No need to say goodbye to your favorite meals when going vegan or trying to follow a healthy diet! With our list of the best vegan food swaps, you can enjoy comfort food each day while becoming leaner and healthier with every bite you take.
Instead of just eating boring salads for dinner each night and then quitting the whole “plant-based diet thing” after 2 weeks, we want to show you how enjoyable vegan food can be!
Let’s face it, the internet is full of gimmicks and none of them work in the long run. Instead of choosing healthy alternatives, cause that seems so boring, we’re looking for the magic ingredient to solve all our problems.
While we all deep down know what the simple truth is (eat healthy plant-based foods!), making it actually happen can be so tricky!
The best part is that you can start implementing some very easy principles today without giving up anything you love right away. With our list of healthy vegan food swaps you can save some money, achieve sustainable and enjoyable weight loss and ease into eating more veggies!
Easy Vegan Food Swaps
So, get your pen and grocery list out! Here are our 14 favorite smart and delicious vegan food swaps you need to try if you want to start eating healthier or losing some weight effortlessly.
1. Oats Instead of Breakfast Cereal
Chocolate Overnight Oats →
Oats might be just about the best food that’s ever been invented. Filling, comforting, cheap and super versatile! It’s our favorite start into the day.
Serving them with some fruit, nuts and plant-based milk is a healthy and accidentally vegan breakfast choice that’s so accessible!
While there is some breakfast cereal that’s not super unhealthy, you need to check the label to see whether it’s vegan or has tons of sugar added. The same goes for granola which is often made with honey.
You can make your own granola at home without oil and just a small amount of dried fruit to sweeten it – or go with the good old rolled oats, instead. Oatmeal only has around a third of the calories, you can control what you actually put in there, and it’s super versatile. The perfect weight loss breakfast in our books!
Sugar-Free Granola Recipe →
2. Avocado Mash Instead of Butter
Butter isn’t just 100% pure saturated fat and cholesterol, which means it’s lacking in all micronutrients, it’s also a whopping 102 calories per tablespoon.
Apart from the fact that we’d never recommend anyone eat animal products for various reasons, butter drastically raises the risk for cardiovascular disease and gaining unwanted pounds.
On the other hand, if you put the same amount of ripe, mashed or sliced avocado on your bread, you end up with only 22 calories, virtually no saturated fat but small amounts of fiber and vitamins as well as minerals.
It’s been referred to as “nature’s butter” for a good reason! Try it on some toasted bread, maybe with some salt and pepper.
3. Whole Fruit Instead of Juice
Smoothies and juices have gained a lot of popularity and a great reputation over the past few years. While it’s true that consuming your produce in a liquid form is better than not consuming it at all, it’s still semi-optimal.
Especially if you’re looking to lose a few pounds, it’s important to factor in levels of satiety. When fruit is blended, the fiber is technically destroyed and your blood sugar reacts quite differently compared to eating and chewing the whole fruit.
Liquid calories aren’t very well detected by your body and will not curb your appetite – especially when all the fiber is removed, as is the case with juices.
Putting 3 bananas and a cup of berries in a blender jar and drinking it as a smoothie is very easy to do. But could you eat this amount of fruit in one sitting?
Store-bought smoothies can also contain honey, added sugar or dairy products and fruit juices might be treated with animal products like gelatin! Having an apple instead is a super easy vegan food swap.
4. Baked Potato Fries Instead of Deep-Fried
No-Oil Sweet Potato Fries →
This is a perfect example of how carbs, in general, do not contribute to weight gain. The poor potato has been demonized a lot and many dieters cut it out completely.
But the truth is that potatoes rank #1 for the most satiating food and it’s rather calorically dilute. A pound only has 340 calories, while a pound of cooked whole-grain pasta comes with twice as many calories.
A pound of chicken, that’s often served by health foodies along with their veggies and replacing potatoes, has 780 calories and is lower on the satiety index, meaning it won’t keep you full for that long.
But don’t get us wrong — there’s a huge difference when it comes to ways of preparing potatoes. In order to reap its health and weight loss promoting benefits, you should skip the added oils, butter, cream, or cheese.
