Healthy Food Swaps For Any Dietary Requirement

Healthy Food Swaps For Any Dietary Requirement

Adapting your diet to live a healthier lifestyle and cooking and baking healthy recipes and catering for different allergy and dietary requirements doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. Here is a list of 20 healthy food and drink swaps for any allergy and dietary need to make meal prep and cooking and baking recipes easier. Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, grain-free, oil-free, refined sugar free, vegan, autoimmune protocol (AIP), paleo & whole30 options.

Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to implement these switches. Please consult a qualified practitioner before making these swaps or changing your current diet. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you I earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. See my full disclaimer here.

 

Altering your diet to avoid inflammatory foods like refined sugar, food allergies/sensitivities like gluten, dairy, nuts or grains, or doing an elimination diet like the autoimmune protocol (AIP) can feel overwhelming and restrictive. It can leave you wondering what foods you are able to eat and cook and bake with. Below are 20 simple healthy food and drink swaps that caters for any allergy and dietary requirement to help make the transition process easier.

 

Food Substitutes

Healthy Food Swaps 1). Replace rice with carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, parsnip, swede or sweet potato rice.

Rice is a grain, which can be a common food sensitivity and are eliminated on the paleo, whole30 and autoimmune protocol (AIP) diets. Unsprouted grains contain antinutrients like phytic acid, which can damage the gut and reduce the absorption of nutrients from the foods we consume. A simple substitute is to replace rice with cauliflower, celeriac, broccoli or parsnip rice, which can be made by pulsing them in a food processor (UK Link/US Link) until they resemble rice.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 2). Replace spaghetti with beetroot, courgette, cucumber, carrot, sweet potato or parsnip noodles

Like rice, spaghetti and alternatives like buckwheat spaghetti are grain products. Similarly, spaghetti and pasta grain-free alternatives made with red lentils, black beans and chickpeas are not suitable for those on the paleo, whole30 and autoimmune protocol (AIP) diets, as these beans and legumes also contain antinutrients, which can damage the gut and impair the absorption of nutrients.

A simple swap is to make beetroot, courgette, carrot, cucumber, parsnip or sweet potato into spaghetti/noodles using a spiralizer (UK Link/US Link). All are a good source of a range of vitamins and minerals and have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Healthy Food Swaps 3). Replace nuts with tiger nuts (UK Link/US Link)

Nuts are a common allergen and they also contain anti-nutrients, which can damage the gut and bind to the minerals from our food, preventing our bodies from absorbing them. So they’re also eliminated on the autoimmune protocol.

One simple alternative is tiger nuts (UK Link/US Link), which contrary to what the name suggests, are a root vegetable and not a nut.  They have a similar texture to nuts and can be eaten on their own as a snack, used to make trail mixes or granola with tiger nut flakes.

They are a good source of:- 

  • Resistant starch and fibre, which feeds the good bacteria in our gut, improving digestion and strengthening our immune system.
  • Potassium,
  • Magnesium,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Vitamin E and,
  • Omega 9 fats.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 4). Replace seeds with tiger nut crunch

Like with nuts, seeds are eliminated on diets like the autoimmune protocol as they are a common allergen/sensitivity and contain antinutrients. Tiger nut crunch can replace seeds in smoothies, baking products and for sprinkling over porridge.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 5). Replace oats with tiger nut flakes or processed apples and pears

For a grain-free option, oats can be replaced with tiger nut flakes, a root vegetable and not a nut contrary to what the name suggests. They resemble oats but have a crunchier texture. Alternatively, for porridge, you can process apples and pears in a food processor (UK Link/US Link) until they resemble oats, like in this Grain-Free Apple & Pear Porridge.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 6). Replace cacao and cocoa powder with carob powder (UK Link/US Link)

Cocoa powder contains caffeine, while cacao powder contains a stimulant called theobromine.  For those sensitive to caffeine and stimulants, for those with chronic illness like dysautonomia and POTS, where caffeine/stimulants may increase symptoms, and for those following the autoimmune protocol, one simple alternative is carob powder (UK Link/US Link).

