Hi, I desperately want to become vegetarian because of various opinions about animal cruelty and also for the health benefits.
I'm gluten and lactose intolerant and I'm concerned about the effect such a limited diet might have on my body! Could you give me some advice< about what the best option for me might be please? Thanks, G.
I know quite a few vegetarians with either or both gluten and lactose intolerances. There really are many different foods you can eat instead of dairy and wheat that will meet your nutritional needs. It just takes a bit more effort to learn what they are and how to prepare them.
For example, the list of grains includes rice, quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet, buckwheat, and I'm sure there are a few I've missed. The protein and calcium in dairy is easily replaced by vegetarian sources.
One good way to avoid foods you can't eat is to cook your own food from scratch. Not always possible, I know. But you don't have to worry about what's in it that's not mentioned on the label.
There's also a grey area between intolerant and allergic. If you're allergic, a tiny amount of something can make you very ill and could be life threatening.
Food intolerance reactions vary widely from very mild to severe, with different foods, and in different individuals. I have a friend who can't eat wheat, but can tolerate oats. I do badly with milk, but a small amount of cheese is fine.
Try to pin down exactly what you can and can't tolerate before you start crossing foods off your list. A food allergy guide or resource will also be helpful to you.
I recommend a couple of books to get you started. One is Becoming Vegan: Complete Guide to Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. It doesn't have much specifically about food intolerance, but it does have lots of info and options for vegan nutrition without dairy and wheat, plus a very good resource section.
Another book is Food Allergy Survival Guide by Joanne Stepaniak. It's an excellent reference for both allergic and intolerant, and has some good recipes too.
There are a lot of recipe books for people with food allergies and intolerance. I searched on Amazon for "vegetarian gluten-free", and came up with 63 books. I'm sorry I can't recommend which one you should buy. I always find it better to browse the selection in a bookstore - then you can see what you're getting.
I recommend becoming vegetarian gradually, to give yourself a chance to explore and get used to different foods, to learn vegetarian cooking, avoid malnutriton, etc. Good luck with your vegetarian lactose and gluten free diet! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian