Food

9 Simple Substitutions for Common Food Allergies

People of every dietary persuasion can enjoy these delicious dishes.

Food allergies are the worst. For some, it could be a deadly anaphylactic reaction; while for others, it’s a bad stomachache that makes Timmy’s birthday cake unpalatable. Soy, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts are among the most common food allergies, but coconut and citrus fruits make their mark (in the form of hives) too. While food allergies have been on the rise in recent years, the silver lining is that more people are aware of allergens, and there’s a bounty of substitutes just waiting to be tossed, baked, and blended into your treats. With these readily available alternatives, you can have your soy-, gluten-, peanut-, tree nut-, citrus-, and coconut-free cake and eat it too.

Citrus
Citrus allergies can be quite sour. Though not as widely discussed as other allergens, citrus fruits, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange, cause about three percent of adolescents, and many adults, discomfort. With so many drinks topped with lime or zested with orange, we feel for those who spend Saturday nights seeking a citrus-free adult beverage. Vegan White Russians and other creamy cocktails are a safe bet, as are grape, pear, or watermelon-based drinks––none of which are citrus fruits. Strawberry, raspberry, and apples are also in the clear; so give this Apple Cider Sangria recipe a try for your next book club meeting.

Coconut
Coconut, with its thick and creamy consistency, is a vegan staple often used to replace dairy. It’s the base of ice creams, curries, and sweet drinks everywhere, and while there are plenty of cruelty-free alternatives (rice, oat, or soymilk or even mashed up soaked cashews) that can easily be called in to take the place of coconut in recipes, some of us just want a coconut-free dish without the research and math that goes along with substitutes. If coconut allergies have kept you from digging into ice cream or curry, check out this raw Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream that uses a cashew base, or nosh on some lentil curry that is totally coconut-free.

Peanut
Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies today. With an occurrence of nearly one in every 50 children and one out of every 200 adults, peanut-heavy cuisines, such as Thai food, and childhood favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are off limits. These allergens are often the cause of anaphylaxis, a severe condition where patients’ throats swell, closing off airways. Thankfully there are plenty of seeds––sesame, pumpkin, and hemp to name a few––that have a nutty flavor and are offered in butter-form. We can’t get over this divine and simple DIY Pumpkin (Pie) Seed Butter. Forget PB&J: pumpkin seed butter is like magic on toast.

Tree nut
Tree nuts are another common trigger that affect nearly 1.8 million Americans. While cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts are among those that should be avoided, there are a bevy of nut-like choices available to the tree-nut intolerant. Sunflower seeds lower risk of heart disease and make a great substitute for tree nuts with the added benefit of anti-inflammatory properties. Next time you’re in need of a healthy meal, feeling a little puffy, or just in the mood for delicious noodles, toss some pasta with Miso Sunflower Seed Sauce or go ahead and dip your spring rolls in it.

Soy
Beloved by many vegans, soy is also a source of much heartache––or at least stomachache––for those allergic and intolerant. Soy allergies are not as common in adults as they are in children; almost 300,000 people younger than 18 show signs of a soy allergy. But regardless of age, it poses a real problem when it comes to pizza as many come covered in soy cheese. The first dairy-free cheese, made of fermented tofu, is said to have originated in Asia in the 1500s. Luckily, vegan cheese isn’t what it used to be, and has grown beyond just soy. Kathy Patalsky’s Pesto Cashew Ricotta Pizza is a perfect example of how delicious soy-free cheese can be.

Wheat
Wheat is a major problem not only for those with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) but also people with wheat allergies (they’re two different ailments). Wheat may well be the most prevalent grain; it’s found in everyday staples such as bread, pasta, and seitan, as well as in obscure places like caramel coloring and soy sauce. Reading labels and having a keen eye is key to managing this allergy. Replace traditional flour with tapioca or rice flour in your baked goods, or pop this Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread into the oven and take it easy because life without wheat is good.

In case you’re still thinking about that allergen-free cake we promised, here’s one sure to win you and your friends over. With these simple swaps, you needn't fret another moment about missing out on good eats because of food allergies.  

Photo: Cybele Pascal

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