Health-Friendly Food Swaps

Here are some Health-friendly food swaps that allow you to enjoy your favorite meals while adhering to the anti-inflammatory diet. 

Grain Substitutes

Grains are not allowed on the diet, but there are plenty of alternatives to help you create delicious and satisfying meals:

  • Cauliflower rice: Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor or grate them to create a rice-like texture. Use cauliflower rice as a substitute for traditional rice in dishes like stir-fries, sushi rolls, or burrito bowls.
  • Spaghetti squash: Roast spaghetti squash and use a fork to separate the strands, creating a noodle-like texture. Use spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta in dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo.
  • Zucchini noodles: Create zucchini noodles using a spiralizer, julienne peeler, or vegetable peeler. Use these “zoodles” in place of pasta in dishes like shrimp scampi or marinara.
  • Sweet potato noodles: Similar to zucchini noodles, you can spiralize sweet potatoes to create a nutritious and filling noodle substitute for pasta dishes.
  • Plantain chips: Thinly slice plantains and bake or fry them until crispy to create a grain-free alternative to crackers or chips.
  • Nut and seed-based crackers: Make your own grain-free crackers using almond flour, flaxseed meal, or a combination of nuts and seeds.

Dairy Substitutes

Dairy products are not allowed on the diet, but there are several dairy-free alternatives you can use to replace milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy-based ingredients. Here are some popular dairy substitutes for the diet:

  • Coconut milk: Coconut milk is another dairy-free milk alternative that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Full-fat coconut milk is a great substitute for heavy cream in soups, sauces, and curries.
  • Coconut cream: This thick, creamy part of coconut milk can be used as a substitute for whipped cream, sour cream, or yogurt in recipes. Chill a can of full-fat coconut milk and scoop out the hardened cream on top to use in your dishes.
  • Ghee or coconut oil: Replace butter with ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil in cooking and baking. While ghee is derived from dairy, the milk solids are removed during the clarification process, making it suitable for most people following the diet.
  • Nutritional yeast: Sprinkle nutritional yeast on dishes to add a cheesy flavor without using dairy. This deactivated yeast is a great source of B vitamins and provides a savory, umami taste to foods.
  • Cashew cheese: Blend soaked cashews with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and seasonings to create a creamy, dairy-free cheese substitute for spreads, dips, or sauces.
  • Avocado: Use mashed avocado as a dairy-free alternative to butter or mayonnaise in sandwiches, wraps, or as a topping for baked potatoes.

Legume Substitutes

Consider these alternatives for added protein and texture in your meals:

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds can add crunch and protein to salads or be used as a snack.
  • Vegetables: Use diced or mashed vegetables, such as mushrooms or eggplant, to replace beans in dishes like chili or tacos.
  • Ground meat or poultry: Substitute ground beef, chicken, or turkey for beans in recipes like taco fillings or stuffed peppers.

Sweetener Substitutes

While refined sugars and artificial sweeteners are not allowed on the diet, there are several natural sweeteners that can be used in moderation to add a touch of sweetness to your dishes. Here are some popular health-friendly sweetener substitutes:

  • Raw honey: Honey is a natural sweetener that can be used in moderation in recipes, beverages, or as a topping for fruits and baked goods. Opt for raw, unprocessed honey to get the most nutrients and beneficial enzymes.
  • Pure maple syrup: Maple syrup, preferably in its pure form without added sugars or artificial ingredients, can be used as a sweetener for recipes, pancakes, or as a drizzle for fruits and nuts.
  • Dates: Dates are a natural source of sweetness and can be used in recipes for energy bars, baked goods, or as a binding agent. You can also make date paste by blending soaked dates with water for a smooth, sweet spread or sauce.
  • Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener derived from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar and can be used in baking or as a 1:1 substitute for granulated sugar in recipes.
  • Fresh fruit: Use fresh fruit or fruit purees to naturally sweeten smoothies, baked goods, or yogurt alternatives. Berries, bananas, apples, and pears are all great options for adding a touch of natural sweetness to your dishes.
  • Stevia: While stevia is a more processed sweetener, it is derived from a natural plant source and can be used in moderation on the diet. Opt for pure, organic stevia without added ingredients or fillers.
  • Blackstrap molasses: Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refining process and is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Use it sparingly in recipes for a deep, rich sweetness.

