Piggies! I am adding content to this every day this month until it is finished.
Here is some more information about the whole foods diets that I have experience with. It is by no means intended to replace the advice of a medical physician or the credible information offered by food allergy experts. I merely share my experiences and tips that have helped me navigate my way in a vegetarian world and live with food allergies.
A list of my favourite online informational resources for further reading are located on my favourites page.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
"Hello, My name is Tess and I am a proud blending addict. "
The miraculous Blender is THE culinary gift from the time Gods to every cook – man, woman and child! These machines are designed to make our lives easier. Why not exploit them to their full potential. Blenders save time, mess and clean up; and if loved, last a very long time.
There are hundreds of makes and models of blenders ranging from the very simple, standard low tech blenders, to the more expensive models with all of the bells and whistles – automatic timers, built-in measuring functions and pre-programming capabilities.
Here are some of some easy hints and tips that might help you get the most out of your blender.
The blender I recommend every day of the week and twice on Sundays is Vitamix.
There are several things to consider when choosing a blender.
What are you using the blender for?
If you are just using your blender a few times a year for cocktails, you will need a blender with great ice crushing capabilities and you do not need to be concerned about other features. Whereas if you are a vegan, and you are going to be making home made vegan nut milks and grinding home made nut flours you will need a blender with more power.
How often will you use it?
Basically, you get what you pay for. I believe in investing in quality for the things I use the most. I use my blender several times a day. But for those of you who might only pull your blenders out a few times a year, you might only want to buy a budget blender for those rare occasions.
How much space do you have in your kitchen?
Look, I am going to say that a blender is an essential item for any household. My blender takes pride of place. But not everybody feels that way. If you have a very small kitchen with not a lot of bench or cupboard space, you might want to consider a smaller machine.
What is your budget?
Get the most bang for your buck. Research some of the consumer review websites to look into blenders in every price point category to figure out what where your money is best spent and what your budget will allow.
Not all blenders are created equal. The most important feature about a blender, in my opinion is the grunt factor. How much power does it have? High-speed blenders with powerful motors get my vote every day of the week and twice on Sundays for their versatality, durability and pulverizing capabilities.
Most manufacturers adverstise their wattage. Blender wattage typically ranges from about 300 to 1,500 watts. For those people working on a budget who will be using their blenders soft foods like smoothies and soup, you should be fine with any blender that has a wattage of between 300 and 600 watts. But if you are wanting to use your blender for crushing a lot of ice, you will want something a bit more powerful. Also, if you are a vegetarian, vegan or raw foodist and will be making home made vegan nut milks and vegan creams, and other recipes where you will need to pulverize nuts, seeds, grains, and sticky hard foods like dates, you will want to invest in a more powerful blender in order to yield the best results.
Some blenders have just a few speed buttons, and some blenders have so many speed options it makes your head spin. Speed options range anywhere from 2 to 20! I think the more speed options the better. But some people would claim that was overkill. Again, the speeds you will need will be dependent on what you will be using your blender for. But I am all about versalitity. Personally, I like the blenders with the variable speed option where you can control the exact speed you want for your blending requirements.
But the most important feature on any blender is a Pulse feature. Regardless of how many speeds you think you need, you will definitely be turning on the pulse feature more than anything else. Pulsing allows you greater control when blending to get your consistency juuust right!
However, there are some inexpensive blenders that have some surprising power. It really depends on what you will be using it for. Some blenders are great for crushing ice but are not as good for other types of blending. Once again, the power you need will be determined by what you will be using your blender for. But for my money -- the more grunt the better!
When choosing a blender pay attention to what materials the base and gear assembly are made of. Blenders with plastic components tend to score lower in the durability stakes in reviews. I would recommend blenders with stainless steel or metal components. They will stand up to your blending challenges getter than their plastic counterparts. Also look for whether the buttons and controls are touch buttons (which are generally found on higher end models) or press buttons. Press buttons are easier to clean. But a lot of people find press down or dial buttons easier to use. Again, it is a matter of personal preference. Reading a variety of customer reviews from different studies is always a good idea.
What is the blender carriage made out of?
The size, shape and material of a blender carriage is really a matter of personal preference. Blenders come with plastic, polycarbonate, glass or metal carriages. They also come in various sizes and widths. Some blenders are designed to funnel ingredients in and some are designed to throw the ingredients in. Again, your preference will be dependent on what you are using your blender for. Most blenders come with a lid that has a detachable centre, making them versatile and easy to work with.
I like to blend anything from small batches of foods to large batches, so I will say, go for an 8 cup blender carriage that makes entertaining a breeze. But those of you with small kitchens might want to opt for something smaller and more compact.
I prefer a blender with a glass carriage as it is easier to clean and more sanitary. But they do tend to get very heavy, making them harder to manage (especially for kids) and they are also much easier to break! Glass carriages are easy to clean and do not scratch or retain odours and stains like plastic carriages. Most of the high-speed blenders have plastic carriages, but some of those companies will be offering glass options too.
Plastic and Polycarbonate Carriages
Plastic carriages are much lighter and harder to break, and a lot of them are made out of BPA free containers, making them safer for your family without the danger of chemicals leaching into your foods. Most of them come with plastic handles. The only thing about plastic carriages is that they tend to scratch, get discoloured, and sometimes take on odours if not washed thoroughly directly after using. Check out the cleaning section for hints and tips about cleaning your blender.
I really love the look of metal carriages. It appeals to my industrial sensibilities. The only down-side to metal carriages is that you can’t see inside them while they are blending. But if you don’t mind this, go for it! Metal carriages are not as common as plastic. But you can get some cool retro metal and stainless steel blenders that are gorgeous!
Ease of Cleaning
All blenders are so easy to clean! But this seems to be a consideration for a lot of buyers. If you are really concerned about congealed food particles getting on the base and switches, look for a blender with touch pad buttons that are very easier to wipe over than traditional press down buttons that can get bits of food trapped underneath them. However, the touch buttons are usually found on the high end models, and I find them kind of annoying to use. A lot of blenders have removable blades that claim to make cleaning easier. However, I very rarely disassemble my blades. It can cause leakage and rusting. I always just blend my carriage on high with warm soapy water right after blending and I find this dislodges and cleans any food particles from around the blades. For more hints and tips on the best way to clean any blender check out the cleaning section.
Pay attention to the warranty that is offered with any blender purchase. Some manufacturers offer short warranties of only six months, while other companies (like Vitamix) offer up to seven years of protection. You will also want to be aware of how easy it is to replace parts. Although, parts for most blenders are widely available on the internet.
Blenders make noise! There is just no getting around it. Generally, the larger the grunt the bigger the noise. You can purchase covers for blenders that mask some of the noise like those fancy smoothie bars. If you are sensitive to noise and are concerned about this, read the reviews of other consumers or ask to test a blender at a kitchen show room. Beyond that, I am going to say, suck it up and enjoy the finished product!
I LOVE my Vitamix blender, and use it at least 3 times a day to make delicious healthy smoothies, soups, dips, spreads, frozen desserts, salad dressings, desserts, breads, organic skincare, homemade natural cleaning products, and much more.
I am acutely aware that these machines are expensive. I used to recommend blenders in every price category. However, I would get emails from people who would purchase them, only to be disappointed, and then purchase a Vitamix.
So I don't do that anymore. Remember, that you are not purchasing a kitchen machine, you are making an investment in your health. You can't put a price on that.
To make your Vitamix purchase more affordable, they offer reconditioned machines that have very often only been used ONCE! I visited the factory and watched the process. Incredible quality control. You can pick these up for a fraction of the cost. Vitamix also have payment plans. Call the customer service department on 1 800 848 2649 and one of their friendly consultants will help you.
Alternatively, you can find bargain Vitamix deals at Costco and QVC periodically throughout the year.
Vitamix is an American family-owned company with a generosity of spirit that is hard to beat. Their machine is also incredible and comes with a 7 year warranty and fantastic customer service department that fixes any issues that arise with your machine.
Check out my videos to see Vitamix in action!
Vitamix 5200 - US$500 comes with:
- a 64 oz Soft-Grip Container
- Getting Started Cookbook
- Cooking Class Video
- Whole Food Recipes Cookbook
- 7 year warranty
Here's some easy hints and tips to get the most out of your blender:
- Make sure you have the lid securely fastened before turning on the blender to avoid the "food on the kitchen ceiling" scenario.
- Chop up any large hard pieces of food into cubes before adding them to your blender, as it will preserve the life of your machine and yield a more uniformly blended product. Foods such as frozen bananas, dates, fruit and vegetables come to mind.
- Always place liquid ingredients in first and then add solid ingredients. This will assist the blending process in getting started.
- Most blenders work best when they are about 3/4 full. Filling the carriage all the way to the top is a recipe for disaster!
- Make sure you turn the machine off immediately you hear the motor struggling. Take the carriage off and stir the ingredients and scrape the sides of the bowl to assist the blending process. You may need to add more liquids to the blend.
- If blending hot liquids, make sure you use a hand mitt to remove the lid to avoid burns.
Blenders are really easy to clean. I always recommend washing your blender right after you use it. That way, no food gets congealed in the carriage or the body. However, even if you leave your blender dirty -- with a little bit of soaking, you can still bring it back to life.
**Note - some blenders claim to be dishwasher proof. I would not recommend using a dish washer.
To preserve the longevity of your blender, I would always hand wash the carriage.
Placing your blender carriage in the dishwasher can scratch it and rust the mechanism.
Here is the easiest way to clean your blender:
- Unplug your blender before you disassemble or wash any part of it.
- Give your blender carriage a quick rinse immediately after use with warm water.
- Take a few drops of dishing washing liquid and fill your carriage half way with warm water. No blend on high for 20-30 seconds. This should clean all food from the sides of the carriage and under the blades.
- Empty this soapy water over your lid to give that a clean and rinse and wipe out the carriage with a soft damp cloth.
- Never use an abrasive scourer on the carriage. It will cause unsightly scratches.
To remove stains from your blender carriage:
- Soak with warm soapy water and then blend, wipe and rinse.
- If this doesn't work, repeat the cleaning process with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in some warm water.
To remove odours from your blender carriage:
- Soak your blender in some warm soapy water.
- If this doesn't work, repeat the cleaning process with a vinegar solution (some white vinegar in warm water) or a lemon juice solution.
To clean the base of your blender:
- Always unplug the blender before cleaning it.
- Use a soft bristled tooth brush to dislodge food particles and smeared food off buttons and controls.
- Clean the base with a soft damp cloth.
- Make sure you wipe the electrical cord to remove any food particles.
- Never use abrasive scourers on your machine. This will cause unsightly scratches.
Check out my Chow Tip Video: A No Hassle Way To Clean Your Blender.
I have lived in many different countries, and have travelled extensively. I grew up, and began cooking in Australia; I finished high school in Singapore; and I went to university in California. I now live in Los Angeles, and continue to travel all over the world, always making new friends along the way. You never know where you might find me!
My culinary journey has spread over many continents. Most of the world works on the metric system; and being a native Australian, the majority of my cooking experience has been in metric measurements. However, having lived in the United States for a total of fifteen years now (for much of my adult cooking life), I have collected a lot of free recipes (and cook books!!) from America. Americans use the Imperial system, and typically measure ingredients by volume. To avoid confusion; and in an effort to make my simple healthy recipes more universal, and easy to follow, I use cups and spoons to measure my ingredients as much as possible.
Having said that, I could not live without my digital scales. I rely on them daily, as “cups” and “spoons” can vary considerably, depending on “cooking styles”. I don’t know about you, but it always frustrates me when brilliant chefs throw in “a little bit of olive oil”, and as you watch them pour it in, you are wondering “how much is that”? Whilst this confident intuitive approach to cooking satisfies me on an artistic level, it does nothing to assist me when I am attempting to replicate the recipe! I will not subject you to the same frustration.
When I trial my recipes, I am very meticulous about the measurements. I use level cups and spoons, being sure to tap and scrape out every last morsel! Having said that, there are some ingredients that can vary considerably, and are impossible to measure in a universal way. The most obvious example that comes to mind is the measurement of eggs. The size of eggs varies considerably, and can really throw out the balance of a recipe. This doesn’t seem to be a real problem with my gluten free baked recipes (or at least, that is the feedback I have been given thus far!!) So, until I can regulate the egg laying capabilities of every chicken on the planet, I will have to offer up this simple reality: I use average 55gm eggs in all of my gluten free vegetarian recipes. For most other ingredients that can be measured in cups and spoons, the Conversion Piggy is invaluable; particularly when making the gluten free baked recipes.
A long time ago, my mum gave me “The Essential Kitchen Companion”. This 10-page booklet, which I can only describe as a cooking lifesaver, takes pride of place in my kitchen, just as it has in my mother’s kitchen. My dog eared, chocolate stained copy is opened, and referred to on a daily basis. Some people would grab their photos in the event of a fire. I might just grab my essential kitchen companion! But now that I have my own Conversion Piggy I don't need it! And you can use this fantastic tool too by clicking on the Convert icon beside every recipe.
Piggies, If you stick to the measurements I have provided you will be on the road to healthy blended success. The recipes are very easy, and require little skill and knowledge. But measurements are important in order to “balance the blend”. Some important things to mention, are the other variables that can affect the personality of healthy blended dishes. Just as the taste and measurement preference of the cook affects the personality of the dish, so does the cooking environment; particularly with gluten free baked goods. The altitude and humidity in the air; the personality of the oven (whether it is gas or electric, fan forced or traditional etc) and the quality of the ingredients. I can’t address these issues with any satisfaction, except to say, get to know your cooking environment, and make friends with the personality of your oven. Purchase good quality, fresh, organic ingredients wherever possible.
Oh, and one last thing: I say that I measure accurately! Well let me clarify. I measure very meticulously with all of the gluten free baked recipes and allergy free recipes. However, when it comes to all other recipes, I am a huge fan of the “blend and taste” philosophy. I offer measurements of flavourings, seasonings and sweeteners as guides. If you follow the measurements exactly, it will yield a good “middle-of the –road” taste sensation that works for most people. But it might not be your “perfect blend”. Be bold and add in your personality.
I am very partial to olive oil, lemon juice, Celtic sea salt, chilli and garlic. I use these ingredients in a ton of my raw salad recipes, and tend to adopt the “add and taste” philosophy that I find so vexing when watching other cooks. I have had people write to me after eating at one of my classes or dinners, and say “mine didn’t taste as good as yours”. Be bold and embrace the “add and taste” philosophy. Follow the given measurements, and then give yourself the creative license to put your own signature on these simple dishes. One word of caution: we are pigs, not cocks! Add in your “extras” gradually. A little nip or pinch, and then taste. Being too cocky can lead to a “cock up” that leaves very disappointed pigs with an empty trough!
**Note -- the metric and imperial equivalents in the Conversion Piggy have been rounded to the nearest figure to make it easier and more accessible. Some cookbooks and tables may vary, but this is the guide I use for my easy healthy recipes, and it seems to be consistent with general measurements.
My beloved blender will always be the number one kitchen appliance. But the ever-reliable food processor comes a very close second. A piggy friend till the end, this is an invaluable tool in the kitchen when making easy healthy recipes that require a more rustic, chunky texture and appearance. A food processor is a versatile kitchen appliance that can quickly chop, shred, slice, grind, and puree most foods. Some models can also juice, beat cake batter, knead bread dough, beat egg whites and grind meat vegetables.
I cannot imagine life without my food processor. It makes life in the kitchen easier and quicker. I use it almost every day to make raw salads, vegan dips, raw nut flours, gluten free cakes and more. I have created so many simple meals with it and am forever indebted to all the spare time it has given me to create even more pigtastic food processor recipes. Less time preparing means more time pigging out!
My food processor of choice is the Breville Sous Chef. After trying many of the top brands, this is hands down the best machine on the market in my opinion.
Here are some quick hints and tips that might help you get the most out of your food processor.
Here are some questions to ask before you purchase a food processor:
What are you using the food processor for and how often will you use it?
If you are only using your food processor occasionally for the odd dip or salad, you might not want to invest in one of the large top-of-the-line machines with all of the bells and whistles. But if you are a passionate cook, vegetarian vegan, raw foodist or baker who will use a food processor a lot, you will want to invest in quality.
How much space do you have in your kitchen?
Look, I am going to say that a food processor is an essential item for any household. My food processor gets used almost every day to make shredded raw salads and vegan dips. But not everybody feels that way. If you have a very small kitchen with limited bench or cupboard space, you might want to consider getting a smaller food processor or mini-prep. If you have all the space in the world, go the whole hog.
What is your budget?
Get the most bang for your buck. Research some of the consumer review websites to look into food processors in every price point category to figure out what where your money is best spent and what your budget will allow.
As with any kitchen appliance, think about what you will use a food processor for. What recipes or foods do you regularly use that you would need to chop, slice or shred. A food processor makes cooking in the kitchen a breeze. Just make sure you choose the right one for you.
Top-of-the-line can often mean most expensive, and understandably not everyone can afford a fan-dangled food processor, so just do your research and source out the most reasonably priced good quality processor with good reviews that will work for you.
Types of Food Processors - Full, Compact and Mini.
A full food processor is the mother of all food processors. They can hold anywhere between 7-12 cups of processed food, depending on the make and model. Dependable to chop up almost anything, professional chefs and passionate cooks wouldn’t cook without one.
A compact food processor is a great medium sized processor that happily fits into any average sized kitchen. This is an efficient food prep machine that still has the power of the full food processor, but as less capacity.
A mini food processor or mini prep is a small compact food processor that is great for single people cooking for one or two; or those cooks with small kitchens and limited cupboard and bench space. A mini prep is also invaluable for small piggy kitchen tasks like chopping small small quantities of vegetables, chopping herbs, and making salad dressings that can get lost in the bigger machines. The grind function is absolutely fabulous for grinding solid foods like raw nuts, seeds, spices and chocolate. A lot of the full sized food processors come with a mini prep attachment so you get two machines for the price of one. I LOVE the mini food processors. They have a surprising amount of grunt and they are easier to clean and store.
You will definitely want to purchase a food processor that has a sharp blade, soft blade (for making batters) and a variety of cutting blades that shred, slice etc. This will make your machine more versatile.
The most important feature on any food processor after the sharp blades is the pulse feature. Pulsing allows you greater control over your cutting to ensure you achieve your desired consistency.
My food processor of choice is the Breville USA Sous Chef food processor.
After trying all of the major brands, and owning many of them, this is hands down, the best machine on the market today!
This fantastic machine comes with:
- a 1200-watt induction motor which makes quick work of all your processing needs, backed with a 25-year motor guarantee.
- an accessory storage box that stores plastic dough blade, disc spindle to hold top/blade in place, mini blade, micro-serrated universal blade, cleaning brush, spatula, and five cutting discs (Adjustable Slicing Blade with 24 settings ranging from ½mm to 8mm, Julienne, French Fry, Whisking, Reversible Shredding). That is 5 multi-function discs and 3 blades out of the box; a $200.00 value
- 5.5 inch super wide feed chute reduces the need to pre-cut most fruits and vegetables. With this wider mouth and chopping accessories, you have more slicing, dicing, chopping and kneading options than ever!
- BPA-FREE processing bowls; 16 cup large bowl and 2 1/2 cup mini processing bowl for smaller jobs
- LCD display displays count-up and count-down auto timer
- auto pulse feature
- Accessory storage box can be stored horizontally or vertically based on storage space
The Breville Sous Chef is the best food processor I have ever used. I have had it for a couple of years and have used it many times with great success. Not only is the design gorgeous, but the functionality has been well thought out and tested. It has a powerful motor, large capacity bowl with measurements, excellent pulse feature and amazing timer function.
But what sets this machine apart is the extra wide feeding chute, the small and large pushers, the adjustable slicing blade with 24 settings, and the emulsifying disc. All of these features give you great control, making this machine extremely versatile.
Because I make a lot of raw vegan food, it is fantastic for uniformly grinding and chopping fresh herbs, raw nuts and seeds and dried fruit. This machine makes great fresh nut and seed butters, dips and spreads. It is also FANTASTIC for thick sticky stuff like raw balls, raw crusts, and raw cookies. Amazing! I also make conventional gluten free cakes and cookies with tremendous results too. I made some gluten free breads with the dough kneader and it worked out a treat!
But the adjustable slicing disc is my new best friend. You can slice super thin pieces up to thick cuts. I cannot believe how well the slicing and shredding disc sliced tomatoes! It also makes really uniform shredded pieces for salads. The julienne disc offers incredible control over sizing - you can make really long pieces by laying the vegetables horizontally in the wide feeding chute! The emulsifying disc is really amazing too. I make delicious mayonnaise, fresh fruit sorbet, and ice cream.
I cannot rave enough about this machine. It is absolutely fantastic!
I LOVE this Australian company, and they are taking the US by STORM!
Learn more about Breville USA at their offical website.
Here are some hints that help me get the most out of my food processor:
- Always chop your vegetables before putting them in your food processor. This will allow for the most even blend. I always cut my cabbage into quarters and do a bit at a time to allow for greater control.
- Make sure your blade is firmly secure before adding food to the carriage. This will prevent food particles from lodging underneath the blade which interferes with the mechanism.
- Only fill your food processor 1/2 - 3/4 full. This will allow for better chopping and blending and prevent leakages.
- Place the harder more rustic foods at the bottom near the blades and the softer foods at the top. This will assist for a more even blend and gives the blades more time to cut into the bread and nuts etc.
- Stop the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to create even blends.
- Use a funnel to add flour and liquids through the guide to stop splattering and spills over the machine.
Keeping your food processor and all of the accessories clean will preserve the life of your machine and ensure you get the most bang for you buck. We all know it can be pain to clean up after a feast. But if you clean your machine directly after you use it, it will make your job a whole lot easier.
**Please note: a lot of manufacturers advertise their attachments as being dishwasher safe. I do not recommend putting your blades in the dishwasher, just as you would not put expensive knives in the dishwasher. It blunts the blades and makes them susceptible to rusting.
Here are some tips for cleaning your food processor:
- Unplug the food processor and take it apart, detaching all of the accessories before cleaning.
- Take all of the accessories and detached pieces and wash them in mild, warm soapy water. Never wash the blades or attachments with abrasive sponges or scourers. This can easily leave scratch marks. Simply wipe them over with warm soapy water with a soft cloth or sponge.
- When cleaning the blades do not soak in water. Just gently wipe them down with a damp cloth. Soaking in water will eventually reduce the life-span of the blades.
- Always wipe down the base of your food processor. A damp soft sponge or cloth will do the trick. For more headstrong stains and marks you can always use a mild soap or even baking soda and water.
- Dry the base of your machine with a gentle cloth and store away for next use. If you use your food processor regularly, keep it out on the bench away from stove tops and any other kitchen appliances that may splatter excess grease and food stains all over your machine.
- Never put the blades or accessories in the dishwasher. Always had wash everything to preserve the life of your equipment.
- Dry the blades before storing away to prevent rusting.
Some people choose to adopt a dairy free diet for health, moral, cultural or religious reasons. Other people need to refrain from dairy products due to a dairy allergy or intolerance, which results in symptoms that can range from mildly irritating to severe. Fortunately there is a plethora of dairy free recipes begging to be devoured by the bold foodie. You are bound to find something that satisfies the cream dreamer in us all.
An allergy to dairy is really manageable, and doesn’t have to completely hijack your enjoyment of food and culinary freedom. Having said that, dairy is used widely in most mainstream packaged foods and dairy allergy sufferers needs to be vigilant when reading labels and asking questions when eating out.
My goal with this page is not to diagnose or treat any potential milk allergy or lactose intolerance, or to replace the counsel of a qualified doctor or allergist. I just wanted to offer some basic information about going dairy free, and share some basic hints and tips that have helped me enjoy a dairy free existence.
Check out my favourite links for credible online resources for further information.
We all think we know what dairy foods are.
But the more I talk to people, the more I realize that there is substantial confusion about what exactly is included under this umbrella term.
Ostensibly, the term refers to cow’s milk (fresh, dried, canned or long life), and its derivatives and products; such as butter, buttermilk, ghee, cream, cheese, yoghurt, kefir, fromage frais, and ice cream.
Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk and their products and derivatives are not technically classified as dairy products even though they have a similar composition. These foods may or may not cause problems for people with dairy allergies.
There are two main kinds of dairy sensitivity:
an allergy to cow’s milk and lactose intolerance.
It is important to distinguish between them, as it affects what can be eaten and how severe the reactions are.
Lactose Intolerance is not caused by the immune system. It is a reaction that occurs when the body lacks, or produces insufficient quantities of lactase -- an enzyme that is present in the wall of the intestine. It breaks down lactose (milk sugar) so that it can be easily absorbed by the body. When this doesn’t work, undigested lactose passes through into the colon causing fermentation and symptoms such as bloating, stomach pains, diarrhoea, and excessive flatulence.
Lactase deficiency affects approximately two thirds of the world’s population, and is most common in cultures in Asia (Japan) and Africa, where traditional diets are predominantly dairy free and cow’s milk is not used during weaning.
Temporary lactose intolerance can occur in children and adults when the lining of the intestines is compromised after an illness such as gastro-enteritis. This normally clears up quite quickly after abstaining from dairy products.
The severity of the intolerance varies -- babies and small children tend to be more sensitive, whereas some adults can digest small amounts of cow’s milk. Other people cannot drink milk, but can enjoy other dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese that contain very little lactose. Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk also contain lactose and provoke reactions in some people and not in others.
An allergy to milk is usually a reaction to the proteins (casein and whey) in milk.
Milk allergies are most common in young children who very often outgrow the allergy after the age of five. Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk share these same proteins and can also cause reactions in some people.
Mild symptoms include:
Delayed reactions can manifest as:
- skin rashes
These delayed reactions can develop hours after consumption.
People with mild allergies can sometimes tolerate small amounts of cheese. But it is probably best to avoid all dairy products.
Severe milk allergies can result in an anaphylactic reaction that occur within minutes of exposure to just a tiny bit of milk or dairy products -- this includes skin contact and inhalation! In this case, all dairy must be completely avoided.
An intolerance to lactose and milk can occur together in individuals experiencing gastrointestinal problems. This is usually a temporary condition, but it is always wise to seek the counsel of doctor.
One of the biggest concerns when removing a food group is maintaining a balanced diet with a complete nutritional profile.
The most common concern when embarking on a dairy free diet is the absence of calcium. We are taught that cow’s milk is the most reliable source of calcium.
Calcium is extremely important for healthy bones, teeth, nerve function, enzyme activity and blood clotting. But there are plenty of other foods that are excellent sources of calcium. One of the best sources of absorbable calcium is from:
- green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. I put large bunches in my raw green smoothies every morning to get my dose of calcium.
- Broccoli and cabbage are also good green sources.
Other foods loaded with calcium are:
- canned sardines
- dried figs
- dried apricots
- raw nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts.
- sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are also great.
As a general rule, most Western countries have passed food labelling legislation that requires manufacturers to clearly label ingredients that are within the food groups that cause the majority of allergies.
In the U.S, FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act) requires that the “big eight” (those allergens that are responsible for 90% of foods allergies) be clearly disclosed. Those include wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish. It is a requirement that the presence of dairy be disclosed in plain English on packaging such as “contains dairy” or “contains milk and milk products” as well as listing individual ingredients.
Dairy is widely used in packaged foods such as:
- dips and spreads
- breakfast cereals
- pancakes and waffles
Depending on how strict your dairy free diet needs to be will determine how vigilant you need to be when reading labels. This is not a definitive list by any stretch. Merely a guide to get you thinking about what to look for.
Some commonly used terms and “hidden” dairy ingredients found on labels include:
- milk powder
- dried milk
- milk sugar
- milk solids
- non-fat milk solids
- milk by-products
- hydrolysed milk protein
- skimmed milk powder
- skim milk whey powder
- whey protein
- hydrolysed whey protein
- whey sugar
- whey powder
- whey syrup sweetener
- sodium caseinate
- calcium caseinate
- yoghurt powder
- caramel colouring and flavouring (made our of lactose sugar)
- lactalbumin phosphate
- lactic acid
- simplesse (fat substitute made from egg and whey protein)
**For people with very serious allergies, double check foods labelled “dairy free” as they can often contain casein. Coffee whiteners and rice cheeses come to mind as foods where the presence of dairy might be hidden.
