Just Starting Paleo? 8 Easy Paleo Swaps

Paleo Options When you’re first starting a Paleo (or a grain-free, legume-free, mostly dairy-free) lifestyle, it can be hard to let go of some of your favorite staples.

Milk in your coffee.

Bread with your dinner.

Any quick snack you used to grab on the go.

But there are ways to follow a Paleo Lifestyle and feel satisfied. In fact, you might feel so good without some of your old favorite staples that you stop craving them altogether.

Here are a few of my favorite “Paleo-friendly” counterparts for the most popular staples in the Standard American Diet.

Instead of milk or half and half in your coffee, try coconut milk or unsalted butter.

e8778d76631811e2ad1922000a1cbd31_7 I use full fat, canned coconut milk in my coffee most days, and unsalted Kerrygold butter on other days. The butter and/or coconut milk cuts the bitter taste of the coffee AND give you some delicious healthy fats and nutrients in the process.

Instead of bread with dinner, try a sweet potato or other starchy vegetable.

sweet potato When I used to eat bread with my dinner, it was because I was looking for that “something else.” That dense, filling thing that was going to make my meal more satisfying. These days, instead of reaching for bread, I go for the starchy veggies, like sweet potatoes and winter squash. They add some substance to my meat and veggie meals and help make my meals more satisfying.

Instead of a granola bar, try a piece of fruit with nut butter or a homemade Larabar.

dscn3077 When you start a Paleo lifestyle, you might have to look harder for snacks. Grabbing a granola bar usually isn’t an option any more. Stock your kitchen with fresh fruit and nut butter, or make some homemade larabar treats that you can grab and go. Preparation is essential when first starting out, so make sure you have some quick and easy snacks to grab.

Instead of sandwich bread, try a big green leaf.

IMG_3005_1 I love me some sandwich guts…the insides of a sandwich, sans bread. Wrapping your usual sandwich guts in a big leaf–like a Swiss Chard leaf, or Romaine lettuce leaf– is a great way to make your sandwich guts more portable. You can even use leaves in the place of tortillas for things like tacos or fajitas.

Instead of milk chocolate, try dark chocolate.

choc Yes, chocolate has health benefits. Especially the dark kind. The darker the better.  Switch out your milk chocolate for some delicious dark chocolate. You’ll get the benefits of less sugar, more magnesium and a healthily satisfied sugar craving.

Instead of pasta, try spaghetti squash.

pesto Back in my wheat-eating days, pasta was always a vessel for sauce. I think you’ll find that spaghetti squash is a amazing alternative. It has a mild squashy flavor that complements most anything that you top it with. Including garlicky kale pesto.

Instead of peanut butter, try almond butter.

img_0458 Peanut butter is definitely one of the harder things to give up (at least for me it was), but it can sometimes cause more harm than good. Almond butter and sunflower seed butter are great substitutes to try on fresh fruit and in smoothies.

Instead of soda, try seltzer or kombucha.

IMG_3281_1 Need a bubbly beverage? Experiment with plain or flavored seltzer waters, or try some kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea with probiotics and detoxifying properties. It’s an acquired taste for some, but definitely worth experimenting.

 For you Paleo newbies, what foods have you been missing most?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

For you Paleo oldies, what “paleo-friendly” substitutions have you made?


20 Responses to Just Starting Paleo? 8 Easy Paleo Swaps

  1. Janelle October 22, 2013 at 11:41 AM #

    Love this post – thanks!

  2. Melanie October 29, 2013 at 2:56 AM #

    Dehydrated bananas, kale chips, roasted pumpkin seeds are great substitutes for chips/crackers

    • Allison October 29, 2013 at 7:58 AM #

      Awesome, Melanie! Thanks for sharing. I totally forgot about kale chips! My usual chip substitute is plantain chips…which are SO good!

  3. Lisa L. October 29, 2013 at 11:29 PM #

    Nuts for snacks such as almonds or cashews. Yum. Lots of water will make you feel better and more full. Apples and almond butter.

  4. juliagarfield October 30, 2013 at 12:46 AM #

    plantain in many forms – steamed, boiled, sauteed, baked, mushed up and made into pancakes….

