Sunday, December 4, 2011

Important Information About Allergy Concerns and Other Dietary Restrictions...

Food allergies and sensitivities seem to be more and more common these days. Over the last couple of years there has been an incredible rise in the number of gluten-free products available on the market. Not to mention many alternatives to soy-based milks, cheeses, sour creams and so on.

Though I myself, nor my husband have any known food allergies I do tend to shy away from consuming too much soy or gluten, and a lot of times opt for buying a soy or gluten free alternative when it’s available. For me this is just a personal preference, as I believe that allergy or not, too much soy (Specifically in the form of heavily processed foods) and gluten in the diet isn’t all that great for you.

Other people however are not so lucky to be able to indulge even occasionally in products containing soy or gluten. In fact several people have asked me over the past few months for soy and gluten-free recipe ideas, which in turn has got me thinking that it might be nice to label my recipes as such when applicable. Suffering from a food allergy is not only unfortunate but it can also be difficult considering so many processed foods contain one or more of the major offending allergens. It can be particularly stressful for people new to a gluten or soy-free diet, especially when you also through vegan into the mix, and so I want to make it as easy for people as possible. Instead of having to search through every single recipe yourself to find ones that apply to you, I’ve created four new tags for quick and easy access to recipes you can enjoy if you suffer from a food allergy or simply want to limit your consumption of allergens, as I do.

The Soy-Free label will contain recipes free of tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, edamame or any other soy-derived product. However some recipes may fall under this category if they include something like non-dairy sour cream or such as an optional ingredient. Simply leave that ingredient out and the recipe is soy-free. Though it’s worth keeping in mind that there are several new non-dairy alternatives to sour cream, and cheese that are both soy-free and gluten-free. Wayfare sour cream is one, Daiya Cheese is another. To make any recipe that calls for miso Soy-Free simply replace soy based miso with chickpea or barley miso. To make any recipe that calls for soy sauce or tamari soy free simply replace soy sauce or tamari with coconut amino’s. this is a product similar to soy sauce though a little sweeter and lighter in flavor.As always be sure to check the labels on packaged products such as vegetable broth, crackers and so on to ensure that they do not contain any hidden soy.

The Gluten-Free label will contain recipes free of wheat, seitan or other gluten containing flours such as barley or rye. Though I can’t speak for ingredients that may contain small or trace amounts of gluten such as oats that aren’t labeled as gluten-free, so be sure to read labels to make sure. Recipes in this category may include soy sauce as an ingredient, so be sure to always use wheat-free/gluten-free tamari. It’s what I use all the time anyway, and it’s easy enough to come by these days, that you should be able to find it in your average grocery store. Again be sure to double check the labels on any other packaged ingredients to ensure that they are in fact gluten-free. Things like sauces, marinades, and mixes in particular.

The next two labels aren’t allergens but they are things that people these days are becoming more and more concerned about. I know a lot of people who are following a sugar-free, oil-free, or salt-free diet so I thought it was important to also include these tags under the labels section.

Recipes marked Oil-Free will be free of all added oil. Meaning olive, peanut, almond, coconut, sesame, soy, safflower, canola, sunflower, avocado, margarine, shortening, Earth Balance etc... Of course be sure to check the labels on pre-packaged or bottled items before using. Particularly sauces, and dressings which always seem to contain a good dose of oil.

Recipes marked Sugar-Free will be free of all added refined sugars such as white sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar etc... but may contain natural sweeteners such as stevia, barley malt syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar. Again be sure to read the labels on any pre-packaged or bottled items before using.

As far as people who follow a Salt-Free diet are concerned, I’d like to say that whenever I cook from a cook book I always consider the books salt recommendation to be just that, a recommendation. Most of the time I put less then they say, and sometimes I leave it out altogether. All of my recipes can be made salt-free by simply not adding in the salt, so I didn’t bother to make a tag for this. Leaving the salt out isn’t going to hinder the recipe any especially if you’ve been living salt-free for a while. As far as vegetable broth and soy sauce are concerned in addition to buying gluten-free I also always buy reduced or low-sodium versions, so be sure to check labels.

With that in mind I’d also like to say that while I went through and properly tagged most of my recipes there are still quite a few untagged. Mainly because those recipes contain wheat pasta, bread or miso, but I’d like to remind you that even these recipes can be made gluten or soy free by simply using gluten-free pasta, gluten-free bread etc.. or chickpea miso, or a soy-free margarine or butter alternative. Many if not all of my recipes can be easily made soy or gluten-free with just a little creativity and product knowledge The same can be said for recipes containing oil and sugar. Many of them can easily be adapted to suit an oil or sugar free diet. For example instead of using oil to saute veggies use water or vegetable broth as I do sometimes. Rather then use sugar to sweeten a dish leave it out, or use stevia or another natural sweetener instead.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to ask me, and I’ll be more then happy to help or give you a product recommendation. Also if you know of a really good soy-free or gluten-free product that you haven’t seen me mention feel free to share it with me. I’m always interested in discovering new products!

Now a word about Nuts: Though nuts particularly peanuts are a major allergen for a lot of people I don’t have a tag specifically for nut-free recipes. My reason for this is because I rarely use peanuts in my cooking and when I do they are generally not the mainstay of a dish and so can easily be left out. Rather then peanut butter if you are okay with other nuts you can sub almond, cashew, walnut, or sunflower butter. Rather then use peanut oil use sesame or almond. When I do use nuts I tend to use cashews and pecans but again in most recipes they can easily be left out. I almost always leave nuts out of the recipes I cook from cook books because my husband just doesn’t like them, and recipes always work out well. I think except in the case of my stuffed mushroom recipes and a couple of dips this would certainly be true of any recipes I post here too.

I hope you find these new tags, helpful and informative. As always happy and healthy eating to you!

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