There are plenty of simple swaps you can make in your pantry and fresh food to accommodate food intolerances. This will make your life so much easier, as your home will be free of any foods that might trigger an intolerance, and there will always be food on hand for hungry, growing little bodies. Please note, not all these swaps will be suitable (or necessary) for you! Know your intolerance first, and try to eat as many whole foods as you can.
If salicylates are your intolerance, make sure the fruit bowl is filled with pears, red/golden delicious apples and just-ripe bananas. Mangos and pawpaw are pretty good too, in moderation, and so is rhubarb. Just go easy on the berries, citrus and summer stone fruit. Grapes and plums and their dried varieties are full of amines and glutamates too.
There are some super-healthy vegies in the low-moderate chemical groups – carrot, beetroot, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage (raw Chinese cabbage is yummy for kids!), butternut pumpkin, sweet potato and all types of peas and beans (except broad beans).For the super-sensitive, stick to peeled white potatoes, brussel sprouts, leek, cabbage (red & white), chives, lentils, iceberg lettuce, mungbean sprouts (not alfalfa), swede and spring onions.Make sure you still include plenty of vegies everyday to get all the vitamins and minderals we all need. For a full list of food chemicals, you can buy the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) Allergy Unit guides – they don’t publish them online.
Olive and coconut oils are great for your health, as long as you’re not sensitive to salicylates and amines! (I still pour a little olive oil over my kids’ gluten free pasta because it’s full of vitamin E and so good for their eczema). For cooking, swap for rice bran oil, which is low chemical and good for high heat cooking as it won’t go rancid and create free radicals. Butter is good too, if you’re ok with dairy.
- Gluten / wheat
There are heaps of gluten free options for bread and pasta now – just try and vary your selections from rice and corn flour, and find some healthier alternative grains such as buckwheat, amaranth and sorghum.If it’s just wheat you’re avoiding, not gluten, then oats, barley and rye are good options too – either cooked as whole grains, or as bread. I often cook half rice, half quinoa as a nutritious gluten free complex carb.
Cow’s milk dairy can be a problem for many people – either for the lactose (digestive complaints) or the protein (often respiratory/nasal congestion). If it’s lactose that causes your issues, try a variety of alternatives, such as rice and soy milk, or almond and coconut (if you’re ok with salicylates and amines) – just make sure your milk alternatives made from whole ingredients with very few additives.If, like my kids and I, you react to the protein in cow’s milk, you might be fine with goat’s and sheep’s milk, yoghurt and cheese. It’s a bit more expensive but much more like the real thing!
Meat and fish
Keep it fresh, fresh, fresh if amines are your enemy! Cook it on the day you buy it, or freeze it. Make dinner simple with a piece of fish or meat – grilled, fried, poached, steamed or baked, with your kids’ favourite vegies or saladand some complex carbs, like brown rice – too easy! Eggs are another easy meal – especially if you can sneak some green stuff in to an omelette.If you’re getting sausages or mince, find a butcher that doesn’t use preservatives or other additives (you won’t get preservative-free in the supermarket) and very few ingredients. And avoid any smoked or cured meat or fish.
Best option – cashews! As long as you’re not allergic to nuts! They are low in amines and and salicylates, unlike all other nuts. Try tossing them in a pan on low heat with a little rice bran oil and maple syrup and a pinch of salt… seriously addictive!For something else sweet, try rice malt syrup on a buckwheat cracker (not honey if you react to salicylates). I use carob all the time in cooking – it’s a great chocolate alternative in baking (if amines don’t agree with you). We all need some store-bought snacks sometimes, just go easy on the ‘numbers’! Check for plain versions of rice crackers, chips or biscuits, and make sure there are no artificial colours, flavours, orpreservatives. The ones you most need to avoid for sensitive kids are: 100s (artificial colours), 200s (preservatives), 300s (antioxidants) and 600s (flavour enhancers).
- Sauces and flavour
Stay away from the tomato, BBQ and soy sauce! These are so high in salicylates, amines and glutamates and no good for an intolerant kid. Try making your own sweet and tart sauce by boiling up some pears in sugar syrup until the liquid has halved, then adding a dash of vinegar (malt vinegar or citric acid for low chemical) and a pinch of salt, and blitzing with a hand-held blender or food processor.For flavour in your dishes, stick to garlic, sea salt, saffron and spring onions or leek (instead of onions), plus vanilla and carob for sweet dishes (instead of chocolate or citrus). Kids with sensitivities often prefer plain foods anyway, especially once they realise what is causing their reactions. Check out my recipes for ideas on how to pimp your meals for the grown-ups (or anyone without intolerances).
- Citrus flavour
If citric acid, and not salicylates are your problem (like me), then you’ll be looking for that acidic hit in cooking and salad dressings. I use apple cider vinegar in anything calling for lemon/lime juice, but remember vinegar is high in salicylates and amines. Be warned, the RPAH elimination diet recommends citric acid as a flavour enhancer… needless to say, I had a headache throughout the process! If this is you, try avoiding citrus and citric acid and see if you improve.