Potato Substitutes

While white potatoes are often debated in this community, you can opt for these alternatives to diversify your meals and add more nutrients:

  • Sweet potatoes: Use sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes for dishes like fries, casseroles, or mashed potatoes.
  • Turnips or rutabagas: Roast or mash turnips or rutabagas for a lower-carb alternative to potatoes in dishes like hash or gratin.
  • Parsnips: Cook parsnips as a substitute for potatoes in recipes like roasted vegetables or purees.

Bread Substitutes

Traditional bread is not allowed on the diet due to its grain content. However, there are several grain-free alternatives that can be used to replace bread in your meals. Here are some popular bread substitutes for the diet:

  • Grain-free bread: Make your own grain-free bread using almond flour or coconut flour, eggs, and other health-friendly ingredients. There are various recipes available online for sandwich bread, baguettes, or rolls.
  • Lettuce wraps: Instead of using bread for sandwiches or burgers, use large lettuce leaves to wrap your fillings. Romaine, iceberg, or butter lettuce work well for this purpose.
  • Collard greens: Use large collard green leaves as a wrap for sandwich fillings, tacos, or burritos. Blanch the leaves briefly in boiling water to make them more pliable.
  • Portobello mushrooms: Use grilled Portobello mushroom caps as a grain-free alternative to burger buns or sandwich bread.
  • Sweet potato “toast”: Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices and toast them in a toaster, toaster oven, or on a grill until cooked through and slightly crispy. 
  • Almond or coconut flour tortillas: Make your own tortillas using almond or coconut flour, eggs, and other ingredients. Use these tortillas for wraps, tacos, or enchiladas.
  • Egg “muffins” or frittatas: Make mini egg-based muffins or frittatas with your choice of vegetables, meats, and seasonings. These can serve as a portable, bread-free alternative for breakfast or snacks.
  • Cauliflower “breadsticks” or pizza crust: Create a cauliflower-based dough by combining cauliflower rice, egg, and almond flour. Shape into breadsticks or pizza crust and bake until golden and firm.

Flour Based Thickeners Substitutes

Traditional flour-based thickeners are not allowed on the diet, as they are derived from grains. However, there are several grain-free alternatives that can be used as thickeners in soups, stews, sauces, and gravies. 

  • Arrowroot powder: Arrowroot powder is a starchy, grain-free flour made from the root of the arrowroot plant. It works well as a thickener in sauces, gravies, and pie fillings. Mix it with a little cold water before adding it to your hot liquid to avoid clumping.
  • Tapioca starch: Tapioca starch, also known as tapioca flour, is derived from the cassava root. It can be used as a thickener in a similar manner to arrowroot powder. Mix it with cold water before adding it to your hot liquid.
  • Coconut flour: Coconut flour can be used as a thickener in small quantities, as it absorbs liquid very quickly. Be cautious when using coconut flour, as adding too much can result in a gritty texture.
  • Gelatin: Unflavored gelatin can be used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. Dissolve the gelatin in cold water and then add it to the hot liquid. Keep in mind that gelatin will set as it cools, so it’s best used in recipes that will be served warm or reheated.
  • Agar-agar: Agar-agar is a plant-based thickener derived from seaweed, making it a suitable option for vegetarians and vegans. It can be used similarly to gelatin but has a stronger thickening power.
  • Almond flour: In some cases, almond flour can be used as a thickener, particularly for roux-based sauces. However, it may result in a slightly grainy texture compared to traditional wheat flour.
  • Vegetable purees: Pureed vegetables, such as cauliflower or cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, can be used as a thickener for soups and stews. This adds extra nutrients and flavor to the dish while thickening the liquid.
  • Reduction: In some cases, simply reducing the liquid by simmering it until it reaches the desired consistency can be an effective way to thicken a sauce or stew without the need for a thickening agent.

Condiment Substitutes

Many store-bought condiments contain added sugars, preservatives, or other inflammatory ingredients. However, there are alternatives and homemade options that can be used to replace these condiments. 

  • Mayonnaise: Make your own mayonnaise using avocado oil or light olive oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, and mustard. Y
  • Ketchup: Make your own ketchup using tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey or maple syrup, and seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, and ground allspice. 
  • Mustard: Most plain yellow or Dijon mustards are fine as they contain minimal ingredients. Check the label to ensure there are no added sugars or artificial ingredients.
  • Hot sauce: Many hot sauces are fine, but it’s important to read labels and avoid those with added sugars, artificial preservatives, or thickeners. Alternatively, make your own hot sauce using fresh or dried chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and other seasonings.
  • Pesto: Make your own pesto using fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. Omit the traditional Parmesan cheese or replace it with nutritional yeast.
  • Salad dressings: Make your own salad dressings using olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs and spices. Some examples include balsamic vinaigrette, lemon-tahini dressing, or cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
  • Salsa: Fresh, homemade salsa made with tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice is a popular condiment. Many store-made salsas are also fine, but read labels to ensure there are no added sugars or artificial ingredients.
  • Guacamole: Homemade guacamole made with ripe avocados, lime juice, garlic, onion, and seasonings is a delicious and healthy condiment.
  • Coconut aminos: Use coconut aminos as a substitute for soy sauce or tamari in recipes, marinades, or dipping sauces. Coconut aminos are made from the sap of the coconut tree and have a slightly sweeter taste than soy sauce.