Here is a list of foods to watch when shopping:
butter: vegan margarines are fantastic today. Earth Balance is a great brand in the US. But make sure you read the label correctly as a lot of vegan spreads contain lactose, casein, caseinate and whey. Some margarines also contain buttermilk, skimmed milk or whey powder.
baby food: Infant formula. Most is dairy derived unless otherwise stated. Look for vegan or dairy free labels.
pre-packaged foods: check the label. A lot of baby food is creamed or thickened with dairy. Look at labels on baby cereals and foods. Make your own with organic vegetables from your garden, look for vegan or dairy free options, or plain mashed foods.
baked goods: cakes, cookies, biscuits, muffins, pies, pastries, etc most often contain butter, milk, cream, cheese and other dairy products. Look for vegan or dairy free labels.
baking mixes: Check the labels of bread, cake, muffin, pancake mixes or other packet mixes for dairy too. There are a lot of wonderful allergy free mixes on the market that are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free. Look for mixes that don’t contain a lot of sugars and other fillers.
breads: may contain milk, dried milk powder, cheese, yoghurt or other dairy products. Look for vegan or dairy free breads, sprouted seed loafs etc
breakfast cereals and bars: cereals may contain lactose, skimmed milk powder and other dairy derivatives. Bars often contain milk solids. Look for vegan and dairy free options
butter and dairy margarines: even check non dairy or vegetable blends as they often contain hidden forms of dairy products. Try vegan margarines and soy spreads, vegetable oils etc
dairy milk: there are a ton of fantastic options -- soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, millet milk, hemp milk, coconut milk; and all of the fantastic vegan nut milks such as almond milk, cashew milk, macadamia milk, Brazil Nut milk, hazelnut milk etc Breakfast shakes and drinks are often made with cow’s milk and cream. There are a lot of soy, rice and oat milk, and almond milk options out there. Look for vegan shakes or dairy free shakes.
cheese: obviously most cheeses are derived from dairy, goat’s or sheep’s milk. But there are some amazing vegan cheeses out there made from soy, nuts, rice, vegetable oil bases etc. You can get vegan cream cheese, cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, etc Try a few different brands as they vary in flavour and texture. Be careful though -- some soy cheeses contain casein and caseinate. condiments – most traditional mayo is just egg and oil without dairy but make sure. Try vegan mayonnaise. Check other condiments and sauces.
desserts: ice creams and yoghurts are traditionally made from dairy milk and cream. Check all puddings, canned rice puddings and cream pies, mousses, cheesecakes and any other traditional desserts such as pancake and batter mixes. They most often contain milk, cream, butter or all three, unless specifically stated. Look for dairy free custards, soy creams and yoghurts, desserts and vegan puddings etc. There is a ton of soy, rice milk and nut milk options out there that are fantastic.
dips: often use dairy such as milk, cream or cheese, as a base, thickener, or flavour enhancer. Buy vegan, dairy free dips made with tofu, nuts, beans (hummus), guacamole.
drinks: milk shakes, drinks, smoothies, breakfast drinks, protein drinks, yoghurt and probiotic drinks, hot beverages like coffee, tea, chai, and hot chocolate. Malted milk drinks and coffee whitener come to mind. Make your tea, coffee, shakes and smoothies with dairy free milks – soy and rice milks are widely available alternatives at cafes and restaurants now. Hemp milk and nut milks are fantastic substitutes for making shakes. Look for dairy free and vegan labels at stores. There are tons of options now.
egg replacers and substitutes: often contain dairy derivatives.
Look for dairy free egg replacers, or use some other options listed on the substitution chart.
pre-packaged convenience meals: this is a minefield. Check the labels.
A lot of pre-made meals contain butter, ghee, cream and yoghurt. Breadcrumbed items may contain dairy. Also watch pizzas, savoury pies, quiches, pastries, sausage rolls, canned and packet soup mixes, dips, sauces, gravies using dairy bases. Tinned spaghetti, baked beans and rice in tomato sauces can often be thickened with dairy products.
processed meats, poultry and fish: Some meats and canned tuna contains casein. Processed burgers, sausages and sticks are often flavoured or filled with cheese.
sauces and dressings: creamy sauces and dressings are obvious. But always check the labels on other sauces and dressings as well.
protein powders: a lot of protein powders and supplements use whey protein and other dairy derivatives. Look for vegan sources.
snacks and sweets: Chocolate is the big one here. Most chocolate contains dairy products in varying degrees. Lots of chocolate flavoured treats such as toffee and fudge, powders etc contain dairy. A lot of other sweet treats contain dairy products. Lots of flavoured crisps and chips such as cheese-flavoured corn chips contain dried milk solids etc. Always check the labels of convenience foods very carefully. Dairy is in a lot of things!
soups: tinned soup, cuppa soups, dried soup sachets and bowls often contain dried milk products, cream etc. Also check pre-made gourmet soups as they often contain cream, milk and butter.
spreads: dairy alternatives include nut butters, vegan spreads and tofu spreads. But watch out for chocolate hazelnut spreads like Nutella, which contain dairy. Fruit curds like lemon curd often contain butter. Fruit jams and jellies are often dairy free.
supplements: check the label of vitamins and other tablets and capsules which may contain lactose and other dairy products. Probiotics are often derived from dairy. Look for dairy free alternatives. Supplements are clearly labelled as dairy free now.
vegetables: watch for tinned vegetables such as creamed corn and creamed mushrooms. Instant mashed potato mixes and sachets often contain lactose or dried milk products.
Dairy free foods to enjoy!
Here is a list of delicious dairy free foods that can be purchased from grocers and health food stores. Always check the labels on packaged foods, as ingredients varies with brands. If you find something you like – continue to check the label periodically, as recipes can change.
Here is a brief list of some foods that are generally safe and are good staples in a dairy free pantry:
whole foods: fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and pulses are all dairy free and delicious. Almost all wheat and gluten free pastas are dairy free.
clean protein: unprocessed meat, poultry and fish; quorn, tofu, tempeh.
milks: there is wide variety of commercially produced dairy free milks available at health food stores and grocery stores now. These include soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, quinoa milk and others. If you are open to making your own home made vegan nut milks you could make delicious raw almond milk, raw cashew milk, Brazil nut milk and others. If you can tolerate goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, they are great options as well. Goat’s milk has a stronger, slightly tangy flavour than cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk has a rich creamy sweet flavour and thicker texture. It is great for puddings and desserts. Both of these animal milks contain a similar protein content but do contain lactose and might not be suitable for those with serious lactose intolerance. For those with lactose intolorance there is lactose free cow’s milk available.
cheese: soy cheese, rice cheese and nut cheeses make scrumptious dairy free alternatives for throwing in raw salads, putting in wraps and melting on pizzas. You can make your own by using nutritional yeast and mustard powder and adding herbs and spices. There are also fantastic parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar vegan varieties available. Goat’s cheeses such as Chevre, or Sheep’s cheeses such as feta, haloumi, and pecorino could be options for some people with mild intolerances. Cheeses made with cow’s milk are relatively low in lactose and could also be tolerated in small amounts by these people.
creams and yoghurts: soy cream, goat’s cream, rice cream and coconut cream are all fantastic alternatives for desserts, sauces, salad dressings, dips and spreads. Soy yoghurt, rice and coconut puddings are widely available for sweet treats. Dairy yoghurt is low in lactose due to the fermentation process which converts the lactose into lactic acid. This may be suitable for those with a milk lactose intolerance.
dips and spreads: hummus, guacamole, salsa, vegan pestos and nut-based dips are great for slathering on sandwiches, tacos or dipping into vegetable sticks. Fruit preserves, honey and nut butters are usually dairy free. There are plenty of vegetable margarines available. Just check the labels as some contain milk products.
drinks: fruit juices, kombucha, coconut kefir, soft drinks, sodas, mineral waters. Black tea and coffee or use non dairy milks. Soy, rice and coconut shakes and smoothies are widely available.
oils: vegetable oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and nut oils can be used to cook savoury dishes in place of butter. Grapeseed oil replicates the taste of butter in gluten free baked goods beautifully.
sauces, condiments and dressings: tamari soy sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato based pasta sauces, mustard, most mayonnaise, relishes, chutneys and pickles. Oil and vinegar based salad dressings such as French, Italian and Balsamic.
ice creams, desserts and treats: there are a ton of dairy free ice creams made out of soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk and almond milk. Fruit sorbets and jellos are widely available. Just make sure they are dairy free. You can easily make your own vegan ice creams at home. Commercial soy and coconut puddings make great treats. Dark chocolate, carob chips and raw cacao nibs are also good. Dairy free cakes, cookies, muffins and pies are also widely available.
Being smart about where you choose to go is the first step towards eating out safely, and reducing the stress and anxiety that might be associated with it.
Obviously any eatery can provide an opportunity for dairy exposure. Milk and milk products are used widely in a myriad of staples and dishes, and small traces can often go unnoticed. Dairy seems to surreptitiously find its way into everything from sauces, dressings, dips, soups, stews, toppings, baked goods and desserts. Furthermore, a lot of things are cooked with butter and ghee.
Having said that, there are a few cuisines that do not rely heavily on dairy products.
Japanese food immediately comes to mind. There are a ton of soy options, sushi, clear soups, and rice dishes.
Other Asian cuisines like Chinese, Mayasian and Thai use vegetable and nut oils to cook with, and coconut milk instead of dairy milk to cream sauces, soups, stews and desserts.
If in doubt, order clean protein and steamed vegetables with no butter or ghee or a salad with no dressing and oil and vinegar on the side.
You are safe if eating at a raw or vegan restaurant. Vegetarian restaurants usually have their menu labelled very clearly with vegan and dairy free options.
Asking the right questions when ordering food can make all the difference to your dining out experience. Here are some question suggestions. It is best to ask about the presence of dairy in anything you order.
These are some common foods served at restaurants that are red flags that need to be questioned:
sauces, creams, gravies and dressings: do these contain milk, cream, butter, cheese? For salads ask for olive oil, vinegar and lemon to be brought to the table and make your own dressing.
soups, salads, stews, casseroles: often contain milk, cream, butter, cheeses. What is the soup garnished with? Often soups come topped with a dollop of cream, yoghurt or crème fraiche. Sometimes croutons of vegetable chips have been tossed in butter and cheese before baking. A lot of salads have shaved, shredded or cubed cheeses tossed in the mix. Order without the garnishes.
fats and oils: stir-fried, pan-fried, deep fried, baked, grilled, roasted or basted foods may have been cooked or brushed with butter or ghee. Ask if they can use olive oil or a vegan equivalent.
marinated foods: a lot of meats, poultry, fish and vegetable dishes have been marinated using dairy. Watch out for barbequed and grilled dishes that may have been brushed with butter.
pizza and pastas: order without cheeses and ensure the pizza base or calzone is dairy free. Order tomato or olive oil based sauces without any cheese or cream.
vegetables: a lot of steamed or boiled vegetables are tossed in butter and lemon before serving. Stir-fried vegetables may be cooked in ghee. Order plain vegetables and toss with olive oil and lemon juice. Baked, roasted and grilled vegetables are usually cooked with oils. But never make assumptions. Be careful of vegetable purees such as carrots, parsnips, beetroot and mashed potatoes, which often contain milk, cream, butter or cheese.
desserts: this is a minefield as most desserts contain dairy products in one form or another. A lot of restaurants have dairy free, vegan options. You can also order fruit salad, soy ice creams, granitas and sorbets (some of those contain dairy) and you might get lucky with some fruit pies that don’t contain dairy. “If in doubt, leave without”
topping and drizzling for that butter flavour -- try extra virgin olive oil and a tiny bit of lemon juice or coconut oil/butter, or pumpkin seed oil.
Try lightly toasting fresh shaved coconut in a pan and then pureeing in the dry carriage of the Vitamix to form a paste.
spreading: on sandwiches, toast, waffles and pancakes – vegan margarines like Earth Balance and Nuttelex are wonderful.
cooking: butter is traditionally used in French and English cooking to flavour dishes; ghee is used in Indian dishes; and vegetable oils are tend to be used more in Mediterranean and Asian dishes. You can substitute olive oil or other vegetable oils to cook savoury dishes. But just note that it will alter the personality of the dish.
You can use neutral flavoured vegetable oils (not olive oil, it is too strong) to make rouxs and pastes for savoury sauces. Unfortunately, it is hard to replicate the rich creamy flavour that butter brings to some sweet sauces and caramelized fruit dishes.
Canola oil has also worked for me.
Dairy free or vegan margarines can work really well. However, I have found that they sometimes are a bit too watery and you need to adjust the ratios a bit. Earth balance and Nuttelex are pretty good for a 1:1 ratio substitution.
For smoothies, shakes and drinks; or for drinking or putting on cereal whatever your preference – soy milk, hemp milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, quinoa milk, millet milk, almond milk, cashew milk, macadamia milk, hazelnut milk, Brazil nut milk.
Soy milk seems to be the most widely available dairy free alternative in eateries.
Avocado blended with water has worked really well in some drinks, dips and spreads
To replace a buttermilk flavour in recipes: use one cup plain soy milk or rice milk, and add in 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Mix and let stand for about ten minutes before using. Just note that the texture is not quite as robust.
condensed milk: place 180ml/8 fl.oz of silken tofu in the blender with 60ml/2 fl.oz of agave nectar and puree until smooth. This can be used in recipes calling for condensed milk.
salad dressings, sauces, soups, curries and stews: soy milk, rice milk and hemp milk are all good substitutes for replicating the neutral flavour and creaminess or sauces.
Use arrowroot to thicken.
Some sweet sauces can use coconut milk and almond milk. But they are a very distinct flavour that may not be appropriate.
Coconut milk is fantastic in sauces, soups and curries.
Raw nuts such as almonds, cashews and macadamias are phenomenal for making creamy soups. I usually use about ¼ cup in a soup recipe that serves 6-8. It works a treat!
I find that rice milk and almond milk is lighter and sweeter and works better in sweet baking.
If only a small amount of milk is required you can use filtered water. This is not suitable when large quantities are required, as it dilutes the taste and affects the texture and appearance.
Fruit juice or pureed fruit can be used to add moisture in small amounts as well. I use the really creamy milks like soy and hemp for replicating the creaminess in tarts and pies.
puddings, ice creams and chilled desserts: creamy milks like soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and almond milk all make fantastic creamy desserts with a bit of agar, arrowroot or other thickener. I often use a combination of two different milks to get a deep, rich flavour and texture.
CREAM AND YOGHURT
dessert or custards: soy creams, soy yoghurt, silken tofu, thickened coconut creams, almond, macadamia and cashew creams work really well.
soups: soy cream, silken tofu, coconut cream or blending in cashews or macadamias works beautifully.
smoothies: cashews, almond and macadamias, coconut butter, soy cream
whipped cream to accompany desserts and cakes: make soy cream from firm silken tofu, rice cream or hemp cream by thickening with arrowroot or agar, thickened coconut cream, or my personal favourite (if you are not allergic to nuts) cashew or almond cream. Add in some vanilla essence, a little sweetener and a pinch of Celtic sea salt and you are in business!
cheesy cream based pasta sauces (like alfredo sauce): try cashew cream with nutritional yeast, miso, tamari and lemon juice. There are some great vegan recipes on the net.
sour cream: try tofutti sour cream or make your own tofu sour cream, cashew or almond sour cream
There are a wide variety of commercial dairy free ice creams available at grocers and health food stores. The most widely available are made from bases of soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk.
You can easily make your own ice creams at home using soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, and any number of nut milks. I often use a combination of coconut milk and rice milk or soy milk to achieve a nice depth of flavour and texture and thicken the mixture with arrowroot and add in my desired flavourings.
cream cheese: soy cream cheeses are widely available.You can make your own cream cheese using soy, or if not allergic to nuts - raw nut cheese such as cashews and almonds mixed with water, sweetener and nutritional yeast are absolutely delicious and can be made in 5 minutes.
Note: soy cream cheese seems to contain more water than dairy cream cheese. Try using soy cream cheese to make icing or try the nut cream cheese with vanilla extract and extra sweetener, or try a frosting made out of coconut butter
hard cheese: there are a ton of fantastic vegan cheeses on the market made out of soy milk, tofu, rice and nuts. There are all types and flavours such cheddar, jack, mozzarella, ricotta etc.
A better option is to make your own home made cheeses with soy, nuts, nutritional yeast, mustard powder etc in order to replicate that cheesy flavour. There are some fantastic vegan cheese cookbooks - The Uncheese Cookbook is great! Making your own delicious vegan cheeses is easier than it seems!
Soy cheese works well in baked goods like quiches, frittatas, muffins and breads. Give any of the cheeses a go for chopping up in salads. Taste and texture varies so be prepared for a bit of trial and error.
parmesan cheese: soy parmesan or try sprinkling nutritional yeast flakes. They are fantastic!
cheese flavour and colour: nutritional yeast flakes work a treat for adding a cheesy flavour and colour. Mustard powder works well too. A pinch of tumeric gives colour too.
An intolerance or allergy to eggs occurs most commonly in infants under the age of 12 months.
A lot grow out of the allergy by the age of two, and even more by the age of five.
As with most food allergies, it is the protein that causes the problems. Albumen, the protein found in egg white, consists of approximately 40 different proteins; and it is some of these proteins that have been identified as potential allergens. The white makes up about 57% of the egg. Having said that, there are people who experience allergies to the yolk as well. People can be allergic to raw eggs, cooked eggs or both.
Check out my favourites page for more qualified online resources for egg allergies.
As with all food allergies, symptoms can vary from mild to life threatening.
A person with a mild egg allergy will be able to tolerate small amounts of foods containing eggs. Whereas a person with a severe allergy cannot have any contact with eggs.
Mild symptoms can occur within minutes of exposure to eggs.
Common symptoms can include:
- a skin rash
- rash around the mouth
- swelling of the mouth
With severe egg allergies, this swelling can extend into the tongue and throat restricting breathing and resulting in an anaphylactic reaction.
In such cases, an ambulance needs to be called immediately.
People who experience anaphylactic shocks carry epipens (self injecting adrenaline pens).
Common symptoms of a delayed reaction which can appear about one hour after exposure include:
Diagnosis of egg allergies can be unreliable and inaccurate. Allergists rely on medical history. This is where keeping a food diary comes in handy. Allergists can conduct skin prick and RAST tests, but these can be inconclusive. Another common test is a blind food challenge test where neither tester or recipient is aware of which foods contain allergens.
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and Vitamin D.
If you are a vegetarian make sure you compensate by eating raw nuts and seeds (if no nut allergy), soy products (if no soy allergy), cheeses (if no dairy allergy) and green vegetables.
For non vegetarians, salmon, sardines, meat and poultry are other good sources of protein, as well as the other vegetarian sources.
As a general rule, most Western countries have passed food labelling legislation that requires manufacturers to clearly label ingredients that are within the food groups that cause the majority of allergies.
In the U.S, FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act) requires that the “big eight” (those allergens that are responsible for 90% of foods allergies) be clearly disclosed. Those include wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish. The law requires that the presence of egg be listed in plain English.
All foods containing egg white, egg yolk, egg protein from all birds should be avoided. Shopping for packaged foods can be challenging with eggs being so widely used in baked goods, desserts, sauces, batter mixes, coatings and confectionary.
I have compiled a brief list of common foods to watch when shopping. I have included raw and cooked eggs, yolk and white, and any egg-derived products. Whole egg, egg white, egg yolk and egg proteins are used in packaged foods to flavour, thicken, bind, emulsify, enrich, and add colour and flavour. Legislation now dictates in most countries that any foods containing egg products be clearly labelled with specific ingredients and a further label “contains egg”.
Some common terms found on food labels include:
- egg white
- egg yolk
- albumen (egg white)
- lysozyme conalbumin
- egg protein
- powdered egg
- livetin simplesse (made with egg and whey)
Look for the word “ova” or “ovo” used to make compounds such as:
**I have not included egg-derived lecithin (lecithin vitellin) as it rarely causes reactions.
But if you do have a sensitivity to soy lecithin you can now purchase liquid sunflower lecithin which is fantastic to work with.
Here are some common food that may contain egg and egg-derived products:
baby food: check for eggs
baked goods: cakes, pies, pastries, cookies, biscuits, muffins, pasties, meat rolls etc often contain eggs, or are glazed with an egg mixture.
Obvious red flag items are omelettes, quiches, frittatas and soufflés.
Also watch for packet mixes for cakes, pancakes, muffins , breads etc. Look for egg free or vegan baked treats.
Use egg replacers to make your own or look on the substitution chart for a lot of ideas on how to make recipes without eggs. Sometimes certain recipes don’t even need egg. You can add in a bit more liquid, bind it with something else.
breads: a lot of breads contain eggs or they area glazed with egg. Look for vegan breads, sprouted seed loafs etc. Check labels carefully.
desserts: obvious ones that come to mind are puddings, custards, ice creams, yoghurts, meringues, pies, cakes, and everything else!
Also watch out for sorbets and other iced desserts that may contain beaten egg whites. Look for egg free or vegan alternatives.
There are wonderful vegan soy yoghurts, coconut puddings, soy ice cream, rice dream, nut milk ice creams, raw vegan coconut ice cream etc that do not contain egg. There are so many on the market now that it is very easy to find a substitute. Making your own with the suggestions on the substitution chart.
frozen meals and convenience foods: always check the label. Look for vegan and egg free labelling.
jams, jellies, dips, spreads and condiments: check for hidden egg in all of these things. Look for vegan alternatives which is a quick solution.
meat, poultry, seafood: processed burgers, patties, crab cakes, sticks, sausages. Hot dogs meat, chicken or turkey loaves etc often contain egg for binding, or are rolled in egg before crumbing and battering. This is difficult sometimes. If in doubt don’t purchase. Buy clean proteins that have not been breaded or crumbed or check labels carefully.
pasta and noodles: check labels and some pastas and noodles contain egg.
A lot of fresh pastas contain egg. Look for 100% rice noodles, quinoa or corn. Buckwheat noodles are also great.
protein powders: a lot of protein powders use egg proteins and egg derivatives. Look for egg free or vegan – there are some fantastic ones out there. The Ultimate Meal and all of the hemp protein powders are my personal favourites!
sauces and dressings: some traditional mayonnaises and hollandaise come to mind immediately. But some other creamy dressings and sauces are thickened with egg. Look for egg free, vegan alternatives.
snacks and sweets: this is a minefield. Read the labels carefully. Often sweets have been glazed with egg.
Crust and pastry based cookies and treats are a red flag as well. Fruit based, non creamy, crustless sweets are safer choices. There are a lot of soy custards and vegan puddings that are fantastic.
Chocolate, nuts, crisps, rice crackers, veggie sticks, fruit based candies and jellies/jellos, egg free snack bars, muesli bars,
soups: may contain egg products. Stock cubes can also contain egg.
A lot of Asian soups contain egg or egg noodles. There are a lot of organic soup and soup mixes that are egg free.
vegetarian food: a lot of veggie burgers, patties and other “meat” substitutes and treats will use egg to bind the ingredients. Eggs might also be in the batter or breadcrumbed coating. Look for vegan foods that use nuts to bind and flavour enhance.
When surviving in an egg free house, the number one thing I would recommend buying is a packet of egg substitute mix, which is usually made from a tapioca base. Orgran has a wonderful mix that is fabulous for substituting one or two eggs in baked recipes.
Eggs perform a variety of functions in recipes:
- they act as leavening (raising agents)
- they add moisture and texture to dishes
- emulsify things
- add flavour to dishes
Here is a brief list of some staples that are handy to keep in your egg free pantry:
raising agents: baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, dried yeast.
moisture and texture: jars of applesauce or pear puree, vegetable oils, bananas, tofu, xanthan for gluten free baking,
flavour and colour: vanilla essence can help add “egg’ flavour, tumeric and mustard powder can add egg colour to tofu cubes for salads.
thickeners: cornflour, arrowroot, kudzu root, agar agar, Irish moss
binding agents: flaxseeds (linseeds), potato flour, and soy flour are useful binding agents.
Other useful items include:
egg free mayonnaise for making egg free dressings, sauces, dips and spreads.
firm and silken tofu to replicate eggs for “scrambled eggs”, salads, and sandwiches.
rice noodles, kelp noodles, wheat and gluten free grain pastas and sheets to make egg free noodles and pasta dishes
snacks and sweets - a stash of egg free versions of family desserts and treats such as sorbets, vegan ice creams, egg free baked goods.
Being smart about where you choose to go is the first step towards eating out safely, and reducing the stress and anxiety that might be associated with it.
Obviously any eatery can provide an opportunity for egg exposure. Eggs and their derivatives are used widely dishes, and small traces can often go unnoticed. Eggs seem to surreptitiously find their way into everything from sauces, condiments, coatings, burgers, bases, pastas, baked goods and desserts.
A few obvious red flag items include fresh pastas. If you are at a really good Italian restaurant that makes their own fresh pasta, be sure to ask about this.
Anything coated or crumbed will often contain eggs. Burgers, fish sticks, crab cakes and veggie patties will often contain egg as a binding agent.
Desserts are just a nightmare. Ice creams, custards and baked goods mostly contain egg. Even fruit sorbets often contain egg white. European pastries and desserts are riddle with eggs.
A lot of Asian soups, noodles and stir-fries also contain egg.
There are not a lot of hidden eggy opportunities in Indian food. If you stick to the curries, rice dishes and breads you should be good. But always ask.
Japanese cuisine is a good one. There are a lot of egg-free options such as sashimi, sushi, and soups made with udon, soba and buckwheat noodles.
You are safe if eating at a raw or vegan restaurant. Vegetarian restaurants usually have their menu labelled very clearly with vegan and egg free options.
There are opportunities to get egg on your face in any situation. Always ask when you order just to be sure; and “if in doubt go without”.
Asking the right questions when ordering food can make all the difference to your dining out experience. Here are some question suggestions. It is best to ask about the presence of eggs in anything you order.
But these are some common foods served at restaurants that are red flags that need to be questioned:
drinks: some drinks contain egg to emulsify and cream them up. Check creamy cocktails and hot drinks in particular.
dressings, condiments and sauces: often salad dressings have a mayonnaise base or contain egg which is used as a thickener and emulsifier. A lot of creamy sauces such as hollandaise are egg-based. Order a plain salad with some oil, vinegar and lemon on the side and make your own dressing.
pastas and noodles: some pastas contain egg and a lot of Asian dishes use egg noodles. Ask to substitute for rice noodles or wheat pasta.
stir-fries: a lot of Asian stir-fries mix scrambled eggs and omelettes throughout. If you have a serious allergy you may not want to order anything cooked in these pans.
fried, battered, crumbed and coated foods: burgers, patties, meats, fish, vegetables. it is very common to roll in egg before coating anything. Check this.
meats: processed meats, sausages, poultry, fishcakes, burgers, sticks, veggie patties often use eggs to bind them. Always check this.
baked goods: this is a minefield as eggs are used so commonly in most baked goods. They are also used to glaze the tops of pies, biscuits, breads and scones. My motto applies – “if in doubt go without” or order a simple fruit plate. Some sorbets do not contain egg. If you are lucky enough to be in a raw or vegan restaurant – order up big!
Eggs are the Meryl Streep of the culinary world, with a versatility and chameleon-like nature that is unparalleled. The various properties of eggs as a binder, thickener, flavour enhancer, texture and moisture aider and all-round tasty treat make it invaluable when cooking everything from sauces, dips, drinks and spreads; to baked goods, ice creams and desserts.
Thus, embarking on an egg free existence can, at first, seem impossible, daunting and incredibly disappointing. “Oh! All the foods I will miss out on”.
The good news is that there are loads of substitution options -- where other ingredients can be used, or eggs can just be left out all together.
There are some instances, however, where there is just no satisfactory equivalent. So, no meringues, pavlovas or sponge cakes for you egg free folk! BOO!
Substituting eggs in recipes is not an exact science and may require a bit of trial and error. The more you do it the better you will become. As you gradually get a feel for it, you will build an arsenal of substitution experiences that will inform your next eggless experience.
Before choosing an egg substitution option consider what function the egg performs in the recipe.
For example: in omelettes, quiches and frittatas, eggs are the star attraction, and are vital for form and flavour.
In breads and cakes - eggs add moisture and texture.
In cookies, slices, pies or power bars, burgers and coated goods -- eggs play more of a supporting role, acting as a binding agent holding all of the ingredients together.
Most cakes and muffins use eggs as a leavening agent affecting the texture of the batter making the final product light and fluffy.
Custards, puddings, pie fillings, sauces and dressings use eggs to thicken and emulsify; and eggs help to soften and fluff up the texture of fruit sorbets.
Baked goods are often brushed with eggs to glaze and add a nice finish.
Also consider the taste and texture personality of the original dish and what substitution will blend in most effectively.
**Some recipes calling for only one egg -- the egg can just be omitted.
As a general rule, the less eggs are in a recipe, the easier it is to find an adequate substitute.
To maintain the integrity of a recipe, try not to replace more than three eggs.
Here are some commonly used substitutions:
egg replacers: If you are substituting one or two eggs in breads, cakes, cookies, biscuits and muffins you can’t beat a commercial egg replacer to help leaven.
Most commercial egg replacers are a mixture of potato starch, tapioca flour, natural gums and raising agents.
Egg replacers don’t have any flavour, unlike some of the other replacement options. But egg replacers can have a drying effect. I often add in an extra tablespoon of milk or water to what it says on the instructions. You can also add 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp vanilla extract for added flavour.
Egg replacers are also great to binding vegan casseroles and vegetable bakes. But they are not suitable for lightening mousses or making meringues.
fruit: is good for binding and adding moisture to baked goods like sweet breads, cakes and muffins. It gives them a fruity flavour that may not appropriate for all recipes.
Fruit doesn’t work as a raising agent, so make sure you add in ½ teaspoon of gluten free baking powder and a pinch of salt.
