Upgrading American Classics to Whole Foods (links)

As moms sometimes we can be a little more zealous about changing our families diet than our family is. We might proudly look at a bowl full of pastured chicken stock turned into a lovely soup with local produce, and they are wondering will they ever eat pizza again?

My biggest suggestions in keeping your family happy with real foods, is do not leave behind their favorite foods. Keep that pizza, mac n’ cheese, Chinese foods, hot dogs, bacon cheeseburgers and fries, cake, or whatever else floats the boat coming to the table. At least on occasion. Mark will happily eat just about anything, but he loves a special meal and sweets.

Eating a real food diet does not mean you need to dine on liver and lima beans. I know this for a fact as we live in a lima bean free home. My kids will grow up and probably love those things that they never even knew existed. Poor kids.

Sure, you can serve those foods as special treats and not worry too much about the ingredients (assuming there are no allergies involved) or better yet, you can make them into a whole food versions.

So, the next time you see something delicious you know you and your family would love on pinterest don’t skip over it just because there is not a single “real food” ingredient in the original recipe. Trust me there are ways to convert just about any recipe to real foods.

Obviously I can not give an exhaustive list of substitutions and articles about converting foods, but I can give some (or a lot… as I realized many hours later) ideas. I am mostly keeping to typical American fare and comfort foods.

This list is really long, but would be good to pin for later reference. I separated the categories with photos, so it should be easy to find each section.


  • Replace oils with coconut oil, olive oil (savory dishes baked at 350 or less), or melted butter.
  • Replace shortening with softened butter. 
  • Replace sugars with 1 to 1 sucanat (a whole food sugar) or honey, to do so: 
  1. Decrease the sugar by 2/3
  2. Decrease the baking temperature by 25 degrees
  3. Add an additional pinch of baking soda to the dried goods
  4. For every cup of honey decrease the liquid in the baked good by 1/4 cup OR increase the flour by 2 T. 
  • Replace white flour to soft white wheat flour for quick breads (raised with baking powder or soda)
  • Replace white flour with hard winter wheat for yeast breads, it will require more kneading. 
  • Replace the salt with real salt. (Real Salt is a brand name for my favorite whole food salt, it is not super refined and does not raise your blood sugar like other salt.) 
  • Replace brown sugar with sucanat with a little molasses added until it is moist.
  • Replace powdered sugar with sucanat that has been powdered in a high speed blender, or coffee grinder. 
Notes: you can slowly decrease the sugar of your baked goods. 

Start with half white half wheat flour and move more to whole wheat. If you use the right freshly ground flour the baked goods will turn out better. 

If you are using salted butter you might want to decrease the salt in your baked goods. I don’t usually, but sometimes it would have been better had I. 

Stacy Makes Cents wrote a good post about converting baked goods to whole foods if you want to read about a conversion in more detail. I do pretty much the exact same thing she does, but have never written about it.

Pasta Dishes
  • Use brown rice pasta. It is whole grain, but has a much better texture then whole wheat pasta. It does not do well for cold pasta dishes though, so I usually use white for any dish I will serve cold. 
  • If you love creamy mac n’ cheese this is a good stove top version (I would use my raw whole milk and a little sour cream instead of the evaporated milk). 
  • Turn spaghetti into a real food recipe with this quick and easy tomato sauce or a little heartier (how my husband likes it) meat sauce. 
  • Here is a super basic alfredo sauce. Personally I would add garlic and fresh black pepper because I think it is important for the flavor, but that is alright. 
  • Instead of using condensed cream of soups, make your own.
I love soups, but Mark hates them, so I try not to serve them TOO often.

  • Use homemade chicken or beef stock or keep this awesome homemade vegetable bouillon on hand for really quick broth. I also used to use better then bouillon for emergencies, but it has corn it it so out it went.
  • Instead of using condensed cream of soups, make your own.
  • We love tomato soup with grilled cheese, we just use this tomato soup.
  • Use brown rice or brown rice pasta in place of regular pasta. 
  • Roasted Potato Soup– I need to upgrade this recipe as it is the best potato soup out there. No, really. It is.
  • Taco Soup, uses canned but clean (i.e. only 1-2 ingredients) foods
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Cheesy Vegetable and Sausage Soup, not a classic but AMAZING. 
  • Cook a whole chicken, shred the meat and then freeze it in 1 cup portions for ease in casserole and soup making! 
  • Cook and freeze one cup portions of beans for ease in soup making, and to help you avoid canned beans. 
  • Try to use frozen, or fresh, vegetables when you can instead of canned. We use canned tomatoes, but that is about it.

