Allison M
5 min readOct 8, 2019

by Allison Manzi

Small diet changes can quickly add-up to big weight loss results and improved health, and it’s a great place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a lifestyle overhaul. However, we tend to remove certain food categories instead of looking at the quality of food. For example, we remove animal products, but swap them out with processed, high-sugar, artificial “vegan” alternates. Or maybe we go “no-sugar” and end up selecting alternatives with harsh artificial sweeteners or hydrogenated oils (bad fats) and we’re left bewildered by our stalled scale number. I have a few favorite tried-and-true whole food swaps that are even better for you than their famed founding father. Plus, they taste just as good (if not better, in my opinion). For some reason, I always find actual food from the earth to have a special je ne sais quoi that lab experiments just can’t seem to get right.

Fan Fave: Soft Cheese
New Boo: Soaked Cashews
You’ll hear this more than once here, soaked raw cashews are one of the magical gems that can actually compare to the rich creamy texture of dairy. I’ve used this as ricotta in Paleo Lasagna and I’ve also made an earth-shattering Vegan cheesecake. Yea, I know.

Soak raw cashews overnight, strain and blend until pureed. Add lemon juice, salt, a little nutritional yeast, and desired seasoning per dish for savory versions, a little less lemon juice and some raw honey or maple syrup for sweet. Yes, it’s normal that you’re turned on right now.

Fan Fave: Heavy Cream/ Whole Milk
New Boo: Full Fat Coconut Milk/ Coconut Milk Beverage
This may be old news, but a lot of dairy alternatives (cough-cough, soy milk) aren’t ideal either! Plus, if you’ve tried almond milk, you know it has a VERY strong almond flavor that might deter you from making the swap. Coconut milk is super subtle, and it has great nutritional value. Medium chain fatty acids (Yay! Just trust me), magnesium, potassium, zinc… natures version of emergen-c.

You can opt for full fat organic in the can for cooking/heavy cream swap outs and the beverage version for things like cereal and coffee. Depending on which “beverage” product you have available, you may have to sacrifice for a few extra ingredients. Try for organic!

Fan Fave: Wheat Pasta
New Boo: Chickpea pasta
Self explanatory. This used to be a rare gem I’d have to hunt for but it’s become quite mainstream! There’s much more protein and fiber from the lovely bean, and most importantly, we don’t have to suffer the damaging effects of wheat in our bellies! A little FYI, humans can’t digest wheat the way it comes from the earth, it has to go through a factory before we can consume it. Does that tell you anything? Weight loss goal or not, do yourself a favor.

You can rock with a classic tomato sauce, a vegan pesto, or my personal fave: healthy fat heaven. Puree avocado, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, a little lemon juice and whatever else your heart desire! The flavors of avocado and cashew are very neutral so play around with your favorite creamy-sauce companions. Forgo the avocado and up the nutritional yeast and lemon juice for a sneaky mac-and-cheese swap-out.

Fan Fave: Hamburger
New Boo: Mushrooms and Lentils
Ok, so this swap isn’t exactly the same. But equally delicious on its own. It’s best to approach food swaps as their own flavor, instead of comparing to the original and setting yourself up for disappointment. You’re not having hamburger substitute, you having mushroom tacos. Enjoy them for their own taste! If you can’t break up with beef off the bat, you can try substituting half the serving portion for the healthy alternative. You’ll still get the goodness you love, but with half the calories, fat, and potential GMOs or hormones.

Use cooked lentils and raw mushrooms for this concoction. I chop them up together in the food processor before I throw them in the pan. This will give you the most similar texture and appearance. Add whatever seasonings and goodies you like! My go-to is the organic Fajita Mix packets from Whole Foods.

Fan Fave: Dairy Ice Cream
New Boo: Frozen Banana
This oldie but goodie has been a vegan staple for quite a while, and for good reason! This is my absolute favorite swap, since it tastes even better than dairy ice cream. Plus, you have plenty of wiggle room to make it just like your favorite flavor! Nuts, fruit, cacao nibs, gummy bears, you name it. The world is your banana.

Frozen bananas, some all natural nut butter of your choosing, some organic coconut milk, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder all go into the food processor. That’s it! If you like it thinner, add more coconut milk or a bit of water.

Fan Fave: Wheat Pancakes
New Boo: Plantain Cakes
You can send me your thank you notes later, this one is a god send. I mean, who doesn’t like pancakes? These wholesome hotcakes will give you vitamins and minerals that wheat lacks, and will spare you the tummy pain and gluten responses. These powerful plantains can jump into other bread-like recipes, too. Be creative! I’ve nailed tortillas, sandwich bread, and even muffins. I’d share the recipe but I made it up as I went. I like to add a drizzle of honey and some nut butter on top. Glory be.

You’ll have to play with the consistency a bit to find the texture you like, just like regular pancakes. Opt for the yellow plantains for sweeter breads and the green sort for savory. I puree one plantain with a 6 tablespoons of chickpea flour, and or coconut flour, about 2 tbs of baking soda, a dash of salt, and 2 eggs. Cook on low heat and be patient! They take longer to cook than regular wheat pancakes.

Don’t be afraid to play! Start interjecting these super-foods into other recipes. It’s much easier to eat well when you actually enjoy your food! Nobody wants to stick to a diet if it only consists of carrot sticks and lettuce. And who can blame them? Learn to love your food again, and these healthy substitutions will feel more like privilege than punishment. Happy snacking!



Allison M

Holistic Wellness Expert: Certified Coach in Habit Change, Functional Nutrition, Cognitive Behavior, Achievement Psychology, and Therapeutic Exercise.