Some years ago I had a host of inexplicable health issues including, acid reflux, fantom abdominal pains, dizziness, fatigue & constant bladder infections. I saw a host of doctors and specialists from a variety of medical organizations only to find them continually baffled and offering me a drug for each symptom without diagnosis. This didn't seem right to me, so after 2-3 years of being poked, prodded and general feeling like garbage, I headed to see a naturopath.
It cost a pretty penny, but we quickly got down to the heart of things. I had many food allergies and not just to junk foods. Citrus, tomatoes, dairy & gluten were among the biggest culprits wreaking havoc on my digestive system, energy level and skin. After adhering to a strict detox for over 2 months about half my list of allergies fell away. Since then, I've continued to work around my food sensitive and have found a profound difference in the way I feel. While I enjoy the occasional croissant or taste of my hubby's ice-cream cone, most of the time there are a dozen or so foods I choose to omit from my diet in order to keep feeling my best.
I can honestly say that about 80% of how I feel is directly correlated to what I ingest on a daily basis. And the more I talk to people, the more I discover, I'm not alone. So here's a few of my favourite "cheats" when working with a gluten-free, non-dairy and vegan diet.
1. Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel, chocolate covered "ice cream" bars. For my non-dairy and vegan friends, these are a little piece of heaven! Of all the coconut and soy ice cream products, these ones win by a landslide. Packed full of taste, creamy like the real thing, you won't find a better non-dairy ice cream product on the market. You can pick them up in the natural freezer section of most Superstores, Nestors, Wholefoods or Choices. At around $10 for a box of 3, you'll want to savour every bite
2. President's Choice Goat's milk mozzarella cheese. This one is not vegan nor non-dairy however if you have an allergy to dairy, it's good to find out which enzymes. If you're lucky you may be just sensitive to some and not all of them or your issue may be specifically with cow's milk. I'm no good with traditional cow's milk but am in the clear for goat's, so this substitute is perfect for me. It tastes the same and still melts to a nice gooey texture perfect for vegetarian chilis, cheese toast and home made pizza. Also available at superstore or anywhere PC products are available, this will usually run you $5.99 per small block. Stores also carry a shredded variation however per gram, the block is a much better bang for your buck. *Look in the deli section as this in not usually found in the dairy isle.
3. Bob's Red Mill 8 grain hot cereal. For celiac's or people with a gluten sensitivity, this is a great replacement for steel cut oats. Healthy, easy and delicious, I start my day more often than not with these gluten-free grains. Cook them up and add some raisins, apple slices or bananas. Sprinkle in some cinnamon, cardamom or honey and then add a drizzle of tahini or a scoop of almond butter and you're good to go. With the endless topping options, you won't get bored of having this for breakfast and with it's low fat, high protein, iron & fibre content, you'll be well satiated for whatever the day ahead holds. Note: Bob's has loads of gluten free products including pancakes and brownies, so check them out next time you're shopping. You'll be pleasantly surprised by their variety.
4. Daiya's Mac & Cheese is comfort food gone good. Gluten-free, vegan and worth every penny, this creamy take on a classic never falls to satisfy my cheesy cravings. At $4.99 a box, this also comes in tasty alfredo. Whenever this goes on sale, I buy a bunch and put them up, as they will keep for a long time and are quick fix when in a jam to make a meal on the run.
5. Mary's gone Crackers and we're sure glad she did. In a variety of flavours, caraway is my favourite. This subtle spice and crunchy cracker is perfect with cheese, hummus or even crushed up and sprinkled into salads. Warning: these are very crisp so if you find them hard on your teeth, you might need to soften them up first. I usually put them in salads with some dressing and let them sit for a moment or two to help take the bite out. With the popularity of these, you'll find them pretty much everywhere.
For all my friends adjusting to a new diet of food lifestyle, I hope this helps. Remember, it's an ongoing effort so if you slip up, not to worry. We're all human and all we can do is our best. It's been almost four years since I discovered my restrictions and I'm still a work in progress. My best advice would be to take the time to plan ahead and enjoy trying new foods. It's when I'm rushing from one place to another that I grab for foods that don't feel good and keeping a variety of tastes around, helps me to enjoy what I can. Instead of focusing on what you're taking out, focus on what you can bring in. Let me know what you think and until next time, I hope you feel your best!