For many of us, cutting out meat — whether for a week, a month or for the long haul — can be tricky. Meat is often the hero in many meals, especially dishes served on holidays and special occasions. The challenge of a plant-full diet is further compounded if you have existing food allergies and/or other restrictions.
So, what to do if you want to go veg and avoid the foods that you’re allergic or have sensitivities to? We know this is a stressor for some folks in our ZENB community, and the stress can take away some of the satisfaction and fun of spending time in the kitchen. We’ve got your back with some simple swaps and suggestions on how to navigate getting more plants in your diet while keeping common food allergies in mind.
Please note that we at ZENB always recommend consulting with your doctor or medical professional for any health related issues or questions.
From annoying bloating, to painful digestive issues, wheat and gluten can be prohibitive to some. It’s often found in many delicious things, including, of course, pasta! Swapping wheat pasta for ZENB yellow pea pasta means that you’re still 100% good-to-go on all of your favorite pasta recipes. Or, for a quick and nourishing meal on-the-go, try ZENB Pasta Agile Bowls in a range of globally inspired flavors.
Dairy is a common food allergy in the US. Because of this, and because many people are following plant-based diets, the market and options for non-dairy milks has grown over the past few years. There are milks made from soy, rice, coconut, oat, cashew, macadamia nuts, and more. Thankfully, because there are so many options for alternative milks, even if you have other allergies, like soy or nuts, you can still find something creamy and delicious to stir into your tea, pour over your cereal, and make creamy sauces with!
There are also a growing number of dairy-free cheeses available — for the best flavor, look for ones that are cultured or fermented. For treats, there is a delicious array of dark chocolate, popsicles and other frozen treats, and baked goods that don’t contain one speck of dairy.
Soy is a tricky allergy because soy sneaks its way into so many things. It also means that tofu and tempeh, which are affordable, high-protein alternatives to meat, are off the table, so to speak. One workaround for tofu is chickpea tofu, also known as Burmese tofu, which is traditionally made from flour made from yellow peas (Hey! We know them!), besan (chickpea flour), and water. It has a similar texture, perhaps a bit more firm than soy tofu, and can easily sub in any recipe that calls for cubed tofu. Find it in health food markets, or make it at home!
Another particularly vexing ingredient to avoid if you’re both vegetarian and soy-free is soy sauce! This umami-packed condiment is often called for in recipes to give a hit of complex salty, savory flavor. In its place, try coconut aminos, another rich, savory sauce made from fermented coconut blossom sap. It’s just what your stir fries and marinades need for that extra layer of flavor.
Peanut & Tree Nut Allergies
If you’re living with a nut allergy, chances are you’ve figured out how to work with those challenges. There is a growing awareness of the severity and ubiquity of nut allergies, so a bunch of innovative products, like sunflower butter and nut-free granola, are now on the shelves of even mainstream supermarkets.
However, there are some other vegetarian favorites that you’ll need to keep an eye on, like smoothies (which sometimes contain nut-based protein powders or nut butters), crackers, and bottled sauces and dressings, especially dairy-free ones which often use cashews to achieve creaminess. Many dairy-free ice creams, cheeses, and yogurts also use nuts for texture! Luckily, on all packaged foods, the FDA mandates that labels must clearly state if the food contains common allergens, including peanuts and tree nuts.
We hope you feel empowered to keep exploring a vegetarian or plant-based lifestyle, even if you have food allergies to consider! For more cooking inspiration, check out the ZENB recipe collection, which can be filtered to only show vegan and vegetarian options. And, for more thoughtful advice on living a balanced life, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.