Here are some ideas for fruit:
1 egg = ½ large or 1 small mashed banana is good for binding and adding moisture but it does have a strong banana flavour that is most appropriate for banana breads and sweet breads, cakes and muffins. Add in ½ tsp of baking powder for leavening.
1 egg = ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce plus ½ tsp baking powder added to flour mix is good for binding and moisture in fruit cakes, sweet breads and muffins. This has a milder flavour than mashed banana
1 egg = ¼ cup unsweetened apricot puree plus ½ tsp baking powder added to flour mix adds a rich flavour and yellow colour to batters. This is good for binding and moisture in fruit cakes and muffins.
1 egg = ¼ cup pumpkin puree for binding and moisture in cornbreads and savoury and sweet muffins. Add in ½ teaspoon of baking powder for leavening.
1 egg = ¼ cup prune puree plus ½ teaspoon of baking powder is good to bind, moisten and leaven chocolate muffins and cakes. It adds a dark colour to batters that might not desirable for all recipes.
tofu: is a fantastic versatile egg substitute that can be used to replicate the quality and texture of whole eggs in quiches, frittatas, salads and scrambled egg dishes. It can also be used to assist with binding and adding moisture to dense baked goods.
Here are some ways you can use tofu:
1 egg = ¼ cup of silken tofu blended with the other liquid ingredients is a heavy thick substitute for binding and adding moisture in dense baked goods like slices, bars and brownies. Note that it does not add lightness so is not ideal for cakes that require a fluffy consistency.
1 egg = ¼ cup of silken tofu blended with the milk or cream and extra herbs, spices and salt works really well in quiches and fritattas. The other ingredient quantities will need to be tweaked.
1 egg = ¼ cup mashed tofu as a substitute for scrambled eggs. You can add in a pinch of mustard powder, nutritional yeast, or tumeric for colour and flavour.
In salads - cubed marinated firm tofu, cheese, chickpeas, butter beans work well.
Soy: derived lecithin granules can also be used for leavening.
1 egg = 1 ½ Tablespoons of lecithin granules and 1 ½ Tablespoons filtered water and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. You can also use 1 -2 Tablespoon of lecithin granules to emulsify liquids.
flours and water: can also be used to add moisture and to help bind ingredients in baked goods.
Here are some flour ideas:
1 egg = 1 teaspoon of soy flour and 1 tablespoon of filtered water.
1 egg = 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder + ½ tsp baking powder + 1 Tbsp filtered water. Sift the arrowroot and baking powder into the flour mix and add the water to the butter/oil, flours and sweetener before mixing.
1 egg = 2 tablespoons corn starch and 1 tablespoon filtered water
1 egg = 2 tablespoons potato starch and 1 tablespoon filtered water
This is a really good flour and oil egg replacer combination for a leavening agent in gluten free baking:
1 egg = 1 ½ teaspoons tapioca starch, 1 ½ teaspoons potato starch, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, pinch xanthan gum, 3 ½ tablespoons filtered water and 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil.
baking powder and baking soda: adding in extra baking powder and baking soda can be useful for assisting with leavening in baked goods where there is enough flavouring to mask the sometimes bitter flavour that can result from using too much baking powder or baking soda.
1 egg = 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of vinegar for leavening
Binding: egg is used to hold things like burgers, patties, coatings and pastries together. Eggs add flavour and texture and prevent things from becoming a crumbly mess!
For veggie burgers, fish cakes and patties: add in mashed potato and then roll in breadcrumbs, rice crumbs, crushed up waffles, cornflakes or oats to prevent them falling apart while cooking. Potato flour also works well.
coating vegetables, meats, poultry and fish: keep the food moist and just roll in flour, breadcrumbs, crushed waffles, cornflakes or oats.
nuts and seeds: act as great vegan binders and moisture builders in egg free recipes.
Here are some nut and seed combinations:
1 egg = 1 Tbsp flaxseed (linseeds) ground and 3 Tbsp filtered hot water. Let this mixture stand for about 10 minutes and use to help with binding and adding moisture to vegan bars slices, and baked goods. To help raise baked goods add in 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder the flour mix.
1 egg = 1 Teaspoon of psylium husks mixed with ¼ cup filtered water – let this mixture stand for about 5 minutes and add to the batter.
1 egg = 3 Tablespoons of almond, cashew, macadamia, peanut butter or tahini
shortcrust pastry: add in extra butter and some water into the flour mixture – about 15gm/1/2 oz of butter and 1 Tbsp filtered water for each egg.
For added moisture: use about 50ml/ 2 fl oz of extra milk for 1 egg. You will need to use self raising flour or add ½ tsp extra baking powder for leavening.
thickenening sauces, condiments, mousses and puddings: use dairy cream, soy cream or thicken bases with arrowroot, rice flour corn flour, kudzu root or agar flakes
setting cold puddings and desserts: use agar agar flakes or gelatine
For hot puddings and tarts – use approximately 1 tsp of gelatine dissolved in 2 Tbsp liquid for each egg before adding it into the mixture.
emulsifying liquids: I use soy lecithin granules or liquid sunflower lecithin to emulsify liquids and sauces.
glazing: just use cow’s milk or soy milk mixed with a pinch of sea salt; a gelatine glaze, or a dusting of flour or sugar to improve the appearance on the tops of baked goods.
flavour in desserts: use xanthan gum to add richness to flavour to savoury sauces, or add in extra sweetener and vanilla extract to sweet sauces.
2 Tbsp flour mixed with 1 ½ tsp safflower or sunflower oil
1 Tbsp psyllium husks mixed with 2-3 Tbsp water
½ tsp gluten free baking powder and 2 Tbsp filtered water
I will list my tips and suggestions for living a gluten free life soon.
I will share my hints and tips, and my experiences living living a macrobiotic lifestyle soon.
The prevalence of nut allergies, particularly peanut allergies seems to be on the rise.
An increasing number of day-care facilities and schools are becoming “nut free” in order to accommodate children with severe food allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.
About 20% of children grow out of nut allergies by about the age of five. But there are many people that need to live a nut free life.
Some airlines even offer morning “nut free” flights!
An anaphylactic reaction can be life threatening and should be treated very seriously calling an ambulance at all times if an adrenaline treatment is not available.
But, an allergy to nuts is manageable and doesn’t have to completely hijack your enjoyment of food and culinary freedom.
My goal with this page is not to diagnose or treat any potential nut allergy or to replace the counsel of a qualified doctor or allergist. But merely to offer some basic information about nut allergies and provide some basic hints and tips for anyone dealing with or caring for someone with a nut allergy.
Check out my favourites page for a detailed list of credible online informational resources for going nut free.
The term “nut” is a culinary term that is used to describe the edible kernel or hard-shelled seed of plants.
A lot of the foods that we classify as nuts for culinary purposes are not “nuts” in the strict botanical sense. Almonds, for example, are technically the seeds of the fruit of the almond tree. But let’s not get caught up in technicalities. For our purposes, we will call all of these edible kernels and seeds “nuts”.
Nuts are typically broken into two categories:
- Tree Nuts – which include almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts
- Other nuts and seeds – which include peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and many others
The distinction between the two groups is important when discussing nut allergies.
Nut allergies are usually categorized as:
- peanut allergies (the nut most commonly associated with anaphylactic reactions)
- tree nut allergies
Peanuts are a member of the legume family, which includes such things as soya beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lima beans. Most people with a peanut allergy are able to tolerate these other legumes, and may or may not experience reactions to tree nuts.
Allergy sufferers need to consult their doctor and allergist to gain an individual allergy profile to determine which nuts are safe and unsafe.
People with nut allergies are normally allergic to one of the proteins found in nuts.
The symptoms and their severity can vary greatly from mildly irritating to life threatening, and can occur from exposure through ingestion or inhalation, or via contact with the mouth or skin.
Mild symptoms might include:
- stomach pains
- bowel discomfort
- skin rashes
Rashes can flare up within minutes of exposure.
Other more serious immediate reactions include:
- swelling of the mouth
- tongue and throat which can result in restricted breathing or complete airway obstruction
An anaphylactic reaction often starts with a reddening or rash on the skin and a burning in the mouth and throat. This is coupled with a drop in blood pressure and then a loss of consciousness, which can be fatal if not treated.
Most people can be effectively treated with an epipen or self injectable adrenaline treatment which must be carried at all times.
Individuals suffering from asthma can often be more predisposed to experiencing anaphylactic shocks from nuts.
Never ignore any symptoms of an allergic reaction. Mild symptoms can develop into more serious reactions very quickly.
Some important things to be aware of when dealing with nut allergies is to be careful with cross contamination opportunities. Some people are extremely sensitive and experience severe allergic reactions with exposure to minute traces of nuts via inhalation, skin and mouth contact, or ingestion. Hence packaging labels with messaging that reads “may contain traces of nuts”. People with such severe sensitivity need to be extremely careful.
It is easier to manage exposure to nuts at home where cross contamination is less of an issue.
The safest and most prudent course of action is to remove all nuts from the household.
When cooking at home, most recipes that call for nuts in small amounts can be modified to omit the nuts or substitute them with a comparable equivalent.
Recipes where nuts are a primary ingredient and there is no suitable substitution equivalent probably need to be avoided. Dishes such as gado gado or other Asian dishes using satay sauce; flourless cakes using nut meals; and vegan nut cheeses, milks and desserts come to mind. Check out my nut free recipes and substitution chart below for suitable nut free options to make cooking at home a little bit easier.
Some useful foods to stock up your nut free pantry include:
- nut free breads and crackers such as rice crackers, rice cakes and corn cakes
- nut free cereals such as granola
- puffed rice and millet
- quinoa flakes
Nut free snacks such as:
- power bars
- dried fruits
- dehydrated vegetable chips
- dark chocolate or raw cacao
- veggie sticks
- edamame (soy bean pods)
- dried green peas
Keep a stash of seeds and vegetable oils, herbs, spices and seasonings for alternate flavourings for stir-fries, curries, sauces, soups and stews.
Being smart about where you choose to eat is the first step towards eating out safely, and reducing the stress and anxiety that might be associated with it.
Obviously any eatery can provide an opportunity for nutty exposure. They are used widely as highlight and accent ingredients and to add a crunchy texture as a garnish. Small traces of nuts can often go unnoticed such as the use of nut oils in cooking. The chances are increased with certain ethnic cuisines.
If you have a serious nut allergy Asian foods such as Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Indian is best prepared home as peanuts, peanut oil, sesame oil and other nutty ingredients seem to find their way into everything from sauces, dressings, toppings and desserts.
French and Italian food can contain nuts in the pastries, cakes and desserts.
Middle Eastern cuisine also used nuts in a lot of dishes from sauces to sweet treats.
Be particularly careful when choosing vegetarian (particularly vegan) dishes as they use nuts widely as the base for milks, desserts, spreads and cheeses.
Gluten free options also often contain nuts.
Asking the right questions when ordering food can make all the difference to your dining out experience. Here are some question suggestions. It is best to ask about the presence of nuts and seeds with anything you order.
These are some common foods served at restaurants that are red flags that need to be questioned:
bread or rolls: do they contain any nuts and seeds?
garnishes on tops of salads, stir-fries, curries, bakes: Asian and vegan dishes come to mind.
Salad dressings or marinades: Asian dressings usually contain nut oils or nuts. (If in doubt order plain olive oil, vinegar and lemon to be brought to the table and make your own dressing).
Nut oils are often used to cook dishes: Asian dishes use a lot of peanut and sesame oil.
sauces often contain nuts to thicken and flavour. Examples are pestos and satay sauces.
dips and spreads: pesto dips and vegan creations use nuts as a base or a highlight ingredient.
meats and meat dishes: stuffings, burgers, patties, processed meats and cheeses often contain nuts and seeds
coating on meats, cheeses and vegetables: often rolled in a mixture containing nuts and seeds
raw or vegan dishes: nuts and seeds are used widely to replicate dairy and bring texture to crusts, bases and “breads”. Raw and vegan foodists use nuts in almost everything. Be really careful when ordering these foods.
cereals, soups, stews and casseroles: ask about nuts that are often used to add texture, creaminess and flavour (vegan cream soups and Asian-style dishes)
desserts, cakes, pastries and confectionary: this is a minefield. Check vegan and gluten free treats. Italian and French ice creams and pastries often contain nuts. Marzipan, nougat and almond croissants come to mind. Be careful of liqueurs and nut extracts used in chocolates, cookies and cakes.
exotic coffee or hot chocolate: are there any nut-based liqueurs and syrups (such as Frangelico and Amaretto) added to that?
smoothies and shakes: often use nuts and seeds or vegan milks – ask for a breakdown of ingredients.
The grocery store can be a potential minefield with a nut allergy, as nuts and nut oils are widely used in manufactured foods such as baked goods, snack foods, confectionary, breakfast cereals, power bars, dips and spreads, desserts, and a lot of vegetarian and gluten free products.
They are used to make nut butters, nut oils, extracts such as almond essence, and used to flavour syrups and sauces.
Nuts are also used a lot in Asian (Chinese, Thai and Indian), European and Middle Eastern foods.
As a general rule, most Western countries have passed food labelling legislation that requires manufacturers to clearly label ingredients that are within the food groups that cause the majority of allergies.
In the U.S, FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act) requires that the “big eight” (those allergens that are responsible for 90% of foods allergies) be clearly disclosed. Those include wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish.
People with nut allergies need to be vigilant when reading labels. A lot of ingredients are obvious. But “hidden” ingredients disguised with unfamiliar terms can fool the uninitiated shopper. Food labelling legislation has strict guidelines with regards to the “disclosure of exposure”.
The presence of peanuts and tree nuts must be labelled in plain english If a food contains nuts or a nut ingredient it must clearly state on the label “contains nuts” and the specific ingredient must be listed. If there is a risk of contamination with nuts, a warning such as “produced in a facility that also handles nuts” or “may contain traces of nuts” must be provided.
Safe products can be officially labelled as “nut free” if they adhere to very strict manufacturing procedures by being produced in a dedicated nut free facility and by passing specific government regulated tests.
For the purposes of this brief tip list, I have combined peanuts and tree nuts together including almonds, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias, pistachios, walnuts and Brazil Nuts. The most common, and most serious allergy tends to be with peanuts, and they are normally listed separately in labels. But for the purposes of this site I do not ever use peanuts in my cooking and use a general “nut free” category.
**Please note that I have not included chestnuts or water chestnuts, as they very rarely cause allergies.
Pine nuts are very often tolerated by people with nut sensitivities. Having said that, about 20% of people with nut allergies experience reactions to pine nuts so pine nuts should be avoided until it is determined that they are safe.
I do not include coconut as it very often does not affect people with nut allergies.
Terms and ingredients on packaging labels:
- nut butter
- nut spread
- nut paste
- nut extract
- nut oil
- nut chips
- nut flakes
- blended vegetable oils (may contain nuts)
- almond essence
- marzipan flavouring
- frangipane flavouring
- “praline” is from hazelnuts
- “prunus” is the term used for nuts in skin care products
Some other things that may contain nuts include:
- hydrolysed plant protein
- hydrolysed vegetable protein
- vegetable fat
- vegetable oil
- any number of “natural flavourings”
When shopping for foods - “If in doubt, leave it out” and call the manufacturer for more detailed information before unnecessarily exposing yourself to potential hazards.
Here is a brief breakdown of packaged foods that may contain nuts:
baking products: nut flours such as almond flour, almond meal, hazelnut meal, prepacked baking mixes often contain nut flours and meals.
baked goods: cakes, tarts, muffins, pies, cookies, biscuits, pastries etc often contain nuts or traces of nuts, or are subject to cross contamination.
breads: any breads may be manufactured in a facility that also deals with nuts and be subject to cross contamination. Look for “made in a facility that also processes nuts”. Start with basic plain breads that are usually nut free. Just read labels carefully. Seed breads are usually fine for most people.
breakfast cereals: granolas, mueslis, flavoured oat sachets, and a lot of other mixed cereals contain nuts. Choose pure cornflakes, uncontaminated oats/porridge, millet porridge, puffed rice, millet, quinoa flakes, nut-free mueslis and granolas.
You can easily make your own gourmet cereal mixes by mixing your desired grain flakes with fruits and natural sweeteners.
cheese: some gourmet cheeses are rolled in nuts. Most cheese does not contain nuts. Just look for plain cheeses that have not been coated. But always check the labelling if unsure.
desserts: lots of desserts contain nuts, nut flours and nut meals in the body or the crust or pastry, or they have nuts sprinkled on top of them. A lot of vegan, or dairy free desserts use nuts as a substitute in creams. Read the labels correctly. A lot of labels are clearly “nut free”. A lot of soy desserts are nut free. A lot of raw vegan desserts contain nuts.
dips and spreads: Lots have nut bases or contain nuts. Try seed butters such as tahini (sesame seed butter), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin butter, fruit based spreads and preserves, nut free chocolate spreads, bean dips like hummus, guacamole, nut-free veggie dips etc
drinks: milkshakes, smoothies, yoghurt drinks contain nuts and nut butters.
Ice creams and yoghurts: a lot of ice creams and yoghurts and frozen yoghurts are blended or coated with nuts. Also watch out for the cones and wafers. Choose fruit sorbets, plain ice creams without nuts, milkshakes and smoothies with grain milks, seed milks, coconut and soy milks.
flavourings and colourings: nut extract or essence like almond or hazelnut essence, as well as liqueurs such as amaretto. There are plenty of other flavourings that do not contain nuts. I use vanilla essence in everything!
meat, poultry and fish: always check the ingredients in processed animal products like burgers, sausages, deli meats, fillets and pies. They are often marinated, coated, breaded, battered and filled with nut based products. They are often subject to cross contamination. Buy clean cuts of protein or read labels carefully.
milk: some dried milk powders and obviously nut milks! Good substitutes include coconut milk, hemp milk, soy milk, quinoa milk, millet milk, rice milk.
Peanut butter and almond butter are used in a lot of “health shakes”.
protein powders and power bars: a lot of these contain nuts.
Read labelling to purchase nut free varieties. Hemp protein powder, The ultimate meal, nut free power bars.
oils: nut oils are used in lots of spreads, margarines, butters, dips, and even vegetable oil blends. To replicate that nutty flavour called for in some dishes. Sesame oil is the closest substitute. Or you could infuse some extra virgin olive oil with pine nuts.
salads and salad dressings: a lot of salads and dressings contain nuts or have nuts on top.
sauces: a lot of Asian sauces like satay sauce, curries, stir-fry sauces contain nuts or have nuts sprinkled on top. Use tahini (sesame seeds), pine nuts, which are usually tolerated, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds.
snacks and sweets: chocolates, bars, fruit and nut mixes, crackers – read labels carefully. Choose fruit based snacks like dried fruits, fruit jellos/jellies, nut-free chocolates, nut free cookies and biscuits, nut free muffins, nut free power bars or cereal bars, fresh veggie sticks, crisps, rice crackers,
vegetarian and vegan processed foods: meat substitutes like veggie patties contain nuts. A lot of vegan sweet treats like cookies, biscuits and bars use nuts and seeds as binders instead of eggs.
snack foods: dried soya nuts or chickpeas, dried green peas such as wasabi peas, pretzels, popcorn, crisps, dehydrated vegetable chips, rice crackers, seaweed.
nut milks for: dairy milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, soy milk, hemp milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, rice milk, coconut milk.
nut cheeses for vegan dishes: use soy cheese or rice cheese.
oils (peanut oil and sesame oil) for cooking: vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, rapeseed oil, grapeseed oil, mixed with herbs and spices such as garlic, chili and ginger and some tamari soy sauce.
garnishing and topping: sesame seeds or pinenuts if tolerated. Croutons, cooked or dried chickpeas or soya nuts, dried green peas, crushed rice crackers, corn chips, breadcrumbs, dehydrated vegetable chips, cooked grains, seaweeds, crunchy vegetables such as chopped celery, peppers, bean sprouts, green onions, cucumbers.
coating and crumbing: breadcrumbs, quinoa flakes, puffed rice, cornmeal, rolled oats, crushed waffles.
home made cereals and muesli: dried fruits, puffed rice, puffed millet, quinoa flakes, oats, seeds if tolerated.
adding texture and to baked goods: add more dried fruits and seeds if tolerated.
adding crunchy texture to stuffings and dips: rolled oats, cooked brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, finely diced vegetables such as celery, peppers and onions.
adding texture and flavour to breads and muffins: use other ingredients such as olives, cheeses, chopped vegetables, dried fruits, herbs, garlic, chocolate chips or raw cacao nibs,
dusting/decorating cakes, pastries and pies: coconut sugar, natural cane sugars, shredded coconut, dried fruits, raw cacao nibs, glaze with preserves or chocolate sauce.
ground nuts (almond or hazelnut meal) in flourless baked goods: if in small amounts just add extra flours. If used in large quantities as the base ingredient pick another recipe! There is not a substitute that will replicate the moist texture and flavour.
nut sauces and dressings: (satay) there is really no substitute. Choose another flavoured recipe! For pestos use soy lecithin granules and omit the nuts.
I will share my tips and suggestions for enjoying a raw foods diet soon.
Soy and soy derivatives are very common in a lot of what we eat these days, but it is often hidden from unsuspecting people with a soy intolerance.
So what is Soy exactly?
Soya beans are part of the legume family. Other foods in this family include: black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, string beans, chickpeas, lentils, licorice, carob and peanuts.
Often, people are intolerant to more than one food in the family, and so it is best to avoid all members until the specific allergen can be identified.
Due to their adaptable mild flavour, impressive nutritional profile and incredible versatility, soy beans are the most widely grown and utilized pulse in the world. Soy comes in many forms such as soy beans, soy flour, soy protein, soy oil, and soy lecithin (an emulsifier).
It is conservatively estimated that soy products are contained in over 50% of all processed foods including baked goods, convenience meals, meat and meat substitutes, soups, sauces and condiments, baby foods and most vegetarian and dairy free products. Soy is widely used to enrich, flavour, thicken, soften, emulsify and stabilize many packaged foods and skin care products making it a challenge to avoid in commercially produced goods.
Check out my favourites page for a list of credible online informational sources for going soy free.
Hypersensitivity to soya beans is not as common as dairy and nut allergies.
But I have included soy in my top five allergies and it is not uncommon for people with dairy sensitivities to have an intolerance to soy products.
The majority of soy allergies occur in children, who typically develop a sensitivity upon being exposed to soy-based infant formulas.
Most children outgrow soy allergies by about the age of 2 to 5. However, it can persist into adulthood.
Soy allergies can be hereditary. But this does not mean that because one family member develops an allergy it will affect the other members.
Those children at increased risk for soy allergies are advised to use hypoallergenic formulas and a late introduction to solid foods.
Some known related allergies with soy can be: dairy, peanuts, chickpeas, lima beans, green peas, green beans, wheat, rye, barley and birch pollen.
- A skin scratch test or RAST (Radio Allergo Sorbent Test) can be useful. But, as with so many food allergies, it is not an exact science and can deliver a lot of false positives and false negatives.
- Keeping a detailed food diary is also invaluable in determining which foods may be problematic.
- The most reliable way to diagnose a soy intolerance is with controlled blind double placebo food challenges where neither the tester or the subject are aware of which foods contain soy.
Always consult an allergist before consuming any soy products to determine which ones are safe and unsafe. If in doubt, leave it out.
As with all allergic reactions, symptoms of soy intolerance vary in severity; and usually occur within minutes or a few hours of exposure. However, symptoms can be delayed for a few days.
Symptoms may include:
- tingling of the mouth
- swelling on the lips. tongue, throat, face or other parts of the body
- hives or eczema
- runny nose
- difficulty breathing or asthma
- canker sores or blisters
- abdominal pain
An anaphylactic reaction to soy is very rare but can happen.
- redness or flushing on the skin
- severe drop in blood pressure and shock
- blocking of the airway with lumps or swelling in the throat
- difficulty breathing
- rapid pulse
- loss of consciousness
If your allergist prescribes as epipen or other self injectable adrenaline pen you should carry it at all times with a medical alert, and to be safe, an ambulance should be called in the case of an anaphylactic reaction.
As with most other allergies, it is the proteins that seem to cause the intolerance. Not all soy products may cause an allergic reaction in a person.
Often, fermented products such as tamari, tempeh, miso and natto do not cause reactions, as proteins are partially broken down in the fermentation process.
It is also rare for a person to exhibit allergic symptoms to refined soybean oil (not cold pressed, expeller pressed or extruded oil) or soy-derived lecithin (a common emulsifier) as they contain very little protein.
The only way to treat a soy allergy is to avoid soy products unless it has been determined by an allergist that certain soy products are safe.
Controlling exposure to soy can be tricky because it is so commonly used as a flavour enhancer, emulsifier, stretcher and flour in processed foods such as baked goods, cereals, infant formulas, margarines, canned tuna, Asian foods and vegetarian foods, ice creams, salad dressings, sauces, burgers and much more.
Soy is also often found in vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and cosmetics and lotions.
In the U.S, FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act) passed in 2006, requires that the “big eight” (those allergens that are responsible for 90% of foods allergies) be clearly disclosed. Those include wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish.
Most countries require the presence of soy or any derivatives to be clearly disclosed on food labels. Soy must be listed in plain English as “soy”, “soya” or “soybean”. Labels will often say “contains soy” in addition to listing the specific ingredients.
Please note that it is not a requirement to label potential cross contamination issues within the processing facility. For example “processed in a facility that handles soy” is sometimes provided as a courtesy.
Please note that most labelling laws do not apply to non-food items such as medicines and cosmetics.
Be especially careful of anything containing vegetable oil, vegetable protein and vegetable starch as these often contain soy and are the most commonly used things found in mainstream Western processed foods.
Also look for the presence of MSG which is often connected with soy.
Here are common soy terms found on labels:
- soya beans
- soy nuts
- soy grits
- soy flour
- soy milk
- soy sprouts
- soybean granules or curds
- soy protein
- soy protein concentrate
- soy protein isolate
- texture vegetable protein (TVP made from soy granules)
- hydrolyzed soy protein
- hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- hydrolyzed plant protein
- soy albumin
- soy sauce
- shoyu, tamari
- nama shoyu
- natural or artificial flavouring (may be soy based)
- monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- vegetable gum (a soluble vegetable fibre often soy based)
- vegetable starch (a purified starch often from soya beans)
- glycine max
- vegetable oil
- vitamin E (contains soy bean oil)
- yuba (made from the skin tha forms on heated soy milk – used in Chinese and Japanese cooking) okara (soy bean pulp extracted during soy milk production – used in Japanese cooking)
- natto (fermented soy cheese used in Japanese cooking)
Here are some common foods that may contain soy products:
soy products - soya beans, soy nuts, soy sprouts, soy grits, soy flour, soy milk, soy cream, soy ice cream, soy cheeses, soy granules or curds, miso, tempeh, tamari, shoyu, nama shoyu, soy sauce, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu.
Asian packaged products - use the most amount of soy products in the form of soya beans, tofu, tempeh, natto, soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, miso, edamame, soy milk, as well as flavourings, vegetable broths, vegetable gums and starches in soups, noodle bowls and other convenience meals.
infant formulas – watch out for soy-derived formulas. Seek out hypoallergenic formula options.
baked goods – breads, pastries, muffins, cakes etc that contain soy flour or emulsifiers and flavourings made from soy or peanut oil.
cereals and starches – many breakfast cereals contain soy ingredients. Also watch for gluten free pastas that may contain soy.
dairy substitutes – soy is used as the main dairy substitute – watch for soy milk, soy cheese, soy ice creams, desserts and puddings.
dips and spreads – a lot of butter and margarine substitutes and other vegan spreads are soy-based or contain flavourings and emulsifiers containing soy.
vegetable oils – many blends contain soy.
drinks – fruit drink mixes made with soy, vegan drinks such as smoothies made with soy, coffee substitutes, instant coffee, hot cocoa, hot chocolate and malted beverages.
fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen or canned with breading, sauces, toppings and gravies that contain soy. Watch out for soy beans, edamame and soy sprouts.
meat and meat substitutes – watch out for fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken, turkey and fish with prepacked sauces, gravy or breading that may contain soy flour or soy flavourings. Sausages, burgers and processed deli meats often use soy as a stretcher or extender and flavour enhancer. Also watch veggie burgers and vegetable meat substitutes such as tofu, tempeh. Natto and textured vegetable protein (TVP). Also watch out for “bacon bits” and other dried meat substitutes that are made with soy.
soups, sauces, salad dressings and condiments – soy is used a most canned soups and packet soup mixes. Worcestershire sauce and barbecue sauces contains soy. Some salad dressings, mayonnaises, sauces and gravies use soy flour, thickeners, flavour enhancers and emulsifiers containing soy.
desserts and sweets – ice creams, fresh and frozen desserts, baked goods contain soy flour, soy milk, soy flavourings and emulsifiers. Hard candies, fudge and caramels often contain soy. Chocolate often contains soy lecithin.
snack foods and convenience meals – power bars, breakfast bars, snack (granola) bars, soya nuts, cookies, confectionary, savoury crisps and crackers often contain soy products. Packaged and frozen meals often contain soy.
vegan and vegetarian foods – the majority of prepacked vegetarian foods such as snacks, baked goods, frozen ice creams and desserts, cheeses, creams, yoghurts, meat substitute items, veggie burgers, sausages and patties use soy. Always check labels very carefully.
flavourings – stock cubes, powders, liquids, soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, teriyaki sauce.
cosmetics and skin care products – many commercial skin care products such as lotions, creams, and make-up products use soy as an emulsifier. Check labels carefully and “if in doubt don’t scoop it out”!
