What are good alternatives to nuts?
Q: My10-year-old son is allergic to nuts – what are some good alternatives? Ellen
A: There are two ways I like to think about nut alternatives – one has a nutritional focus and the other is more recipe focused. As you haven’t mentioned seeds, I will assume that your son is not also allergic to these.
Let’s start with the nutritional aspect. While the nutrient content can vary depending on the type of nut, nuts are generally rich in unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and minerals, and they also contain some protein and fibre.
Seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds have a similar nutritional profile to nuts, so these are a great choice if your son can have these.
Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is also very nutritious. Other great food sources of monounsaturated fats include avocado and extra virgin olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats are found in flaxseeds (also called
linseeds), chia seeds and oily fish.
Eating plenty of vegetables will provide a range of dietary minerals as well as fibre. For example, green leafy vegetables contain magnesium, which is also found in nuts and seeds. If your son isn’t a big vegetable eater, adding some green veges to a smoothie can be an easy way to amp up his intake.
For a recipe, it will depend on the type of recipe when it comes to determining what a suitable replacement would be.
Typically nuts are used in recipes due to their nutritional value and their fat content. Seeds such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds can be used in the same quantities as most nuts, however, it’s best to soak them first – typically they have a stronger flavour than nuts such as cashews.
Alternatively, you may also be able to use coconut – desiccated, cream/milk or even oil depending on the consistency you need to achieve and the type of recipe or the desired flavour.
Q: Do you have any tips for adding flavour to vegetables? Monica
A: There is so much you can do with vegetables to enhance their flavour – even different cooking methods can impact flavour. For example, baking cauliflower brings out its flavour much more than steaming or boiling does.
Add to the cauliflower some spices such as turmeric, cumin and paprika and a drizzle of good quality oil, pop it in the oven to bake and you’ll have a delicious side for a meal.
Rosemary is also lovely with baked vegetables, such as sweet potato or potato, and you can add flavour to leafy greens by sauteing them in some extra virgin olive oil with some garlic. I adore adding herbs and spices to vegetables, not just to add flavour but to add some extra nutrients and phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals) as well.
Adding fat to vegetables can enhance their taste, and it also helps you to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that are present, such as vitamin K in leafy greens. If you prefer cooked/warm vegetables, try baking them with a drizzle of good quality oil. Or, if you prefer a crunchy salad, you could whisk together some extra virgin olive oil, tahini, garlic and lemon juice to make a nourishing and flavoursome dressing.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. See drlibby.com
Adding some green veges to a smoothie can be an easy way to amp up your intake of dietary minerals if you have a nut allergy.