Carob powder has a similar taste to chocolate, with the benefit of being:-

  • Caffeine and stimulant free,
  • Refined sugar free,
  • Lower in fat and, 
  • A great source of fibre, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins A and B.

It can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio in recipes like in this Oven Baked Carob “Chocolate” Pancake.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 7). Replace sugar with sweet freedom syrup or manuka honey

Refined granulated sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, feeds the bad bacteria in your gut and suppresses the immune system.  Whether you are looking to sweeten your tea or homemade baked products, refined granulated sugar can be replaced with sweet freedom fruit syrup. 

 

sugar alternative 1 – sweet freedom syrup (UK Link/US Link)

Sweet freedom syrup is:-

  • Made from natural fruit extracts, making it refined sugar free,
  • Contains less natural sugar than regular honey and agave syrup,
  • Has a low glycaemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels,
  • Naturally free from gluten, dairy, nuts, seeds, grains and suitable for vegans and vegetarians and those on the paleo and autoimmune protocol (AIP) diets.

 

sugar alternative 2 – manuka honey (UK Link/US Link)

Alternatively, unless vegan, manuka honey can also be used. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties, which supports the immune system.  Just make sure your manuka honey has a UMF/NPA of at least 10+ or MGO of 263, like Manuka Health’s, to achieve these medicinal benefits.

 

whole30 sugar alternative – medjool dates, banana or unsweetened apple sauce

Natural syrups and sweeteners are not allowed on the whole30 diet. Instead, medjool dates (UK Link/US Link) and bananas can be blended into drinks and bakes, with unsweetened apple sauce made of 100% apples, like Clearspring’s or Eden’s also being used in baked products.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 8). Replace milk with tiger nut milk or banana milk

Regular milk contains dairy, which is a common allergen and highly inflammatory, while the common plant based substitutes oat or nut milks are not suitable for those avoiding grains and nuts, like on the paleo, whole30 and autoimmune protocol AIP diets.

Tiger nut milk is a great plant based alternative, that is free from major allergens, and can be used in the same way as other milks: –

However, store bought tiger nut milk contains rice, which isn’t suitable for those avoiding grains and also has a high glycaemic index, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Fortunately, it is simple to make your own (click here for the recipe). Alternatively, banana milk can also be used, which like tiger nut milk can be made easily at home, by blending 1 banana with 1-2 cups of filtered water, depending on the consistency you want. 

 

Healthy Food Swaps 9). Replace processed meats, conventional meats and farmed fish with wild caught fish, organic grass-fed/pasture raised meat, jackfruit or banana blossom

  • Processed meats, such as bacon, salami, corned beef, hot dogs and jerky contain inflammatory preservatives and added sugar and salt.
  • Conventional meats (beef, chicken, turkey etc.) are produced using antibiotics and growth hormones, which enters our bodies when we consume them. Also, the animals are fed mainly grains, which are low in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats and contain a higher amount of omega 6 fats, which when consumed in excess increase inflammation.
  • Farmed fish contains a higher amount of toxic chemicals, saturated fat and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

 

non-vegan, non-vegetarian, autoimmune protocol, paleo and whole30 alternatives 

A healthier alternative is to switch to wild caught fish and organic grass-fed/pasture-raised meats – if pescatarian or avoiding meat on an elimination diet then use wild caught fish.  These are:-

  • Free from antibiotics and growth hormones,
  • Lower in omega 6 fats
  • Higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats.

 

Fish, especially oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines, is highest in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D and B12, which:-

  • Reduces inflammation,
  • Supports your immune system, and
  • Improves heart, brain and nervous system health.

It is recommended to limit the amount of red meat consumed, even grass fed, as it is high in saturated fat, which when consumed in excess can increase inflammation, feed the bad bacteria in the gut, suppressing our immune system and increases the risk of a range of illnesses (1).