Being smart about where you choose to go is the first step towards eating out safely, and reducing the stress and anxiety that might be associated with it.
Obviously any eatery can provide an opportunity for soy exposure. Soy and soy products are used widely in a myriad of dishes, and small traces can often go unnoticed. Soy seems to surreptitiously find its way into everything from sauces, dressings, dips, soups, toppings, baked goods and desserts.
Furthermore, a lot of Asian dishes such as those found in Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Korean and Indian cuisines are prepared and cooked with soy marinades and sauces.
Meat substitutes such as tofu, tempeh, and natto, as well as miso pastes are used widely to add body and flavour.
Vegetarian dishes also rely heavily on these soy products. Having said that, there are a few cuisines that do not rely heavily on soy products.
Italian, French, and Mexican cuisines come to mind immediately.
If in doubt, order clean protein and steamed vegetables, a salad with no dressing and oil and vinegar on the side, or fresh fruit.
If you have a serious soy allergy, be mindful of cross contamination opportunities with grills that have been used to cook marinated meats, stir-fries and noodles using soy sauce, tofu etc.
Sushi, fresh rolls and salads can be safer options at Asian restaurants.
Asking the right questions when ordering food can make all the difference to your dining out experience. Here are some question suggestions. It is best to ask about the presence of soy in anything you order. But these are some common foods served at restaurants that are red flags that need to be questioned. Calling ahead can also improve your options for substitutions and decrease your chances of exposure.
Always ask about the presence of MSG in food preparation as this is often associated with soy proteins.
cooking oils – is this dish cooked in soy bean oil, vegetable oil? Can it be cooked in olive oil or some other pure substitute.
flavourings – does this dish use soy sauce, tamari, shoyu or miso? Also ask about worcestershire, barbecue sauces or teriyaki sauces, mayonnaises, salad dressings, dips and spreads that could also contain soy products.
meat and meat substitutes – ask about breading, crumbing, sauces on meat dishes. They often contain soy or soy flour. Ask which dishes contain tofu, tempeh, natto, textured vegetable protein etc.
soups, stews, stocks and sauces – is the stock or base home-made? Does it contain stock cubes, commercial stock powder or liquid? These often soy. Canned and packet soups often contain soy.
canned seafood – ask about canned tuna, sardines etc that may be used in stir-fries, salads and pastas as many are packaged in soy bean oil.
stir-fries and salads – does this salad contain soy sprouts? Ask about soy beans too. Double check the dressing, sauces and order olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice on the side if in doubt.
baked goods – ask about breads, pastries, cookies and cakes that often contain soy flour, soy margarines and soy oil. Be especially mindful at vegetarian and vegan eateries that rely heavily on soy substitutes.
desserts – ice creams, puddings can contain soy flour, soy margarine, soy oil. Be mindful at vegetarian and vegan eateries.
Despite the ubiquitous use of soy in processed foods, it is possible to enjoy delicious soy free meals at home.
It is very easy to substitute soy oil and margarines in cooking; soy free chocolate that does not contain lecithin is available; and there are other ways to add protein to your meals besides tofu, tempeh, natto and textured vegetable protein.
Here are some substitution ideas for cooking soy free meals at home:
soy milk – there are a wide variety of vegan milks available to substitute for soy milk in drinks, smoothies, sauces, desserts and baking.
If you do not have an allergy to dairy you could always use cow’s milk. Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk can also be used.
Rice milk can be used in small quantities. But I generally find it too watery. Raw nut milks such as almond, cashew, macadamia and Brazil nut milks work a treat in smoothies. Grain milks such as rich, quinoa and millet milk also work on cereals.
soy flour – for gluten free baking you can easily create other flour blends that work really well. A mixture of flours using staples such as rice flour, millet flour, quinoa flour, amaranth flour, oat flour, potato flour and sorghum flour all work.
soy sauce - is a term used collectively to describe dark brown fermented sauces made with soy beans such as soy sauce, tamari, shoyu and Teriyaki sauces. These sauces have a characteristic salty or sweet flavour that is used to bring flavour to marinades, dressings and sauces; and stir-fries, dips, and toppings.
As previously stated, a couple of years ago I would have said that there was no satisfactory substitute for soy sauce. But the folks at Coconut Secret have saved the day with their Non-Soy Sauce. This delicious soy alternative is made from the organic coconut sap blended with sun-dried, mineral-rich sea salt. It tastes like a light soy sauce and can be used in salad dressings, marinades, sautés, raw dishes and for dipping sushi. It is a phenomenal substitute and is vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and soy free, It is also free of casein, corn, fish, shellfish, peanuts, sesame seeds, sulfites, yeast, rice and potato. It is 100% organic and contains 65% less sodium than soy sauce. This is an absolute lifesaving ingredient for cooking soy-free allergy-friendly dishes. To make flavoured sauces just add herbs, spices, vinegar and sweeteners to this base.
soy oil or vegetable oil – soy oil has a mild flavour that is often used for frying. Most vegetable oil blends contain either 100% soy oil or a mixture of soy oil and other vegetable oils. Always check the labelling carefully before using these blends. Try using other light oils such as sunflower oil, safflower oil, rapeseed oil or grapeseed oil. Very light olive oil also works well.
soy margarine – most vegan spreads use a base of soya bean oil. But you can get other vegan spreads that use olive oil, palm oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil. Even if a margarine does not contain soya bean oil, make sure it has not been emulsified with soy-based lecithin. If you do not have a dairy allergy, butter can be used.
soy cream – other vegan alternatives made out of raw nuts and seeds, or thickened creams made out of hemp milk, rice milk or oat milk; or dairy creams if no associated allergies.
Goat’s cream or sheep’s cream is also good.
soy cheese – vegan rice and nut cheeses; dairy, goat’s cheeses and sheep’s cheeses if no associated allergies.
soy yoghurt – coconut yoghurt or dairy yoghurt, sheep's yoghurt or goat's yoghurt.
soy desserts and puddings – try thickening hemp milk, rice milk or oat milk. Or use raw nut creams as a base. Use dairy bases if no associated allergies.
tofu – for silken tofu for desserts thicken other vegan milks to make curds. For firm tofu for use in salads and omelettes – try dairy, goat, and sheep cheeses, nut and rice cheeses, eggs or meats.
tempeh – meats, poultry, fish, dehydrated vegetable strips, dehydrated marinated nut strips, sea vegetables.
soy nuts – any other nuts, dried chickpeas, dried peas.
soy sprouts – alfafa sprouts or mung bean sprouts or other sprouts.
edamame – if using the whole pod try snow peas or snap peas, If using the beans try peas or other beans.
chocolate – a lot of inexpensive chocolates contain soy-based lecithin used as an emulsifier and stabilizer that reduces the amount of cocoa butter required to produce a pleasantly textured product. Purchase chocolate with a high cocoa content. There are a lot of high quality chocolates that do not contain soy. Raw cacao nibs work well too.
Recently, I have been using sunflower lecithin, which is gaining prominence and seems to be a healthier alternative to soy lecithin. Sunflower lecithin is extracted using a cold pressing technique without harsh chemicals and solvents. It is rich in essential fatty acids and comes in a dark liquid form from the health food store. This is good for desserts.
For dips and spreads use parmesan if not dairy free.
miso, natto, okara, yuba – these are all soy products used in Japanese cooking. Unfortunately, there are no soy free equivalents. Pick a different dish!
Genetically modified (GM) soy was introduced into the U.S food supply in 1996 and now accounts for the majority of soy crops grown in the United States.
Whilst there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that genetically engineered crops increase the potency of allergens in foods, I would suggest that knowing exactly what is in our foods is imperative.
To avoid genetically modified soy products also buy organic goods, that by their definition avoid any genetically modified ingredients.
With serious health conditions and chronic diseases plaguing the world, and the rising concern about the well being and sustainability of the planet, veganism is becoming a more popular choice for a more conscious healthy lifestyle. In fact, it has become a bit of a trend at the moment. Many celebrities, like Ellen De Generes, Alicia Silverstone and even Bill Clinton are huge vegan advocates, using their notoriety to spread the word about the joys of being a vegan.
I am a proud vegetarian who eats predominantly vegan and raw food. I would actually consider myself an alkalarian now, eating very little animal products at all, and maintaining alkaline blood most of the time. This page is by no means intended to be an exhaustive exploration of veganism, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject of veganism. There are some wonderful websites and resources that can inform you with more clarity and detail - I list them on my favourites page.
A vegan can be defined in two different ways: a dietary vegan and an ethical vegan.
A dietary vegan omits animal or any animal derived products from their diet. They do not eat any meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products or any other animal products or by-products where an animal is involved.
An ethical vegan is a dietary vegan that also eliminates the use of all lifestyle products that are deried from, tested on or involve animals, whether it be clothes, shoes, wool, leather, furniture or skin care products.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced vegan diet is not as difficult as it might seem at first.
If you think about it, a lot of the healthy foods that we are encouraged to eat by health organizations and medical professionals (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains) are already inherently vegan. By excluding animal products and animal by-products, we are not denying ourselves nutrients. Merely omitting certain sources of those nutrients. For example, calcium, which we are brought up to believe is best sourced from cow's milk and other dairy products, is found in plentiful amounts in green vegetables, nuts and other vegan foods. Protein, which we are encouraged to find with animal proteins can be found in nuts, tofu, tempeh, legumes and vegetables.
Furthermore, a responsible vegan plant-based diet of whole foods and fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains can be high in fibre, low in cholesterol and rich in live nutrients, and healthy fats and oils. Like any eating regime, you should monitor what you eat to ensure you are consuming a variety of foods with rich nutritional profiles. A lot of people are concerned about protein consumption when embarking on a vegetarian or vegan diet. "Where do I get my protein if I can't have a steak? There are several delicious protein rich vegan foods such as: temph, tofu, seitan, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, brown rice and vegetables like broccoli, spinach and potatoes.The majority of people actually consume far too much protein. But I am not a doctor, so I will shut my mouth about that. Read Victoria Boutenko's book Green For Life to learn more about the abundance of protein found in green leafy vegetables.
"What about iron and calcium?" I hear you say. Yet again, this issue is easily managed by eating the right plant-based foods. Calcium and iron can be found together in so many fabulous vegan-friendly foods, including spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli and soy products. Other calcium-friendly vegan foods are carrots, sesame seeds, soymilk and raw almonds. Iron can also be found in tofu, lentils, chickpeas and leafy greens. Another great tip is to remember that Vitamin C increases your body’s ability to absorb iron, so eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables like orances, strawberries and greens will keep your body healthy and happy on a vegan diet.
A diverse diet of raw and freshly cooked vegetables and grains, green smoothies, raw nuts and seeds and lots of water is a great start when following a vegan diet. Experiment with ingredients and unfamiliar foods. Educate yourself by reading some books, and try following some easy vegan recipes from the internet or any of the amazing cookbooks at the book store. I list some of my favourite vegan websites and resources on my favourites page.
We are so fortunate to have so many vegan resources available now. Use them and enjoy them to find the right happy balance for your vegan lifetstyle.
Preparing vegan dishes can be easy with a little bit of knowledge. As mentioned earlier, so many foods that we already eat are naturally vegan. Just steer clear of any meats or meat-derived products, like dairy and eggs and you will be fine.
If you enjoy cooking there is no reason why you can’t enjoy vegan cooking too. If you’re new to vegan cooking, stick to the basics at first, like vegetables, fruit, legumes or grains. There are plenty of simple vegan recipes that will make the transition easy. Quick and easy dishes like stir-fries, pasta dishes or soups are a great place to start. Always read the labels of food to double check the content. There are so many fantastic vegan substitutes in our stores that replacing animal products has become a lot simpler. Look out for tofu, temph and seitan to make life in the kitchen easier. Check out my vegan substitute page to find out more.
If you are new to veganism or not a vegan and cooking for someone who is, always remember to separate any meat or animal products while cooking to avoid cross-contamination. Use different cooking utensils, pots, pans and most importantly chopping boards. Your vegan dinner guests will appreciate the effort and respect.
The number of vegan restaurants and café’s springing up all over the place is very encouraging to the vegan population. The choices of course vary according to where you may live, but in general if you live in or close to a large city you will manage to find something. Keep in mind that many regular, everyday restaurants may also have a few vegan options. Try your favourite Italian, Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant, you could be pleasantly surprised. Vegetarian restaurants are the closest you will get to a vegan restaurant, as many dishes in a vegetarian restaurant tend to be vegan without trying, and if they for example have a creamy pasta dish, simply ask for it without the cream and butter. Most restaurants are happy to alter or cater for a patrons needs.
As with any diet, allergy or food restriction it’s always best to ask questions when dining out or getting take out. Otherwise try and stick to your favourite vegan eatery. I have a handful of amazing vegan restaurants that I like to call home when I am in either the U.S or Australia but for a more extensive global search for vegetarian and vegan restaurants head to the happy cow website or veg guide.
When introducing a vegan diet to a child, try not to be ovewhelmed or put off but what seems like a large undertaking of a nutritional up-hill battle. A vegan diet for a child is just as easy as one for an adult, and if excuted right can be much better for them. The experts obviously agree, because The American Dietetic Association was once quoted as saying that, "Well-planned vegan … diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence."
The key word in this quote is “well-planned”. A well planned vegan diet and lifestyle for child is all about knowledge and education. A vegan diet is very achievable and easy to manage and in fact has proven to be much healthier than the average American diet for a child.
Educated parents or guardians is what makes the difference to a child switching to, or born into a vegan lifestyle. Ensuring that a child receives the best nutrients at every stage is essential. Just like a child who is not growing up vegan, different nutritional needs need to be met at different ages. Knowing the vegan alternatives to give your child is important. A good variety and balance of natural vegan foods will make sure that children will grow up healthy and happy.
The main nutrients that are so very critical in a child’s development are Protein, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. But luckily enough all of these goodies are naturally found in so many different vegetables, fruits, grains and other vegan foods so vegan kids will not miss out.
I have provided some of my own vegan substitutes on this page however for more specific vegan foods for children, the Internet can provide a wealth of information. When in doubt or unsure, be sure to see a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist to make the process or transition an easy one.
What is unnerving about the average child growing up in the Western World today, but particularly in America, is that they traditionally grow up on fast food, pizza, hot dogs and chicken nuggets. It’s no wonder that food related illnesses in children, like obesity and diabetes, has been on a dramatic increase every year since the 1970’s. Whether you are vegan or not, any diet for a growing child is surely better than that one.
Traveling and heading on vacation as a vegan can be well-catered for as long as some research is done before hand. There are plenty of companies and websites that provide all the information needed to make a vacation a relaxing one.
In order to get to a destination, flying may be involved, so the first step when booking your flight online or with a travel agent is to ensure that that your chosen airline caters for vegans. Most large commercial airlines do, however it never hurts to ask before you hand over your credit card details. Dietary requirements when flying always need to be arranged in advance. Most airlines cater for the masses so only a few vegetarian, vegan or allergy free meals will be loaded on board pre-flight as requested when booking.
When booking on line the vegan code to look for is VGML.
Be aware that mistakes don't alway, but can occur between booking, catering and serving, so taking a few vegan snacks on board will help any hunger pangs on a long haul flight.
The Internet can provide a great amount of information on vegetarian or vegan hotels, Bed and Breakfasts or retreats, some of which can be found at the Vegetarian USA website. However just searching a few sites like Happy Cow or Veg Guide could make life so much easier. Plan ahead and make note of what eateries are at your destination that cater for a vegan diet.
I love to support fellow bloggers and there a plethora of great vegetarian and vegan travel blogs out there. The Vegan Backpacker blog is a great source of information for so many countries around the world. Nothing is better than learning from those who have trekked those vegan paths before you.
When choosing a vacation destination there are some countries that tend to cater for a vegan lifestyle better than others. Countries like America, Canada, the U.K and Australia all have a great variety of vegan restaurants and stores. But there are also some entire countries and cultures that lead a predominant vegetarian and vegan lifestyle and diet already. India, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are among a handful of many Asian countries and that don’t have to try hard to cater for a vegan because it’s already ingrained in their culture or religion.
So like anything in the vegan lifestyle it’s best to be informed and prepared. Arriving at a holiday destination without the right tools can make travelling a chore no matter who you are or what lifestyle you lead. So make the most of your vacation and think ahead, a vegan vacation well earned indeed!
Shopping for vegan food is like never before. Large grocery chains, health food stores and your local organic market all cater to a vegan lifestyle. The variety of food available is growing year by year and it’s exciting to see how easy it can be to maintain a vegan diet.
Large grocery chains tend to put aside an entire aisle dedicated to healthy, vegetarian, vegan or allergy free foods. Major health food stores generously cater towards a vegan diet while some other smaller food stores can be purely vegan.
I have listed below a number of great vegan substitutes to look out for when shopping for food. Meat, dairy products, eggs and any other animal products are easily replaced with many different vegan products. PETA has an extensive grocery shopping list that makes vegan shopping so much easier. It doesn’t take much research or know how before becoming a pro vegan food shopper becomes second nature.
So many tasty natural foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds are naturally vegan of course and are very easy to find in any grocery store. When it comes to shopping for other vegan foods and cooking ingredients it can also prove simple however diligence in checking food labels and ingredient lists are important to ensure your vegan diet is not compromised.
When checking food labels check for a certified vegan label. The label may say vegan but it’s sad to say that not all companies comply with the correct food standards, especially in America where the standards are not regulated and consistent. Vegan.org have a great list of certified vegan companies for you to keep on your vegan foodie radar.
Research and educate as much as possible before venturing out on a vegan shopping expedition. There are many hidden ingredients that can catch an unsuspecting vegan off guard.
Thanks to the Vegan Society here are some common nasties to look out for on food labels:
Caesin/Whey: Both are made from milk.
Honey, Beeswax (E910), Propolis and Royal Jelly: All come from Bees
Carmine/Cochineal (E120): Made from crushed beetles. This is a red dye used to colour food.
Rennet: Used in the production of cheese, it originates from the stomach of mammals.
Paneer: A common cheese in India, it is made by curdling heated milk.
Kefir: Fermented milk derived from cow, goat or sheep’s milk.
Koumiss: Fermented alcoholic dairy drink from Central Asia. Taken from a female horse.
Lard: Pig fat used as a cooking fat, spread or shorteneing.
Gelatine : Used in candy, sweets and some desserts Gelatine is made from animal bones and connective tissue.
Ghee : Used in mainly Indian dishes Ghee is clarified butter.
Lactose: Used most often as an additive in foods, Lactose is derived from milk.
isinglass: A protein substance from the swim bladders of fish which is used in the clarification of wine.
Suet: Raw beef or Mutton fat, used to make tallow. Used in the cooking of puddings, pastries and pies.
L-Cysteine (E920): Made from animal hair or feathers this is an additive that can sometimes be vegan but not always, best to be wary.
Shellac (E904): Used occasionally when glazing candies, sweets and fruit this agent is made from insect secretions.
Vitamin D3 or “Vitamin D”: Vitamin D3 is not suitable for a vegan diet however Vitamin D2 is.
Here is a quick list of everyday food products to look out for:
Breakfast Cereals and Bars – Could contain honey or milk derived products.
Margarines and Spreads – Most contain milk products
Fresh Pasta and Noodles – Could contain egg (Keep an eye out for rice noodles)
Candy, Sweets, and Jelly – Double check for gelatine and milk derived products.
Curry pastes and Worcestershire sauce – May contain fish.
Stock Powders – Look out for milk derived products
Alcoholic – Wines, beers and ciders are sometimes filtered using animal products.
Shopping as a Vegan traditionally extends beyond the realm of food. Living an ethical vegan lifestyle also means avoiding any everyday products that are made with animal products or that are tested on animals.
There are some great vegan alternatives when shopping for anything, from clothes to furniture. For more resources for all things vegan check out my page for my favourite vegan links.
Here are some often hidden ingredients to look out for when shopping for clothes, shoes and other everyday products:
Lanolin: Used in cosmetics and skin ointments, it is wax substance extracted from the wool of sheep and other wool bearing animals.
Leather: Animal skin and rawhide used to make many different products like, shoes, clothes, furniture, wallets, handbags and gloves.
Tallow: An animal fat, used to make soap, candles and shoe polish.
Silk: Produced by some insects but most predominately by the moth caterpillar, and used in textiles.
Musk: An aromatic substance excreted from the glands of the musk deer
Civet: Cat-like animal that produces a musk like fragrance from its glands.
Ambergris: Used for creating perfume it is a substance made from a sperm whales digestive system.
Sepia: a brownish pigment derived from the ink sac of a cuttlefish and used in some artworks, magazines and photography.
There are so many fantastic Vegan substitutes and vegan products that make becoming or maintaining a vegan diet rather cheap and easy.
You no longer have to go to a small organic health food store on the other side of town to get the food and ingredients that you need. Vegan foods are now more then ever, found in the aisles of large grocery chains making them so wonderfully accessible to a growing vegan population. And contrary to popular belief, vegan foods are not excessively pricey and can be purchased on a budget if need be.
As mentioned on my go vegetarian page, I am not a big fan of faux meat products, like Vegan ground beef or Fakin Bacon, but I do see how they can fill a void in a vegan diet.There are many meat substitutes to replace Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Seafood and Pork that be used in many different dishes like stir-fries, pasta’s burgers and casseroles. These meat-like products are often made from tofu, temph, seitan, rice, quorn or legumes.
There are many Vegan Dairy Products up for grabs in supermarkets which means that a vegan does not have to miss out, alternatively there are fantastic easy vegan recipes that can be made at home.
Vegan dairy alternatives to look out for are:
Yoghurt: Soy yoghurt or coconut yoghurt.
Creams: Soy cream, coconut cream, vegan sour cream, or make your can make your own nut cream at home.
Mayonnaise: Vegan Mayonnaise, soy mayonnaise, soy cheese, daiya cheese, rice cheese or nut cheese.
Milk: Soy Milk, Rice Milks, Nut Milks. Try making some healthy home made milks of your own.
Cheese: Soy Cheese, Daiya Cheese (tapioca based), rice cheese or nut cheese.
For an extended list of egg, milk, soy or vegan substitutes check out more tips and information on each individual how to page.
Piggies! Being a vegetarian can be fun. Yes! If you have the right knowledge and tools, you can enjoy delicious nutritious meals and ensure you maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle. I became a vegetarian many years ago and have not looked back. It just works for me. I feel healthier and a more responsible green steward of the earth living a vegetarian lifestyle.
People embrace vegetarianism for different reasons: religious, social, political, moral, environmental, health or economic reasons. Whether you are transitioning over to becoming a full vegetarian or simply including more vegetarian options into your diet, embracing vegetarianism can be a significant lifestyle change, depending on life experiences and circumstances. The other variable to consider is the concept of bio-diversity and bio-individuality. Everybody is different -- different people need different things. Some people find that their bodies function better with less or no meat (I am a blood type A and one of those people) and some people crave meat. Adopt an intuitive approach to your dietary health and listen to your body. Another important thing to mention is to introduce foods and transition your diet gradually. A great way to see what works for you and monitor how you are responding is to start by ordering vegetarian meals while eating out and cooking a few vegetarian meals at home every week. Before you know it, meat is off the table. That is what happened for me. You may be pleasantly surprised at the whole new world that will open for you! There are a ton of incredible vegetarian recipe books available, a truckload of vegetarian recipe websites, and fabulous vegetarian restaurants out there just waiting to be explored.
Here is some basic information about vegetarianism to get you started. This page is by no means intended to be an exhaustive exploration of vegetarianism. Rather, a simple introduction into some of the key points that helped me understand and cater to my new vegetarian diet.
For more detailed information, check out my favourite pages for some fantastic vegetarian informational resources.
These days there are quite a few different types of vegetarians, which I explain in more detail below.
But traditionally, a vegetarian is someone who chooses not to animal flesh, and lives off plant and plant derived products. This can be with or without eggs and dairy products. The principle reasons for becoming vegetarian are ethical, economical, religious, ecological or health related. Some people just simply don’t like the taste of meat or can't tolerate it.
The term vegetarian is not as simple as it once was. There are now quite a few different variations on the general term "vegetarian" in order to cater to every kind of vegetarian and their needs.
Here is a brief explanation of the various types of vegetarians and what they eat:
Pure vegetarians do not eat any animal flesh: meat, poultry or seafood. They also omit eggs, milk and all other dairy products. This diet consists of anything grown off the land. In other words, a plant-based diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds. Basically a vegan. However, some pure vegetarians will eat honey, where strict vegans will not even sniff honey! Honey is seen to be "optional" in a pure vegetarian diet. However, it has been my experience that pure vegetarian stear clear of honey. The subject of honey, and whether its consumption is appropriate for pure vegetarians tends to be a controversial issue!
Lacto-Ovo is perhaps the most common diet in the vegetarian world. Lacto is derived from the Latin word meaning milk and ovo meaning eggs. These kinds of vegetarians do not eat any animal flesh: meat, poultry or seafood; but do consume eggs, milk and milk products.
Under this well-known vegetarian umbrella are also other kinds of vegetarians:
A Lacto Vegetarian, who includes milk and milk products; and an Ovo Vegetarian, that just includes eggs and egg by-products.
A Vegan is the most pure kind of vegetarian. Vegans follow the pure vegetarian diet but go one step further and omit any animal products and animal by-products. There are two kinds of vegans: vegans who do not eat any animal or animal products; and very strict vegans who do not use any animal food products and lifestyle products made from animals. These vegans do not purchase leather goods or anything produced where animals have been involved.
Being a vegan takes an extra level of commitment that can be challenging for the average consumer.
A fruitarian is someone who is a vegan and leads a vegan lifestyle. However, they take it one step further and will only eat ripe fruits from trees and plants. A fruitarian will also only eat food that can be harvested without destroying or killing the plant or tree that it comes from. There are some fruitarians that will only eat what has already inherently fallen from the tree or plant. These fruits usually do not just consist of traditional fruits but also some seeds, nuts and vegetables that are part of the fruit family.
Alkalarians take veganism to the ultimate level and follow a plant based diet whilst maintaining a blood pH blood level of 7.365 or above. This is the diet that I principally follow. To find out more about becoming a vegan alkalarian head to my Go Vegan page.
Derived from the Latin term for fish, a Pesco Vegetarian includes fish in their vegetarian diet. People following this diet avoid all meats and poultry, but include seafood and seafood products. If you were to ask pure vegetarians, people who eat fish are not truly vegetarian. But a lot of people who eat like this refer to themselves as vegetarians. It is very common now, so I thought it was worth including.
Like a Pesco Vegetarian, a Pollo Vegetarian is not strictly a vegetarian either. These people exclude meats and seafood, but eat chicken or chicken derived products. Once again, this is controversial, but some people who eat this way call themselves vegetarian, so it was worth a mention.
A Flexitarian is someone who predominantly follows a vegetarian diet, but will occasionally tuck into a steak, chicken wing or a piece of fish. Commonly referred to as “semi” or “demi” vegetarians, Flexitarians are not technically vegetarian. But we welcome them here at Healthy Blender Recipes. Flexitarians often become full vegetarians, and vegetarians often become vegans. Everybody embraces vegetarianism in the way that feels right for them. I believe in flexibility not rigidity being the key to healthy success.
Flexitarians are generally people who are using vegetarian options in order to embrace a healthier lifestyle, but feel that their bodies need meat from time. I say, there is room for everyone! Every body has to do what feels right for him or her, and we welcome everyone.
Eating out is getting easier every day. Even when you go to a very specific eatery like a steak house or seafood restaurant, you will tend to find at least one vegetarian option on the menu. Even if it is just the side salad or side of vegetables. I have found that if you are really friendly, most restaurants will accommodate special requests. Calling ahead is also a great idea! My motto is, "don't ask don't get". Don't be afraid to ask the staff for what you want. There may be a few dishes on the menu that could easily be made into a vegetarian dish by a creative chef.
Just be aware that many restaurants, especially Asian restaurants, may use a fish or oyster sauce when cooking vegetarian dishes like noodles and vegetables. Just politely ask about what sauces, bases and stocks have been used, and simply ask for the chef to use a soy based sauce. Or for those of you who are gluten free, you may like to take your own wheat free tamari. I will often ask to have my vegetables cooked in olive oil and lemon juice. YUMMO! I also have no problem arriving with my own Celtic sea salt and other condiments! Another common Asian dish that comes to mind is "vegetarian" fried rice. A lot of these dishes contains egg. I am finding more and more that I will be asked "is egg OK?" by the wait staff. But, always ask to be sure.
