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What can I substitute when my normal foods are not available?

fruits and vegetables on a refrigerator shelf
What can I substitute when my normal foods are not available?


Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed some empty shelves at the grocery store; some of your regular staples such as meats, rice, pasta, eggs, canned goods and frozen convenience foods such as pizza have be either cleared out or are in limited supply. Adjusting to cooking more meals at home and not having your familiar foods available or limited in supply could leave you feeling overwhelmed about meal planning. Here are some substitutes for these foods to help you still make a balanced, nutritious meal.

Protein: Meats such as chicken/turkey, pork and beef can be limited at times. Other sources of protein in this food group are beans, legumes, nuts/seeds, eggs, and soy proteins such as edamame, tofu and tempeh. Beans, legumes and edamame can be substituted for meat in recipes such as casseroles and soups. If you have some meat, you can use less of the required amount for the recipe and add 1-2 cups of the beans. The great thing about beans is they take on the flavors of the seasonings you already use for your recipe.

Eggs: If you need to use then in baked goods such as pancakes, muffins or even meatloaf, you can use "flax eggs" as a replacement. Take 1 tablespoon of flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water and mix them together. Let that mixture set for 10 minutes, for the texture to become thicker, gooey texture (somewhat like a whisked egg consistency). This makes the equivalent of one egg in a recipe.

Rice: With limited supply of rice, this could be a great time to explore other grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. You can find these in the same section that rice is sold in. Cooking times may be different then rice, so be sure to follow instructions on the package. Note: if you have Celiac disease, the grains mentioned above are all gluten-free.

Frozen pizza: You can simply make your own by picking up pre-made pizza crust (usually found in the section where canned tomatoes are sold) or create your own individual pizza by either using pita bread or 8-inch whole grain tortilla shells for the "crust." Top your crust with all your favorite toppings, then bake in a pre-heated oven of 425 degrees F for 8 minutes.

Canned goods: Canned fruits and vegetables are typical stables in our pantry. If they are limited in your grocery store, think fresh choices. These are easy and nutritious choices to have with all meals and snacks. Fruits are an easy grab and go for a snack. Slices of tomatoes, lettuce and onions can go on sandwiches and you can have a side of cooked zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower with your main dish. You can also freeze or can your fresh produce. Blanching fruit or vegetables before freezing will help preserve, texture, color and nutrients. You can visit and search how to blanch your produce for instructions.

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