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Food Alternatives List

Alter any of my diets by using this alternative food list.

Food Alternatives List

In most of my diets and nutrition plans on the site, you'll notice that the sample meal plans don't offer much variety. This doesn't mean that you should be eating these exact foods and only these foods. When it comes to nutrition, variety is always best. Yet many people worry that eating a different type of meat for dinner, or a different kind of fruit, is going to throw off their diet. In reality, you can replace most foods with similar, yet different, foods without it affecting your macronutrient and calorie totals much, if at all.

The key is to use these diets as templates: Replace the foods with different selections that are of similar kind and size. For example, if you want to replace 8 oz. of top sirloin steak, swap it with 8 oz. of chicken or other poultry, fish or lean pork. If you want to replace a medium apple, you can choose a medium peach, or orange, or pear. One cup of chopped broccoli can be replaced with one cup of green beans, or chopped zucchini, or chopped asparagus.

Refer to the food alternatives lists below for foods that you can and should use to replace these foods so that your diet doesn’t become boring and lacking in nutrient diversity.

Meat Replacements

The following meats can be used for any meal with any of my diet programs. You can also replace any meats with about two servings of the dairy products listed later below, or two scoops of protein powder:

  • chicken breast
  • chicken thighs
  • chicken drumstick
  • turkey breast
  • turkey leg
  • lean ground turkey
  • lean ground beef
  • top sirloin steak
  • tri-tip steak
  • flank steak
  • pork tenderloin
  • bison
  • venison
  • ostrich
  • lamb
  • goat
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • trout
  • tilapia
  • cod
  • halibut
  • sole or flounder
  • arctic char
  • shrimp
  • crab
  • scallop (sea or fresh water)
  • clams
  • mussels
  • oysters
  • lobster
  • squid
  • octopus
  • lean deli turkey breast
  • lean deli chicken breast
  • lean deli ham
  • lean deli roast beef

Dairy Replacements

Unless you're allergic to milk proteins or are lactose intolerant, you should consider eating dairy at several meals to maximize muscle growth. Dairy provides a good blend of whey and casein protein, which have been shown to be superior for muscle growth. While milk is a good source of dairy protein, each cup (8 oz.) of milk also provides about 12-15 grams of carbs in addition to the 8 grams of protein. So, watch your carbohydrate intake if you are lowering carbs.

  • Greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • low-fat string cheese
  • 3 slices or ounces of low-fat cheese (such as American, cheddar, Swiss, feta, etc.)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 4-6 oz. of any of the meats listed above
  • 2 oz. beef jerky

Egg Replacements

Unless you're allergic to eggs, I highly recommend that you don't replace eggs, due to the benefits they provide for muscle growth and strength. However, I understand that some people can't stand eggs, others are allergic, and some people just get sick of eating them. So if you must, feel free to replace the eggs with the following:

  • 1-2 scoops egg protein
  • 1-2 scoops of a milk protein blend (whey/casein)
  • 1 serving of the dairy foods listed
  • 6 oz. of any of the meats listed

Vegetable Replacements

These vegetables can replace any vegetables listed in any of my sample diets:

  • Mixed-green salad
  • asparagus
  • green beans
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • onion
  • bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • zucchini
  • eggplant
  • bok choy (Chinese cabbage)
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • cucumber
  • okra
  • 1 cup prepared stir-fry vegetables

Fruit Replacements

Replace any fruit with any of these:

  • apple
  • orange
  • grapefruit
  • peach
  • nectarine
  • banana
  • pear
  • Asian pear
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup cherries
  • 1 cup grapes
  • 1 cup sliced pineapple
  • 1 cup sliced watermelon
  • kiwifruit
  • ½ small cantaloupe
  • ½ small honey dew melon

Cereal Replacements

While oatmeal makes a great breakfast carbohydrate, you can replace it with any of the following:

  • whole-grain cold cereal (such as Cheerios, Quaker Oat Squares, Kashi)
  • granola
  • whole-wheat waffle
  • whole-wheat or buckwheat pancakes
  • Any breads listed in the next section

Bread Replacements

The following breads can be used wherever bread is listed:

  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Ezekiel bread
  • rye bread
  • sourdough bread
  • whole-wheat English muffin
  • whole-wheat pita bread
  • whole-wheat bagel
  • whole-wheat tortilla

Grain Replacements

While bread and cereal are grains, I separated them due to when they are consumed in the day. Cereals are usually eaten at breakfast or as a snack, and bread is often used at lunch to make sandwiches or as snacks. The grains here are typically eaten at dinner, but can be eaten any time of day when grains (breads and cereals included) are listed:

  • brown rice
  • whole-wheat pasta (small amount of marinara sauce)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • medium sweet potato
  • any of the beans listed in the next section

Bean Replacements

The following beans can be used wherever beans are listed or in place of any grains:

  • black beans
  • pinto beans
  • kidney beans
  • navy beans
  • lima beans
  • baked beans
  • lentils
  • garbanzo beans




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