Welcome to the first ever Ask Steph, a weekly feature where I answer a reader question in both an educational and entertaining fashion. *wink* You know what they say about questions: If one person has one, it’s guaranteed that others do, too. Want to submit your own question to be feature on Ask Steph? Submit it via the contact form, and use the subject line “Ask Steph!”
Here we go! Yvonne writes:
Hi Steph,This site is very informative and we’re excited to try this way of lifestyle. I do have a question. We’re a family of five, and have food allergies. Just wondering substitutions for some foods like eggs, shellfish, and tree nuts / peanuts.
When you’re new to Paleo—like Yvonne is—it can be hard enough to cut out a huge section of the foods you’re used to eating. When you add in pre-existing food sensitivities or allergies, stuff starts to get real. Suddenly, many of the foods that are common in a Paleo template are off-limits. (In my household, we deal with this because my hubs has a food sensitivity to eggs and beef.)
Since you can’t realistically just get rid of your kids or spouse, the best solution is to find some substitutes. Exchanging allergenic ingredients for tolerable ones can make the difference between giving up on Paleo and finding a way to make it work with the limitations you’re dealing with. Here are some possiblities:
Paleo Substitutions for Eggs
If eggs are the main feature of a meal, there’s really no way to substitute them unless you toss in another protein. Example: Scrambled eggs with sweet potatoes could become shredded pork or chicken with sweet potatoes.
If you’re using eggs as a binder, there are some substitutions you can try out.
- Chia “egg”: Mix 1 tbsp ground chia seeds with 3 tbsp water for each egg you want to replace in a recipe. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to a recipe.
- Flax “egg”: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water for each egg you want to replace in a recipe. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to a recipe.
- Mashed starchy veggies or fruit such as sweet potato, white potato, pumpkin or banana. Use about 1/4 cup for every 1 egg.
- Gelatin and water: Mix 1 tbsp gelatin with 1 tbsp cold water, then add 2 tbsp hot water to dissolve completely. Beat until frothy. This will substitute for 1 egg.
To substitute eggs as a leavening agent, you can try out a mixture of 1 tsp baking powder (go for aluminum-free), 1 tbsp white vinegar and 1 tbsp water.
Paleo Substitutions for Shellfish
Generally speaking, if a recipe calls for shellfish, you can usually replicate good results using chicken breast. It may not have the same exact flavor, but it’s probably the next best thing. If you’re able to eat fish but not shellfish, a mild white fish such as cod would be a good substitute.
If shellfish or fish are part of a seasoning component to a recipe, such as fish sauce or mashed sardines, coconut aminos are a great substitute. Fish sauce and similar ingredients are often used because they lend umami—savory flavor—to a dish. Coconut aminos, essentially fermented coconut sap, also give umami without the use of fish.
Paleo Substitutions for Tree Nuts / Peanuts
If you’re using tree nuts or peanuts for texture or to give something added crunch, consider adding seeds instead. While they tend to be high in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, when bought fresh and kept refrigerated (to prevent the oils from going rancid / oxidizing), they can be a great alternative to nuts. If used in limited quantities—take the spoon out of the sun butter jar and back away slowly—they’re a fine substitute for tree nuts. Some examples: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.