Five years ago, gluten-free foods were just beginning to make an appearance in mainstream grocery stores. Gluten-free was becoming more known, and people with no specific gluten issue or celiac disease were experimenting with gluten-free as a diet choice rather than a medical one. Around that same time, lactose-free dairy was just beginning to enter the market as well, and the top allergens were gaining attention. Specialty food manufacturers, following diet and cultural trends, began to develop and market foods that were free from gluten, dairy, and eggs. It was easier for manufacturers to support the sale of one product that met the needs of several special diet populations because each individual population didn’t have a large enough market base to be catered to individually.
I enjoyed this time immensely. I wasn’t too intolerant to enjoy the lactose-free products, and the gluten, egg, and dairy-free cookies, cakes, pizzas, and other products were everywhere. My world of food had narrowed, but it was opening wider into new frontiers.
Since then, gluten-free has expanded in leaps and bounds. Gluten-free as a diet choice has grown and the controversy about whether one can be gluten-sensitive without being allergic or having celiac disease has only added additional publicity. The top allergens still exist, but gluten has commanded such a spotlight position that manufacturers can now find a large enough market base with products that are only gluten-free and that still contain major allergens. The world of egg-free and dairy-free grocery store products has shrunk. I’ve also become far more intolerant of even tiny amounts of lactose and egg.
I’m not saying you can’t still find good foods free of top allergens. I’ve posted about Daiya products before, from their melty “cheeses” to their pizzas, yogurts, and more. Sweets from the Earth is another awesome brand catering to the allergy market, supplying desserts and bake-at-home cookies. The range of alternative “ice creams” has expanded beyond soy and coconut to almond and cashew. The cracker market is blossoming right along with the gluten-free craze, and that one’s helping everyone. Still, the total number of reduced-allergen choices has not expanded to keep up with gluten-free choices. For that I am sad.
Luckily for my specific intolerances there’s another approach. Egg-free and dairy-free is a mainstay of vegan cuisine. Vegan also means honey-free, meat-free, and even refined sugar-free, but it’s a price I have often paid for ease of finding food, especially when searching for restaurants. I’ve come to like the nut blends often used as meat substitutes. I’ve eaten raw vegan meals and desserts, even though I don’t believe in the philosophy of the raw diet. Vegan isn’t usually a designation that’s helpful in a grocery store, but it’s a godsend when eating out and looking for desserts. I sometimes comment that I’m a vegan who likes steak and bacon. The vegan market isn’t quite as well-catered-to as the gluten-free market, since it’s a less popular dietary choice/need. (I’m not trying to minimize those with a real gluten issue. Celiac is a real and serious condition requiring careful adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.) Vegansupply.ca is an awesome source of alternative dairy and sweets not otherwise available in Canada, though their shipping options are necessarily steep.
Are things as difficult as they were 10 years ago? No way! Contrary to the title of this article, dairy-free and egg-free options are slowly becoming more readily available. I do wish that more legitimate dietary concerns could be met at the same rate as fads, but manufacturers will make what sells, and if we want them to produce more reduced-allergen products, we will have to buy more of these products to give them monetary incentive to do so.
What are your favourite egg-free and dairy-free products? What are your favourite egg-free and dairy-free restaurant meal choices? Comment below.