  5. Melissa Seibel October 31, 2013 at 8:18 AM #

    Thank you for some new ideas! While I never considered myself as following a paleo diet until I started reading your posts. I have avoided milk my whole life because of intolerance issues and had to take gluten out of my diet this year. Most of the potlucks at work are pretty much out for me, but on my new team I have a coworker who follows the paleo diet and a boss who was diagnosed with celiac disease so I put together a spaghetti squash lasagna for today. I’m excited to see the reactions from the rest of my team.

    • Jacqueline November 4, 2013 at 7:20 PM #

      Hi, Melissa – Do you care to share the spaghetti squash lasagna recipe?

  6. Lorilea Linton October 31, 2013 at 10:46 AM #

    Very helpful!!! The first two weeks of Paleo a grilled cheese sandwich was my major craving… might have killed someone for it! And ice cream ? switch to Luna and Larry’s coconut bliss yummmy!!!

    • Allison October 31, 2013 at 12:09 PM #

      So cool, Lorilea! One of my favorite cold, sweet Paleo treats is banana “ice cream” I put a frozen banana in the blender with some cocoa powder and blend until it’s creamy…surprisingly delicious. Here is a great resource for other “paleo” ice cream recipes: http://www.paleoicecreamrecipes.com/

  7. Lori October 31, 2013 at 10:28 PM #

    I do most of these except I do not drink coffee (never liked it) and haven’t tried Kombucha- yet. Good suggestions. I go back and forth with eating or not eating grains but have found that I definitely feel better when I minimize or leave them out. Our body sends us messages if only we will listen. Thanks for the tips!

    • Allison November 1, 2013 at 8:59 AM #

      You’re welcome, Lori! Thanks for stopping by 😉

  8. Aubrey Marie November 5, 2013 at 7:10 AM #

    Now that winter is coming, I miss homemade egg noodles the most!

    • Allison November 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM #

      Hi Aubrey! I just did some googling and found a recipe that might be a good substitute for your egg noodles! It looks kind of involved, BUT the end result looks absolutely delicious! http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html

      • Aubrey Marie November 6, 2013 at 7:07 AM #

        Thanks! I will have to try it someday. 🙂

  9. Janine November 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM #

    I love dry frying pumpkin seeds over a high heat with a little Himalayan salt. I used to add a splash of Soy Sauce but am struggling to find a paleo alternative to this versatile liquid?? I’m UK based & sometimes not everything is available here. I still can’t give up my daily milky coffee, any suggestions???

    • Allison November 5, 2013 at 12:01 PM #

      Hey Janine! Coconut Aminos are a GREAT soy sauce substitute! I use it in all of my asian recipes and when I have the occasional sushi– and I can’t tell the difference!

      I buy mine on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/12yI8NH

      Hmm…for the milky coffee: have you tried coconut milk? I’ve found it cuts the bitterness and doesn’t taste too too much like coconut. The other option could be some heavy cream (depending on if dairy works for you or not). Heavy cream from grass-fed cows has some really great fat soluble vitamins. If you can get raw milk, that would be awesome too!

  10. Cathy November 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM #

    Such great tips to maintain sanity while adhering to a Paleo diet. These are great ideas even for people not involved in a Paleo lifestyle. I will definitely be incorporating some of these substitutions in my daily life. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Jan October 31, 2015 at 1:41 PM #

    Do you have a good cheese substitute?

    • Allison November 1, 2015 at 3:50 PM #

      Hi Jan!

      Thanks for reaching out. Cheese is a tough one! I’d have to know when you usually eat it and what you typically use it for to make a really good recommendation. In general, I find that when one’s craving cheese, you’re actually looking for healthy fats– so adding foods like avocado with a little olive oil to a salad, or having a snack of some nuts and coconut flakes, or even cooking in butter/coconut oil/ghee can help with the cheese cravings.

      If you’re looking to get that cheese flavor, you can always try nutritional yeast. It’s in a lot of vegan recipes because it adds a savoriness to foods and has a somewhat cheesy flavor. There’s also a company called Kite Hill that sells their almond milk cheeses exclusively at Whole Foods. http://www.kitehill.com feel free to email if you have other questions! Allison@friskylemon.com


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