Another common "vegetarian" option that can be misleading is soups. A seemingly vegetarian soup may have been made with chicken, beef or fish stock. So it’s always good to ask what has been used. Again, I find more and more, educated wait staff offer up this information. But do not count on this. Always ask. Also be aware that not all minestrone soups are simply vegetables and pasta, some recipes include ham or some other meat products.
Just remember ask questions in order to make informed decisions when ordering out. "A savvy vegetarian is a happy vegetarian." As I said, there are so many wonderful options for vegetarians now -- at both exclusive vegetarian restaurants and main-stream omnivore establishments. It is just getting easier and easier.
Whether children are born into a vegetarian family; a family changes and becomes vegetarian; or the child chooses to become a vegetarian for themselves, there are some important tips that can help children maintain a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet.
Nutrition education is key when living a vegetarian lifestyle, especially where children are concerned. We all know that children are growing every day and need all the vitamins and nutrients that natural whole foods have to offer. In order to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet, diversity is of the utmost importance. A variety of different kinds of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds will keep a child’s health on track. Green smoothies are my favourite way to get a ton of nutrients into your children. Greens contain a lot of protein and other important nutrients vital for health. Rotate the greens every day to ensure variety. I have also listed some popular meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh later on this page.
When introducing children to vegetarianism there are plenty of natural child-friendly vegetarian convenience products on our grocery store shelves, and there are many wonderful delicious recipes you can make at home. There are a ton of free vegetarian recipes out there in books, magazines and on the internet. I am a big fan of getting as many vegetables into children as humanly possible. there are lot of creative ways you can do this. Smoothie and shakes are my favourite way to do this. Check out my chocolate spinach shake where you would never know there was spinach in it! Another great way is to grate and blend vegetables into pasta sauces and other dishes. Cauliflower works hides really well in mac and cheese. You can also include grated fruits and vegetables into baked goods such as muffins, cakes and breads. Children also love vegetable fried rice, noodles, quiches, frittatas and omelettes.
Start introducing more fruits and vegetables onto a child’s plate. You can also make it fun to learn about a different vegetable every week and think of creative things to do with it. Keep a food diary of all of the things that hits with the family! You can then ask your children what their favourites are and include them in the vegetarian meal planning. You then find you are reducing the amount of meat that is served up without them even knowing it. Try starting with two or three vegetarian meals a week. Another great tip is to invite your children to become young apprentice chefs in the kitchen. Ask for their input and involve them in the menu planning and cooking. They then feel empowered and can exercise their culinary creativity. My niece LOVES to cook and help create recipes and she is two! I ask her when we are cooking together, as she stand there with her apron on and spatula in hand, "What shall we put in the bread today Alexandra? "Avocado!" she says. It is hilarious! But a great start!
Make being a vegetarian fun! You can easily make simple delicious nutritious food that the whole family can enjoy. There are all kinds of vegetarian twists on old faithful meaty favourites! The possibilities are endless. YUMMO!
Shopping as a vegetarian or for a vegetarian can be easy and fun too.
We are very fortunate to have so many natural health food stores, markets that offer a wider variety of vegetarian and vegan staples, packaged foods and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also wonderful to see so many mainstream grocery store chains expanding their vegetarian selection and even highlighting their vegetarian offerings in special sections in the aisles. You can also find wonderful vegetarian delicacies in specialty ethnic grocers.
I always buy my fresh fruits and vegetables from my local farmer's market, to ensure I am supporting local producers and eating fruits and vegetables in season. I purchase my whole grains such as brown rice millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth; and my raw nuts and seeds such as almonds, macadamias, Brazil nuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; and legumes like lentils, chickpeas and adzuki beans from the bulk bins at my market or health food store. There a ton of convenience vegetarian staples such as gluten free breads and pastas at health food stores and grocers. If you eat eggs, try to purchase organic eggs where the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is more even at 1:1. There are some fantastic sprouted tofus on offer at Trader Joes, Whole Foods and other stores; as well as wonderful varieties of tempeh.
When buying vegetarian products always be sure to check the labelling for the ingredients. It’s the only way to guarantee that there are no hidden meat products or meat derived additives. Soups, noodles and other prepared convenience foods can contain meat and meat-derived products such as sauces and broths. Another animal-derived product that comes to mind is gelatin, which is contained in a lot of pre-packaged desserts and candies.
Another important thing to mention, is that just because a product may be labelled “suitable for vegetarians” does not mean that that is the case. This kinds of assertions tend to be an interpretation of what a particular company or manufacturer may think is vegetarian for marketing purposes.
The key is just to be aware and be well informed. If in doubt, ask.
Here is a great list of non-vegetarian food additives on the Global Veggie website that might help you with which hidden ingredients to look out for when shopping as a vegetarian.
As a vegetarian, there are some fantastic meat alternatives that are healthy and delicious! They can help you modify traditional recipes and also enhance the flavour and appeal of vegetarian recipes.
Tofu and temph are fantastic vegetarian options that can be easily added to stir-fries, curries, rice dishes, burgers, scrambles, omelettes, quiches and frittatas. In addition to this, tofu makes a sensational base for vegan desserts and puddings and creams. Check out my chocolate tofu chilli pepper mousse. It is to die for!
In health food stores there is now an ever growing variety of meat substitutes. I am not a massive fan or a regular consumer of such products. But for many vegetarians (particularly children) they are a popular meat-like ingredient that can be easily added into many different vegetarian dishes. These products are usually made from seitan, rice, legumes or soy-based foods like tofu. There are some wonderful tofu sausages, veggie mince “meat”, and vegetable burgers can be good for children and other vegetarians craving meat.
Quorn is my favourite meat substitutes. Quorn is one of the best plant-based source of Vitamin B 12. It is highly nutritious and popular with people who like the taste of chicken. I have to say, quorn patties taste delicious.
As mentioned, there are a few different types of vegetarians, so make sure that you choose correctly when cooking with substitutes. For those who are lacto-ovo vegetarian there are many more options that become available to you because you can include eggs and dairy products; but you need to be particularly careful when cooking for vegans and alkalarians.
Food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. It appears we are becoming more and more intolerant to our food chain. The jury is still out on why that is. There are all kinds of theories ranging from: greater use of chemicals and pesticides, increased exposure to environmental pollution, increased “anti-bacterial obsessive hygiene” weakening our immune systems, and greater awareness and better diagnosis. I suspect it is probably a little bit of everything.
I am not an allergy specialist; and as I proclaim repeatedly throughout this recipe blog, I am not a qualified health care professional. My aim here is not to diagnose or treat; but rather, to offer some practical hints and tips for shopping, cooking at home, eating out, and travelling that have helped me live with food allergies and sensitivites, and continue enjoying healthy food whilst avoiding the offensive substances.
The diagnosis of a food allergy often feels like a blessing and a curse. Relief at finally knowing the cause of the problems; and anxiety about how to cope with the new restrictions. After all, eating is one of the basic pleasures of life, and so much of our social enjoyment involves food. Here is the basic lowdown about food allergies. For detailed, professional information, consult your doctor and allergy association.
Check out my favourite links and guides on my food allergy information page for more qualified and detailed information.
“Hypersensitivity” has become a general umbrella term used to describe all kinds of allergic reactions and intolerance. In order for an allergic reaction to occur, the body becomes sensitized by previous exposure to the food.
The term “allergy” can be very confusing. The phrase “I am allergic to” has become open to interpretation, and can mean anything from “I don’t like it and this is the best way to ensure the chef doesn’t put it on my plate” to “if I am exposed to it I will have an anaphylactic shock and could possibly die”.
It is important to draw the distinction between “classical allergy” and “intolerance”. “Classical” or “true” allergy such as those caused by gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts are the result of the immune system mistaking harmless food substances as harmful antigens, and releasing the body’s defence mechanisms such as antibodies and histamines in inappropriate ways that then result in an inbalance that can be mildly irritating up to life threatening.
This result is an allergic reaction, which can be immediate or delayed (several hours later). Reactions commonly manifest in places such as the lungs, gut, intestines, nose, mouth and skin. Very common symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, and runny or blocked nose as seen with hayfever; wheezing and breathlessness seen in asthma; skin rashes, hives and eczema; migraine headaches; flatulence, bloating, vomiting and diarrhoea; and coeliac disease which is an auto-immune condition arising from the inability to digest gluten.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Some of the most common things that cause anaphylactic reactions include peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts and cashews), fish and shellfish, dairy products, eggs, bee stings and penicillin. An anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within minutes of exposure to an allergen.
Symptoms can include:
- Reddening of the skin, rashes and hives
- Swelling of the mouth and throat and difficulty in swallowing and speaking
- wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty with breathing
- Fluctuating heart rate
- Severe Asthma
- Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
- Drop in blood pressure and weakness
- Loss of consciousness
Anaphylaxis is an emergency situation. Always call an ambulance. Even if the victim has an adrenaline (epi) pen, they should be seen by a doctor. If you or your child suffers from anaphylaxis, always carry your emergency pack and carry an alert tag.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, consult the advice of a qualified allergist. These doctors are experienced in testing for food allergies.
There are numerous ways to test for allergies, and some are more reliable than others. The best thing you can do if you suspect a food allergy is to keep a diary of everything you eat and are exposed to, and list any reactions. A pattern should start to develop, which could help your doctor.
The doctor will then test in several ways depending on the age of the patient.
Types of tests include:
- skin prick tests
- blood specific tests
- patch tests and food challenge tests in controlled environments
Just note that tests can reveal false positives and be inconclusive, and must be interpreted by an qualified physician.
Some allergies tend to “run in the family”. This phenomenon is known as “atopy”. Common atopic allergies include asthma, hay fever and eczema. Food allergies can also be atopic. However, just because one family member has an intolerance to a particular food, does not mean it will result in an allergy for the whole family.
It also does not mean that just because you are allergic to something in a particular food group that you must refrain from the entire group -- known as an “associated” allergy. For example, a lot of people with peanut allergies do not experience symptoms from other tree nuts or legumes. Similarly, those with shellfish allergies might be fine to eat other kinds of seafood. You should always consult your doctor and allergist to determine what foods are safe to include in your diet.
A food intolerance is not caused by the immune system, and is a lot more difficult to interpret the symptoms and triggers, and therefore, more difficult to diagnose and treat. Intuitive people who observe and listen to their bodies often “self diagnose”, and then simply refrain from the suspected food.
I recommend seeking the advice of a qualified allergist. A doctor might diagnose by taking a detailed medical history and then use a process of elimination and testing in an attempt to pinpoint the culprit.
Some common food intolerances include:
lactose intolerance - an inability to digest the protein in milk and dairy products. See my page on going dairy free for more information about this.
food additives – the most common are MSG (monosodium glutamate) and sulphites found in dried fruits
histamines – natural compounds found in fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, cheeses, fish and alcohols.
At present, the only way to treat a food intolerance or food allergy to a particular food is to avoid any contact with it. This can be challenging.
Most countries have a list of about 8 -14 potential food allergens for commercial labelling purposes.
The four major food allergens, commonly referred to as “The Big Four” are:
- cow’s milk
**I include soy in my list on this site, as a lot of people that have problems with dairy also experience reactions to soy products.
This is a vegetarian recipe blog, so I am not concerned with seafood allergies.
I go into specific detail about these five allergies on my Go Gluten Free, Go Dairy Free, Go Egg Free, Go Nut Free, and Go Soy Free pages. I have a list of hints and tips for each specific allergy that can help when shopping, cooking or entertaining.
Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Most of my cherished memories are centred around a wonderful meal with loved ones. Food should nourish the body, but also feed the soul, and it is important that it be an enjoyable activity, and that food be eaten not only for health and nutrition, but also for taste satisfaction, and even, occasionally, pure decadent indulgence! It is really important when you are on a restricted diet to find satisfying alternatives to your favourite foods to enjoy so that you don’t feel like you a constantly “missing out” on simple pleasures.
Here are some simple hints and tips to make this easier so your sensitivity doesn’t hijack your fun.
emergency plan – have an emergency plan in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
information – knowledge is power. Do as much research as possible by consulting your doctor, reading books, joining support groups and official online association websites. A lot of information on the internet can be inaccurate or outdated. Always get recommendations from official non-profit organizations such as the celiac society. As a general rule, I stick to websites ending in org or edu. I find these the most reliable to start with.
support network – join allergy groups, find a health food store and make friends with the employees, find restaurants that will accommodate your needs when eating out, notify your school or workplace about your condition and needs, enlist the support of friends and family.
organization – think ahead if you will be exposed to risky situations such as travelling, eating out, and visiting somebody. Carry snacks.
food diary – keep a diary of what you are exposed to, what you eat, and any reactions. After a few weeks a pattern should start to emerge. Perhaps you have a stomach ache every time you eat a piece of bread or drink a glass of orange juice. I really recommend accurate recording of behaviour. It speaks volumes!
communicate – “don’t ask don’t get” Don’t be afraid to order substitutes at restaurants. I find most places are happy to accommodate your requests if you are friendly.
never make assumptions – Don’t rely on what the manufacturer says on the front of the label. Always check the ingredients on the back carefully and any disclaimers about production facilities, and always notify servers at restaurants before ordering a dish you might have ordered a lot. There might be different staff working in the kitchen or changes to the menu.
allergy etiquette – awareness of food allergies is increasing. But those of use suffering from food allergies need to keep our expectations in a realistic place. Similarly, some thoughtful consideration goes a long way when accommodating a guest with a food allergy.
If you have a food allergy, be clear when stating your needs when eating out, staying with friends and travelling. Don’t expect that your needs will be met. If you are not sure what is in something, don’t eat it. It is better to be safe than sorry. Give people plenty of notice to prepare. Call ahead to friends, relatives, restaurants, hotels and airlines. Take your own food to reduce the imposition an inconvenience on hosts. Refrain from complaining, yelling and causing a scene if someone makes a mistake or is unable to accommodate your needs, and show incredible gratitude. I will often call the next day, send an email or card.
If you are hosting someone with a food allergy – take it seriously, don’t make assumptions or judgements and ask for as much information as possible. Find out what they are allergic to, what symptoms they experience, and what the treatment or emergency plan is should they experience an adverse reaction. Try to be compassionate and empathetic, but only offer what you can deliver. Don’t compromise yourself or the allergy sufferer if you feel uncomfortable. It is better to say “can you bring your own food, I don’t want to make a mistake” than to potentially expose someone to something that might make them sick.
Eating at home affords you the most control over your situation. Coping with food allergies doesn’t have to be a source of stress and anxiety. Some basic changes to your home environment can makes things a lot more manageable and enjoyable for everyone in the household. Lots of families find it easier to make the entire household allergy-friendly and cook one meal for everyone. However, it is not necessary to do this.
If you allow unsafe foods in the house It is important to:
- Be clear about which foods and safe and unsafe.
- Store safe and unsafe foods separately – in separate containers, on different shelves
- Avoid cross contamination by washing hands before preparing food and keeping surfaces like bench tops and cutting boards, pots, pans, utensils, tableware and appliances are clean and clear of unsafe foods.
- Prepare safe and unsafe foods separately – prepare safe food first and then unsafe food. Using a dishwasher helps to sterilize implements. Severe allergies might require separate cutting boards, implements, toasters etc
- Make sure floors and tables are clear of any unsafe food scraps and crumbs.
- Wash hands before setting the table to avoid contaminating utensils and bowls.
- Keep food separate on the table and serve with different implements.
- Keep babies and toddlers in their own dedicated high chairs and boosters that can be transported easily when travelling.
- Seat allergic children away from arm’s reach of unsafe food.
- Use separate cloths or disposable paper towels to wipe up spills and clean the hands and faces of allergic children.
This can be challenging as you are less able to control the environment and exposure to potential hazards. But it doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience if you plan ahead. Book in advance so you can call ahead and discuss allergy friendly options. Although most establishments display an awareness of food sensitivities, either by labelling their food packaging or listing alerts on their menus, you should never make assumptions.
Choose carefully where you eat out and communicate and make friends with owners, chefs and staff at your favourite restaurants, cafes, food stores and supermarkets wherever possible. That way, they are aware of your needs and will probably we more willing to help you out.
If you are attending a function at a facility, such as a wedding, conference or party, visit the venue to assess possible hazards, or call and speak to an informed party about the menu, facility, possibilities of cross contamination etc. Ask about bringing your own alternative food, utensils etc and whether they will prepare it or be willing to substitute ingredients. A bit of advance warning usually increases your chances of success. I have often been lucky and had the kitchen special order a substitute or prepare an allergy-friendly alternative. Even if you call ahead and organize solutions, always make sure you double check the safety of the food on the day. Staff can change daily, communication can fail, and chefs can prepare food slightly differently.
Be a smart orderer too. Simple clean dishes with a clean piece of protein and steamed vegetables, salads and fruit are usually the safest choices. Plain oil and vinegar for dressing is usually safer than attempting to dissect the ingredients in proprietary dressings blends. These choices may not be as glamorous and some other things on offer, but as soon as you get into rich dishes with sauces a whole minefield opens up.
If you do choose to order such things some common questions to ask are: What forms the base of the sauce? What thickeners are used? What kind of stock or marinade has been used? What garnishes are on the plate? Are the vegetables cooked in butter? Can they be steamed plain? Is there MSG used in dishes? Refer to my specific allergy pages go gluten free, go dairy free, go nut free, go egg free and go soy free for a list of more specific questions.
Always be courteous and friendly when requesting substitutions; and show your appreciation when accommodated by leaving a nice tip, calling the next day, or sending an email or letter to the management. This can help to form long-term relationships and ensure you are accommodated on future visits. Not to mention being polite and generous of spirit! Always take your emergency kit if you suffer anaphylactic reactions. Wear an alert bracelet or carry your emergency contact information in your wallet.
So many gatherings with friends and family such as weddings, parties, picnics, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners revolve around making memories eating. This events should be enjoyable, and do not have to be a source or stress and anxiety.
Being organized and planning ahead for these social events can be literally life saving on an emotional and physical level. Don’t ever leave things to chance or make assumptions that you and your food allergies will be accommodated. It is just not worth the risk.
Communicate with your friends and family, and be prepared so that you can work with your limitations and participate in events and enjoy yourself without too much inconvenience to yourself or others.
Don’t have an expectation that events hosted by family and friends will accommodate you. I find that mindful hosts are wonderful about offering allergy-friendly choices. But I find it is more considerate to accommodate myself, as I don’t want to offend people when I can’t eat their food. I also don’t want to appear narcissistic in believing that the whole event’s menu should revolve around me, and make the hosts uncomfortable or unnecessarily expose myself to allergy triggers.
Some things I do:
- I ring the host in advance and find out as much information as I can about the prospective menu for the event and where we will be eating. That way I can organize substitutions with the caterers or pack my own food and snacks.
- I find offering to supply allergy-friendly food is easier for everyone.
- Label your food clearly if you are putting it in a communal fridge and let hosts know if you will need access to their kitchen to prepare your own food.
- If you are staying overnight take whatever supplies you will need to tide you over such a gluten free bread, dairy free milks etc.
- Offering to help with the food preparation is a polite way of reducing cross contamination opportunities.
- Don’t be shy about declining suspect foods. Don’t eat it if you don’t know what it is in it. If you are polite and briefly explain your situation, people usually understand and do not get offended.
- I always make a ton of food for our annual family Christmas. I make generic salads and treats that can be enjoyed by everyone, whilst at the same time take care of my needs.
This doesn’t have to be a stressful experience if you plan ahead and embark on your journey organized and prepared, and armed with as much knowledge as possible. Airlines and hotels are becoming increasingly accustomed to dealing with food allergies, and are usually incredibly accommodating. However, it helps to ring ahead to increase your options. It is your responsibility to organize things so that you can enjoy your trip. Contact all airlines and hotels where you will be staying to discuss your options; order special meals wherever possible; consult travel books and allergy associations in the relevant countries for advice on the most accommodating eateries.
Make sure you carry any medical alert bracelets, cards, emergency contact information, emergency kits that you may need. It is a good idea to carry these things in your carry-on luggage in case your bags get lost in transit. Make sure you keep any adrenaline pens in their original packaging and carry a letter from your doctor to avoid any hassles with customs officials.
If you are travelling overseas where you do not speak the language it helps to have printed cards explaining your food allergy in the appropriate language to show when you are ordering food or in the case your require medical attention. It is also a good idea to know the location of any hospitals and specialists in the area.
Always pack a stash of allergy-friendly snacks in your carry-on bags and luggage to tide you over when you can’t access safe food. This is especially helpful on road trips in cars and buses, where truck stops and convenience stores may not have allergy-friendly options; or for long trips on planes and boats. You can order special allergy free meals on planes, and ships generally have a large variety of allergy free food on offer. But I find I am always hungry, so carry my own food as well. It is good to carry more than you will need in case of delays or errors with special catering.
If you have a severe nut allergy, there are morning flights now that are nut free. If you cannot get one of these flights, you can always alert the flight attendants to your allergy and they can seat you around people who will not be eating nuts. Also request a window seat so that you only have one person sitting next to you and are not wedged between two people passing food over you.
A healthy well-balanced, allergy-friendly diet starts with knowledge, so that you can make informed choices when shopping and avoid potential hazards. Fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are widely available from farmer’s markets, co-ops, health food shops and grocery stores. Better still, plant an organic garden and grow your own. These things form the basis of my diet and they are generally safe for most people, unless you have an allergy to a specific item.
There is also a wide variety of allergy-free packaged meals, convenience foods and treats available at health food stores, main stream supermarkets, specialty stores and delicatessens. It seems that every time I enter the stores there are more fantastic items available.
health food stores - I do most of my shopping at the local health food store wherever I am, as I find that is the best place to find the biggest variety of organic allergy-friendly foods that meet my needs. The employees at these stores tend to be well trained, have a personal interest in health, and are very passionate and knowledgable about the inventory. I also find that these organic stores stock small local products and it is good to support your local community. Awareness of food allergies and food sensitivities is on the rise and often health food stores have special sections for each allergy, making everything that is “safe” easy to find in one area. In addition, they often have a list of their products on special allergy sheets to inform customers. Traders Joes and Whole Foods are examples of large chain stores that supply such lists.
smaller organic stores: I find that if I make a friendly request to an employee to call the manufacture or look up the ingredients online for me while I am in store they are only too happy to oblige. This is where making friends is so important. If you establish yourself as a reliable customer, people are only too happy to accommodate you with information and special orders. I order things all the time and it usually arrives within a couple of days. Having said this, never make assumptions that you will be catered to. If you are not sure about a product, don’t waste your money. Do your own research by calling the manufacturer. The down side to shopping at organic health food stores is that it can be very expensive.
main stream grocery stores – let’s be honest. Not everyone with food allergies can afford to purchase organic goods. Obviously it is preferable, but you don’t need to shop at the health food store to find allergy-free foods. Most supermarket chains around the world are getting “allergy-friendly”, with a health foods aisle with allergy sections; and many stores now have their own line of “free-from” or “has no” allergy-friendly foods on the shelves and in the freezer section. A lot of well-known brands are also coming out with alternate mixes of their favourite staples. Betty Crocker is an example of a company that now makes gluten free mixes. Due to the buying power of large chains, prices tend to be a bit cheaper at these stores.
I find that these chains are happy to call manufacturers and place special orders in some instances. Just don’t expect the level of detailed knowledge and service in store that you will find at a small health food store. I find that the best way to get reliable information from these stores is to phone the head office and speak to the relevant person in the customer service department. Large grocery store chains are starting to formulate allergy-friendly lists for customers as well. The best thing to do if you are unsure about a product and to note down the manufacturer’s details and contact them directly, to remove the middle-man.
gourmet grocers, specialist food stores and delicatessens – I absolutely love cooking authentic dishes from all over the world and experimenting with foreign ingredients. I highly recommend ethnic specialty stores as a fantastic source for exotic ingredients as well as everyday staples. Indian stores are fantastic for gluten free flours; Asian stores are great for dairy free alternatives such as soy milk, tofu and coconuts, as well as gluten free noodles, wraps and grains. Mexican stores have a lot of rice, corn and legume products. General gourmet grocers are also wonderful, as they tend to have a cross section of products that are generally unavailable at regular supermarkets. Fresh delicatessens are also an invaluable source for fresh foods. Make friends with the owners and staff at these stores and you can often shop with confidence.
However, all of these specialty stores can be potential minefields for the allergic shopper. Ethnic grocers often have products that are labelled in foreign languages. These labels are often translated into English, but do not always contain sufficient information and adhere to legal labelling requirements. Similarly delicatessens and food stores have delicious prepared fresh foods, but are often poorly labelled. For those with severe food allergies, cross-contamination can also pose a problem. Once again, making friends with the owners and employees of these places affords you the best opportunity for shopping safely. But my golden rule with my shopping basket at these places, “if in doubt, leave it out”!
Online – the ability to shop online from the comfort of home is a gift from the gods. There are some phenomenal websites out there where you can source exotic ingredients for every day staples safely and conveniently. The credible websites have detailed ingredient and manufacturing information next to their products, and provide excellent customer service hotlines and frequently asked question pages. The best thing about shopping online is that you can thoroughly research the suitability of products and compare prices from the convenience of your home computer, without the hassle of making a trip up to the store, only to be disappointed. Shopping online is especially useful for those shoppers living in remote areas without access to health food stores or markets. Your relevant allergy association can provide a list of recommended online sources.
When you are living with food allergies, the only way to really be certain you are not exposing yourself to a potential allergen, is to cook all of your meals at home from scratch. However, this is not always practical, and dare I say it, anti-social, and not as much fun. As soon as you enter a grocery store, restaurant, or someone else’s home things get a whole lot more complicated, and we all need to be a lot more vigilant about reading food labels and asking questions.
Thankfully, food labelling laws around the world are becoming more strict due to the prolific nature of food allergies these days. Allergy labelling is really in its infancy, but things are developing to include clearer information. We can all play a part by calling food manufacturers and asking for what we need. It is in the best interest of a company to listen to consumer demands. Don’t be afraid to call companies and ask questions about food labelling recall policies, allergen testing procedures and manufacturing facilities.
As a general rule, most Western countries have passed food labelling legislation that requires manufacturers to clearly label ingredients that are within the food groups that cause the majority of allergies. In the U.S, FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act) requires that the “big eight” (those allergens that are responsible for 90% of foods allergies) be clearly disclosed. Those include wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish. Often additives and preservatives involved in processing such as sulphites must also be disclosed.
These additional requirements vary from country to country, and unfortunately, there is not a standardized system in place. More countries are now demanding that labels be clearer, less ambiguous, and easier to read, with ingredients in familiar terms such as “dairy”, “gluten” next to obscure derivatives that might not be identified by the uneducated shopped. But a lot of ingredients are still “hidden” in a lot of different forms, and it is very easy to unknowingly expose yourself to an allergen. Keep checking label as manufacturers can change their ingredients on products.
If you are stick to the health food store, or the health food section of a regular grocery store you will be one step ahead, as there is a wider variety of offer. But be careful of what I call “the organic trap” -- thinking that “organic” automatically mean “safe”. There are still organic allergens! Luckily for those of us with food sensitivities, legislation dictates; and it has just become good marketing sense to label the big four on the packet. NO GLUTEN, NO DAIRY, NO EGGS, NO NUTS. Peanuts are usually listed separately in most countries.
For products to be officially labelled like this they must pass a series of stringent government regulated tests. This is why you may find a product that does not contain any hazardous ingredients, but does not have the official accreditation. A great example of this is with the official gluten free accreditation. Products that have this must be manufactured in a dedicated facility where there are so cross contamination opportunities. There are a lot of products that do not contain gluten or wheat, but cannot advertise as “gluten free” because they manufacture in a facility that “may contain traces of wheat and nuts”. Watch out for these kinds of disclaimers on labels. It will depend on the degree of your sensitivity as to how careful you have to be when purchasing products. Please note that this information is voluntary, and cannot be taken for granted. Once again, “if in doubt, leave it out”.
Head to my specific allergy pages: go gluten free, go dairy free, go egg free, go nut free and go soy free for a quick guide for buying groceries and processed foods, and a list of the “hidden’ ways some of these allergens can appear in our foods. These guides also serve as a prompt for questions when ordering at restaurants. There are some fantastic allergy organizations and sites out there with more qualified, detailed information. I just offer a quick overview that really helps my family when we shop for ingredients and order food.
Buying specialty foods to accommodate food allergies can be very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. If you are organized, creative and resourceful, there are plenty of ways you can save money and make it all a bit more affordable:
- start your own garden and grow your own food!
- purchase your fresh fruits and vegetables from a co-op and share the box with a friend. That way there is no waste and you are eating local foods in season.
- research prices and purchase staple ingredients like flours and oils in bulk when there are discounts. Share your stash with a friend or store well for use later.
- look out for specials and coupons at your local stores and stock up when things are cheaper. I have found organic raw agave syrup at TJ Maxx and Marshalls!
- join mailing lists and newsletters from your favourite stores and online sources to take advantage of special offers.
