Costco in the freezer section.)
  • SO Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Yogurt (blueberry, Raspberry, Vanilla or Strawberry-Banana)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh veggie
  • For Special Occassions: Silk Almond Milk Dark Chocolate or SO Delicious Coconut Chocolate Milk (a substitute for chocolate milk at school)

Dinner: (This is just a sample.  Find more delicious allergen free dinner options here.)

  • Roasted Veggies – Our favorite is roasted sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, carrots and beets lightly sprayed with olive oil and dusted with sea salt and crushed rosemary.  Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes or until tender.  Mmmm!
  • Meat of choice – Roasted Chicken, Chicken Stew, Chili, etc.
  • Fancy drink – Perrier (plain) over ice with freshly squeezed lime and a few frozen blueberries.

Dessert:

  • In place of ice cream: Blend together frozen berries, coconut milk and vanilla extract for a delicious home-made sorbet.  For “Vanilla” sorbet, skip the frozen berries and instead add ice.

I love to bake and cook.  This became very helpful as finding pre-packaged foods that fit the bill can be difficult to come by.  However, I soon found myself scouring the web to determine different options for ingredients I could no longer use.  I’ve listed many below (I’m sure there are others) and I made sure to list actual brands I use if there’s one that I particularly like.  Having used these substitutions for 6 months now, I can tell you that there is a light at then end of the tunnel.  I can now tweak any recipe to fit our allergen restrictions and in time, you will be able to as well.

Allergen-Free Substitutions:

egg free

Eggs: In baking recipes you can sub:

  • 1/4 cup applesauce for 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil for 1 egg
  • 1/2 a banana, mashed for 1 egg — This will alter the taste of your baked good.
  • Mix 1 Tablespoon Ground flax seeds with 3 Tablespoons water and let sit for a few minutes.  Use in place of 1 egg.
  • Mix 2 Tablespoons water, 1 Tablespoon canola oil, and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  Use in place of 1 egg.

sugar free

Sugar:

  • In baking: swap equal amounts of applesauce for the amount of regular sugar called for in the recipe (This will make your baked good very moist!)
  • Honey
  • Agave Nectar
  • Dates (Whole, dried and pitted) – Blended in a food processor.  Sub 2/3 cup for 1 cup of regular sugar.
  • Raisins – Blended in a food processor.
  • Cinnamon – Dusted on food in place of sugar. (I dust it on my oatmeal every morning with some unsweetened applesauce.)
  • Pureed Banana – Sub 1 whole non-ripe mashed banana for 1 cup of regular sugar.  Bananas sweeten as they bake.  This will alter the taste of your baked good.  However, it works great in banana bread or banana cake.
  • Frozen Juice Concentrate – Blend 1/2 can of frozen juice concentrate with 1 cup frozen berries of choice for home-made sorbet.
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette boiled down to a glaze.  This glaze sweetens up as it boils down and makes a great topping for meats, veggies, these appetizer dates.
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Yacon Syrup

dairy free

Dairy:

  • Milk:
    • Almond Milk
    • Rice Milk
    • Coconut Milk/Cream
    • Hemp Milk
  • Cream:
    • Coconut Cream – BEST TRICK EVER! Leave a can of coconut cream (upside down) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.  The thick part of the cream will rise to the top.  DON’T tip the can upside down.  Instead, open it and skim off the thick cream on the top.  Use it in place of Cool Whip.
      • Half and Half Creamer Substitute: Do the same as above.  Mix equal parts coconut cream above with milk substitute.
  • Butter:
    • We love Earth Blance Soy Free Buttery Spread.  It tastes just like traditional butter and bakes just as well.
    • Substitute coconut oil for butter
    • Substitute olive oil for butter (not recommended in most baked goods)
  • Chocolate Chips:
    • The only brand I have been able to find that fits our no dairy, soy, gluten or peanut requirements is “Enjoy Life” – They come in mini chips, mega chunks, dark chocolate morsels or chocolate bars.

gluten free

Gluten:

  • Gluten Free Rolled Oats (We like Bob’s Red Mill).  Blend to a powder form in a food processor or blender.  Substitute in place of flour.  In baked goods we like to use half oats flour and half alternative flour (i.e. Namaste Blend).
  • Gluten Free Flour Blend found at the store – Typically a blend of sweet brown rice flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, xanthum gum and almond flour.
  • Udi’s Gluten Free products – Bread, Pizza crust, Muffins, Cookies, Bagels and much more!
  • If you are a baker these are items you must have on hand as most recipes from scratch call for them.  And unless you are OK with spending big bucks on brand name GF items, you may find yourself baking more than you used to:
    • GF Flour:
      • Arrowroot
      • Brown or White Rice Flour
      • Almond Flour
      • Sorghum Flour
      • (OR a packaged mix of all of the above – i.e. Bob’s Red Mill or Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend)
    • Xanthum Gum
    • Tapioca Starch
    • Potato Starch
    • Corn Starch

soy free

Soy:

It’s important to first realize that soy is in A LOT of food.  More foods than you probably realize.  This is where grocery shopping is going to take a bit longer at first.  You’re going to have start reading labels.  This is very important as soy hides itself in different ingredients on the labels.  It’s much easier if I just tell you what label items to avoid:

  • Soy Protein
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Hydrolyzed Soy
  • Tofu is pure soy
    • Textured vegetable protein
  • Vegetable oil is pure soy!
    • Many items at restaurants are cooked in vegetable oil.  It’s important to ask at restaurants if they use vegetable oil or canola oil.  Canola oil is OK as it doesn’t have soy in it.
  • Edamame is soy bean
  • Miso
  • Any ingredient with the word soy or soya
  • Tempeh
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Yuba (Bean Curd)

peanut free

Peanut:

The best alternative to peanut is a different type of nut (walnut, cashew, hazelnut, almonds, sunflower).  It is important to note that if you have an allergy to peanuts and you simply replace your daily peanut butter with a different nut butter, you may develop an allergy to that new nut butter.  The saying goes, everything in moderation.  As nut butters are higher in fats and calories, consume them in moderation.

An alternative is also hummus (made out of chickpeas or garbanzo beans), which is a similar texture to peanut butter.  Dip veggies in hummus for a great snack or appetizer.


Allergy humor

Hopefully, this list gives you a clearer place to start.  If you’re overwhelmed, you’re normal! Give yourself double the normal time needed to go to the grocery store.  Leave the kiddos at home, if possible.  Grab a coffee to sip while you browse (it might lessen the stress) and give yourself a break, realizing that you’re new at this and it will take some time.  But you’ll get it.  And your family will benefit from your hard work.

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2 Responses to Food Allergies: Meal Plans & Substitutions

  1. completely organic soy products

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this
    blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a
    problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    • Lindsey Brustad

      Problem has been fixed and you should be able to view all pictures in the post now. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

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