Adhering to a vegan diet can be challenging enough on its own, but it can become even more complicated when you also have food allergies or sensitivities. However, it is possible to manage a vegan diet when you have food allergies or sensitivities with some careful planning and knowledge of your dietary needs. In this blog, we'll explore the challenges that come with managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities, and provide recommendations and medical insights to help make it easier.
Challenges of managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities
A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. It is often chosen for ethical, environmental, or health reasons. But when you add food allergies or sensitivities into the mix, it can make meal planning and grocery shopping more complicated. The most common food allergies include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Some common food sensitivities include gluten, lactose, and fructose.
One of the challenges of managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities is that many vegan substitutes contain the allergens or sensitivities that you need to avoid. For example, many vegan cheeses contain soy, which is a common allergen. Similarly, many vegan meat substitutes contain wheat or gluten. So, if you have a food allergy or sensitivity, you'll need to carefully read ingredient labels and seek out specialty vegan products that don't contain the allergens or sensitivities that you need to avoid.
Another challenge of managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities is that you may be at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Many of the foods that are commonly avoided due to allergies or sensitivities, such as dairy, eggs, and wheat, are good sources of important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, you'll need to carefully plan your meals to ensure that you're getting all the nutrients that you need.
Tips for managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities
Know your food allergies and sensitivities
It's important to know exactly what foods you need to avoid. Make a list of your allergies and sensitivities and keep it with you when you go grocery shopping or eat out. This will help you to avoid accidentally consuming something that you're allergic or sensitive to.
Read ingredient labels carefully
When you're buying packaged foods, it's important to read ingredient labels carefully to make sure that the product doesn't contain any of your allergens or sensitivities. Look for labels that say "vegan" and "free from" your allergens or sensitivities.
Find vegan substitutes that don't contain your allergens or sensitivities
Many vegan products contain allergens or sensitivities, so it's important to find substitutes that don't contain them. For example, if you're allergic to soy, look for vegan cheese substitutes that don't contain soy.
Plan your meals carefully
To make sure that you're getting all the nutrients that you need, it's important to plan your meals carefully. Make sure that you're including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources like legumes and nuts.
Consider working with a registered dietitian
If you're struggling to manage a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities, consider working with a registered dietitian who can help you to plan meals that meet your nutritional needs.
Focus on Whole Foods
One way to manage a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities is to focus on whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and do not contain added sugars or preservatives. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. By focusing on whole foods, you can reduce your exposure to allergens and sensitivities and ensure that you are getting the nutrients your body needs.
If you have food allergies or sensitivities, you may need to use substitutes for certain ingredients in vegan recipes. For example, if you have a nut allergy, you can use sunflower seed butter as a substitute for peanut butter. Similarly, if you have a gluten sensitivity, you can use gluten-free flour as a substitute for wheat flour. There are many vegan substitutes available for common allergens and sensitivities, including nut, soy, and gluten-free options.
Be Mindful of Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination can occur when allergens or sensitivities are transferred from one food to another. For example, if you use the same cutting board to chop vegetables and nuts, the nuts could contaminate the vegetables. To prevent cross-contamination, it is important to use separate utensils, cutting boards, and dishes for foods that contain allergens or sensitivities.
Managing a vegan diet with food allergies or sensitivities can be challenging, but it's important to ensure that you're getting all the nutrients that you need to stay healthy. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, it's important to work with a healthcare provider to identify your specific needs and develop a plan to manage your dietary requirements. It's also important to monitor what you’re eating and supplementing with allergy-free foods and ingredients to help get all the daily nutrients you need, particularly on a restricted diet.