Food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. Gluten, sugar, and dairy are on top of the list of forbidden foods. More people are also becoming conscious of consuming animal products whether due to animal rights movement or due to the unhealthy diet that farm animals are being fed. As a result, I get a lot of questions on how to substitute old time kitchen staples like butter, sugar, flour, cream, milk, eggs, and margarine.
Fortunately, with a huge variety of foods from all over the world available online and at most health food stores, with a bit of research and creativity, you can substitute all the above without giving up on a taste and most often adding in nutrients.
Here is a list of the must-have kitchen substitutes for baking, sauces, and dressings:
Flours: we are so incredibly lucky to have a HUGE choice of healthy gluten free flours.Bob’sRedMill has flours made out of most grains, nuts, and beans, offering a huge choice for all types of diets. My favorites are almond flour, quinoa flour, coconut flour, and garbanzo flour. They are protein and fiber rich! You can also try rice flour, sorghum, millet, or cornmeal for a tender slightly grainy texture. Here is DIY gluten free flour blend: 1 cup sorghum or brown rice flour, 1 cup tapioca starch, 1/2 cup cup almond flour, 1 tsp xathan gum. It works for most breads, cookies, and cakes.
Butter: this one is easy and doesn’t require a lot of work. Coconut oil is great in baking, for toasts, and high heat cooking. Organic ghee can be another substitute. It has no milk solids so won’t cause a reaction if you are dairy intolerant. It is not a suitable choice for vegans, however. Is you are trying to stay fat free, go for no sugar added apple sauce, canned pumpkin, baked squash or sweet potato.
Eggs: if the recipe calls for 3 eggs or more, the eggs are needed for leavening and need a good substitute with the same quality. To substitute 1 egg use 1tbs flaxmeal with 3tbs of water blended together or try Karina’s Ener-G type egg replacer – 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tbsp flour, 3 tbs water. If the eggs are used as a binder in a recipe, try a mashed banana, pumpkin, squash, tofu, or applesauce. Chia seed gel can be used as well. When using seed based gel, increase baking powder by a bit to avoid gummy texture.
Oil: apple sauce, mashed tofu (if eating soy), flax meal can replace some of the oil. Karina from GlutenFreeGoddess recommends substituting 3 parts of flaxmeal for 1 part of oil (45ml of flaxmeal for 15ml of oil).
Sugar: this one is big and important! By various approximations, Americans consume anywhere between 100-160lbs of sugar per year! This is a lot of sugar! Pimples, weight gain, hormone imbalances, energy ups and downs, and sad sugar blues are unavoidable with such a high consumption. Some healthy alternatives to try when baking are coconut or date sugar which have low glycemic index. Chopped dates will go well as a sugar substitute in baking and in oatmeals. Stevia is great in smoothies or oatmeal, too. Stevia is a natural plant-based zero-calorie sweetener. It can be a bit bitter if you cook with it, so better when used without heating. Brown rice syrup or honey are good if you want something liquid. Remember, honey should not be heated if you want the benefits of live enzymes. Whatever you use (besides Stevia) is still high in carbs so keep it to a minimum. Moderation is a key. Stay away from Splenda and other fake sugar substitutes!
Oil: water and ground flax seeds or soaked chia seeds gel, blended white beans all go a good job. Remember that we need healthy fats in our diet. 1/2 avocado or virgin organic oils in small quantities deserve a fair share on your plate!
Table Salt seaweed: dulse flakes are great! If you are not a fan of seaweed, go for a mineral rich Himalayan or Celtic salts.
Vinegar (if inflamed Pitta or during summertime) – lime, not lemon which is also pitta aggravating.
Cream: cashew cream is great if you need to make a sweet sauce. Baked butternut squash or sweet potatoes, or blended beans work great as a substitution in pasta sauces or baked vegetable dishes.
Cheese: nutritional yeast or nut-based cheeses. Stay away from highly processed vegan cheese varieties. Remember if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t eat it.
Milk and Yogurts
Milk: almond, coconut, hemp, rice milks – all are widely available. Try different one and choose the one that you like best. Almond milk and hemp milk are easy to make at home if you want to know exactly what goes into your food. Here is how to make nutmilks at home.
Yogurt: I love home-made coconut yogurt! Try this recipe for a coconut based blueberry yogurt. 1 whole coconut (meat and water) or frozen coconut meat and fresh coconut water, 1/2 cup of organic blueberries, 1/2 cup banana, juice of 1 lime, stevia to taste. Blend all together and enjoy!
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