Peanut Butter Substitute

Peanut butter is not allowed on the diet because peanuts are classified as legumes rather than nuts. However, there are several nut and seed butter alternatives that can be used as a substitute for peanut butter. Consume these in moderation only as they can be inflammatory in excess. 

  • Almond butter: Made from ground almonds, almond butter has a creamy texture and a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It can be used as a direct substitute for peanut butter in recipes or as a spread.
  • Cashew butter: Cashew butter is made from ground cashews and has a smooth, creamy texture with a naturally sweet flavor. It is a great alternative to peanut butter for sandwiches, snacks, or in recipes.
  • Sunflower seed butter: Sunflower seed butter is made from ground sunflower seeds and has a slightly earthy flavor. It is a nut-free option that is suitable for those with nut allergies and works well as a substitute for peanut butter.
  • Hazelnut butter: Hazelnut butter is made from ground hazelnuts and has a rich, slightly sweet flavor. It can be used in place of peanut butter, although it has a slightly different taste.
  • Macadamia nut butter: Macadamia nut butter is made from ground macadamia nuts and has a rich, buttery flavor. It can be used as a substitute for peanut butter, although it may be a little harder to find in stores.
  • Pecan butter: Pecan butter is made from ground pecans and has a naturally sweet, slightly earthy flavor. It is less common than other nut butter options but can be used as a substitute for peanut butter.
  • Walnut butter: Walnut butter is made from ground walnuts and has a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. It can be used in place of peanut butter, but its taste may not be as universally appealing.
  • Pumpkin seed butter: Pumpkin seed butter is made from ground pumpkin seeds and has a distinct, earthy flavor. It is a nut-free option that can be used as a substitute for peanut butter.

Rice Noodle Substitute

There are several grain-free alternatives to rice noodles that can be used on the diet. These substitutes can still provide the texture and satisfaction of noodles without the grains. 

  • Zucchini noodles (zoodles): Use a spiralizer or a julienne peeler to create thin noodle-like strands from zucchini. Zoodles can be eaten raw, sautéed, or briefly boiled to achieve your desired texture.
  • Spaghetti squash: When cooked, the flesh of spaghetti squash can be easily shredded into noodle-like strands with a fork. Roast or steam the squash, then scrape out the strands to use as a noodle substitute.
  • Sweet potato noodles: Use a spiralizer or a julienne peeler to create noodles from sweet potatoes. Cook the sweet potato noodles in boiling water for a few minutes or sauté them until tender.
  • Carrot noodles: Create noodles from carrots using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. Carrot noodles can be eaten raw, sautéed, or briefly boiled, depending on your preference.
  • Cucumber noodles: Use a spiralizer or a julienne peeler to create noodles from cucumbers. Cucumber noodles are best eaten raw and work well as a base for cold noodle salads.
  • Kelp noodles: Kelp noodles are made from the edible seaweed kelp and are naturally gluten-free and grain-free. They have a slightly crunchy texture and can be used straight from the package or soaked in water to soften.
  • Shirataki noodles: Shirataki noodles, also known as konjac or miracle noodles, are made from the konjac yam and are low in calories and carbohydrates. They have a similar texture to rice noodles and can be used in soups, stir-fries, or as a pasta substitute.
  • Cabbage: Thinly sliced cabbage can be used as a noodle substitute in stir-fries or other dishes. Sauté or steam the cabbage until it reaches your desired tenderness.

Ice Cream & Sweets Substitute

While traditional ice cream and sweets are not allowed on the diet, there are several alternatives that can satisfy your sweet tooth without straying from the guidelines of the eating plan. 

