Best Grain Alternatives (Grain-Free, Nutrient-Dense Foods)

What’s Inside: Trying out a gluten-free or Paleo diet? Grab my favorite grain alternatives that are nutrient-dense, easy, delicious, and AIP-friendly!

Best Grain Alternatives via Food by Mars (easy paleo meals, gluten-free)

How Going Grain-Free Could Solve Your Leaky Gut Issues

When I first tried a gluten-free diet, I remember first turning to the gluten-free foods like bread, pasta, and all the other GF products out there. In other words, all the packaged carbs.

Only problem was that they were still processed with way too many ingredients and additives.

It’s a common pitfall to look for 1:1 replacement like this, especially for those of us raised on the Standard American Diet (aka, the SAD!), or for my international peeps, a diet highly comprised of processed foods and refined carbohydrates.

After feeling like these products still bothered me, I started getting serious in the kitchen, looking for and creating gluten-free recipes.

 
Bonus: Download The 20-minute AIP/Paleo Meal Prep System: Flexible Meals Everyone Will Love (Even The Picky Eaters)
 

I was initially open to trying this diet because I was ready to try anything in order to feel better and heal, especially struggling with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Disease and all the digestive issues that came along with it. That’s when I started learning more about how grains can be inflammatory and difficult to digest, further attributing to leaky gut. This motivated me to try out the Paleo diet, which on top of being gluten-free is also grain-free and focused on nutrient-dense foods. Score!

grain-free
Irish Lamb Stew with Paleo Soda Bread Biscuits

Grains Are Best Enjoyed in Moderation

At first, this new diet was fun, like any other new thing you might try. But it wasn’t long before I started to see the challenges that came with it. I was really missing some of my favorite foods like pasta, bread, cookies, and BAGELS, oh how I missed bagels. However, I knew I wanted to minimize my consumption of even the allergen-approved products or recipes.

Regardless of the ingredients, these foods tend to be eaten in excess, it’s just how we treat them! As people (especially as Americans), we are trained to habitually load up on these foods instead of enjoying them more occasionally. Enjoying them as a treat would, of course, do our bodies much good, making us more balanced and less likely to fall into the up-and-down roller coaster of cravings, binges, and restricting ourselves. 

I found the best way to moderate and balance in all of this was to make my whole food, grain alternatives the NORM. I needed to prioritize nutrient-dense foods at every turn and to try new things toe expand my palette.

Luckily for those of us on this grain-free journey, there are A LOT of options out there if you get just a teensy bit more creative than picking out a box in a supermarket. I promise it’s worth it.

Opting for nutrient-dense foods that are the closest to the earth as possible aren’t only the easiest option to digest, but they give us the greatest yield of benefits like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are living foods, as opposed to dead ones, like the processed junk many of us are trying to lean on less.

So if you want to feel FULL OF LIFE … you know what to do. 

chicken chili verde via Food by Mars (paleo, whole30, instant pot)
Instant Pot Chicken Chili Verde

Make Grain-Free Your New Normal

By crowding out the old staples that got us into feeling sick and tired with nutrient-dense whole foods, we will start to crave them less.

Better yet, we’ll start creating new healthier habits with smarter choices, and practicing this will take the guesswork and struggle out of it.

And when you’re absolutely jonesing for a baked good, I got you covered. Try my all-purpose Paleo flour, almond flour bagels, plantain chips, or flourless muffins among many other options on my blog. These are great options to enjoy here and there when we feel like it. And by making them at home ourselves, we can control what’s in them and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

For some of my favorite staples to have on hand for convenience and when entertaining, I’m also including a list below of some of my favorite gluten-free and grain-free brands that use high-quality ingredients.

Grains Aren’t the Enemy

I want to be clear, … grains are not the devil. Demonizing foods can get us into trouble! But in excess, they spike blood sugar throwing us off balance. They can also be inflammatory and difficult to digest, causing a slew of health problems.

Opening our worlds up to more healthy options that are both delicious and nutritious pushes us out of our comfort zones so we can explore new flavors and start to feel much better. Challenging the status quo can definitely feel uncomfortable, but that’s how we change and grow.

When I do enjoy grains on occasion, I opt for properly-prepared, sprouted and/or soaked because it’s much easier on digestion.

I hope this list of tasty options helps you on your journey toward cleaner eating! Happy substituting!


Homemade Grain-Free Meals

Check out my favorite grain-free dishes you can easily make in the comfort of home!

