Facing the World Without Egg on Our Face

People eliminate egg from their diets for numerous reasons. These range from its prominence as one of the top eight allergens, to health concerns (fat and cholesterol), to animal rights reasons. (1) (2)

Egg contains several proteins to which many people react; most are in the white. Even when white and yolk are separated, there can be cross-contamination between white and yolk. Eggs from various species contain similar proteins, so those who are allergic to chicken eggs generally must avoid eggs from ducks, turkeys, and other birds as well.

Yet eggs have long been one of our protein-rich mainstays, and a featured item on weekend breakfast menus. How do we get through the day without scrambled eggs for breakfast, quiche for lunch, and custard for dessert? As ingredients, eggs perform numerous functions. They provide moistness. Their protein acts as a binder, holding cakes, cookies, or burgers together. Beaten eggs make baked items light, by holding air in little bubbles. Yet there are effective and nutritious alternatives for these various functions.

To give moistness, we can replace eggs with a similar amount of juice, nondairy milk, water, applesauce, or mashed banana. As a binder in baking, we can sift in with the flour a tiny amount of non-allergenic alternatives such as xanthum gum or guar gum, both available from natural foods stores. For leavening, baking powder or soda are very effective. (Soda requires the presence of something sour like vinegar or lemon juice for its bubble making action to work). Furthermore, when we simply omit an egg or two from the ingredient list of our favorite muffin recipe, our product is likely to turn out just as well. 

For a warming and hearty breakfast, we can combine sautéed mushrooms, green onion, and minced garlic with mashed medium or firm tofu; a little turmeric or nutritional yeast gives a golden colour.  As a tasty sandwich filling, mashed tofu can be combined with tamari or Bragg’s, soy mayonnaise, and parsley, celery or other chopped veggies. See recipes for these and other spreads and hearty entrees in Becoming Vegetarian (Wiley Canada) and Raising Vegetarian Children (McGraw Hill). You’ll find creamy puddings, and some truly “Divine Macaroons” in the recipe section of the recent Food Allergy Survival Guide, along with a wealth of information on managing very well without this and other top allergens.

At restaurants, it’s simple to avoid obvious egg items, such as omelet or eggnog. Yet small amounts of egg find their way into many manufactured foods; thus allergic individuals must be alert and ask. In Japanese restaurants, batter-coated vegetable tempura often contains egg, and in Chinese restaurants, egg noodles and fortune cookies. Egg whites give bagels, pretzels, and piecrusts their shiny appearance. Eggs are a staple in most baking, an ingredient in pastas (especially “fresh” pastas). They are present in sauce mixes, soups, sausages, meat loaves, marshmallows, marzipan, icings, and fancy ice creams. Wines, soft drinks, and consommés often are clarified with egg whites. 

Terms on food labels that indicate the presence of egg protein include albumin, avidin, lipovitelin, livetin, ovamucin, ovo, and vitellin. In some cases, the ingredient itself is not mentioned; instead we are told of egg’s function, such as “binder,” “emulsifier,” or “coagulant.”

Egg contains protein, several B vitamins, and iron. Yet avoiding egg creates no risk of deficiency. We can meet our requirements for protein, iron, and B vitamins from legumes, whole grains, and a variety of other plant foods. Good vitamin B12 sources are fortified soy or rice milks, veggie “meats”, and supplements.

Ground flaxseed can be used instead of 1 or 2 eggs in your favourite recipes for pancakes, waffles, and muffins. (Don’t’ try making a soufflé with ground flaxseed though!) As a bonus, this will boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids without raising your cholesterol intake.

Flaxseed as Replacer for One Egg

1 tablespoon (15 ml)   ground flaxseed

3 tablespoons (45 ml)  water

Combine ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl. (In a minute, you will see it thicken.) Alternatively, you can simply add both water and flaxseed to wet ingredients.

Vesanto Melina is a B. C. registered dietitian and author of best selling food and nutrition books. For personal consultations call 604-888-8325 (Fort Integrated Health Clinic) or 604-882-6782 (home office, near Fort Langley); web www.nutrispeak.com.

  1. For animal related reasons see University of Toronto CARE at http://utcare.sa.utoronto.ca/meat1.htm
  2. For free range poultry facts, see http://www.cok.net/lit/freerange.php

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