  • Banana Ice Cream: Blend frozen bananas in a food processor or high-powered blender until creamy. You can also add cocoa powder or vanilla extract for additional flavor.
  • Coconut Milk Ice Cream: Make ice cream using full-fat coconut milk, sweeteners like raw honey or pure maple syrup, and flavorings like vanilla extract or cocoa powder. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker or freeze in a shallow container, stirring every 30 minutes until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Fruit Sorbet: Blend frozen fruit, such as berries or mango, with a small amount of water or fruit juice until smooth. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup if desired, and freeze until firm.
  • Chocolate Avocado Mousse: Blend ripe avocados, cocoa powder, a sweetener like raw honey or pure maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until chilled, and enjoy as a rich and satisfying dessert.
  • Fruit and Nut Bars: Combine nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and a sweetener like honey or maple syrup to create homemade fruit and nut bars. Press the mixture into a lined baking dish, refrigerate until firm, and then cut into bars.
  • Coconut Macaroons: Make coconut macaroons by combining unsweetened shredded coconut, egg whites, honey, and vanilla extract. Bake until lightly golden and enjoy as a sweet treat.
  • Chia Seed Pudding: Combine chia seeds with almond milk or coconut milk and let the mixture sit for a few hours or overnight to thicken. Add sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia and flavorings like vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or fruit.
  • Dark Chocolate: Choose high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher, ensuring that it is free from dairy and added sugars. Enjoy in moderation as a treat.
  • Fruit Salad: Create a refreshing fruit salad using a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits. Drizzle with honey or serve with a dollop of coconut whipped cream for added indulgence.

Tortilla Substitute

Traditional tortillas are typically made with wheat or corn flour, both of which are not allowed on the diet. However, there are several grain-free alternatives that can be used as tortilla substitutes while still providing the flexibility and texture of traditional tortillas.

  • Almond flour tortillas: Combine almond flour, tapioca flour, and water to create a tortilla dough. Roll out the dough into thin rounds and cook in a non-stick skillet until slightly golden.
  • Coconut flour tortillas: Mix coconut flour, tapioca flour, and eggs to create a tortilla dough. Roll out the dough into thin rounds and cook in a non-stick skillet until lightly browned.
  • Cassava flour tortillas: Combine cassava flour, water, and a bit of oil to make a tortilla dough. Roll out the dough into thin rounds and cook in a non-stick skillet until slightly golden.
  • Lettuce or cabbage wraps: Use large lettuce or cabbage leaves as a low-carb, grain-free alternative to tortillas. Fill the leaves with your choice of meat, vegetables, and condiments, and fold or roll to create a wrap.
  • Collard green wraps: Remove the thick stems from large collard green leaves and blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few seconds to make them pliable. Pat dry and use the leaves as a wrap for your choice of fillings.
  • Egg wraps: Whisk eggs and pour a thin layer into a non-stick skillet, swirling to create a thin, crepe-like wrap. Cook until set and use as a wrap for your desired fillings.
  • Nori seaweed wraps: Use sheets of nori seaweed as a unique tortilla substitute. Fill the nori with your choice of ingredients, then roll and slice like sushi or fold like a wrap.


Regular pizza crust is not allowed on the diet, but you can still enjoy a delicious pizza night with this alternative:

  • Sweet potato pizza crust: Make a pizza crust using mashed sweet potatoes, almond flour, and egg for a nutrient-dense and tasty base.
  • Almond flour or coconut flour pizza crust: Combine almond or coconut flour with eggs and seasonings to create a grain-free pizza crust.
  • Meatza (meat crust): For a protein-packed twist, use ground meat, such as beef or chicken, mixed with seasonings as the pizza crust. Be sure to cook the meat thoroughly before adding toppings and finishing in the oven.

While traditional dairy-based cheese is not allowed on the diet, there are a few alternatives that can be used to replace cheese on a pizza. Here are some options to consider:

  • Nut-based cheese: Cashew cheese is a popular alternative. To make cashew cheese, soak raw cashews in water for a few hours, then drain and rinse. Blend the soaked cashews with water, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast (optional) until smooth and creamy. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to taste. You can spread this cashew cheese on your pizza crust before adding toppings and baking.
  • Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that has a cheesy, nutty flavor. You can sprinkle nutritional yeast on your pizza toppings to add a cheese-like flavor. While it doesn’t melt like traditional cheese, it can add a savory element to your pizza.
  • Egg-based cheese substitute: Whisk eggs with a small amount of coconut milk or almond milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour a thin layer of the egg mixture onto a non-stick skillet and cook until set. Cut the cooked egg into small pieces or strips and use it as a cheese substitute on your pizza. While it won’t melt like traditional cheese, the egg will provide a creamy texture and additional protein.