Last week we had a chat about my food triggers and how I discovered what they were using a simple food diary. This week we're moving onto how I substitute certain ingredients - dairy, refined sugar, meat and gluten. I am not a dietician, nutritionist or doctor - I am only sharing what I substitute ingredients I can't eat with, in a cheap and easy way.
Once I had a variety of free from alternatives I could use when cooking, I also found that I didn't need to stick to free from recipes online. I could veer off, experimenting with old favourites and try out dishes that sounded great - using the alternative ingredients in place of the trigger ingredient. This does take time and I have eaten many a plate of food which looked VERY rough around the edges. If you're new to free from cooking, I'd recommend following tried and tested recipes until you feel comfortable with your new cooking setup.
As I mentioned in last week's post, don't expect your taste buds to change over night. It takes time to get used to meals which aren't your usual go tos. However, if you're changing up your diet for health reasons, like I have, it is totally worth it.
Plant Based Milks
It wasn't that long ago that the only readily available alternative to cow's milk on the market was soy milk. Now there is a whole range of different plant based milks available - rice milk and almond milks being my favourites as well as hazlenut, oat, hemp and coconut milk.
Beware when buying soy milk - make sure it hasn't been genetically modified AKA No GMO's. It will state this on the label of the carton or bottle. Also check that there is no added sugar if, like me, you have issues with refined sugar. With oat milk check to make sure there are no traces of gluten if you are gluten sensitive.
You can also make your own nut milks and oat milk, it's super easy to do. I've popped a recipe together here for Almond milk - it's literally just almonds and water. I use the same quantities of water to nuts or oats when making homemade milks. They're so much cheaper to make, but when I forget or run out of time, convenience tends to have me popping to the local supermarket to pick up a carton of rice milk!
Whilst dairy butter is an absolute no no for me, I tend to use either olive oil or dare I say it, coconut oil. Coconut oil has received a whole lot of negativity over the past year or so - mainly down to it's high fat content. I'm not saying it's any healthier than butter, but both olive oil and coconut oil make great substitutes when it comes to cooking and baking. Where possible try to buy unrefined or extra virgin coconut oil - this just means that it's full of goodness and hasn't been stripped down. There are some plant based spreads available in supermarkets but I have never had the need to try them.
There are some brilliant plant based yoghurts in the shops, I've seen a lot of coconut milk yoghurts but haven't found any here in Spain that aren't refined sugar free. Fraser popped to the supermarket today in Cornwall and bought some Dairy Free Alpro Yoghurts to give them a go, he said they taste nice and are just as sweet as a normal yoghurt. They did however contain refined sugar.
Refined Sugar Alternatives:
I am such a honey lover, I know for any vegans reading this that honey definitely isn't up your street. I try to buy organic, locally produced honey - farm shops are brilliant for this. My honey usually comes from my neighbour who keeps bees in his garden. Honey has so many amazing healing qualities and it's full of goodness that is fantastic for our immune systems.
Something I have recently become totally obsessed with is agave syrup, it's lovely and runny and great for using in baking or drizzled over porridge.
Whilst a little pricier, this is great for baking with. I've used it in brownies and birthday cakes for loved ones and they've always gone down a treat!
Organic Unrefined Brown Sugar.
I've found that I can eat this and my body is quite happy with it. It's very similar to refined brown sugar but hasn't been stripped of it's vitamins and minerals. Great for baking or sweetening coffee.
This is a little trickier. I now eat meat or fish around twice a week as I found my body needs a certain amount of animal protein - I became anaemic various times. I followed a completely vegan diet for two years, and as my diet is predominantly meat free here are the substitutes I use. I don't really use tofu, I'm not a fan and quorn isn't as readily available here in Spain as it is in the UK. My boyfriend's mum tends to cook dishes with quorn suasages when I'm visiting which taste AMAZING, so if you haven't tried it before, I'd definitely give it a go!
If you think your iron levels are low due to lack of protein, be sure to see your doctor. Once levels are at a certain low, no amount of plant based protein can lift them up again. Plant based protein maintains, but you may need supplements or animal protein to bump up your protein.
This is not a fully comprehensive list of proteins, it's suggestions of ones I tend to have in my diet, or used to have but have to stay away from now.
Nuts & Seeds.
Nuts are a great source of protein, I have a handful every day - usually walnuts or almonds. Peanuts seem to trigger acne break outs on my face so I steer very clear of them. If you do have issues with break outs and eat a lot of peanuts, maybe try giving them a break for a while. I've read quite a few articles on how they can cause spots for some people. I usually top meals with mixed seeds, especially breakfast - they add a tasty crunch. ALSO! Nut Butters, oh my gooooodnessss - if you have not discovered the yumminess of nut butters yet go and buy some now! Mixed in porridge, or spread on crackers - they are every kind of wonderful.
Popeye is the spinach man. I am the spinach woman. I adore spinach, popping it into salads or adding it into stews or a stir fry. Be sure to cook spinach when possible as most of the nutrients and vitamins that we benefit from in spinach are only released when cooked.
Another no no for any strict vegans reading this one. I eat eggs a couple of times a week and really enjoy them either fried over a rice or noodles dish or hard boiled as a snack. A very easy and yummy way to add protein into your diet. I try to always buy free range organic eggs, they're really not much more expensive and very much worth it.
For some reason my tummy does not like pulses. I adore lentils, chickpeas and the like, however I bloat an incredible amount and get terrible trapped wind whenever I eat them. One way to combat this is to thoroughly soak dried pulses overnight and wash them before cooking. If tinned a thorough wash in warm water can help. Unfortunately none of the above seems to work for me. If your body does like pulses, they are a brilliant form of plant based protein and slowly release alllll the goodness throughout the day.
Peas & Brown Rice.
In order to get all 9 amino acids, if you're eating only plant based proteins you'll need to combine two together in one sitting. A great combo is peas and brown rice, they taste delicious together and they have a great amount of protein combined.
Quinoa & Chia Seeds.
I eat a lot of quinoa and chia seeds, quinoa cooked in rice milk with a spoon of golden runny honey and some berries is one of my favourite breakfasts. Quinoa and Chia Seeds are fantastic as they are one of the few complete protein sauces that aren't animal products.
Beware of anything labelled free from. Try to buy basic ingredients which are free from to make meals or snacks rather than processed foods labelled as free from which probably also include plenty of preservatives which aren't so nice!
For me gluten triggers very angry, sore acne on my cheeks, jaw and chin. Here are my current alternatives to using products containing gluten.
Rice Rice Rice.
I am such a rice lover, I never get bored of it. Where I would use couscous or pasta in a meal before I now have brown rice.
Gluten Free Pasta.
There are lots of delicious gluten free pastas on the market, just make sure you check the packet for any nasties which aren't so delicious!
Oats are a great gluten free alternative however make sure you check the package on any oats you buy. Whilst oats are technically gluten free, they can be grown and harvested in fields with wheat which isn't. Some brands also thicken oats with flour which contains gluten.
I use oats to make flour, popping it into the food processor first. I also use almond flour when baking at the moment and rice flour when cooking.
Don't Forget About Fruit & Veg!
Above all don't forget about fruit and veg! The majority of my diet is made up of seasonal plant goodness. Crunchy apples, delicious strawberries and oranges galore. A side salad provides lots of extra nutrients to a meal. Steaming or roasting vegetables locks the vitamins and minerals in. Next week I'm going to be chatting about telling friends and family you're following a different way of eatings and my tips on making it easy and simple for them.