Because that’s what makes the humble potato seem fattening. A pound of french fries means 1350 calories on your plate! Now, that’s quite a difference, right? By the way, some of the fries you get at restaurants can contain beef fat and aren’t even vegan.
We like to just cut up our potatoes into stripes, season them with salt, pepper, maybe some paprika, and bake them in the oven without any added fats. Simple, comforting, and healthy homemade fries!
5. Almond Milk Instead of Cow’s Milk
Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk →
Now, obviously, we run a plant-based blog here – so these swaps might not surprise you very much. But there are good reasons to just move your hand a few inches next time at the store and go for the almond milk instead of the cow’s milk.
Even if we look at skim “fat-free” cow’s milk, one cup comes to 83 calories… while unsweetened almond milk only has 36 calories per cup. Not only does this dairy alternative add an interesting flavor, but it’s also easy to make yourself at home, and therefore much cheaper!
According to the NIH, around 65% of the world’s population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, meaning there’s a good chance dairy products are causing some troubles in your body.
Abstaining from it for a couple of days or weeks might improve skin and digestive issues, so it’s worth a try!
If you choose to buy almond milk at the store, make sure it’s not sweetened but instead fortified with calcium. By the way, soy milk is another great vegan food swap which is usually cheaper, higher in protein and just as versatile.
6. Veggie Pizza Instead of Cheese Pizza
Veggie-Stuffed Pizza Rolls →
Make your pizza a whole lot healthier by choosing whole grain flour and adding a whole bunch of veggies to the flavorful sauce! It’s one of our favorite ways to eat more vegetables while enjoying delicious comfort food.
Top with homemade nut cheese for a smart vegan food swap — but they already taste amazing as they are.
Another option that’s slightly different but works even better for weight loss is making potato and cauliflower pizza crust at home which you’ll then top with your favorite veggies and sauce! It’s basically veggie on veggie action.
Top with a generous serving of nutritional yeast for a cheesy finish or drizzle with vegan cheese sauce (see further down below!)
The full recipe for the potato pesto pizza can be found in our vegan Weight Loss Meal Plan “Live Lightly”.
7. Fruit and Cinnamon Instead of Sugar or Honey
We all know that we should probably “quit sugar” for our health and waistline. But not all sugars are the same! Refined ones are, pretty much, though: No matter if you call it white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, agave syrup, or honey – they all act very similar in our bodies and don’t offer any micronutrients or fiber.
Most of the refined or added sugars we consume are in processed foods like candy bars, chocolate, cake, sauces, baked goods, or snack foods. It’s a no-brainer that these aren’t great for health or weight loss. But if you like to sweeten some of your home-cooked meals, try to use fruit instead.
Dates are a great way to start, bananas or mangoes are also among the sweetest fruits out there. Dried fruit is calorically denser and offers more sweetness (think raisins versus grapes).
Cinnamon also makes your food seem sweeter, try it on your oatmeal some time! Pro tip: cooking or baking fruits like bananas, apples, or plums, also increases their sweetness.
Low-Fat Cinnamon Apple Crumble →
8. Applesauce Instead of Oil or Butter
Swapping avocado for butter on your bread or on some other occasions works great – but what if you want to bake a cake that calls for some butter or vegetable oil? Surely, avocado wouldn’t be the perfect substitute here.
If you’re familiar with some of our baking recipes like the blueberry muffins, you might have seen that we use applesauce as a wet ingredient here. Not only does it add a slightly fruity note, but it’s also only 100 calories per cup and super low in fat!
Compare that to just one tablespoon of oil or butter which has more calories and is just pure fat. This vegan food swap is the perfect example of how to make calorie density work in real life.
Oil-Free Blueberry Muffin Recipe →
9. Roasted Beans Instead of Salted Nuts or Chips
Wait, but aren’t nuts extremely healthy? Sure, nuts are way better for you than meat, cheese or eggs because they have less saturated fat and come with a bunch of fiber.
Nobody needs to cut these little powerhouses out completely (unless you’re struggling with heart disease, diabetes, or overeating on them) but if you want to take your weight loss to the next level, you should definitely not snack on them.
Adding some nuts to your oatmeal or salad bowls is one thing – eating a whole pack during a movie is another.
