By Mary Pletsch 23 Dec 2021 no comment 550 Views

It’s much easier today than it was twenty or thirty years ago for people on restricted diets to find foods that they can eat.  Grocery stores now carry offerings that are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free or vegan.  Labels warn consumers of known allergens.  But being healthy on a restricted diet involves a little bit more than just avoiding certain foods.

Gluten-free products

People with celiac disease must avoid eating gluten.  Many other people have gluten sensitivity.  These people will benefit from eating a gluten-free diet.  If you don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet is not automatically healthier for you.

People who avoid gluten must make extra effort to ensure they are eating enough fibre.  As well, processed gluten-free products may be less nutritious and higher in sugar, fat, and/or calories than their gluten-containing counterparts.

Going gluten-free isn’t a recommended way to lose weight.  If you aren’t sensitive to gluten, then you’re missing out on nutritious foods.  Plus, you’ll be regularly tempted by highly processed alternatives.

Dairy substitutes

Dairy substitutes allow people who can’t eat dairy to enjoy foods ranging from mac and “cheese” to cheeseless cheesecake.  These dairy substitutes may taste like the real thing, but they do not always offer the same nutritional benefits.

If you can’t eat dairy, you will need to ensure you are getting sufficient calcium from other sources.  The label will tell you if a dairy substitute has been fortified with calcium or not.  Just because it looks or tastes like milk, doesn’t mean it will have the same nutrients in it.

Increase your intake of green, leafy vegetables, almonds, lentils and other high-calcium foods.  You may benefit from taking a calcium-magnesium supplement.

Meat substitutes

There’s more to being vegetarian than simply not eating meat.  Vegetarians and vegans must make special effort to ensure they are getting enough protein and Vitamin B-12.  High protein foods such as beans, legumes and quinoa need to be eaten regularly.

Balancing a restricted diet

In conclusion, giving up gluten, meat, or any other food is not an easy short cut to weight loss.  Food substitutes may have more calories and fewer nutrients.  Worse, plenty of junk food is vegan and gluten-free.

The good news is that if you do need to eat a restricted diet, it is easier than ever to find food that is safe for you to eat.  Work with your health care providers , research nutrition, and learn safe alternate sources for the nutrients generally found in the foods you cannot eat.  Incorporate those alternate sources into your diet.  In some cases, supplementation may be necessary.

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