- make your own gluten free flour mixes, gluten free cookies, allergy free cakes and allergy-free meals from scratch instead of buying the prepacked version. It is cheaper, and most things can be stored or frozen for use later.
The most important thing to remember when shopping and cooking for food allergies is to remember that no matter what your allergy, there are still lots of foods that can be prepared and enjoyed. Fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices and grains are safe for most people; and there is a plethora of delicious allergy-free prepacked foods and treats available at the stores that is expanding every day.
A food allergy does not have to hijack your creativity and enjoyment of eating. Be bold, creative, adventurous and open minded. Borrow some books from the library and learn how to cook in a new way. Take some classes or learn from family and friends. Try some new and unfamiliar ingredients from the health food stores. You will undoubtedly discover some amazing things.
The best way to enjoy an interesting varied diet is to cook your own food with fresh ingredients. Then you never have to worry about reading labels on processed foods. Furthermore, cooking is fun, social, and can involve the whole family. By cooking at home, you become familiar with your “safe” ingredients and how they are used in foods. This helps to anticipate potential hazards when eating out and travelling, and can help you suggest substitutes and alternatives when eating at the homes of friends and family.
Cooking your own food is empowering and gives you greater control and confidence. When you know how to substitute ingredients in recipes it expands your choices. You favourite foods that contain allergens might be easily adapted for your enjoyment. Try some of the quick easy allergy free recipes on this site. Take what you like and leave the rest. Blend and Live!
Dealing with a child who has food allergies can be challenging. But with some simple strategies you can reduce the stress on everyone. A child with food allergies needs to be educated and taught how to appropriately manage their condition. My sister’s niece has a three year old nephew with an egg allergy, and when he meets people his introduction is, “Hello, my name is Jack and eggs make me sick”. It is absolutely gorgeous. If you offer him something to eat, he always goes to his mother to ask what is in it before he samples anything.
Hopefully we can “train” Alexandra (my niece who is allergic to gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts) in much the same way so she can independently access the community, assess the hazards and have a good time without getting sick. Children with food allergies often need to mature faster than other children. They need to be prudent, responsible and self reliant, empowering themselves when not in the company of their parents and carers.
Here are some quick tips that can help when dealing with children with allergies:
teach the basics about the food allergy - explain the foods that cannot be eaten, what symptoms they might experience, and have an emergency plan in place: who to call, how to use an self injecting adrenaline pen, or anything else in an emergency kit. Until the child is able to determine which foods are safe, let them know that it is not safe to access food independently.
teach the child - to only accept food from a group of trusted adults such as family members, teachers, carers, friends etc until such time as the child is able to know what is a potential hazard. Encourage them to ask questions “does this contain?” before accepting any food from strangers.
encourage the child to communicate in social situations - a child with food allergies can be confident enough to tell people what their food allergy is, ask questions about the ingredients in foods, and order with confidence stating their needs at restaurants and when eating with friends.
show a child how to read food labels - ingredients and terms to avoid, and manufacturing information.
expose an allergic child to diverse eating situations - they may feel confident and adept at coping in all social situations where food would be served such as at restaurants, picnics, BBQ’s, parties and travel situations like planes, trains and boats.
school and day care action plan - it can be a stressful time you’re your child enters day care and school and is no longer in your constant care where you can control everything they put in their mouths. Communication is the key to reducing any potential hazards. A lot of day care facilities and schools have allergy procedures in place, and many are even “nut free” campuses.
However, never make assumptions that people are informed and that your child will be accommodated. Facilitate healthy communication with the network at school and ensure all interested parties (teachers, counsellors, assistants, volunteers, carers, fellow students) are fully informed about the food allergy: foods to avoid, triggers, symptoms, emergency procedures.
Make sure the child and the carers all know how to use the emergency kit and any epipens (self injecting adrenaline devices). Make sure these kits (it is a good idea to have a couple available) are always up to date and stocked correctly. Give the school a comprehensive list of foods to avoid and any derivatives and make a call to school canteens and caterers. Make allergy-friendly substitution suggestions and offer to provide food.
Make sure the school has all relevant documents and phone numbers in the event of an emergency. Have a bag of allergy-free snacks and treats in the child’s school bag or locker in case of that last minute function or field trips. You could also have such “safe treats” at the home of any friends.
parties - children’s birthday parties or play groups can be a minefield and particularly challenging. Baby parties involve the parents. But as children grow older they will be flying solo, which makes things more challenging. Often the allergic child will feel like an outcast, unable to participate in the same way as the other children. Bringing savoury snacks, making a similar allergy-free cake and providing a candy bag or treats can help to alleviate this stress.
Always call ahead to give and get as much information as possible from the host so that you can organize solutions. Ask the host to show your child which foods are safe and explain to the other children that they may not share the unsafe foods with your child. Or if your child is old enough, make sure he/she is responsible enough to be discerning with food choices.
Ask to prepare a separate “safe” plate for your child. For babies, carry your own high chair, booster, cloths, bibs and implements to make things easier on you and the host. If you are not going to be present at the party, make sure the hosts and carers know the symptoms of a reaction and have everything they need to implement an action plan: phone numbers, emergency kit etc Always ask that an ambulance be called if your child has severe allergies and can experience anaphylactic reactions.
travelling - flying on planes can be a stressful experience catering to children with severe food allergies. But you can make it easier with planning and communication. If you dealing with an anaphylactic nut allergy, there are now some morning flights that are nut free. If you cannot book one of these, alert the flight attendant to your needs and make sure you can sit around people who are not eating nuts. Take cloths and wipes with you to wipe down any surfaces. Request a window seat for the child to minimize the exposure to the other passengers. Make sure you carry any medical alert bracelets, cards, emergency contact information, emergency kits that you may need.
It is a good idea to carry these things in your carry-on luggage in case your bags get lost in transit. Make sure you keep any adrenaline pens in their original packaging and carry a letter from your doctor to avoid any hassles with customs officials. Always pack a stash of allergy-friendly snacks in your carry-on bags and luggage to tide you over when you can’t access safe food. This is especially helpful on road trips in cars and buses, where truck stops and convenience stores may not have allergy-friendly options; or for long trips on planes and boats.
You can order special allergy meals on planes, and ships generally have a large variety of food on offer. It is good to carry more than you will need in case of delays or errors with special catering. If you are travelling overseas where you do not speak the language it helps to have printed cards explaining your food allergy in the appropriate language to show when you are ordering food or in the case your require medical attention. It is also a good idea to know the location of any hospitals and specialists in the area.
sleepovers and trips away - you want your child to be able to participate in social events with friends in spite of their dietary restrictions. It can be difficult to control the food your child eats when they are in the care of somebody else. Once again, communicate with the host parents about the menu, offer to supply appropriate food, and make sure they are well informed and equipt in the case of an emergency.
A healthy balanced diet is achieved by eating good quality whole foods. It is important to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and other food groups in order to receive all of the protein, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, minerals and fat our bodies need for optimum health.
This can be challenging eating balanced nutrient-rich meals on a restricted diet with a lot of food allergies. I recommend seeking the counsel of a qualified dietician who specializes in food allergies. These professionals can answer all of your questions, supply you with a list of alternatives, and put your in contact with support groups and allergy specific organizations and resources that have a wealth of information about substitutions, and can suggest menus, as well as recipes and shopping tips.
Knowledge is power. Rise to the challenge in finding as many diverse, delicious, fun allergy-friendly you can! Work with your food allergy, not against it. Be adventurous and be open to trying new foods. You will be amazed at the scrumptious alternatives to mainstream foods and it is interesting how your taste buds adapt to new things. Rise to the challenge and find your perfect “allergy-friendly blend”!
**For more detailed information about specific food allergies and special diets, check out my other specific pages.
Here are some quick easy allergy free meal ideas if you are dealing with more than one food allergy, or all of the big ones: gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, and soy:
- fresh raw salads would be at the top of my list: fresh raw vegetable salads, fresh fruit salad, rice salad, gluten free rice or quinoa pasta salad, red skinned potato salad, chopped vegetable salads such as quinoa tabouli, and vegan coleslaws, just to name a few ideas.
- gluten free pastas, risottos, rice pilafs with vegan, nut-free sauces such a tomato or olive oil herb blends.
- stir-fry vegetables with rice noodles
- wraps or tortillas made out of 100% corn, teff, or rice and potato flours filled with raw or stir-fried veggies. Use hummus, avocado, red pepper purees to add flavour.
- vegan and vegetarian soups, stews curries and casseroles. Thickened rice milk works well to make things creamy. Use vegetable tomato bases with fresh herbs and spices.
- clean grilled protein (tofu, beans) with steamed, baked, grilled or raw vegetables.
- fresh fruit with rice creams and yoghurts
- crumbles and crisps using oat or puffed millet and rice toppings, rice pudding, avocado vegan puddings, rice ice creams
- fruit smoothies using rice milk and other grain milks like quinoa and millet.
- dried fruits, dehydrated vegetable chips (kale, zucchini, squash, sweet potato), popcorn, rice crackers, rice cakes, corn cakes, buckwheat crisps, sea vegetables, dried green peas, beans,
- convenience packet mixes – there is a wide variety available made by Orgran and other allergy-friendly companies that are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free and yeast free. If you are in a hurry, you can make allergy free breads, muffins, cakes and desserts by just adding a few ingredients and baking. Look for these convenience products online or at health food stores. It is a good idea to have a few of these packets in your pantry for those last minute cravings or visitors!
Here is a list of foods that I use constantly when substituting traditional ingredients in allergy free recipes, and accommodating various food allergies and senstivities.
Make friends with these fabulous ingredients; experiment with them; and they will save you from missing out on your favourite treats. They are my “allergy-friendly” gifts from the “culinary deprivation-compassionate” gods.
Refer to the individual substitution charts for more specific suggestions on how to replicate the quality of various foods in the “allergy no go zone”.
- avocado: this is such an incredibly versatile fruit. I use avocados as a creamy base for vegan puddings, vegan desserts and pie fillings; to thicken and “cream up” raw smoothies, shakes, dressings, dips and spreads; and also to make home made skin care products. “Avo go” with this sensational fruit. It is my favourite food.
- arrowroot: (or tapioca flour) is invaluable for thickening sweet treats like puddings and pie fillings. I also use Kudzu and agar-agar.
- cornflour: white gluten free corn flour is absolutely invaluable for thickening gluten free dairy free sauces and gravies. I also combine cornflour with other gluten free flours with much success in allergy free cakes, breads, and other baked goods.
- vegan milks: soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk and quinoa milk are good safe substitutes for dairy, egg, nut and gluten sensitivities.
- For those people not intolerant to nuts, a fabulous world opens up! Raw almond milk, raw cashew milk, raw macadamia nut milk, Brazil nut milk, hazelnut milk, are absolutely fantastic for creaming up raw vegan smoothies, shakes soups, stews, curries, dips, ice creams, puddings and creating fillings for cakes and pies. I LOVE raw nut milks and use them all the time.
- egg replacers: these are a absolutely essential for anyone living with egg sensitivities. There are other ways to substitute eggs, but these commercially available egg replacers are really helpful when making egg based foods such as quiches and frittatas; and are the quickest and easiest way to replace eggs in cakes and other baked goods. Check out the egg substitution chart for more natural ideas on how to substitute eggs in specific circumstances.
- gluten free flours: I use brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, potato starch, millet flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, chickpea (garbanzo bean)flour, fava bean flour, coconut flour, and several others. Combining fibrous and starchy flours yields the best results with gluten free baking. For those not intolerant to nuts, almond meal, hazelnut meal and blanched almond flour are absolutely fantastic for baking treats. They provide a beautiful texture and rich, decadent flavour. There are some fantastic pre-packaged gluten free flour mixes. Pamela’s all purpose baking mix is my personal favourite, when I am baking in the U.S. Bob’s Red Mill is also good for most general baking. In Australia, Orgran is really good. There are a lot of brands of “plain flour” and “self raising flour” mixes in Australia as well. There are more options emerging all the time, making gluten free baking a lot easier.
- lecithin: soy derived lecithin granules are fantastic for emulsifying and creaming up smoothies, puddings and quiches. Even if there are soy allergies, lecithin very rarely causes problems. I will suggest lecithin as an optional ingredient in a lot of my allergy free recipes. You can also source liquid sunflower lecithin now too.
- nutritional yeast: is fantastic for replicating the “cheesy” taste in savoury dishes.
- potato flour: is fantastic for binding vegan products. This is also one of the most successful substitutes for eggs in baked goods.
- seeds: pine nuts (which are actually seeds) are great for replacing nuts in recipes for those with nut allergies. Flaxseeds (linseeds) are one of the most fantastic natural ways to bind vegan treats. Tahini, and other seed butters are fabulous substitutes for nut butters in puddings; and for creaming up mashed potatoes, dips and spreads.
- tofu: I don’t use a lot of soy these days, due to the association with elevated oestrogen levels. But those of you not concerned with soy, or for occasional use, nothing beats tofu for replicating the creamy texture of dairy. Firm silken sofu is just sensational for making vegan puddings, pie fillings, dips and spreads; and soft silken tofu is great for creaming up vegan smoothies, drinks, dressings and soups. Firm tofu is wonderful for scrambling up instead of eggs, and tofu cubes are a wonderful substitute for eggs on top of salads and in stir-fries.
- coconut secret non-soy sauce: is made from the organic coconut sap blended with sun-dried, mineral-rich sea salt. It tastes like a light soy sauce and can be used in salad dressings, marinades, sautés, raw dishes and for dipping sushi. It is a phenomenal soy-free substitute for soy sauce and is vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and soy free, It is also free of casein, corn, fish, shellfish, peanuts, sesame seeds, sulfites, yeast, rice and potato. It is 100% organic and contains 65% less sodium than soy sauce. This is an absolute lifesaving ingredient for cooking soy free, allergy-friendly dishes.
- vegan cheeses: soy cheese (if no soy allergies), rice cheese, and nut cheeses (if you are not intolerant) are absolutely fantastic for substituting more traditional dairy cheeses in allergy free baked goods such as breads, cakes, pies and muffins; in sauces for pasta and stir-fries; for topping veggies roasts, bakes, and pizzas; and enhancing the flavour of omelettes, quiches and frittatas.
- xanthan: if you intend to do any gluten free cooking make friends with xanthan gum. Xanthan replicates the fantastic elasticity and springiness found in traditional baked goods made with wheat flours. It also helps to bind gluten free crusts and pastries. You only need a tiny amount. Be careful not to be too heavy handed with the xanthan or you will quickly have gluten free goo that tastes really weird.
Piggies. I wil list my tips for working with gluten free flours and share my favourite blends soon.
Making cultured vegetables is easy and fun! I will show you how soon.
Many years ago, I was introduced to the teachings of the Boutenko family, AKA “the raw family”.
Victoria Boutenko’s book “Green For Life” literally changed my life After embracing many wholefoods principles from Macrobiotics, Ayurveda, Chinese theories of Yin and Yan, Veganism, Vegetarianism, Raw Living Foods, Body Ecology, and Acid/Alkaline Principles, I had still not found my “perfect blend” – the right diet and balance that kept my body at optimum health all year round.
Green smoothies proved to be the missing link for me, and I have been happily blending raw greens ever since. I have never been healthier, or had more vitality. I do not get sick. I have no symptoms of candida,; my lethargy has ceased; my hayfever has decreased; and my mind is totally clear. In short - my symptoms of “less than perfect health” have disappeared.
But here is my humble overview of the Boutenko “green revolution” so you can get an idea of how drinking raw green energy smoothies can improve your health.
Green smoothies are not a new concept,; and certainly not one invented by the Boutenkos. Ann Wigmore advocated what she called “raw energy soups”. But Victoria Boutenko expanded these views and took them one step further. A step, that I believe, is absolutely vital to optimum health.
Just like me, the Boutenko family – Victoria, and their children Sergei and Valya, had been on a crusade, experimenting with different whole foods diets in attempt to eradicate the symptoms of “less than perfect health”. After an exhaustive search for the “magic cure”, they settled on a raw diet; and the teachings of the brilliant Dr Anne Wigmore. Their symptoms of diabetes and asthma disappeared, and for many years they were experiencing what they thought was optimum health. But slowly, they couldn’t ignore the signs that their raw food diet was not quite hitting the mark. They noticed they were tired, bloated, their blood sugar levels were spiking, and they were often hungry.
What were they doing wrong?
Victoria found the answer whilst reading the studies into the lifestyle and dietary habits of wild chimpanzees laid out by Jane Goodall. The compelling facts were that these wild chimpanzees hardly ever got sick, and most of them (bar about 3%) died of natural causes. Gosh, how many humans die of natural causes these days? It occurred to Victoria, that if humans and wild chimpanzees shared 99.6% of the same genes, then it stands to reason that humans would also thrive from eating in a similar way to their chimpanzee relatives. Hey, we test many of our mainstream cosmetics and drugs on chimps – let’s take a “leaf out of their book of health” and aim to die of natural causes!
In her book, “Green For Life”, Victoria compares the Standard American Diet, the Standard Raw Diet, and The Standard Chimpanzee Diet; and gets to the “root” of the problem, and finds the solution that “leaves” nothing wanting!
Let’s look at the Standard Chimpanzee Diet:
When you see photos of Chimpanzees, they are almost always stereotypically eating a banana! Well, chimpanzees eat a lot more than bananas. Their diet consists of only 50% fruit. They cannot live on fruit alone, as it is in season for such a short period of time. In fact, 40% of their diet consists of greens and blossoms. A lot of the time, chimpanzees will eat a piece of fruit by wrapping it in a green leaf of some sort. Their own “gorilla roll”. The remaining 10% consists of pith, bark, seeds, insects (and maybe poop)! OK – so for human purposes – let’s just focus on the 90%!
Let’s compare this to the Standard Raw Food Diet:
We see that it is also made up of 50% fruit, which is sweet, delicious, east to eat, and socially acceptable. Where the diet differs, is that typically, a large percentage is made up of the type of root vegetables which normally have a high sugar content as well. So even though the standard diet is loaded with rich enzymes, and raw vitamins, minerals, it contains a very high level of natural sugars, which tend to spike blood sugar levels. In addition to this, a large percentage of raw foods eaten are made up of nuts, seeds, avocado, and oils. Even though, they are high quality, healthy plant based fats, Doug Graham suggests, that in an effort to feel satiated and compensate for the lack of animal fats, the typical raw food diet can contain anywhere from 30-80% fat.
Now compare this with the Standard American Diet:
S.A.D, which is really “The Standard World Diet” these days. This diet is sad indeed! This diet consists of mainly cooked carbohydrates, in the form of rice, potatoes, bread and pasta in a variety of cuisines. These foods help us feel satiated and are cheap to produce. But they are relatively nutritionally barren. A large amount of animal foods are also consumed which are difficult to digest and contain damaging saturated fats. Only a small amount of fresh fruits and vegetables are consumed. No wonder this diet makes us sick!
So we start to get the picture in Victoria’s book that:
The Standard American Diet leads to sickness. The Standard Raw Food Diet is a good mid point, eating clean fuels that lead to a better state of health. But that a diet much in line with the ratios of the Wild Chimpanzee diet – a diet rich in green vegetables and wild edibles, leads to ultimate health. Greens are rich in vitamins and minerals; contain powerful antioxidants and vital live enzymes, are loaded with amino acids (protein); are highly alkaline, and are low in calories. They really are the perfect food.
Why isn’t “green” eating socially acceptable?
Now “green” might be a fashionable lifestyle as far as building a home, purchasing a car, or recycling and carrying a funky tote to the grocery store.
But how many of us are actually “taking green in”? Why aren’t we all consuming vast amounts of greens? Even mainstream medical research tells us that green leafy vegetables are incredibly good for us!
A lot of the excuses for not eating greens:
- they require a lot of chewing and are difficult to digest
- they don’t contain protein
- they are tasteless and boring
- they are not filling enough
- they are not not visually appealing
- they don’t contain as many nutrients as animal products
Why is it that most of us find a gorgeous lush green field gorgeous, but not a lush green smoothie?
Dispelling myths about greens:
This conditioning can be difficult to reprogram. It is true – the dense fibrous membranes on vegetables such as cellulose, are hard to chew, and needs to be broken down in order to release the enzymes and nutrients required for utilization. Chimpanzees chew six hours a day! Who has time to do that? Have you ever tried to eat that many greens in one day? It is exhausting and not always entirely palatable. Furthermore, the muscles in our mouth have become so lazy, that they are not developed enough to chew that much anyway.
The blender saves the day again! Victoria, through her studies, estimates that the average person needs to consume two large bunches (about ½ kg) of greens per day, in conjunction with a whole foods diet, in order to maintain optimum health. If you blend these greens with some fruit and filtered water, you break down the cellulose, and make large amounts of greens immediately available and accessible to the body. 1-2 litres of green smoothie a day is all it takes. And the best part? They taste absolutely delicious.
The Boutenkos freely admit that when they first started drinking green smoothies, the mere sight of the green mush was not at all appealing. They admit to drinking their first green smoothie together in the dark! That way, they weren’t distracted by the unusual look of the smoothie, and could just concentrate on the taste.
This strategy does indeed work. Cause if you blend greens with fruit, it just tastes like a delicious fruit smoothie you might get from any conventional fruit smoothie bar.
By mixing 40% green leaves with 60% fruit, (and some filtered water to get it to a drinkable consistency) you get a delicious smoothie that you can happily drink all day long. Yes! We can all eat two bunches of greens a day; and once again our blender comes to the rescue, and makes the impossible, possible!
For those of you who follow, or are familiar with food combining techniques such as those laid in Fit For Life and other food combining books; you will be crying out “But you can’t eat fruits with vegetables”!
Well what is a fruit? And what is a vegetable?
It is true -- root and starchy vegetables should not be consumed with fruits. So carrots, turnips, potatoes etc cannot be blended up with fruits.
There are also some greens such as broccoli, cauliflower and celery that lie somewhere in the middle, and also should not be consumed with fruits.
However most other leafy vegetables that grow above the ground, such as kale, spinach, silver beet, beet greens, turnip greens and carrot greens etc can all be blended up with fruits. They actually fit more into the flower and blossom category, and blend really well with fruits.
Have a look in Victoria’s book and you will be amazed at the charts comparing the nutritional profile of beet roots and beet greens. It is astounding. We are throwing out the wrong part! The only constituent that the roots contain more of - is sugars and calories!
The choice for health is clear.
Check out my tips for food combining on the raw food page or Body Ecology page.
The other thing that is important to mention about food combining, is that you cannot ignore bio individuality. Experiment on yourself and find what works for you.
A lot of people say “melon on its own or leave it alone”. I find that combining melon and other fruits does not present a problem for me. But I would not combine melon with green leaves.
I often get asked about "juicing versus blending." Which is better? I believe that the whole fibre contained in green smoothies and whole blended juices are hugely beneficial to health on an everyday basis. However, during periods of detoxification, cleansing, and illness, I drink juices, both pulped and pulp free, as they allow a more gentle digestive process, which leaves more energy for detoxification, cleansing, and regeneration.
I believe there is a place for both blending and juicing in any healthy eating regime. I blend every day, and juice every week. I also do a juice fast/cleanse one day of each week to empty and strengthen my system, along with regular colonics at The Piper Center in NYC and Gentle Wellness Center in L.A.
I do find that high fruit-based juices really spike my sugar levels. So, I don't juice fruits very often. When I make fruit and vegetable smoothies, using the whole vegetable and utilizing the fibre, my blood sugar levels remain more stable, giving me a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
The health benefits of fibre remain undisputed. Fibre:
- aids digestion
- moves food through the intestinal tract
- helps rid the body of toxins by binding and bulking them, and eliminating them through our very own garbage disposal.
- It also slows down the assimilation of sugars into the bloodstream, thus making these green smoothies a low GI alternative to their juice counterparts.
With the green energy smoothie – you really do get the best of both worlds.
A common fallacy about greens is that they are not a significant substitute for calcium and protein.
We have been brainwashed by lobby groups that influence the food and drug administrations, and health organizations that dairy and meat are needed in order to reach our recommended daily allowance of calcium and protein; and that greens are no substitute. Yes, we have all seen those advertisements that show a steak next to a massive bowl of spinach that could not possibly be consumed in one sitting. The meat and dairy lobbies are so powerful in the United States, that the RDA for protein for the Standard American Diet is almost double what it is in Europe. SAD indeed.
Greens are actually loaded with essential amino acids, which create complete proteins in the body; and contain a lot more calcium in a more absorbable form than dairy products, without all of the associated nasties.
Again, have a look at the nutritional tables in Victoria’s book to get a more definitive picture of that reality; and let the foods speak for themselves.
The Boutenkos conducted a study called the Roseburg Study, where they supplied people with one litre of their green smoothie every day for a month.
Most of these people were eating a mainstream Standard American Diet and changed nothing else about their diet and lifestyle. Some were smokers; and many were in state of sub-health, complaining of symptoms of diabetes, heart conditions, depression, and many other ailments, that were extremely debilitating in some instances.
The testimonies are fascinating, and speak volumes about the extraordinary power of live raw greens to restore health.
The big message from that study – even if you change nothing else about your life, you can reap enormous health benefits by blending green smoothies.
Of course, if you make other healthy changes, you will reap more rewards.
It is true. Some greens contain alkaloids.
A good example is spinach, which contains oxalic acid. Oxalic acid, if consumed in large quantities, can inhibit the absorption of calcium and iron.
Another example is apple seeds. These contain arsenic, which if consumed in large quantities, can indeed be toxic. However, it is a well documented fact that small amounts of arsenic can be beneficial for your health. Old medical practices used arsenic to treat syphilis and other diseases. Arsenic is also documented as killing cancer cells.
The key to avoiding any possible toxic influences of excessive alkaloid intake is to rotate the greens every day, and mix it up. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Choose from spinach, kale, silverbeet, parsley, basil, cilantro/coriander, beet greens, turnip greens, parsnip greens, carrot greens, and other phenomenal greens.
Michael Pollen talks about our food choices in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In it, he maintains that our food choices are constantly shrinking. Most commonly eaten cuisines in the world makes use of the same four staples – wheat, corn, rice and sugar. In fact, he points out the majority of people are only eating about twenty to thirty different foods a year.
Compare that to ancient Native American cultures who were eating about 1882 different foods, and our limited food pyramid is looking pretty woeful.
But is there anything better than organic greens? Get wild!
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to hear Sergei Boutenko speak about wild edibles, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I must admit, that whist I have been blending up green smoothies for some time now, I had been reluctant to try wild edibles. Fear and ignorance were my only excuses.
I suspect this is why many people don’t go wild! We probably ask ourselves the same questions: Where do I find them? They might kill me? How do I know which ones are poisonous and which ones are safe? How to I eat them?
Indeed, there are a lot of poisonous wild edibles that present a toxic danger to humans if consumed.
But what I learnt from Sergei, is that there are a great deal more wild edibles that are perfectly safe, and incredibly beneficial for health. As far as answering the other questions, try reading a book on wild edibles. You could also google wild edibles for your local area and arm yourself with more knowledge.
Sergei gave a great tip when searching for reliable, credible health and scientific information: always search on sites ending in org or edu. These are usually run by educational institutions or non profit specific organizations that are not selling anything.
I also find Wikipedia incredibly useful.
Here are some of my notes from Sergei’s presentation:
Why wild is better than organic:
Wild edibles give us a wonderful opportunity to expand our food resources and bring incredible variety to our diet. Wheat grass, weeds and other wild edibles are actually better than organically grown vegetables in many ways.
A lot of organic farms are near roads and other farms that use pesticides. Whereas wild edibles growing in the middle of forests, or other secluded locations are not as close to common pollutants like traffic.
Some other reasons why wild is better than organic are: they are free; they have longer roots, they are healthier, heartier crops that require very little water; you are eating locally; and opening up the choice the foods exponentially.
People have been safely eating wild edibles for centuries.
Native American cultures, and other perceived “primitive” cultures have been safely consuming wild edibles for centuries. However, it might surprise you to learn that General George Washington issued a directive to all of his soldiers in 1777 to go and pick wild edibles to “prevent scurvy and all putrid disorders” (Food in American History Part 10 – Greens).
Since then many books have been written about the healthy benefits of wild edibles.
Wild edibles also level the healthy playing field. Being healthy is a birthright. You can be healthy even if you are not wealthy! Buying large amounts of organic green vegetables can get really expensive! Being wild sets a whole new standard for fresh healthy food, and it is available to anyone! Forget the notion that “you are not allowed to be healthy unless you are wealthy”.
I was inspired by Sergei’s fantastic presentation and bought some of his recommended books on wild edibles. I am now a convert, and am reaping the wild rewards! I encourage you to do the same – with caution.
Always arm yourself with knowledge. Research the poisonous wild edibles in your local area, and do some research before picking and eating anything. Introduce new wild edibles slowly, in small amounts.
