Alternatives for Those on Restrictive Diets

source: Secret Tenerife

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Feels Like Home about about strategies for picky eaters, and I’m excited to welcome Sarah Myers of Poots and Pans here on Food…Your Way.

Without a doubt, I can easily say that one of my major passions in life is FOOD!

So, when I was put on a very restrictive diet (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and sugar-free) for serious stomach issues, I almost drowned in depression. The thought of not eating cheese pizza, cheeseburgers, pasta, and every other yummy food known to man about drove me crazy!

However, after doing some research, I have found some wonderful alternatives for those on restrictive diets.

Cheese Alternatives

The first staple I’d like to discuss is called “Nutritional Yeast”.   Sounds gross, doesn’t it?

According to Wikipedia, nutritional yeast is “a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and it is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten”.

Nutritional Yeast is actually a very good substitute for a “cheesy” flavor.  It can be sprinkled on freshly popped popcorn for a delicious flavor and it can also be sprinkled on Italian dishes as a parmesan cheese substitute.  One of my favorite recipes right now is for a gluten-free/dairy-free alfredo sauce which uses 1/4 cup of Nutritional Yeast.

Another great cheese alternative that you can find at your local natural food store  is rice cheese.  Now, don’t get me wrong…this does NOT taste like the real thing. However, it’s a pretty close alternative for those that must eat dairy and soy free.  I don’t suggest eating rice cheese plain, but it’s nice to put on a burger or sandwich from time to time.

Milk Alternatives

For those with a milk allergy or sensitivity, there are so many alternatives to choose from! Rice, almond, coconut, hemp, and more. Each have a different taste, texture, and nutritional value.  Thanks to “Eating Made Easy”, here’s a handy nutritional comparison chart for milk and all of its alternatives:

I’m a little biased because we chose to give our infant daughter coconut milk after much research (she’s allergic to dairy).  Coconut milk is a little on the sweet side, but it’s very smooth and creamy.  It’s refreshing in smoothies and can also be used in recipes as a cow’s milk alternative. Not only does coconut milk taste yummy, but it’s also chocked full of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.

Sugar Alternatives

My favorite sugar alternative is Stevia. It is an all-natural herbal sweetener.  You can purchase it in a powdered form or as a liquid.  One thing to keep in mind about Stevia is that it’s SUPER sweet and it doesn’t take much to sweeten your recipe.  Stevia has a conversion chart on the back of its products.  Just to give you a quick idea of how SWEET Stevia is, it only takes 1 teaspoon to replace 1 cup of sugar!!!

Agave nectar is another great alternative to sugar and is derived from the agave plant, primarily in Mexico.  It’s about 1.5 times sweeter than regular sugar.  One of the great attributes of agave nectar is that its glycemic index is significantly lower than other sugars (the lower the glycemic index, the less chance of triggering the body’s fat storage).  It is, however, a little on the pricey side.

Gluten-laced Goodness Alternatives (aka: Bread and Pasta)

The hardest thing for me to give up is bread and pasta.  I could eat a whole loaf of honey wheat bread with honey butter in approximately 3.2 minutes.  *sigh* Anyway, I digress…

Rice bread is a great alternative for those that want to eat toast with breakfast or have a sandwich for lunch.  One of my favorite brands is Udi’s Gluten Free bread (note: this bread contains eggs).

When it comes to pasta, those going gluten free have a few options.  If you want to take the same route as my bread alternative, you can purchase rice noodles.  However, my favorite pasta option is quinoa pasta. Quinoa is an extremely nutritional grain and is an excellent source of protein.  Here’s one little tip about cooking quinoa pasta: MAKE SURE YOU DON’T OVERCOOK IT!!  This pasta cooks quicker than the typical pasta you’re probably accustomed to cooking.  If this cooks too long, it literally turns to mush.

There you have it!  I hope this quick list helps those who are on a restricted diet.

Are you on a restrictive diet?  If so, what are some of your favorite food substitutes?

Click here to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!

Sarah is a stay-at-home mommy to her 18-month daughter, Lyla and the author of Poots and Pans. Her blog focuses on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, green/natural living, recipes, crafting, and photography.