 

vegan, vegetarian and plant based alternatives

For vegans, vegetarians and anyone not following the autoimmune protocol, paleo and whole30 diets, beans and legumes can be used for protein as a substitute for fish and meat. However, it is best to soak and sprout them in a sprouting jar (UK Link/US Link) before eating, like with these:-

 

Soaking and sprouting them has the following benefits:-

  • Removes antinutrients, which makes them easier to digest,
  • Maximises the protein, fibre, vitamin and mineral content
  • Increases the absorption of these nutrients.

sprouted chickpeas

 

protein alternatives for any dietary requirement

Protein alternatives, suitable for any dietary requirement, including vegans and vegetarians are:-

They can easily be substituted for fish, meat, beans and legumes, like in this Rainbow Nourish Bowl. However, some jackfruit and banana blossom contains inflammatory additives and preservatives. Instead, Biona’s jackfruit and banana blossom if you’re in the UK or Native Forest’s jackfruit and Nature’s Charm banana blossom if you’re in the US, are free from these inflammatory artificial ingredients, containing only jackfruit/banana blossom, sea salt, water and lime juice. 

 

Healthy Food Swaps 10). Replace vegetable, nut and seeds oils with olive oil or avocado oil

Whether being used as a salad dressing or for cooking, it is important to select oils which are lower in saturated fat and higher in healthy unsaturated fats.  Sunflower, corn, soybean, peanut, palm, sesame, grape seed and cottonseed oils are all low in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats and high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids, while palm oil is also highest in saturated fats.  Large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids, especially relative to omega 3 fatty acids, leads to chronic inflammation, while excessive saturated fat feeds the bad bacteria in your gut, which suppresses the immune system. 

You can replace these oils with:-

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (UK Link/US Link)

  • Contains the highest amount of healthy omega 9 fatty acids and is loaded with powerful antioxidants.
  • Has a lower smoke point (meaning the temperature it begins to break down and release free radicals which damage the body is low) so I avoid using it for cooking and baking and instead use it as a dressing for salads.

 

Avocado Oil (UK Link/US Link)

  • High in healthy fats, which help absorb vitamins from the food you eat.
  • Has a high smoke point so can be used for cooking and baking and salad dressings.

I buy the cold-pressed/extra virgin variety of these oils to ensure the oil is unprocessed to maximise the nutritional benefits.

 

oil-free alternative 

An oil-free alternative when frying or sautéing is to replace oil with 2 tablespoons of filtered water, adding more water as often as needed.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 11). Replace gravy/stock with bone broth or vegetable broth

Regular stocks and gravies may contain gluten and dairy, with even free-from products containing inflammatory added sugar, vegetable oils, preservatives, additives and emulsifiers.

 

non-vegan, non-vegetarian, autoimmune protocol, paleo and whole30 alternative

Bone broth is a great alternative as it is:-

  • Free from major allergens, preservatives and emulsifiers,
  • Autoimmune protocol, paleo and whole30 friendly,
  • Contains collagen, which helps heal and strengthen the gut lining, 
  • Contains numerous amino acids, like glycine and glutamine, which reduce inflammation and improve digestion.

Many bone broths contain spices like black pepper that are not suitable for the autoimmune protocol. Australian Bone Broth Company’s or Trader Joe’s are two that are autoimmune protocol friendly.

 

vegan and vegetarian alternative

Another simple substitute, suitable for vegans and vegetarians too, is Take Stock’s vegetable broth. It is 100% natural, containing only water, vegetables, herbs and spices, with no preservatives, additives, oils or added sugar.

However, it does contain tomato so isn’t suitable for those on the autoimmune protocol and those with avoiding nightshade vegetables. I am yet to find a ready made vegetable broth that is nightshade free and autoimmune protocol friendly. You can make your own using this recipe.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 12). Replace cheese with nutritional yeast (UK Link/US Link)

Cheese is a dairy product, which is a common allergy/sensitivity and cause of inflammation. Nutritional yeast (UK Link/US Link), which although has a different texture to cheese, can be used in its place to add a cheesy flavour to foods.