Adopt the look, listen and learn approach. Look for signs of intolerance, listen to your body’s reactions, and learn what works for you. Then teach your body. Everyone is different – be mindful of bio-individuality and experiment to find your perfect wild blend!
grass – There are over 400 varieties of grass. Grass is rich in chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. If you use organic fertilizer and do not spray chemicals on your grass, Sergei recommends mowing your lawn and pouring it straight into the blender. He told some hilarious stories of doing that with friends. Now that’s what I call “eating from your backyard”!
dandelions – is rich in Vitamins A, B C and D, as well as copper, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium. Dandelions are great for lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol; and are very beneficial for the health of internal organs. They are extremely alkalizing. Dandelions contain a substance similar to insulin, so they can be beneficial to diabetics. The best thing about dandelions, is that there are over three hundred varieties, and none of them are poisonous. These would be one of the most “socially acceptable” wild edibles. Search for Sergei Boutenko’s “dandelion pesto” on You Tube. YUM!
pigweed – is one of the few plant foods that contains omega 3. It tastes like lemon and has a beneficial effect on the heart – being linked to preventing heart disease and improving the immune system. Pigweed is rich in Vitamins A, B6 and C; as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. The great thing about pigweed is that it grows prolifically on organic farms where they don’t spray. A lot of health food stores are selling it now, so you don’t have to trek to find it!
lambsquarter or Fat Hen – like pigweed, this grows in abundance on organic farms that don’t spray and is available at some health food stores and co-ops. Lambsquarters taste like wild spinach and are perfect for green smoothies. They are rich in calcium, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin K.
stinging nettles – the interesting thing about these are that they sting, but the juice counteracts the sting. Stinging nettles are rich in protein, chlorophyll, calcium, iron and potassium. They provide arthritic relief, and are good for joint, back and knee pain. They can also assist in alleviating the symptoms of allergies; and are great for getting rid of dandruff!
plantain – is where psyllium husks come from. There are about seeds all coated with husks, which are really great for digestion. Plantain is fantastic for drawing toxins out of the skin. If you are stung by a bee, use some plantain and it will draw the sting out. It is also great for cuts and bites. Plantain is a fantastic natural anti-wrinkle treatment, and wonderful for other skin disorders such as acne and ecxema. It is rich in calcium, as well as protein and calcium.
hibiscus – rich in Vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals such as calcium, sodium, chromium, selenium.
nasturtiams – are of particular interest to me as they are great for candida, intestinal worms, stomach aches and constipation. They can also help with lung infections, colds and flus. Nasturtiams also promote the growth of new blood cells. The flowers taste beautiful, but the leaves can be very spicy.
gota cola - is a miracle plant for arthritis. It is also great for nervous disorders and skin impurities.It strengthens the adrenal glands and the libido; It is rich in Vitamins A, B, C, D and K; as well as iodine, calcium, zinc and cobalt.
chickweed – is rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B and C. They also contain powerful flavanoids and triterpenoids.
clover – turns out that a three leaf clover can be lucky for your health! You can eat every clover except for yellow clover. Clovers are great blood purifiers; and fantastic for fighting cancer, hepatitis, mononucleosis, and many eruptive skin disorders.
Obviously, the wild edibles available will vary depending on where you are.
The best place to pick wild edibles is in the most secluded locations that have had minimal exposure to pollutants.
A pristine environment like a wild forest is ideal, as the plants have not had to “weather” the elements of human pollutants.
Never pick edibles right by the side of the road. There is a saying “all roads lead to dirt”. No mater how gorgeous the road looks, anything growing near it will be contaminated with pollution. Most experts agree, that “the safe zone” is between thirty and forty metres away from the road. A lot of organic farms are located close to roads. So that is food for thought!
Another obvious, gorgeous looking place that people walk around is a golf course. Never pick wild edibles around golf courses, no matter how pristine they look. In this case, “the grass is not greener”. In fact, it is quite toxic, having been sprayed with all kinds of pesticides.
If you live in an apartment building, don’t pick wild plants close to the buildings, as they have been subjected to all kinds of contamination such as people, pesticides, animals and traffic.
You can pick them in your backyard, as long as you don’t spray.
Most parks are also safe, as long as they are not high traffic environments. A guy names Steve Brill gives fantastic wild edible tours of Central Park in NYC.
Can I harvest my own wild edibles?
You can easily create your own wild edible garden in your backyard, a balcony, or window sill. These plants are so hearty! It is literally like “Jack and The Bean Stalk.” You can just soak the seeds and throw them out, and they will grow wherever they land. That might just be the only gardening I can handle!
There is a fantastic website - Seeds of Change. This is a fantastic place to source great quality non radiated seeds with which to harvest your very own wild edible garden.
Throw in an avocado (you know I will take any opportunity to give my beloved avocado a guernsey) and you get a creamy, sweet, delicious smoothie that would make anyone “green” with envy!
There are tons of phenomenal recipes for green smoothies out there.
My favourite blend is to mix spinach with mango, banana, avocado, and coconut water OR spinach, cucumber, avocado, coconut, limes an coconut sugar. YUM!
But find your perfect blend! If it is too sweet add in some more greens. If it is not sweet enough, add in some more fruit! Too easy.
But just remember to rotate your greens for variety and to optimize the nutritional content of your daily green smoothie.
Go green and you won’t be sorry! Check out my favourite green smoothie recipes.
Our favourite motto at Healthy Blender Recipes is, "Fresh is Best". I am a big proponent in making your own staple ingredients.
That way you can control the taste, texture and quality of the final product, and ensure that it is free of preservatives and additives.
Here is a list of my favourite homemade staples that I keep on hand for so many of my easy healthy recipes.
Try some out for yourself and you will definitely taste the difference in your homemade creations.
Here are some basic but yummy home made salad dressing recipes.
If you would like to know more about my favourite cold pressed oils that I use as the base for many of these recipes head to my Cold Pressed Fats and Oils page.
Piggies, I will upload my favourite exotic nut and seed butter recipes mixes soon.
In the meantime check out my Nut and Seed Butters page.
A healthy blender kitchen without an electric stand mixer is like a piggy without a grunt. In the race for culinary divinity, my Kitchen Aid stand mixer takes a coveted spot on the podium every day and twice on Sundays. My beloved blender will always be my first love. But, she can't do everything. Nothing batters up better than a good stand mixer. It is a multi-talented best friend that has a knack for makes baking so easy. And for perfect fluffy egg whites, you just can't beat it.
I make so many of my pigilicious treats in my stand mixer. My tail can't curl up far enough with excitment when I plug in my mixer to make any of my simple gluten free cakes, or other treats because I know she won't let me down.
The various attachments that you can purchase for this stand mixer make this already magical machine a one-stop-shop for making and preparing quick and healthy recipes.
Here are some of my top hints and tips for working with the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, and be sure to check out my favourite mixer recipes.
When purchasing a mixer consider the following:
- How often will you be using a mixer?
- What you will be using a mixer for?
- How much space do you have in your kitchen?
- What is your budget?
If you are making the odd cake or beating egg whites every once and a while, you may not need a fancy industrial mixer used in professional kitchens. You might be able to get by with an inexpensive electric beater. This is a good option if you have very limited space and a smaller budget. However, if you are going to be baking a lot of gluten free cakes and pizza and pasta doughs, I couldn't recommend a Kitchen Aid stand mixer more highly.
I know they can be pricey, but in my opinion, a good quality stand mixer is a gift from the gods that makes baking a breeze. Start a kitchen savings account or put it on your Christmas or birthday wish list. All of your friends and family could pitch in.
Other things to consider when buying a mixer:
- Take note of the settings available. Some mixers have up to ten settings, which you may or may not need. If you are doing general baking for fun you might only need a very simple mixer. But the more passionate bakers may want a mixer with all of the bells and whistles.
- What attachments are available that might make your mixer even more helpful in the kitchen. The thing I love about the Kitchen Aid stand mixer is that it has all of these optional attachments like grinders, grain mills and ice cream makers that make this kitchen appliance even more versatile.
The Kitchen Aid Artisan Series Stand Mixer - US$300
This stand mixer has a 5-Quart mixing bowl and an all-metal, heavy duty, ten-speed mixer that can deal with a heavy load! The machine comes with a handy spatula, measuring spoons, flat beater, dough hook and wire whip. Kitchen Aid also has an incredible range of mixer accessories that turn this already fabulous machine into a one-stop shop! There is a fantastic ice cream maker attachment, a pasta maker attachment, grain mill, grinder and more.
This stand mixer is for anyone who loves to bake. It makes fantastic stiff dough, whips egg whites beautifully and comes in 25 colours!
Kitchen Aid offers a one year warranty with this machine.
These Kitchen Aid stand mixers are not the cheapest on the market. But I firmly believe you get what you pay for. This is the best stand mixer on the market. Trust me, create a savings account and put in on your gift wish list. I could not live without my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and all of the pigtastic accessories.
If you can’t afford a top-of-the-line mixer, make sure you are still getting a good quality and durable mixer that will not let you down for all of your cooking needs. Check out the consumer reviews on different websites to get a good varied opinion in order to make an informed decision. Also, ask friends and family what they use and ask to come over and have a spin.
To save even more money, you could purchase a good quality hand mixer. For those of you with small kitchens and limited storage space, a hand mixer is a great option.
The Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer - US$50
is the best hand mixer I have used and it gets great comments on the consumer review websites.
This hand mixer has seven speeds, which makes controlling your mixing easier. It also comes with a whisk and spatula attachment which makes this machine a bit more versatile, and even has enough power to knead dough. Make sure you build up those biceps! A hand mixer can take it out of you at times.
Here are some quick hints and tips for cleaning your stand mixer.
- Always unplug your mixer before you begin cleaning or removing attachments.
- After unplugging, you want to detach all the attachments that you have used and hand wash them in warm soapy water. Some companies advertise that their attachments are dishwasher safe. But, in order to preserve the life of your equipment, I would recommend hand washing and drying properly to avoid rusting.
- With a soft sponge now wipe over the entire stand mixer. Making sure to get all excess food and stains from the beater shaft, any clamps, and the stand mixer body. Be gentle and do not use strong cleaning products or abrasive scourers that will scratch your appliance.
- Dry with a gentle cloth and store away. If you use your mixer often, keep it out on the kitchen bench away from stove tops and any other kitchen appliances that may splatter over your machine.
Clean your stand mixer thoroughly after every use and it should last a very long time.
Love your mixer and it will love you back whipping up piggy treats for years to come.
For my favourite food allergy substitution suggestions, there is a section at the bottom of every specific allergy page for Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Nuts and Soy.
Please let me know if you have a wonderful substitution suggestion that we can share with fellow healthy piggies.
I will share my experience with living an alkaline lifestyle soon.
Food Combining is based on the premise that the human body is unable to digest more than one concentrated food in one meal. A concentrated food is commonly defined as any food that is not a fresh fruit or vegetable: basically, starches and proteins. The enzymes required for the efficient digestion of concentrated starches such as grains and potatoes, need an alkaline environment in which to work. Whereas, protein-digestive enzymes require an acidic environment. Hence, if a concentrated protein and a concentrated starch are eaten in the same meal, (meat and potatoes) the enzymes wage war against each other, neutralize each other, and nothing gets digested effectively.
Proper enzyme function is vital to the breakdown of foods into their constituent parts for use in cellular activity. When starches and proteins are eaten together, there is incomplete assimilation, that retards healthy digestion, and causes fermentation, producing alcohol and sugars that feeds yeast and fungus and toxify the body; leading to symptoms of less than perfect health such as: bloating, indigestion, flatulence, hunger, lethargy, and other more serious ailments.
Did you know that even a small amount of indigested protein is toxic to your blood?
So here are the basic rules:
Digestion requires more energy than any other function performed by the body -- even strenuous exercise. Feeling tired after eating is an experience we can all relate to. Now we know why. A strain on digestion leaves less energy available for vitality; and other vital functions such as waste elimination; which in turn puts a strain on the liver. Have you ever heard the saying “healthy liver, healthy body”? The liver is an extraordinary organ. It stores vitamins and metabolizes fats. But more importantly, it breaks down toxic wastes so that they can be expelled.
The liver is at its most active in this process between midnight and midday. So, in order not to interfere with optimum elimination and cleansing, only fruit is consumed until midday. Fresh fruits are so simple and pure, that they do not require the liver to be digested, and pass through the stomach to the small intestine within about 30 minutes. Fruit is also a wonderful breakfast, as it is extremely high water-content food that replenishes fluids after a night of rest.
What I do upon waking is to drink a glass of water with fresh lemon juice. This alkalizes my system, stimulates the peristaltic movement of the colon, stimulates my appetite, and prepares my body for digestion.
Another great idea is to use unsweetened blackcurrant juice in water. This is loaded with Vitamin C, which gives the body an anti-oxidant, energy boost that strengthens the adrenals. Then I drink a few more glasses of water in order to hydrate my body; and then I sip on a green smoothie until lunchtime.
Eating only fruit until midday is not appropriate or desirable for everyone. Some people require foods with a bit more heat and sustenance. In this case, leave at least 30 minutes after eating fruit before consuming anything else. The exceptions are bananas, pears and avocados, which take 40-60 minutes to digest. Then other types of foods can be eaten.
Concentrated starches and proteins take between 3-5 hours to digest. If these foods are consumed with fruit, the fruit gets caught and ferments, which feeds yeast, fungus and bacteria. This process creates acid and even alcohol in some people, which affects the mind and mood.
Fruits are best eaten alone. However, within this blanket rule, there are a couple of exceptions. Sour or acidic fruits such as blueberries, kiwi and grapefruit (see complete list below) can be combined with protein fats such as coconut kefir, coconut meat, avocado, and sprouted nuts and seeds. Both acid and sub-acid fruits can be eaten with cheeses too to create meals for lunch and dinner. The vegetable fruits: avocado, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes are best eaten raw as they pass through the stomach quickly. They can be eaten with fruits, neutral vegetables and also starches. Another exception is apple, which combines quite well with raw vegetables in salads. Please note that sweet fruits such as bananas, dates, raisins and pears should never be put into salads, which have concentrated proteins.
My favourite mid-morning snack is an avocado smoothie made with avocado, unsweetened cranberries, sprouted almonds, coconut kefir and a few drops of stevia. Cultured coconut pudding flavoured with avocado and blueberries and stevia is pretty delicious too!
Fruits can also be eaten with certain green leafy vegetables that are closer in relation to flowers and blossoms, and therefore closer to fruits. Green smoothies are a perfect example of how this can work with spectacular results.
When concentrated proteins, such as eggs and fish are eaten, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, and the protein-digesting enzyme pepsin. This acidic environment provides the ideal conditions for the digestion of protein flesh. But is counterproductive for the digestion of concentrated starches, which require an alkaline environment. When consuming concentrated proteins, combine with non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, onions, broccoli (see full list below), or ocean vegetables such as kombu or wakame, which can be digested in an acid or alkaline environment. These foods are the champions of food combining, as they happily digest with everything!
Here are some other rules:
- Serve only one concentrated Protein or Starch food per meal.
- Leave at least four to five hours between a Protein meal and a Starch meal, and visa versa.
- Leave at least five hours after a Protein or Starch meal before consuming Fruit.
Grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth can be combined with other starches like potatoes, corn, peas, butternut squash, artichoke and water chestnuts can be consumed with non starchy vegetables like leafy greens and ocean vegetables. There are literally hundreds of delicious combinations that comes to mind: vegetable curries with brown rice, quinoa pasta with tomato vegetable sauces, baked potatoes and coleslaw etc
Avocado, nuts, seeds, cheeses and olives belong to a sub-group of foods called “protein fats”. These foods combine best with ocean vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and acid fruits. I put avocadoes in green smoothies, with nuts and seeds in desserts and serve in salads with non starchy veggies. YUMMO!
Soy beans, dried peas and legumes are in a class of foods known as protein starches. They are both a protein and a starch, which is why they are so difficult to digest. But they are delicious. Keep them to a minimum. They are best combined with non starchy vegetables and sea vegetables.
Here are some food combinations that are good:
- Protein AND non-starchy vegetables or ocean vegetables.
- Starchy Vegetable and Grains AND Non-Starchy Vegetables or Ocean Vegetables
- Protein Fats AND Acid Fruits
- Protein Fats AND Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Protein Fats AND Sea Vegetables
- Animal Protein AND Fats / Oils
To make these combining guidelines easier to understand, below are some examples of foods in each food group:
- Honeydew melon
- Kiwi fruit
- Bell Peppers – red, green, orange and yellow
- Bamboo shoots
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Burdock root
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Green beans
- Lamb’s quarters
- Mustard greens
- Red radishes
- Red bell pepper / capsicum
- Scallions / shallots / green onions / spring onions
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens and root
- Yellow squash
Grains and Starchy Vegetables
- Brown rice
- Butternut squash
- Butternut pumpkin
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Lima beans
- Potatoes (red skinned)
- Water chestnuts
- The Raw Energy Bible – Leslie Kenton
- Fit For Life – Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
- Food Combining – Lee Dubelle
- Food Combining For Health – Doris Grant and Jean Joice
- Food Combining Made Easy – Dr Herbert Sheldon
Yes, I use a lot of raw coconut in my raw, vegan and vegetarian recipes. If I had one hour to live I would spend it in a vat of raw coconut.....and avocado!
I utilize every part of the coconut: coconut oil, coconut water, coconut meat, coconut milk, coconut cream and dried coconut flakes.
I crack open raw young Thai coconuts and make my own fresh product on a weekly basis. Cracking open young Thai coconuts is a bit daunting at first. But once you get the hang of it, the fruits of your labour will be well worth the effort. I use coconut for the immense health benefits, but also because it is downright delicious, and incredibly versatile. You can freeze the meat and the water for use later. You can also purchase fantastic organic creamed coconut, which I use in my smoothies when I have run out of fresh coconut. This product is a life saver! It is extremely easy to work with, and makes working with coconut much more accessible.
So let's get coconutty! Here is a little bit of piggy information that might help you to embrace and celebrate coconut in your life. Oink Oink.
**Please read my notes about purchasing Organic Raw Coconut and raw unpasteurized coconut water.
You can buy these coconuts from Exotic Superfoods if you are in the US, or Organic Lives if you are in Canada.
I am here today to defend my beloved coconut, who has unfairly received a lot of bad press over the years.
When most people think of coconut, they remember those scary reports about hydrogenated saturated fats and their link to heart disease. Or they think of the sickly sweet, over processed coconut found in most commercially produced candy bars and sweets. I will admit, that coconut, when it is wrapped in these nasty packages, can be damaging to our health, if consumed in large quantities.
However, the miraculous health benefits of organic, raw, pure unadulterated coconut are often eclipsed by these negative reports and experiences. I thought I would try and tip the scales a bit in favour of raw coconut meat, fresh coconut water, and unrefined coconut oil; and give you a little insight into the miraculous healing properties of this wondrous raw food.
Steven Acuff alerted me to the unbelievable health benefits of raw coconut many years ago, and I have not looked back. Thanks again Steven. You and coconut changed my life. Steven also introduced me to the teachings of Donna Gates, and “The Body Ecology Diet”. I then started to make coconut kefir and coconut kefir cheese; cultured coconut pudding; as well as coconut dips and dressings.
The health benefits of cultured raw coconut are extraordinary. The other added benefit is that raw organic coconut is absolutely scrumptious and incredibly versatile. The delicious raw recipes you can make with the coconut meat and coconut water will leave you wondering, "why didn’t I crack open a coconut sooner?"
**Please note: I am not a health care professional. This information is derived from my personal research attending health seminars, speaking to doctors and nutritionists, and information obtained from medical journalism and independent studies. Individuals and their dietary needs vary considerably depending on age, weight and health profile. Before making any radical changes to your diet please consult your health care professional.
I use organic coconut oil for almost all of my regular cooking; and in a lot of my baked, roasted and raw food recipes. The reason why it is called a butter and an oil is that it has more of a butter consistency at cold temperatures and turns into an oil when heated. Coconut oil is naturally stable, and is the only oil that is not adversely altered by heat. It can be heated to extreme temperatures and does not go rancid. It also does not raise cholesterol levels.
The really good organic coconut oil or butter is produced within an hour or two after opening the coconut. The oil is extracted using Direct Micro Expelling (DME) equipment and preserves the natural flavour and aroma of the coconut. Make sure you buy fresh unrefined coconut oil to cook with. Any product that smells toasted or rancid needs to be discarded.
Coconut oil is high in health promoting plant based saturated fat, and has both short and medium chain fatty acids which break down very quickly and are necessary for the proper utilization of omega 3 found in flaxseeds . Long chain fatty acids have to be broken down through the liver bile process. Whereas the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut is readily available through the small intestine as energy.
Coconut butter is absolutely loaded with antibacterial and antiviral properties. It has lauric acid, which has a powerful antiviral effect on the body, and caprylic acid, which is a potent anti-fungal. Coconut oil is fantastic for boosting immunity and staving off illness. If I am around anyone who is sick, I consume huge amounts of coconut and it never fails me.
Studies have linked coconut with weight loss. There are two types of fat in the body. Brown fat and white fat. Brown fat sits around the internal organs. Brown fat burn white fat. It takes good healthy plant based saturated fat like the ones found in coconut to activate the thyroid and the brown fat which helps to lose white fat.
Unrefined coconut is also a fantastic natural body moisturiser! I only ever use organic cold pressed coconut oil to moisturise my skin. It feels fantastic and smells absolutely divine!
Check out the wealth of information about the health benefits by typing in “coconut” into the search bar at mercola.com
Now opening coconuts takes a bit of practice before it doesn’t scare the hell out of you! But persevere. The water and flesh that you will get is well worth the blood, sweat and tears. In the art of coconut cracking, it really is a case of practice makes perfect. And when you taste the fruits of your labor and stick your snout into the coconut trough of heaven, you will be wanting to crack it again and again and again!
Trust me, this natural, seemingly arduous path will lead you into culinary Nirvana. I usually plan a bunch of coconut recipes I want to make and have a coconut cracking day and do a whole batch at a time. I team up with a friend and share the coconut pain and pleasure! We have a fabulous coconut feast. I make a huge batch of coconut kefir; and then freeze any excess water and flesh for use in raw smoothies, raw vegan ice creams and raw vegan creams later.
So how do you open a young Thai coconut?
I have had a few disastrous trial runs at this over the years, and there have been a few laughs, tears and injuries along the way. My first foray into coconut cracking was with my dad years ago. It was pretty hilarious. I asked him to help me, assuming he was a coconut cracking expert, having grown up in the tropics of Australia where he had coconuts growing in his back yard. Well, it turns out, a coconut owner, does not a coconut cracker make!
After several exasperated attempts to crack open these coconuts, I went into the kitchen to find some other implements, only to return five minutes later to find "Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor" hacking and cracking into the first batch of coconuts with an electric drill he had grabbed in desperation from his tool shed! While I was barreled over laughing telling him that, “I didn’t think that was the most sanitary way to extract the water”, he carefully explained to me with great conviction that “we needed to pierce all the eyes so the water would pour out neatly and that this was the most efficient way to avoid wasting the water”. It is true that raw coconuts have three eyes, and if you pierce the soft one in just the right place you can quickly drain the water by turning it upside down over a jug. So, I went along with this plan of attack as he was giving up his day to help me crack dozens of coconuts. His technique might not have been conventional, but it worked. The coconut water came out with ease and then we used a saw (!!) to slice them open to spoon out the meat.
However, seeing as I prefer to keep my food in the kitchen and out of the garage, and in the spirit of health and safety guidelines, I have shelved the electric power tools in favour of a basic cleaver. After watching COUNTLESS videos on "How To Open A Young Thai Coconut" on You Tube, and trying many of the strategies. I keep coming back to this amazing video, and will proudly proclaim, this is the BEST way to open a coconut I have found. I have had several people who have never opened a coconut follow along with this video, and it works every time.
So here is the best way to “crack it”.
Use a standard cleaver in favor of any of your expensive kitchen knives. To be honest, they don’t really do the trick and you will just blunt and ruin them. The best thing to do if you are going to crack open young green coconuts on a regular basis is to purchase a cleaver just for this purpose.
Lay the coconut on its side and make sure it is secure. A good way to do this is to place it on a heavy chopping block with a tea towel underneath. Shave off the outer layers and get down to the inner coconut. As soon as you break through, place the coconut upright, and cut into the side of it and pry it open. Watch the video. Pour out the water into a jar, bottle or pot, and scoop out the flesh.
Not all coconuts were created equal. They range in size and some will yield more water than others, and the coconut meat will vary from very thin and soft, to much thicker and firmer, and sometimes even rubbery. The soft flesh is fantastic for raw smoothies, raw creams, sauces and vegan ice creams; and the firmer meat is better used for raw vegan coconut noodles and raw pastas.
I freeze the hard flesh in one bag and the soft flesh in another bag. The soft creamy meat scoops out easily with a spoon, and the harder meat can be loosened with the back of a spoon. You might have to rinse or cut off the brown shell that often gets stuck. Obviously, just like all other fresh raw foods, this coconut water and coconut meat is best consumed immediately. But the meat and water really does freeze well.
If you freeze the water, just make sure you leave an inch or two at the top of your container to allow for the expansion that occurs when freezing.
*See my section below on buying ORGANIC coconuts.
To make home made raw coconut milk: just place the coconut meat and coconut water water in a high speed blender (I use a Vitamix) with a ratio of 3 parts coconut water to 1 part coconut meat, and blend until smooth and creamy.
If you want a richer, creamier milk, you could add a tablespoon of coconut butter and a tablespoon of lecithin; and you could sweeten with coconut sugar, agave, dates or another natural sweetener of your choice. But I don't think it needs it.
Coconut water is also known as coconut juice, and is low in calories, low in carbohydrates, and almost completely fat free. Dubbed as “nature’s Gatorade”, coconut water is a natural isotonic energy drink, which assists in maintaining the body’s electrolyte balance. In fact, one cup of coconut water contains more electrolytes than most commercial sports drinks.
Coconut water is high in protein, B vitamins and ascorbic acid; and contains zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur, manganese, boron and molybdenum. It is also loaded with potassium. One cup of coconut water contains more potassium than a banana. Fresh coconut water is an all round magical health elixir, boosting the function of the liver, thyroid, kidneys and gall bladder. Not to mention the beautifying powers! Coconut water is great for skin spots and cracked lips.
Coconut water has received a lot of press in recent years due to numerous celebrities hopping into it with enormous enthusiasm and boosting its hipster chic status as “the latest health drink”. Madonna was so bewitched by the healing power of coconut water that she invested over a million dollars into Vita Coco.
But coconut water is not a new thing. It has been a popular drink of choice in the tropics for a long time. When I lived in Singapore we bought young green coconuts from street vendors and drank coconut water straight out of the coconut with a straw. This is also a familiar sight in other parts of South East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and the Caribbean. The water from Young Thai (green) coconuts is always preferred. As the coconut matures, the sugar content increases, and the ascorbic acid content decreases. Therefore the nutritional profile is a lot more in our favour if we get them young!
A lot of the raw recipes I make use coconut water. I will use it a lot in raw smoothies and vegan puddings. I also make coconut kefir every week as a powerful probiotic drink. It is essential to use fresh coconut water to make coconut kefir. It is always preferable to use fresh coconut water for the other recipes, but if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to crack open your own coconuts it is okay to use the store bought variety, that is readily available from health food stores and grocers now. However, just bear in mind that it will not be as fresh, and so therefore the nutritional value will be compromised.
Also ensure you purchase pure 100% coconut water with no additives or preservatives. Also, try to purchase raw unpasteurized coconut water that has not been heated. A LOT of coconuts are dipped in toxic preservatives to prevent mold, and also bleached before wrapping, which affects the water. You can purchase raw coconut water from Exotic Superfoods in America, or Organic Lives if you are in Canada.
**See my note about using ORGANIC cococonuts only.
What I do is buy these coconuts in bulk, open a ton of them in batches with friends, and then freeze the water for use later. Just remember to leave about an inch at the top of the container, as the water will expand when frozen. It is better to use it fresh. But it is very convenient to have some frozen available at any time.
I drink fresh coconut kefir every day. This phenomenal “magic” elixir is loaded with potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, and contains powerful probiotics essential in maintaining the healthy intestinal flora of the digestive system. Probiotics, such as lactobacillus and bifidus help white blood cells combat infection and disease; they assist with digestion protecting the intestinal mucous and controlling putrefactive bacteria; and they are a rich source of Vitamin B 12.
I first learnt about the health benefits of coconut kefir, and learnt how to make it from reading “The Body Ecology Diet”. Donna Gates maintains in her book, that coconut kefir has miraculous medicinal and healing effects on the body. She writes that raw coconut kefir increases energy, and aids in the digestion of all foods; it cleanses the endocrine system and liver; and tones, cleanses, and balances the intestines. She also suggests that drinking coconut kefir can improve vision; stop cravings for sugar; strengthen hair, skin and nails; and even dry up moles, warts, and fade skin spots!
Having drank coconut kefir for some time now, I can personally attest to many of these claims. Best of all, it tastes absolutely delicious. Although, I will say, for some people, it is an acquired taste, and takes some getting used to. I am a tart at heart, so I like the tangy sour flavour that has a lot of bite. It is like a healthy spritzer or champagne cocktail without the hangover!
