Substitutes and Healthy Swaps for Different Ingredients

Written by
Lisa @ 8fit
Written by
Lisa @ 8fit
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We absolutely love our 8fit user feedback here at 8fit HQ! So much so, that it acts as inspiration and motivation to continue to improve things — in this case our recipes. A common question that has us particularly pumped to share our in-house advice are suggestions for ingredient swaps.

If you are already an 8fit Pro user, then you’ll have noticed we’ve put a lot of thought into taking regions, cultural backgrounds, and local tastes into account when we create our recipes. Adding ingredient substitutions not only opens the door to endless culinary options but will keep things creative when you feel like revamping an old favorite or two. Our recipes (and any recipe for that matter) can be adapted to your specific needs be they seasonal produce or personal preferences by making the following simple substitutions.

Strength in numbers

We grouped the foods by similar nutrient composition and calorie values e.g whole grain bread has a similar nutritional composition to whole grain tortilla. The reason for dividing the ingredients into these groups is because different foods vary in their carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calorie content. Like the whole grain bread and whole grain tortilla swap, you can consider them as exchanges because switching them out won’t make a big difference in the nutritional composition of the recipe. In addition, it’s also important to pay attention to is replacing the same size or portion as is indicated in your recipe.

If you’re attuned with the mainstream nutritional programmes and weight-management directives, then you’ll know that it’s often thought that reaching your goal is all about the calorie intake. However, it depends on so many different factors, as each body absorbs food differently.

The type of food you eat, your gut bacteria, and hormonal levels, all play a significant role in how calories are absorbed by your body. For instance, we ingest less energy from whole foods than we do from processed products. Yes, calories are important but don’t worry about minimal variations in the ingredient subs.

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The 8fit way centers around the philosophy of whole over processed foods whenever possible, so take the whole grain route and select complex carbohydrates and grains. Look at the ingredient list and focus on whole grain or whole wheat, rather than just “wheat” which tends to be partially refined.

Cooking times may vary when cooking dry grains. We recommend referring to the Whole Grain Council if you’re unsure.

  • Whole grains — rolled oats, spelt, rye, wheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous

  • Legumes — chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, white beans, black beans

  • Starchy vegetables — sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, corn

  • Whole grain wraps and bread — whole wheat tortilla, multigrain bread, whole grain bread, corn tortilla, pita bread, naan


We’re all about protein and its satiating effects! We encourage you to add it to all meals and snacks. Substitute one higher fat protein with another protein equalling in fat, rather than mixing and matching with the lower fat options. Aim for lean and organic whenever possible. Remember to maintain the same weight as your recipe indicates. Keep in mind that legumes and beans are excellent sources of plant-based protein, but also contain healthy carbohydrates so they can be used as a sub for either carbs or protein.

Higher fat protein

  • Dark poultry meat — chicken or turkey

  • Beef

  • Pork

  • Lamb

  • Rabbit

  • Bison

Lower fat protein

  • Fish — whitefish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, anchovies, tilapia, catfish, swordfish, halibut, herring

  • Shellfish — shrimp, prawns, crab, lobster, oysters, mussels

  • White meat poultry — chicken or turkey

Plant-based protein

  • Beans —  lima, black, white, kidney, mung

  • Green beans — split peas, chickpeas

  • Edamame — soybean

  • Lentils — all colors

  • Tofu

  • Seitan

  • Tempeh


Nuts and seeds can be replaced with any other nut, seed or even peanuts, just make sure to use the same weight. Though they are healthy, it’s still good to be careful with nuts and seeds that have been roasted and oiled, as this adds excess fat and calories. Aim for raw or roasted without oil instead. When swapping whole ingredients (olives, nuts, or seeds, avocado) for oils or nut butters, use the ratio of 2:1. For instance, if you use olive oil instead of olives, use half the amount of oil.

  • Oil — olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, sesame oil

  • Nuts — walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts

  • Seeds — sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed

  • Nut butter — peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter

  • Butter — preferably organic

  • Coconut milk

  • Avocado

  • Olives


You can replace most of the vegetables with other vegetables as they are rather low in calories.

Just be mindful with the starchy ones, unless a recipe explicitly asks for them: potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, beets, parsnip, peas, and corn.

Have double the portion of salad greens when substituting for other vegetables. Feel free to add extra veggies (excluding starchy ones) to your meal plan as desired. They give you lots of nutrients and fiber with small amounts of calories.

  • Nightshades — peppers, tomatoes, eggplant

  • Cruciferous — cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage

  • Leaves — kale, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy

  • Stems — celery, fennel, asparagus


You can also swap most fruit as this doesn’t really have a significant impact on the calories in your meal plan. Limit dried fruit and avoid juice as it absorbs quickly and can have an adverse effect on your blood sugar.

  • Berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries

  • Stone fruit — plums, cherries, apricots, mangoes, peaches

  • Melon — watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew

  • Tropical fruit — banana, pineapple, papaya

  • Citrus — orange, grapefruit, mandarins

  • Hard fruit — apples, pears


We want to make sure everyone gets enough nutrients, as such, the 8fit app is programmed to prevent too many exclusions, such as when a specific food group is removed like in a vegan diet. In this case, we recommend choosing a vegetarian meal plan, excluding eggs then substitute a non-dairy alternative for dairy ingredients.

  • Cow yogurt — goat yogurt, unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, coconut, or oat yogurt

  • Cow milk — goat milk or unsweetened almond, soy, hemp, coconut, or oat milk

  • Soft cheese — mozzarella, feta, blue cheese, brie, ricotta, cottage cheese

  • Hard cheese — parmesan, swiss, cheddar, gouda, asiago, gruyere

Other alternatives

If you should want an added boost to your morning smoothie or change the flavor profile up a bit, you can swap out the fluid or seasoning component. For instance instead of water, why not add green tea to your smoothie?

  • Water in soup  — any type of broth

  • Water or ice in smoothies — tea or coffee

  • Cocoa powder — raw cacao, cinnamon, maca

  • Herbs and spices any that you enjoy

Simple swaps

Based on your questions and requests, here are a few more customized swaps:

Creamy oats with apple

“I’m vegan so I don’t eat dairy but I love oat yogurt. Is that allowed in the meal plan?”

Simple substitute: Greek yogurt for oat yogurt

Homemade hummus wrap

“I live in India and can’t live without naan. If it’s whole grain, can I add it to my recipe?”

Simple substitute: Whole grain tortilla for whole grain naan

Peach parfait

“I like eating seasonally and the only peaches I can find near me now are canned with sugar.”

Simple substitute: Peach for apple

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