Enjoy the Food You Love…Without the Foods You Can’t Have!

Author: Dr. Quinte Naturopathic Centre on 11 March 2010

Not many of us would wonder why our car broke down if just a few days earlier we had poured a bag of sugar into our gas tank. Yet so few of us think of the food we put into our bodies when we suffer from chronic health issues like indigestion, diarrhea, eczema, post-nasal drip, or infertility.

More and more, Canadians are visiting naturopathic doctors in our quest for greater health. NDs, along with other complementary health care practitioners, offer us a holistic view of our bodies and our overall health. Naturally, with this integrative approach to health, the food we eat is often one of the first things to come under fire. And if you’re like me, one of the first things your ND told you to do was to cut out wheat, dairy, and sugar from your diet.

Now, I can only speak for myself, but when I was told to cut these foods out of my diet, my first reaction was sheer panic! What was I going to eat? For weeks, I literally wandered around aimlessly in my kitchen, starving, and staring at a pantry and refrigerator full of foods that I could no longer enjoy. I remember feeling a whole lot of anxiety…and hunger!

I used to scour endless food labels in stores, often leaving empty-handed and frustrated. I even scoured the Internet for hours looking for those elusive recipes free of gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, and yeast, only to be disappointed yet again to sit down for another dinner of brown rice, steamed veggies, and fish. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love these meals (my tastebuds love them even more since I’ve given up on sugar and highly processed and salt-riddled packaged food). But it is nice, once in a while, to satisfy that nostalgic craving for pizza, pasta, and an afternoon muffin.

While my doctor suggested this diet as an 8-week detox only, I felt so much better that I decided to adopt it as my new diet every day. The first year was the hardest; my diet felt incredibly restrictive and isolating. But the day that I embraced my “new diet” as my “new lifestyle,” I finally felt truly satisfied and self-sufficient. So how did I reach this point? Well, in one simple word: substitutions.

The key to making peace with your new diet is to learn how to make the foods you love for yourself! Not only can this help you save a sizable amount of money (vs. depending on packaged specialty foods), it will allow you to tailor your meals to your unique combination of food sensitivities. Once you learn how to make successful substitutions, you’ll be able to whip up your own version of virtually any Internet recipe or family favourite with ease.

The trick to making successful substitutions to recipes is to first understand what you are removing. You need to understand what wheat, for example, contributes to the texture and characteristic of your food before you can successfully replace it. Otherwise, you could end up with crumbly, dense, or hard-as-rock disappointment.

There are plenty of options available for substituting wheat, dairy and sugar. Here are my top picks:

Wheat flour: for every cup of wheat flour, substitute 3/4 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup tapioca starch. For baked goods like cakes and muffins, add an extra 1/2 tsp baking powder as well.

Dairy: for every cup of milk, substitute 1 cup of either soy, hemp, almond, or rice milk. Read your labels carefully, and look for unsweetened varieties. Rice milk is the sweetest, and almond is the most similar in texture to cow milk, but often contains soy.

Sugar: for every cup of sugar, substitute 1/4 tsp stevia. For the best flavour and no aftertaste, look for a pure stevia powder or stevia liquid that is only mixed with water. Many people complain about a strange aftertaste with stevia, but from my experience, the aftertaste comes from the silica, glycerine, or alcohol that stevia is often blended with.

These are just a few rules of thumb you can use when making substitutions in your own recipes. If you want to be successful with your new lifestyle, my best advice is to not be afraid to make mistakes. I had a good laugh at my first rock-hard gluten-free bread loaf, but eventually I turned it into one of the best-tasting breads I’ve had. Once you start to understand your food a little better and learn how make substitutions, it won’t take you any more effort than before to prepare and enjoy the foods you love, without the foods you can’t have. As one of my dinner guests once put it, “It tastes exactly the same…only without that full and bloated feeling afterward!”

Victoria Yeh

For more information

For full substitutions charts, a troubleshooting guide, handy tips and plenty of recipes, visit www.glutenfreeliving.ca, or the Quinte Naturopathic Centre for your copy of Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook.

About the author

Victoria's passion for alternative foods began 8 years ago when she, on the advice of her doctor, eliminated gluten, dairy, and sugar from her diet. After much research, countless experiments and many mistakes, Victoria eventually learned that her "restricted" diet was actually more fulfilling than ever. In her book Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook, Victoria shows readers how to make successful substitutions and adopt habits for a healthier lifestyle… every day!

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Quinte Naturopathic Centre

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