Shirley Plantbook

Living without doesn't mean going without...

To see some of Shirley's recipes click here – otherwise, read on....

For those of you with food allergies or coeliac disease it must sometimes feel like you are living without most of the time. No more dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, sugar ... and the list goes on. Eggs and toast for breakfast are no longer possible and that sugary treat you usually buy yourself mid afternoon to curb your low energy is not an option anymore.

But those days of going without are long gone. There are lots of options now offered in pre packaged form or to make at home for yourself and your family.

Foods such as rice milk, almond milk, soy, coconut, or hemp milk are great alternatives for dairy milk. Instead of whole wheat flour in your muffins try using rice, millet, almond or chickpea flour, all of which are gluten free.

On cold winter mornings try making hot quinoa or buckwheat cereal topped with nuts, seeds and dried fruit, or scramble some tofu with cut up vegetables instead of scrambled eggs. With summer approaching make healthy vegetable smoothies or sweet potato muffins for quick morning getaways.

Gluten free pastas are now available in grains such as quinoa, corn, amaranth and rice. Topped with your favourite pesto or tomato sauce you will never know it isn’t wheat pasta.

Trying to replace eggs in baking can be tricky. It depends what job the eggs are fulfilling in the recipe. Are they a binder or a leavener, or are they providing moisture? Baking cookies or muffins that call for an egg can be easily substituted with a banana, applesauce or with flaxseed. Simply bring 1 tablespoon flaxseed in a cup of water to a boil, cool and then put in the fridge to congeal.

If you are trying to lower your sugar intake, try sweetening with stevia, a plant that has been used for hundreds of years in South America as a sweetener. Fruit works well in muffins and breads instead of white refined sugar.

A little maple syrup, agave or honey works well too, but they are no different than white sugar, they all break down into sucrose in the body. You do get some additional properties from them that of course white sugar does not have. Using fruit in baked goods gives you the goodness of the fibre and vitamins in your food instead of just empty calories with white sugar.

Gluten free diets are all the rage these days, but I urge you to make sure you are in fact coeliac or gluten intolerant before you deny yourself certain foods that are providing you with essential vitamins and minerals. Remember to always read the labels of pre-packaged foods as many are filled with unhealthy ingredients.

Try to get back to cooking with fresh ingredients. Perhaps dedicate a day for home baking, cooking and freezing so that you will always have healthy foods on hand for those busy nights. It will do your body good to return to what mother nature intended us to eat.

Shirley Plant is a nutritionist and author of Finally... Food I Can Eat a dietary guide and cookbook for people with food allergies.

Through Delicious Alternatives she helps people to menu plan and customize recipes to their dietary needs.

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You can buy the book here on Amazon.