Here’s a summary of Donna’s instructions on how to make raw coconut kefir from The Body Ecology Diet:
Slightly heat the water from 3 fresh coconuts (about 4 cups) in a saucepan.
Once the water gets to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (don’t let it boil), stir in one sachet of Body Ecology Kefir Starter. Heating the water before adding the culture just gives the fermentation a kick-start and “wakes up” the bacteria and provides a good breeding environment.
Transfer the mixture to a glass mason jar, and then let the water sit out at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for about 36-48 hours, depending on how stable and warm the environment is.
The microflora (friendly bacteria) will ferment the sugar in the coconut water, and by doing so, will turn the clear liquid into a white, bubbly, foaming mixture. When you take the lid off it should pop like a carbonated soft drink or soda. This is your first indication the mixture is ready, Next, taste it to make sure all of the sugar has been fermented away. The kefir should be tart, tangy and bubbly. Now you have fresh home made coconut kefir. You can actually get a lot of bang for your buck out of one sachet of starter culture. To make subsequent batches of kefir, add in ¼ cup of kefir to your next 4 cups of coconut water (about a gallon).
I always use the flesh of Young Thai Coconuts, or “green coconuts”, which are sometimes labelled “Immature” or “Drinking” Coconuts from Thailand. These Young Thai Coconuts can be found at Asian grocers, farmers markets, health food stores, and even some regular grocery stores. They are most often sold with the husks already removed so they look creamy white with a flat bottom and a pointy triangular top; and can be sliced open and the flesh scooped out. The younger the coconut, the softer the flesh. This soft flesh scoops out very easily, and is wonderful for raw vegan ice creams, raw sauces and raw vegan smoothies. The harder, more rubbery coconut meat from slightly older coconuts is great for shaving and shredding for gluten free baking, and for making raw noodles and raw pastas.
You can add a culture starter to coconut meat to make a coconut kefir cheese, cultured coconut salad dressings, raw coconut dips, or flavoured coconut puddings and desserts.
Just put some coconut meat into the blender with just enough filtered water to achieve a pudding-like thick consistency.
Add in some culture starter, or a few tablespoons of coconut kefir.
Then allow the mixture to stand at 70F/21C for about eight hours until fermented.
You can flavour this pudding with a sweetener of choice for a delicious probiotic-rich pudding, or leave as a cheese.
You can also add herbs and spices for a scrumptious dip, or thin out with extra water and savoury flavourings for a zesty salad dressing.
Do yourself a favour and give a raw, fresh coconut a try.
Make some of the delicious raw coconut recipes and I guarantee you will be hooked!
Purchase certified organic Thai coconuts wherever possible.
Some companies use a fungicide dip such as formaldehyde or sodium metabisulphate before exporting to help eliminate mold and bacteria during the 4 - 6 week shipping process.
There is a possibility that these coconuts have also been irradiated during the shipping process. Some coconuts could also be cross pollinated with palm tree, making them incredibly sweet.
Please note that it is estimated that over 30% of young Thai coconuts are rotten at stores. This is indicated by a purple coloured pulp and water, with black spots and a pink tinge on the outer husk.
What is The Body Ecology Diet? Well, the best way to get a comprehensive answer to this question is to read what Donna Gates has to say.
Grab a copy of her fabulous book, The Body Ecology Diet, and check out the Body Ecology website for further information and availability to a network of Body Ecology trained practitioners and devotees.
But here is my humble overview and experience with the B.E.D diet, so that you can get a basic idea of how the principles might help you reach optimum health.
I was first introduced to The Body Ecology Diet many years ago by Steven Acuff.
Whilst reading Donna’s book, everything she advocated made sense to me; and a lot of things I had already been doing for years were validated. Living a whole foods lifestyle, I had already been following a lot of the basic principles of the diet for many years. Furthermore, when I looked at the bibliography of Donna’s book, there were many familiar books that had long been part of my library. For me, Donna had successfully “cherry picked” all the best parts of what she calls “the pillars of the holistic health field”: modern science, Macrobiotics; Chinese medicine; Ayurvedic philosophies; alkalinity practices; raw and cultured foods; and food combining strategies; and woven them together in one regime, with the addition of probiotic rich foods like kefir and raw cultured vegetables.
I have had a life long battle with candidiasis (an overgrowth of yeast) or Candida Related Complex (CRC). This immune disorder has been linked to other problems such as food, chemical and environmental allergies; digestive disorders and skin disorders. It also occurs in conjunction with other diseases such as chronic fatigue and Epstein Barr virus, AIDS, bronchitis and pneumonia, and a whole range of other immune deficiency disorders.
I have always had an intolerance to dairy, wheat and sugar. I was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus when I was a teenager, having struggled with lethary and fatigue; and had constant digestive issues such as flatulence and bloating. So I can personally testify to the links between an overgrowth of candida and some of these other problems. But because I was Macrobiotic, principally vegetarian, and maintained such a healthy lifestyle, I was able to suppress the severity of most of my symptoms.
But in May of 2009, I received a wake up call. After overindulging in all of the backstage treats whilst working on the Australian production of August: Osage County, and having been directed by the theatre and the company to take my first course of antibiotics in years due to a cast flu, my system was really out of balance. The result: a raging overgrowth of yeast! I finally realized that my body had been out of balance for a long time, and that I was a “healthy sick person”! I now had a systemic infection that had literally become a “seven year itch.”
I had long been living a life relatively free of refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods, until I began travelling back and forth to America in 2002 to visit my boyfriend who later became my husband. During that time, I had uncommonly strayed from my strict diet from time to time, and had indulged in a few too many “toxic treats” like commercial lemonade and french fries that I had not allowed myself to experience in many years. My body finally rebelled in spectacular fashion!
At just the right time, I received a “tenth edition” copy of The Body Ecology Diet as a birthday gift from my then sister-in-law, who had severe health issues and was following the diet. I, once again turned to Donna; revisited her diet; and a few months later, I was on the road to optimum health again.
Although The Body Ecology Diet is principally geared towards those of us with candidiasis; it is a fantastic diet for anyone with a compromised immune system with chronic fatigue or Epstein Barr syndrome; people with environmental or food allergies or sensitivities; digestive and skin problems; headaches, muscle and joint pain; or lethargy, anxiety and depression. I highly recommend this diet for anyone looking for more energy and vitality; and anyone wanting to be more healthy and calm. Following these principles, along with drinking green smoothies, has helped restore my health and vitality.
I am not going to lie. This diet takes some serious passionate commitment. Particularly, for those of you not already following a whole foods diet. However, this dedication will pay huge dividends in health, energy and inner peace. Do yourself a favour, and pick up a copy of this fantastic book.
It will literally change your life.
The Body Ecology Diet or B.E.D is all about boosting immunity by maintaining a healthy inner ecosystem by keeping large amounts of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, and maintaining alkaline blood, which in turn, strengthens the health of the entire body.
Let me explain further.
In every body, there are always friendly and unfriendly bacteria present. In a strong healthy body, the beneficial bacteria effectively combat the harmful bacteria, preventing an overgrowth. Conversely, in a compromised immune system, the unfriendly bacteria overpower beneficial bacteria, and this imbalance of bacterial beasts releases toxins, which invade our tissues, cells, organs, and blood, weakening our immune system even further, and affecting our ability to fight infection.
This bacterial war is manifested with symptoms ranging from: food allergies, headaches, digestive disorders, persistent colds and flus, to life threatening diseases such as cancer. Other factors that contribute to this harmful imbalance include: chemicals, stress, inferior quality air and water, hormonal changes, and the use of antibiotics, which destroy harmful pathogens, but also destroy beneficial bacteria, which then throw our bodies out of their natural balance, starting the entire process of imbalance again.
Candida Related Complex (C.R.C) is not a disease as such; but rather, a condition of acute internal imbalance, which fosters the development of systemic infections and diseases. Candida can proliferate in the intestines, vagina, mouth, nose, and blood, compromising the assimilation and absorption of nutrients which then causes disease.
When a poorly combined, highly acidic, sugary diet is eaten, it provides a perfect breeding ground for yeast, fungus, and bad bacteria to multiply. Donna claims that American immunologist, Alan Levin, estimates that 1 out of every 3 Americans has a candida overgrowth. If you have persistent colds, flus, skin rashes, digestive complaints, and muscle aches and pains, chances are, you could have a candida overgrowth.
So how do we combat these yeast beasts? It is important to note that the goal is not to completely eradicate candida. This is impossible. But rather, to restore the strength of the immune system and alkalize the body, so that a healthy bacterial balance can prevail, fostering optimal bodily function.
The first step in restoring healthy body ecology and reversing the overgrowth of candida is to starve the yeast and bad bacteria, and then provide an inner ecosystem that makes it impossible for them to thrive.
We do this by eating an alkaline, mineral-rich diet that is very low in sugar, and consuming probiotic-rich foods such as coconut kefir, fresh land and sea vegetables, and cultured vegetables. This recolonizes the friendly life-affirming bacteria. These friendly bacteria, the most common of which is lactobacillus and bifidus, are vital for maintaining healthy digestion and elimination; as well as fighting disease and infection. If antibiotics must be taken, probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods should be eaten immediately after the course has been finished, in order to restore a healthy body ecology.
There are seven key principles of healing in The Body Ecology Diet, which Donna has successfully brought together from what she calls “the pillars of the holistic health field”.
The 1st Principle: The Chinese idea of Yin (contraction) and Yang (expansion).
This ancient universal law or nature is incredibly complex and overwhelming.
But in relation to food and healing it can be summed up like this: there are foods that cause our bodies to expand, open up and relax, such as: sugar, alcohol, milk, cheese and coffee. Conversely, there are other things that cause up to tighten and close, such as: salt, meats, nuts and beans.
Just like a healthy balance of bacteria is required in the body for optimum health, so too is a balance between contractive (closed, tight, soft, dark) and expansive (released, open, relaxed, active) forces. The ideal state is to exist between the two extremes, where the body feels calm, centred and strong.
The Body Ecology Diet principally utilizes neutral foods such as green vegetables, sea vegetables, and alkaline grain-like seeds such as quinoa and millet, and employs healthy food combining strategies that work with the complementary nature of opposite forces, and balance the life force energy or Ki (pronounced Chi) in the body. Some expansive (herbs, spices, kefir, ghee) and contractive (fish, eggs, salt) foods are allowed. Fish (halibut, salmon, tuna) is the recommended animal food in the diet, as it is the most balanced contractive animal food.
The 2nd Principle: Maintaining a Healthy Acid / Alkaline Balance.
The optimum PH for our bodily fluids and beneficial bacteria to thrive is slightly alkaline at 7.365.
Maintaining this alkaline state is absolutely critical to optimum health. Consuming highly acidic foods, overeating, drug abuse and stress can all contribute to the acidification of the blood which weakens the cells, organs, and vital systems in the body leading to fatigue, disease, and an absence of mental clarity. Furthermore, yeast, fungus, bacteria, viruses and cancer cells thrive in an acidic condition causing infection and disease.
When a highly acidic diet is consumed, the body must rely on its alkaline mineral reserves (also known as alkaline buffers) in an attempt to balance this toxic acidity. This results in nutrient leaching within the body, which contributes to disease. By eating an alkaline mineral-rich diet, you are building up your reserve of alkaline buffers to fight infection, as well as starving yeast, bacteria, and parasites.
Alkaline foods that are recommended in abundance are: sea vegetables, most land vegetables, herbs, raw seeds (except sesame), soaked and sprouted almonds, cultured vegetables, raw kefir, raw apple cider vinegar, and filtered water. The only fruits that are allowed on stage one of the diet are lemons, limes, unsweetened cranberries and blackcurrants; as they are the only ones that are lower in sugar and do not feed yeast.
Acid forming foods that are allowed include: fish, eggs, beef, poultry, buckwheat, and organic unrefined oils. The only sweeteners that are allowed are stevia and lacanto. Highly acidic foods such as processed foods, sugar, flour, beans, soybeans, nuts (except almonds), vinegars and alcohol are to be excluded.
The 3rd Principle: Bio-Diversity, Bio-Individuality or “Uniqueness”
This is one of my favourite aspects of this diet. Acknowledging the reality that one diet will not work for every human being on the planet. We must acknowledge the impact of seasonal changes, environmental pollutants, emotional realities and aging on our bodies. This concept of “flexibility and fluidity not rigidity” resonates with me. It is much healthier to adopt an intuitive approach to diet and healing that does not remain static. But rather, adapts to your body's changing needs.
Listening and learning from our bodies is critical. In the cooler months, you may want to eat more cooked, heating and strengthening foods; and in the hotter months, more raw foods would be balancing. Similarly, if you are feeling tight, you will want to eat more expansive foods in order to gain some strength.
Donna incorporates the best parts of James and Peter D’Adamo’s “blood group diet”, that she says address these concerns in the most adequate fashion.
The 4th Principle: Welcome and Support the Natural Cleansing Activity Of Your Body
Cleansing and removing toxins is important in order to regenerate and heal. This process is fabulous when you are at the other end of it. But can be unpleasant whilst in the throws of the detoxification process! Natural cleansing reactions include headaches, muscle aches and pains, fatigue, colds, flus, skin rashes, diarrhoea, and erratic mood swings.
It is advised that we do not try to mask these cleansing reactions with antibiotics or other medicines. Allow the body to naturally purge these toxins, or they will be driven deeper into the tissues and organs and embed themselves, causing problems down the track.
Disease occurs when our bodies become overwhelmed with deep-seated toxins and pathogens, and are no longer able to cleanse effectively. Most people have cleansing reactions for about 3-7 days. Persevere with the diet, and your body will reap the rewards. “Cleansing is healing”.
You can support the cleanse by engaging in colonic irrigations or colon hydrotherapy, which can help expel the toxins more quickly. I can personally testify to the health benefits of colon cleansing. I have been doing it for 20 years. I am use the open gravity flow system and prefer the Libbe machine. However, this is a personal decision. If you do decide to cleanse your colon, always seek out a qualified colon hydrotherapist who uses a gravity flow machine. It is also extremely important that you replenish the friendly bacteria in the colon after the cleansing. Your colon hydrotherapist should do this for you before you finish your treatment.
The 5th Principle: Food Combining.
The inclusion of proper food combining is one of the most important principles that elevates The Body Ecology Diet above other anti-candida diets. I explain the ideas behind this principle in more detail in the Food Combining page.
But in relation to an overgrowth of candida, when we combine incompatible foods (when we combine starches and proteins, or fruits with other things), they remain in the digestive canal longer than they need to, and ferment, rot and putrefy. This putrefied material attaches to the lining of the digestive tract, and provides a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, yeast, funguses and cancer cells to proliferate.
Read more about the principles of food combining on the Food Combining page. The main difference between other food combining diets and B.E.D is the inclusion of fruit. Whilst fruit can be alkalizing, it feeds yeast. So only low-sugar sour fruits such as lemons, limes, cranberries and blackcurrants are allowed on stage one of the B.E.D diet. All other fruits should be avoided until healthy body ecology is restored.
Donna says that this is the biggest mistake made on stage one of the diet - introducing fruits too soon. It sounds unbearably restrictive. But when I was on stage one of the diet, my favourite breakfast was an avocado smoothie made with avocado, unsweetened cranberries, sprouted almonds, coconut kefir and a few drops of stevia or cultured coconut pudding flavoured with avocado and blackcurrants and stevia! They are both delicious.
The 6th Principle: The 80 / 20 Rule.
It is important to support complete assimilation and elimination of foods by not overloading the digestive system with “too much work”. Donna advocates the “80/20 rule” that is advocated by lots of health care professionals. That is, to refrain from overeating that puts a strain on our system; and instead, eat only until you are 80% full, leaving the remaining 20% to be available for proper digestion.
In addition to this, the concept extends to reversing the conventional portion sizing, and instead, eat 80% land and/or sea vegetables, and 20% protein, or grains and starchy vegetables. The other component is to include 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods. Dr Robert O Young also advocates the 80/20 rule with 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods being put on your plate at a meal.
The 7th Principle: Be Patient and Embrace a “Step-By-Step” Approach to Healing.
Listen to your body and be patient as it heals in it's own time.
Every body is different and it can take varying times to eliminate the toxins and restore your natural body ecology. The toxins built up over time, and so it is only natural that the elimination will take time. We cannot expect instant healing.
Be patient and you will reap the rewards. Also be persistent with the healing process. If you stick to the diet it will work. Some great foods that will aid the process are: raw coconut kefir, raw cultured vegetables, sea vegetables, lemons, limes and apple cider vinegar.
It is also important to cleanse you colon to aid the detoxification process.
Move towards optimum health step by step. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Reduce stress as much as possible. Rest, and eliminate any medicines that retard the cleansing process. Most of all, have faith that this diet can help you just as it helped me.
Here is a basic list of foods you can enjoy on the B.E.D.
For a more detailed list, head to The Body Ecology website or book.
All land vegetables except for:
- sweet potatoes
- green peppers
- mung bean sprouts
**Although, cooked shitaki mushrooms and cooked red skinned potatoes are allowed on the diet.
Recommended non starchy vegetables include:
- Bamboo shoots
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Burdock root
- Celery root
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Green beans
- Lamb’s quarters
- Mustard greens
- Red bell peppers
- Sprouts (except mung bean)
- Swiss chard
- Yellow squash
- Wakame and others
- Blackcurrant juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, noni juice
- Quinoa and quinoa flakes
- Organic eggs
- If you are not a vegetarian you can eat fish and organic meats and poultry
- Raw cultured vegetables
- Raw coconut kefir and kefir cheese
- Raw cultured coconut pudding
- Raw miso
- Raw natto with no MSG
Fats and Oils:
- Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- Cold pressed coconut oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Flaxseed oil
Flavourings and seasonings:
- Celtic sea salt
- Himalayan crystal salt
- Real salt
- Garden herbs fresh and dried
- Herbamare and Trocomare
- Sea Seasonings like dulse with garlic and nori with ginger.
- Home made organic popcorn popped with coconut oil
- Organic baked blue corn chips
- The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates
- Eat Fat Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
- Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
About fifteen years ago Steven Acuff introduced me to the teachings of the brilliant Sally Fallon. I purchased her landmark book, "Nourishing Traditions", and it literally changed my life and my health. One of the most valuable lessons I learnt was the health benefits of soaking and dehydrating or sprouting nuts, seeds and grains.I have not looked back, and continue to be inspired by her book every day of my life.
The following information is my interpretation of information I gathered from her teachings and from other raw whole food classes. Grab a copy of this informative book to learn more about the virtues of soaking in more detail. My motto, “Be a soaker not a bloater”.
Here is some information to get you started.
Grains, nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that provide a wealth of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to feed the human body and soul. But in order to capitalize on their nutritional profile and protect ourselves from natural toxins that protect them but harm us, they need to be soaked and dehydrated or sprouted.
Some of the principle reasons why soaking is beneficial to our health:
- it removes anti-nutrients like phytates, tannins and goitrogens
- it helps to neutralise enzyme inhibitors
- it increases the potency of nutrients such as Vitamin B
- it makes proteins more readily available
- it eradicate toxins contained in the colon and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli which we know is vital for intestinal and colon health
- it promotes the growth of healthy enzymes vital for healthy digestion
Let me explain further before all of our heads start to spin!
Nuts, grains and seeds are one of the ultimate gifts from the gods. So the gods made sure the natural order protected them. To ensure survival of the species, nuts, grains and seeds contain inherent toxic inhibitors that protect the plant from germination until the ideal conditions are present. It is not until they get wet and there is sufficient moisture that they germinate. This natural protective phenomenon is a wonderful thing for the survival of the grains, nuts and seeds. But if not neutralised before consumption by humans, it can really wreak havoc in our digestive systems if consumed in vast amounts. Have you ever noticed after eating a lot of grains, nuts or seeds that you have a horrible stomach ache? These toxic substances that protect grains, nuts and seeds from destruction from insects and microbes act as enzyme inhibitors in the human digestive process and spell bad news for our health if we get too greedy without soaking them!
We are all familiar with the most well known digestive enzymes that we learnt in Biology 101, protease, which digests protein, lipase, which digests fats, and amylase, which digests carbohydrates. Well, these ingenious protective components the gods bestowed on nuts, seeds and grains are not such happy chappies inside the human body. It only makes sense I suppose. What do warriors do? They wage war! Well, they wage a war of sorts. They act as enzyme inhibitors upon entering the body and interfere with the chemical order of our natural enzymic activity.
Another problematic component contained in grains is the presence of phytates. There are a lot of anti-nutrients present in foods that inhibit the absorption of nutrients. I will just focus on phytic acid, which is ever present in grains. Nuts and seeds do not generally contain phytates. But grains are riddled with them. Health and nutrition panels are always preaching the virtues of whole grains. But it is in the outer layer or the bran of the grain that the phytic acid is found. I am not for one minute suggesting that we all switch to the milled and refined grains that have the outer part removed but also every other good part! Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of iron, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium, which makes it a very undesirable little pain if not properly eradicated.That is where soaking comes to the rescue!
Soaking raw nuts and seeds increases the nutritional content of Vitamins such as Vitamin A, C and, in particular B Vitamins. Soaking nuts and seeds in warm salted water activates the beneficial enzymes that then neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors making them more digestible and easily utilised. Soaking grains in an acidic warm water solution (I use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar diluted in water) also encourages the production of these friendly enzymes, and beneficial bacteria, which, in turn, neutralizes the phytic acid in the grains that put such a strain on the digestive system.
I remember the first time I soaked brown rice for 36 hours. Even though Steven told me it would ferment and that was the goal, I still found it difficult to believe that something so smelly was so good for me! But since making macrobiotic pickles and cultured vegetables, I have embraced the virtues of live fermented foods. By lacto-fermenting foods we are boosting their nutritional profile which enhances the digestive process and the growth of friendly bacteria. Nuts, seeds and whole grains are no different. They are much easier to digest, and their nutrients are more potent readily available, and they taste a lot bitter if they are first soaked in warm water for varying degrees of time.
If you are saving the nuts and seeds for later use you will need to dehydrate or sprout and dry them. However, if you are using them in raw smoothies or vegan soups you can just soak and rinse. I do it all the time. If I am preparing raw almond milk, raw cashew milk or raw macadamia milk for smoothies or soups, I just soak, rinse, blend and chow. With grains, I really only eat millet, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice these days. I always soak, rinse, cook and serve.
A tip that might encourage you to take the extra time to soak grains: soaking whole grains really softens them up and makes them a lot more light and fluffy. A lot of people who have told me they don’t like the gritty taste and texture of brown rice are amazed with the difference soaking makes to this grain. Brown rice more closely resembles white fluffy rice once soaked for 24-48 hours! Give it a go, You will be pleasantly surprised.
Use raw organic nuts and seeds wherever possible.
- Place the desired nuts or seeds in a glass bowl and cover them with warm distilled, purified or filtered water with a teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt dissolved in it.
- You will want to use a ratio of at least 2:1. Two parts water to 1 part nuts or seeds.
- Keep the bowl at room temperature and cover with a flour sac cloth or thin tea towel that breathes, and then drain and rinse every few hours to remove the nasties.
- The soaking water will contain all of the toxic enzyme inhibitors which we are trying to remove. So proper rinsing is really important. Make sure you do a final rinse until the water comes out clear. Some people recommend doing a final rinse with a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar in order to remove any remaining bacteria.
- You want to try and soak the nuts for the recommended amount of time to make them as digestible as possible.
As a general rule with nuts: the harder the nut, the longer you need to soak. Long soak nuts such as almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts are best soaked for about 12 hours. Common medium soak nuts are walnuts, brazil nuts and pecans. They require less soaking time as they swell more quickly as they are oilier. Short soak nuts are cashews, macadamias and pine nuts. They require the least amount of soaking as they do not contain inner skins, and therefore not as many enzyme inhibitors.
See below for more specific guide times for soaking each specific thing.
Remember that the longer nuts, seeds and grains are soaked the more they swell and become water logged. If you are following quantities in recipes, particularly from sources that don’t soak their nuts, you might want to hold back some of the water recommended in the recipes in order to achieve the desired consistency. It is also really important to rinse and drain several cycles to ensure you remove all of the enzyme inhibitors.
Generally my rule is “floaters are bloaters." Throw out any nuts that float to the top as they are generally rancid. It is better to be safe than sorry. Discard them and you will be better off. It is not uncommon to have a few floaters every time you soak. One other thing to note is that with some of the soft creamy nuts like cashews and macadamias, over soaking can remove some of the rich healthy oils that you want to utilise. For most nuts, the easiest and convenient thing to do is to soak right before you go to bed, and rinse, drain and dehydrate as soon as you wake up. Or soak before you go to work in the morning and then rinse drain and dehydrate overnight while you are sleeping. Then they are ready to use for breakfast in the morning!
Here are some more specific guide times for the grains, nuts and seeds that I use most often:
|Food||Soaking Time (Hrs)||Sprouting Time (Days)|
|Almonds||8-12||No Sprouting or 3 Days|
|Brazil Nuts||3||No Sprouting|
|Sunflower Seeds||8||12-24 hours|
- After you have done several thorough rinses of your nuts or seeds and the water has come out clear, spread them out on a tray and place them in a dehydrator.
- If you don’t have a dehydrator you can place them on a tray in the oven.
- Place the oven on the absolute lowest setting of warm – which is no higher than 100 Fahrenheit.
- But a dehydrator is preferable. I have an Excalibur dehydrator which is considered an industry standard. It has served me well and I could highly recommend it. I leave the my dehydrator set to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I typically set the timer for 24 hours, and check them after about 18 hours to make sure they are completely dry.
- I then place them in sealed glass jars and store them in the fridge for later use in delicious recipes.
Just a tip – if the nuts are not completely dry before you store them, they will quickly gather some very undesirable mould. So make sure they are crunchy before storing away. I let me nuts completely cool for a while before I store them and I leave the lid off the glass container for a further amount of time. I have been burnt by mould before!
When correctly sprouting nuts and seeds you will need to purchase a special sprouting jar from a raw online store or health food store. They are inexpensive and can be sterilised and reused.
- Place your soaked and rinsed nuts or seeds in the sprouting jar and cover with the lid or cloth.
- Lay your jar down on an angle to allow the excess water to drain, and leave to sit in the light.
- Every eight hours or so, thoroughly rinse the contents of the jar by filling it with water and shaking, and then draining.
- Repeat this process every eight hours making sure you get all of the water out each time by laying the jar at an angle.
- Keep the jar in the sunlight when your nuts or seeds start to sprout and continue the process until fully sprouted.
- Do a final very thorough rinse by rinsing and draining a few times and then allow the sprouts to dry thoroughly. If they are not completely dry they will spoil. I have had that happen before!
- Once completely dry to the touch, store sprouts in the fridge for use. Most sprouts will keep in the fridge for 2 - 3 days.
I will share my views on the importance of eating local and organic shortly.
Knives are THE number one essential item in ANY kitchen. Save up and invest in quality. Sharp knives are safer and easier to use than cheap blunt knives. They have a well-balanced weight, and sharp edge that cannot be matched by the cheap varieties. Once you have had a “slice of the good knife” you will never go back; and wonder why you weren’t this sharp sooner!
There are some fantastic brands, but I have been using my Global knives for years. They are lightweight, and look really gorgeous!
There are a lot of specialty knives available, but the average cook only needs a few:
- An all-purpose chef’s knife or cook’s knife will be the knife most people use most often. You just can’t chop herbs, or slice vegetables without one.
- A smaller chef’s knife, or utility knife, is great for light cutting and slicing.
- A paring knife is the second most used knife – great for paring and trimming fruits and vegetables.
- I am also going to recommend a cleaver, if you intend to crack open young Thai coconuts or any other heavy jobs that require more force and may damage the fine edge on your beloved chef’s knife.
I always rustically break up and chop most things before putting them in the blender, mixer or food processor to achieve the most uniformly combined product.
I took some knife technique classes about twenty years ago, and here are some of the top tips I got from those classes:
- Invest in getting your knives professionally sharpened about a month after purchase, to remove the artificial edge. Most gourmet cookware shops have a knife sharpening service. Then sharpen your knives regularly with a stone or steel.
- Always clean and wash your knives immediately after use.
- Hand wash your knives with a soft cloth and never place them in the dishwasher, as there is friction with other cutlery and they can melt your handles!
- Always cut on wooden or plastic boards. Glass or marble boards look gorgeous, but they will blunt your knives.
- Don’t use your knives for anything other than cutting food. Don’t open lids, scrape off marks or stickers, or saw off skewers.
- To best preserve the life of your knives store them correctly after being properly dried. A knife block is the most popular solution – wooden knife blocks are fantastic as they absorb moisture and have antibacterial properties. Magnetic strips or racks are also great. Just make sure the knife makes contact with the strip before letting go – never try to catch a falling knife!
- Don’t store your knives in a kitchen drawer – they will dull with the friction from the other silverware, and are a safety risk.
- If you are going to travel with your knives, a knife wrap is fantastic to reduce friction and increase protection.