Sunflower Pad Thai (Paleo, Whole30)
An easy (mostly) raw dish swimming in a flavorful sauce! Using sunflower seed butter and coconut aminos instead of peanuts and soy – this dish is paleo and Whole30 approved.
Check out this recipe
Sunflower Seed Butter Pad Thai (paleo, whole30) via Food by Mars
Butternut Squash Lo Mein
This gluten-free, grain-free, and low carb lo mein will remind of you of your favorite takeout without all the questionable additives. Nothing beats homemade and you won’t even know you’re eating all veggies!
Check out this recipe
Gluten-Free Toast Swaps
These are the easiest veggie swaps to use in place of bread because you cook them in the toaster, just like toast! All it takes is some careful slicing, a few lever pushes, and you’re all set with a yummier, simple whole foods “toast”. Pile on the toppings or your favorite spreads – they make lovely appetizers too!
Check out this recipe
Paleo Carnitas Bowl (AIP, Grain-free)
Crispy pulled pork meets cilantro-lime cauli rice, tostones and heavenly guac for an epic bowl that's completely Paleo and AIP compliant! Everyone will love this cozy and flavorful dish.
Check out this recipe
Paleo Carnitas Bowl (Crispy Pulled Pork with Cauliflower Rice, Guac and Tostones) via Food by Mars
Puerto Rican Picadillo with Plantain “Rice” (Paleo, Whole30, AIP-friendly, Low FODMAP-friendly)
This Puerto Rican Hash is filled with delicious spices, sweet raisins and salty and briny olives making for a mega-flavorful dish! It’s traditionally served over white rice, but I was in the mood for plantains… so this dish has PLANTAIN RICE instead. 
Check out this recipe
Puerto Rican Picadillo with Plantain Rice (Paleo, AIP-friendly, Whole30, Low FODMAP-friendly) via Food by Mars
Collard Green Wraps
Swap your average burger bun or wrap for some greens! This super simple recipe is a must in any health-conscious cook’s kitchen. It’s Whole 30, Paleo, Gluten-free, Grain-free, and Vegan.
Check out this recipe
how to make collard green wraps (paleo, whole30, aip, gluten-free) via Food by mars
Lettuce Wraps
Ya know those semi-boring coleslaw mixes? Well I added spiralized beets, mayo, poached chicken breast, and pickles… and then threw it all in my @peteslivinggreens butter lettuce for one MAJOR #TacoTuesday meal! Keep the oven off and the living easy with this no-cook template.
Check out this recipe
Dim Sum Paleo Cabbage Rolls
A Paleo stuffed cabbage rolls recipe that uses steamed cabbage leaves = nature's gluten-free dumplings! Dip these in my tasty soy-free sauce for all the UMAMI power — Dim Sum style.
Check out this recipe
dim sum paleo cabbage rolls via food by mars
Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pastitsio (Greek Baked Ziti w/ Bechamel Sauce)
This dreamy favorite is getting a dairy-, gluten-, grain-free makeover. Spaghetti squash makes for a low carb “pasta” dish and the cauliflower bechamel just might fool you!! (AIP-friendly)
Check out this recipe
Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pastitsio (Greek Baked Ziti w/ Dairy-free Bechamel) dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, low-carb, AIP-friendly via Food by Mars
Plant-Based Party Platters
My favorite cracker replacement is baked plantain chips that are easy to make at home. Best of all, everyone loves them! Serve them with beet hummus.
Check out this recipe
plantain chips
AIP Canned Tuna Pasta (Paleo, Low-carb)
A delicious, quick canned tuna pasta recipe made straight from your pantry that’s AIP, Paleo, and Low-carb with Hearts of Palm Pasta.
Check out this recipe
AIP Canned Tuna Pasta (Paleo, Low-carb) via Food by Mars
Grain-free Porridge
This easy grain-free porridge can be made in just a few minutes or prepped overnight (like overnight oats!). It's Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan, and Whole30! Spice it up and top it off however you'd like.
Check out this recipe
Easy Grain-free Porridge (Paleo, Whole30, Gluten-free, Vegan) via Food by Mars

Don’t have time to make your own grain-free porridge? I get that! Check out my favorite store-bought option here.

Kitchen Tools that Will Make Your Grain-Free Journey Easier

Without a doubt, some of these homemade goodies will require a few new tools for you to invest in. The great news is they are all very affordable and you’ll get a TON of use out of them.

Favorite Grain-free Pantry Items…

My Favorite Weeknight Grain-free Recipes

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  • Shanna A.October 19, 2020 - 5:05 pm

    This is such a great list of alternatives. I have been trying to eat a lot healthier by changing my diet.ReplyCancel

    • Alison MarrasOctober 23, 2020 - 2:02 pm

      I’m so happy the list is helpful, Shanna! It’s worth the effort to make some easy and tasty swaps for sure.ReplyCancel

  • rikaOctober 19, 2020 - 5:09 pm

    I try to reduce my gluten intake! This post is very useful. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • JessOctober 19, 2020 - 5:16 pm

    I am always looking for more healthy options and this is full of great suggestions. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • sarah johnsonOctober 19, 2020 - 5:29 pm

    Great article for grain-free solutions. I’ve never been able to stay grain-free for long periods of time, I just can’t live without pita bread. So far, I haven’t found a good solution for an affordable solution to make GF pita bread without rice flour and still taste great. Thanks for all the wonderful tips.ReplyCancel

    • Alison MarrasOctober 23, 2020 - 2:02 pm

      You’re very welcome, Sarah! Pita bread is a tough one, nothing quite like it in my experience as well but the rest I don’t miss much with all the great alternatives out there.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica FormicolaOctober 19, 2020 - 6:42 pm

    This is such a great guide! I will definitely be stocking my pantry with some of those items!ReplyCancel

hey thereI'm Alison

I believe your healing journey with real food can be a stress-free lifestyle, filled with joy and flavor.

 

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