They’re nature’s perfect food, a tiny repository of protein, fat, and important nutrients – but what if they also give you hives? Egg allergies are one of the most common dietary restrictions, affecting up to 1.7% of the US population (that’s around 5,423,000 people). And many more people are avoiding eggs as part of an autoimmune protocol.
Paleo without eggs can seem pretty rough, but it’s actually not that hard: you certainly don’t need to eat eggs to make delicious and healing Paleo meals.
Is it Really the Eggs?
Before swearing off eggs forever, it’s worth pinning down particularly what kind of problem you have:
- Egg allergy: rashes, throat swelling, vomiting, and other allergy-type symptoms that occur immediately after eating eggs (whites, yolks, or both). Very rarely, this can get as bad as serious anaphylaxis. With egg allergies, you’ll need to avoid eggs altogether.
- Egg white allergy: allergic reaction to egg whites only, not the yolks. It’s very common to react poorly to egg whites, but not the yolks. Depending on how severe your allergy is, you may be able to eat egg yolks without a problem, but most allergists advise avoiding the yolks as well, because of the potential for cross-contamination.
- Egg white intolerance: this is not an allergy; it’s really a kind of histamine intolerance, and symptoms can range from allergy-like reactions to nausea, bloating, brain fog, and more (you can read about histamine intolerance here). On the outside, it looks like an allergy, but there’s a slightly different process going on under the hood, and if you take a food allergy test, eggs won’t show up on it.
An allergy to eggs will obviously require you to avoid them altogether. For egg white allergies, it’s generally a good idea to avoid the yolks as well. But if you’re not allergic – if you have an intolerance instead – then the yolks may be just fine (for example, in some delicious Paleo mayonnaise) because the tiny amount of egg white that clings to the yolk usually doesn’t cause problems. This will get you all the nutritional benefits of the egg (which are almost entirely in the yolk; whites are much less nutritious), without the reaction.
It’s also worth noting that most egg allergies occur in children who later grow out of them, so if it’s a child you’re worrying about, you may just have to wait a few years before the allergy disappears on its own.
But what about people who really are allergic to the whole egg? Or people who (understandably!) don’t want to take a risk by testing it out? It’s completely possible to do Paleo without any eggs at all. Take a look at some of the most common questions and how to handle them.
What do I Eat for Breakfast?
Anything you like! Really: there’s absolutely no reason why breakfast has to be chosen from some totally arbitrary list of “breakfast foods.” Why are eggs “breakfasty” but tuna isn’t? There’s no real reason for it, so stop letting yourself be limited by these meaningless categories.
Just think of breakfast as a meal like any other meal: meat and vegetables, maybe with some fruit or nuts thrown in on the side. Breakfast is not a magic exception because it’s the first meal of the day. If you’re not up for a lot of cooking, leftovers make a fast and convenient morning meal – what about some cold slices of roast beef with an apple and a smear of almond butter? Delicious, nutritious, and no cooking required.
If you’re not quite willing to let go of the “breakfast food” mold quite yet, what about…
- Sausages with some fried onions and mushrooms
- A breakfast skillet with ham and vegetables
- Bacon with spinach and mushrooms sauteed in the bacon fat
- A quick smoothie just to tide you over until lunchtime
- Smoked salmon with cucumber slices
- Nothing at all; you could always go the intermittent fasting route and just wait until noon to start eating.
What can I use as Binders?
A binder is the ingredient in a recipe that makes everything else stick together. For example, if you’re making chicken nuggets, the egg coating is the “glue” that holds the breading onto the meat.
Eggs don’t have any special magic binding properties, though. One great alternative is an egg replacement made of flax seeds (this is a vegan favorite). For each egg that you need to replace, combine 1 part ground flaxseed to 2 parts boiling water. Stir to combine and let it sit until it gets the texture of egg whites. Then use in your recipe wherever you would otherwise use eggs. If you tweak the recipe a little, you can even make mayo with it!
What can I use for Fast Protein?
Another reason that eggs are so great is their usefulness as quick protein in a pinch. They keep for weeks at a time in the fridge until that one rushed evening when you need dinner ready in 10 minutes, and then it’s eggs to the rescue! Just throw together a bunch of vegetables in a skillet and crack in a few eggs for a quick meal.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other fast protein options. Try keeping a pound or so of ground meat around in the freezer at all times. Or make sure you always have a can of salmon ready to transform into an emergency curry just by warming it up with some coconut milk and spices.
For quick snacks, instead of hard-boiled eggs, stock up on individual packets of tuna or cans of sardines. Another tasty and easy snack is chicken drumsticks: just cook up a big batch of your favorite recipe and keep those in the fridge where you’d normally keep hard-boiled eggs.
Will I be Deficient in Anything?
As well as their culinary uses, eggs are extremely nutritious. Here’s a list of nutrients in eggs, together with some non-egg sources to include in your diet:
- Healthy saturated fat: red meat or animal fat.
- Essential fatty acids (Omega-3s: EPA and DHA): fish and seafood.
- Vitamin A: liver or other organ meats; you can also get a precursor form called beta-carotene in any orange vegetable.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): spinach, dairy products (if you tolerate them well), mushrooms, and many other vegetables.
- Vitamin B12: any kind of red meat or other animal products.
- Vitamin K2: organ meat and pastured butter.
- Choline: any kind of meat, especially seafood and poultry.
- Phosphorus: red meat and dairy products.
- Selenium: fish or seafood; Brazil nuts.
There’s a lot of good stuff in an egg – but there’s nothing that’s only in eggs. If you’re eating whole foods, plenty of pasture-raised animal products, and enough vegetables, you shouldn’t have any trouble meeting your nutrient needs without an egg passing your lips.
Summing it Up
An egg allergy or intolerance adds an initial level of difficulty on top of the switch to Paleo. But there’s no nutritional reason why you have to eat eggs specifically, and there’s a workaround for everything – yes, even breakfast! So if an egg allergy is your concern, don’t let it stop you from enjoying the benefits of Paleo: scramble up some breakfast sausage and enjoy.