Mark loves casseroles, but I hate them, but I try to serve them occasionally. 
  • Cheesy green bean casserole
  • Not so cheesy green bean casserole
  • To replace the condensed soups in casseroles, you can usually use sour cream (add salt!) or you can make your own liquid version, or cream of soup mix base for incredible ease.
  • Whole wheat pastry can be used to top casseroles, as shown in this whole food chicken pot pie recipe.
  • Mashed potatoes makes an amazing topping for just about any casserole. Using left over mashed potatoes makes this one of the easiest whole food casserole toppings.
  • This list from Passionate Homemaking has a lot of real food casseroles. 
  • Homemade Bread Crumbs also is great on topping casseroles, best if they are fried in some butter first. 
  • Cook a whole chicken, shred the meat and then freeze it in 1 cup portions for ease in casserole and soup making! 
  • Sourdough biscuits is another good casserole topping. 
  • Yet another great topping is thinly sliced potatoes, tossed with melted butter and seasoning. It takes about an hour to cook through, but is ohh so good. (pictured with sauerkraut and sausage casserole)
Breakfast Foods 
  • Homemade granola is a great alternative to cold cereals.
  • We like popped popcorn served as cereal as well- one of the biggest corn dishes I miss!
  • We eat Trader Joes uncured bits and pieces bacon. I also am going to experiment with making my own using honey as the sweetener as Mark will be doing GAPS as soon as I feel up to the cooking. 
  • I love to keep these Whole Wheat Freezer biscuits on hand. 
  • Homemade breakfast sausage anyone? It is actually quite easy. My husband made some sausage patties (he used pork) and cooked freezer biscuits last night for dinner. 
  • Want flavored packs of oatmeal without all the nasty ingredients? Try this idea from Creative Christian Mama.
  • Instead of pancake syrup try honey, sorghum, or fruit on your pancakes. Of course you can also do maple syrup but we don’t usually because of the cost. Sadness. 
  • Make your favorite breakfast pastries with whole foods (see baking section). 
  • Make toast with homemade bread, or a good quality store bought bread such as Ezekial Bread. 
  • Sarah from Your Thriving Family shares a list of real food breakfast ideas. 
  • Why not make your own pancake mix for ease? Danielle from More Than Four Walls shares a whole food version. 
  • Homemade cream of brown rice porridge (is this a classic, or is it just me who loves this?)
  • Homemade chicken salad or Egg Salad is a great way to have a nutritious sandwich.
  • You can used sliced cold meats, such as roast beef, and roasted chicken, or my personal favorite homemade corned beef for sandwiches. 
  • Use homemade bread (recipe hopefully coming as soon as I can start baking again) or a good quality store bought bread such as Ezekial bread for sandwiches. 
  • Making your own peanut butter is a cinch, and can be served with honey or sliced bananas as a delicious easy sandwich. Fruit only spread is also good, but pretty expensive.

I almost forgot this. I wonder if it would ever be excused! 
photo by crowhurst
Hamburger and Fries! (and a few other summer bbq foods)
  • When I have lard I fry foods occasionally, otherwise I usually oven fry by tossing with butter or coconut oil and cooking at a high temperature. 
  • Oven fried seasoned fries.  These are delicious.
  • Here is a recipe for fries fried in lard or tallow. Yum! No GMO oils needed. I VERY rarely make these (as in I have done it once) as lard is expensive here, but they are good. 
  • Homemade hamburger buns. I have not made these, but I trust Stacy’s recipes as I have never made one I did not like. 
  • Make your own patties for the best flavor and healthiest patties. If I am using meat from a farm I know I am comfortable with a little pink, otherwise I feel I need to cook them through for safety. 
  • Hot dogs can easily be bought uncured and with whole ingredients, the cost is a little shocking so we keep them as special treats.
  • Homemade Baked Beans. Yum! Since we are not on gaps I would use more honey and some molasses (or some sucanat) instead of date sugar and use trader joes bacon.
  • Chips! Why not go for it? If you get them organic you can avoid GMO oils. I like to buy organic corn chips when I can find them for cheap.
So much for not making an exhaustive list. I am now officially exhausted. :D
I had to stop myself because it is late, not because I ran out of recipes for homemade classic foods, and ideas for substitutions. So, if you want to know one, ask and I might know. All of these posts I knew where to find just from my memory, so there are plenty more I could list off the top of my head. 
Check out the other posts in this series! This weeks theme is “Family Reservations/Keeping Our Family Happy” 
Justyn at Creative Christian Mama talks about introducing the idea of switching to real foods in a way that your hubby will accept. Her own hubby helped her with this post about getting your husband on-board with real food!

Sara from Your Thriving Family is sharing how this change has touched her marriage and how to navigate it, My Husband Thinks I’m a Nutter.

Finding a happy medium between eating real food and eating standard food has been a challenge for Danielle and her husband. The road was rough at first but the bumps have smoothed out since they have learned to balance things out. Join More Than Four Walls as she give you some real life examples of balancing food philosophies.


  1. What a great list! I follow lots of these suggestios. I love cream of brown rice cereal too. I pretty much am using the same method of making our favorites homemade and healthier too as we go along in our real food journey. The other day I made a nacho cheese dip that used real cheese instead of processed and my hubby was impressed. Cheese dip is a rare treat for us so I was pleased to make it from scratch and have it be a hit!

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