For a crunchy, savory evening snack, why not roast some chickpeas or edamame (sans the oil) in the oven with some spices?
Much more bulk and crunchy fun, versatile, lots of plant-based protein. A cup has around 200 calories, whereas a cup of mixed nuts more than 4 times the amount!
Unfortunately, many types of chips at the store contain animal products and making your own salty snacks at home is the best vegan food swap not just for health but to ensure it’s 100% plant-based.
10. Bean Sauce Instead of Cheese Sauce
Low-Fat Vegan Cheese Sauce →
This might sound a bit strange at first but hear us out. Even if you don’t like beans or veggies, they offer the perfect base for creamy sauces.
All you need to do is add the right spices and a couple of other simple ingredients to have a homemade, low-calorie and fully plant-based cheeze sauce for your pasta or veggies!
Creamy dairy-based sauces are exceptionally fatty and rich, making your pasta dish triple in calories… whereas a vegan cheeze sauce, made from either steamed cauliflower or cooked potatoes and carrots, can actually lower the calorie density of the whole dish.
One of the magic ingredients here is nutritional yeast, by the way. It’s by far one our favorite healthy vegan food swaps!
Healthy Mac & Cheese Recipe →
11. Hummus or Mustard Instead of Mayo
For many of us, carbs in the form of bread aren’t what keep us stuck at a higher weight.
While it’s true that flour has a higher calorie density compared to intact grains, it’s still only a third of the calories of mayonnaise (calculated per pound of mayo versus pound of bread) – which is pretty much the same as butter.
Now, we don’t think you’ll eat a pound of mayo but to give you a rough idea, an ounce of it is around 200 calories and very easy to eat. If you swapped it for an ounce of hummus, you’d only consume 50 calories! 75% gone with the wind.
We also like to put mustard on our bread, which only has around 20 calories per ounce. Delicious and simple hack!
50+ Creative Hummus Recipes →
12. Oil-Free Vegan Salad Dressings
Vegan Garlic Yogurt Dressing →
Salads are what most people think of in terms of weight loss meals or following a vegan diet… which is only half true, though. Leafy greens are very nutritious and offer a huge volume while being low in calories.
So far, so good – until you drown them in olive oil. No matter its reputation, it is 100% fat and the richest food on the planet. Only 1 tablespoon has 120 calories, more than all of your salad greens combined. That’s why we’d recommend you choose a low-fat and oil-free vegan salad dressing instead.
It can be based on mustard, vinegar, beans, fruit, avocado, or seeds – eating a salad will never get boring with our assortment of these delicious dressings.
The Best Oil-Free Dressings & Dips →
13. Bean Chili Instead of Meaty Chili
Easy Bean Veggie Chili →
This is an excellent vegan food swap for all of you meat lovers out there. And if you yourself are already a plant muncher, this is an easy way to get your family to eat more plant-based dishes with you.
Why it’s so great for weight loss? Beans are very low in fat and the best longevity food out there. They are full of slow-releasing complex carbs and a wonderful protein source. Compared to the same amount of lean ground beef, they have less than 50% of the calories while being super filling, chewy, and hearty.
You can try our easy oil-free vegan bean chili which we make pretty much every week for a couple of dinners in a row – it has even fewer calories because it comes with a good amount of veggies that you won’t even taste!
14. Vegan & Sugar-Free Protein Cookies
Here’s something you definitely want to hear when going vegan or following a healthy diet: there are cookies. And you can even eat the raw dough by the spoonful if you just choose the right ingredients!
Our little trick is to make edible cookie dough or baked vegan chocolate chip skillet cookies with protein-packed and fiber-rich chickpeas — along with some oats, almonds and dates for sweetening.
This results in an easy and finger-licking good treat for kids and adults alike which doesn’t require any butter, eggs, dairy or refined sugar. There you have another super tasty vegan food swap!
More Vegan Weight Loss Resources
If you liked these swaps and would be interested in knowing 26+ more ways to decrease the calories on your plate in a delicious way, you can sign up for our online Weight Loss Challenge that’ll include lots of diet debunking, lists of weight loss foods, 3-day meal plan, and an online support group.
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