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Wheat and dairy are two of the most allergenic foods today. When a member of the family is diagnosed with a food intolerance, either by a doctor or themselves, it can bring fear into the kitchen. We want to prepare foods that are going to heal, not harm our loved ones, so finding alternatives that keep them healthy and make them happy is a must.
The good news is that there are a ton of delicious foods that can make you forget that wheat or dairy ever existed. While no one in our family has been diagnosed with a wheat or dairy intolerance, we have found that short periods of a wheat or dairy-free diet can aid healing. With that in mind, here are a few of my go-to food replacements.
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If you are having symptoms of an intolerance then it is best to cut out all dairy at first. While I do not recommend soy milk as a milk alternative due to its detrimental health effects, I have found the following to be a delicious milk alternative:
Coconut Milk. Coconut is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. The oil of the coconut, also found in whole coconut milk, contains lauric acid, a fatty acid found in abundance in the healthiest food of all – mother’s milk. Coconut has been found to aid those with a low-functioning thyroid or metabolic problems. It is also great for joints and skin. Always look for whole coconut milk, as most of the nutrients are in the fat, and organic if possible. You will find it in the Asian section of most supermarkets. Dilute the coconut milk 50/50 with water for a beverage with the same calories and texture as whole milk.
Almond Milk. Almond milk is the product of almonds ground in water. The resulting milk has a slight almond flavor and the creaminess of milk, and I find it to be really delicious. You can buy it in most grocery stores now. Look for unsweetened to avoid any excess sugar. You can also make your own by soaking almonds in water, grinding them up in a blender, and straining the pulp of the nut out. Here is a tutorial for homemade almond milk.
Once you have been off of dairy for a while, assuming you don’t have a severe allergy, you can reintroduce it starting with the most digestible forms. Start with cultured dairy like plain yogurt or kefir. If that sits well with you try raw cheese and then raw milk from a local farm. Raw dairy contains the enzyme lactase that can make milk and cheese digestible, even if you’ve had symptoms of lactose intolerance in the past. I once couldn’t touch milk without feeling ill, but since switching to raw dairy I have found I can enjoy milk and cheese once again.
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If you are intolerant to wheat you have to be careful to avoid most packaged foods. It is in gravies, soy sauce, and cereals. Giving up bread is hard, but instead of replacing every piece of bread you are used to eating with a gluten-free bread, I find it more cost-efficient to simply eat whole gluten-free grains or root vegetables in their stead. Instead of adding bread to your meal try…
Brown Rice. Most of us are familiar with this easy side dish. Serving it with just a pat of butter makes an excellent side dish. Or try sprouting it for optimum nutrition.
Quinoa. This funny-sounding grain is actually a seed and is considered a super food from the ancient people. It is higher in protein (and flavor) than most grains and actually cooks up very quickly. I like to soak it overnight in a little bit of water and lemon juice, drain it the next day, and then it cooks up very quickly.
Millet. This grain has a very mild flavor and blends well with most anything. It is a good alternative to rice and I like to soak it and cook it in the same manner as quinoa, above. The leftover grains can be mixed with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and an egg; formed into patties; and fried in coconut oil for a yummy side dish.
Winter Squash. This is one of my go-to side dishes this time of year. I wrote up a whole piece on winter squash, but most days I just cut it in half, roast it, and serve it with sea salt and butter. The sweetness of squash is so nice next to a spicy chili or soup.
Baked Sweet or White Potatoes. These humble guys can be a work horse in the kitchen. If you bake up a huge batch you can use the leftovers for hash browns the next morning or home fries the next evening. Or put out an array of toppings the next night including that leftover chili and have a baked potato bar, a super frugal meal.
Having to give up our favorite foods can be hard, but in the long run finding your health is so much more important. Thankfully there is a whole world of real, unprocessed foods that can keep you feeling your best. Like Jo-Lynne said, whole foods can be frugal and healing.
How have you dealt with a wheat or dairy intolerance? I’d love to hear your tips!