It is:-

  • Free from gluten, dairy, lactose, nuts, seeds and grains,
  • Vegan, vegetarian, autoimmune protocol, paleo and whole30 friendly,
  • High in B vitamins and minerals and
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids, all of which are necessary for digestion, nervous system function and energy production.

It can be used in place of grated cheese by being sprinkled over dishes like salads, spaghetti/pasta, pizzas and vegetable bakes and stirred into sauces, dips, stews, soups, risottos and casseroles. 

 

Healthy Food Swaps 13). Replace soy sauce with coconut aminos (UK Link/US Link)

Soy is a common allergen/sensitivity and can disrupt hormones. Soy sauce can be substituted with coconut aminos (UK Link/US Link) in a 1:1 ratio, which provides the same salty and savoury flavour as soy sauce without the health risks. Coconut aminos contains significantly less sodium than soy sauce, and has anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, which helps support the immune system.

 

Healthy Food Swaps 14). Replace cornstarch with arrowroot powder (UK Link/US Link)

Cornstarch is typically used to thicken sauces and gravies. For a grain-free, paleo, autoimmune protocol and whole30 option, it can be substituted with arrowroot powder (UK Link/US Link) in a 1:1 ratio.

Healthy Food Swaps 15). Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes

White potatoes are a nightshade, which are eliminated on certain diets like the autoimmune protocol, due to concerns their lectin content damages the gut.  One easy swap for mash, roasts and fries is to replace them with sweet potatoes, which are a great source of vitamin A, C and fibre. Swede, parsnip and celeriac can also be used as substitutes.

 

Baking Substitutes

Healthy Baking Swaps 1). Replace nutmeg with mace (UK Link/US Link)

Nutmeg is eliminated on the autoimmune protocol. A great substitute is mace (UK Link/US Link), which has a similar taste to nutmeg.

 

Healthy Baking Swaps 2). Replace eggs, butter and/or oil with mashed banana, unsweetened apple sauce, pumpkin puree or mashed sweet potato

Eggs are a common allergen/sensitivity, while butter contains dairy, with even dairy-free versions being high in saturated fat, which feeds the bad bacteria in our gut. For egg-free bakes, each egg can be replaced with 60 grams (1/4 cup):-

Butter and oil can also be substituted with the same 4 ingredients in a 1:1 ratio.

 

Healthy Baking Swaps 3). Replace flour with tiger nut, cassava, green banana, coconut flour or arrowroot powder

Plain or self-raising flour has little nutritional value, while oat, buckwheat, quinoa and almond flours are not suitable for those avoiding grains and nuts. Instead, you can use:-

All 5 flours are gluten-free, nut-free, grain-free and suitable for those on the paleo, whole30 and autoimmune protocol diets.  Tiger nut, cassava and green banana flour are a great source of resistant starch, while coconut flour (I use this in moderation due to the higher saturated fat content) is high in fibre, both of which improves digestion and gut health. For fat-free bakes, use green banana, cassava and arrowroot powder, like in these Wild Blueberry & Lemon Energy Balls

 

Drink Substitutes

Healthy Drink Swaps 1). Replace coffee with chicory (UK Link/US Link) or medicinal mushroom “coffee” (UK Link/US Link)

Caffeine can have a negative effect for some people:-

  • It increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system,
  • Stresses the adrenal glands, which can cause reduced energy and burn out,
  • Stimulates the nervous system, which can increase heart rate and symptoms for those with conditions, such as dysautonomia and POTS.

Coffee can be replaced with:-

Both are free from caffeine and stimulants.  Chicory has a similar taste to coffee and also helps to cleanse the liver and is a source of inulin fibre, which can improve digestion and feeds the good bacteria in the gut, helping to strengthen the immune system.

Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to increase energy and alertness (6). Therefore, it allows you to enjoy a drink with a similar taste to coffee and receive the same energy boost without the negative effects of caffeine.

 

Healthy drink swaps 2). replace regular tea with herbal teas

Like coffee, tea contains caffeine. However, there are many herbal teas which have numerous health benefits that can be consumed instead:-

  • Lemon balm (UK Link/US Link) – has anti-viral properties, reduces stress and anxiety and improves sleep.
  • Chamomile (UK Link/US Link) – helps you relax and improves sleep and digestion.
  • Peppermint (UK Link/US Link) – improves digestion and eases nausea.
  • Lemon and ginger (UK Link/US Link) – relieves nausea and boosts the immune system.
  • Milk thistle (UK Link/US Link) – improves liver function, helps remove toxins and boosts the immune system.
  • Dandelion root (UK Link/US Link) – helps liver function and improves digestion.
  • Burdock root (UK Link/US Link) – improves liver health and helps remove toxins from the body.
  • Turmeric (UK Link/US Link) – reduces inflammation.
  • Rooibos (UK Link/US Link) – high in antioxidants, which prevent healthy tissue cells being damaged.
  • Hibiscus (UK Link/US Link) – helps cleanse the liver, is a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C to support the immune system and protect the body from damage from free radicals.
  • Rosehips (UK Link/US Link) – rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which helps support our immune system.

 

herbal tea recipes

These teas can be combined into herbal tea blend recipes, like this:-

 

recipe blog posts

Click for recipes making use of these healthy food and drink swaps:-

 

other blog posts on health and wellness

Click to read my other blog posts with tips and strategies that are helping me improve my health and wellbeing:-

 

Other blog posts on chronic illness

Click to read my other blog posts with other tips and strategies that are helping me improve my health and manage chronic illness:-

 

contact me and follow me on social media

I hope these tips are helpful. What swaps have you made? Are there any substitutes I’ve missed? I’d love to know what benefits you. Leave me a comment below or message me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube.

 

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17 thoughts on “Healthy Food Swaps For Any Dietary Requirement”

  • What an interesting post. I have heard of most of these. I have never heard of tiger nuts. Now I need to see what they are.

    • Thank you Gloria. I hadn’t heard of tiger nuts either until a couple of years ago. I love them, I can’t believe they’re not more well known.

  • This is is such a big help for people who have allergens or intolerance. Ive never heard of tiger milk it sounds interesting to me. Sometimes I try to swap rice with cauliflower and Im back into eating more fruits again as snacks and will avoid biscuits.

    • Thank you very much Jean. I love tiger nut milk, it’s got a lovely sweet nutty flavour. That’s great you’ve made those swaps, I hope they’re helping you too.

  • What a thoroughly interesting and well researched post! You had me at tiger nuts! Never heard of them and made me want to read more. I’m certainly going to take on board some of your suggestions.

    • Thank you so much Marcellina! Very few people have heard of tiger nuts! I love them and prefer them to nuts now. Thank you, I’m glad you found it useful and I hope the suggestions help.

    • Thank you so much Mihaela, that really means a lot. I’m so glad it was helpful. I love carob powder, it’s the perfect chocolate substitute for me so I really hope you enjoy it too 🙂

  • Love this post Lucy. There’s so much helpful information in it. Lots of swaps I know about and use, but some are new to me. I’ve used arrowroot instead of cornstarch for years and it’s just as good as well as a lot healthier. Good to see tiger nuts getting plenty of coverage too 😀

    • Thank you so much Choclette, that really means a lot. I really appreciate your comment, I’m so glad these healthy food swaps were helpful. Like you, I’ve used arrowroot for many years, it’s just as good as any other option and like you said healthier. Yes, definitely got to keep promoting tiger nuts to get them more well known 🙂

  • These healthy food swaps are a smart choice for anyone who is on special dietary requirements. All those small and simple changes add up to make a big difference in our lives. Thank you for this informative and super helpful content!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Marinela, I really appreciate it. Small healthy changes really do add up to make a big difference in the long term. You’re welcome, thank you again, I’m so glad you found these healthy food swaps helpful!

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