15 Healthy Food Swaps for Weight Loss

Photo of author
by Alena Schowalter
Pinterest Hidden Image

Change your diet effortlessly with these healthy food swaps for weight loss! Afforable, tasty and genius ways to lower your calorie intake.

No need to say goodbye to your favorite meals when trying to follow a healthy diet! With our list of the best food swaps for weight loss, you can enjoy comfort food each day while becoming leaner and healthier with every bite you take.

Instead of just eating salads for dinner each night and then quitting the whole “healthy eating thing” after 2 weeks, we want to show you a couple of genius food swaps to recreate your favorite meals!

Approaching easy weight loss that way helps you keep your motivation to eat healthy up while preventing binge eating or junk food cravings.

WL Challenge iPad on beige BG

free weight loss email series

Getting lean while feeling full? Yes, that’s possible! Find out about easy food swaps, calorie density and 3 full days of eating for sustainable weight loss.

While we all know that we should probably eat more fruits, veggies and lean protein, making it actually happen can be so tricky!

So, just start today by implementing some very easy principles without giving up anything you love right away.

Best food swaps for weight loss

So, get your pen and grocery list out! Here are our 14 healthy food swaps you need to try if you want to lose some weight effortlessly.

1. Oats instead of breakfast cereal

two glass jars of overnight zoats with sliced banana, figs and blueberries next to a linen towel
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. Spiralized veggies instead of noodles or pasta

woman in white apron mixing spiralized raw vegetables in a large bowl with a fork and a spoon
How to make spiralized veggies

Have you ever tried or heard of zoodles? This term is short for zucchini noodles and refers to a nifty kitchen tool, the spiralizer!

It creates noodle shapes out of vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, sweet potatoes, cucumber and more.

Naturally, these are lower in calories compared to cooked wheat pasta or rice noodles. While these two foods aren’t hindering weight loss or are unhealthy, if you swap out half of them and replace them with super low-calorie zucchini noodles, you can still have a large portion of food while losing weight!

If you’re up for it, try our black bean meatballs with zoodles or colorful Pad Thai salad.

Three iPads with eBook Covers from the Live Lightly Bundle

Vegan Weight Loss eBooks

Eat tasty meals in abundance without stressing about portions and calories! With our vegan eBook bundle “Live Lightly,” you’ll be on the fast lane to easy and sustainable weight loss. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Starter Guide: weight loss-friendly food lists, understanding calorie density, easy meal creation, real-life tips, and much more
  • 60 delectable recipes from breakfast to dinner and dessert
  • 21-day weight loss meal plan with shopping lists and nutritional information

3. 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.

4. Whole fruit instead of juice

white speckled bowl on a table with some thinly sliced apple

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.

5. Baked potato fries instead of deep-fried

white table with some newspaper and parchment paper on which lay a bunch of crispy baked sweet potato fries next to some BBQ sauce and cashew sour cream
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 low in calories. 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!

6. Almond milk instead of cow’s milk

side view of almond creamer being poured in a glass of coffee
Homemade Almond Milk & Creamer

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! Why not make our vanilla almond latte for a change?

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 that is usually cheaper, higher in protein and just as versatile.

7. Veggie pizza instead of pepperoni pizza

woman in jeans jacket holding a tray of freshly baked healthy vegan pizza rolls with almond ricotta and taking one to eat it
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 healthy 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!)

8. Fruit & cinnamon instead of sugar & syrup

round plate with half a dozen stuffed dates with peanut butter and chocolate
Peanut Butter Stuffed Dates

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.

15+ Date-Sweetened Desserts

9. Applesauce instead of oil or butter

white bowl with apple sauce and a spoon on a table as one of the vegan food swaps for baking

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

10. Roasted beans instead of salted nuts or chips

selection of three different oil free roasted beans on a table
Cheesy Roasted Broad Beans

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 has more than 4 times the amount!

Baked Oil-Free Tortilla Chips

11. Bean sauce instead of cheese sauce

woman in white shirt and apron holding a glass of white cheese sauce with a spoon which is one easy vegan food swap
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 cheese 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 cheese 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 food swaps!

Healthy Mac & Cheese Recipe

12. Hummus or mustard instead of mayo

white table with three bowls of different-colored hummus from beige to green spinach and red beet

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!

22+ Creative Hummus Recipes

13. Oil-free salad dressings

white table next to a window with three glass jars containing homemade vegan garlic yogurt sauce
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

14. Bean chili instead of meaty chili

woman holding bowl of vegan bean chili and dipping spoon into the food
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. And you can “beef” it up with some low-fat TVP!

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!

35+ Super Meaty Vegan Recipes

15. Healthy sugar-free protein cookies

hand holding a towel and cast iron skillet with freshly baked vegan chocolate chip cookie cake
High-Protein Skillet Cookie

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 and healthy food swap!

Best weight-loss recipes

Have you tried any of our healthy food swaps and liked them? Be sure to share in the comments below, sign up for our weight loss series to get more tips and Pin this resource here.

Spring Summer Meal Plan on Green Splash
Vegan Summer Meal Plan

Enjoy 7 days of fresh, healthy, and colorful meals and snacks! Everything is planned out with a full grocery list and meal prep session in our 60-page eBook.

Browse these categories

Portrait photo of Alena

Hi, I'm Alena Schowalter — a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with my husband, I founded nutriciously in 2015 and have been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages toward a healthy plant-based diet. I enjoy discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature, and creating new recipes. Read more about us here.


  1. Hi there!
    I just wanted to share that you do a great job spreading the message that being a HEALTHY Vegan can be easy, doable, fun, and tasty! You are so encouraging, and this post has definitely inspired me to keep going and trying for myself and my family. THANK YOU for all the work you do!! I look forward to being a part of the free weight loss challenge!

    • Dear Jenell,
      thank you so much for your wonderful words! They were lovely to wake up to :) We’re so happy to read that our work actually does make a difference in people’s lives – it makes us want to put even more time and effort into this project. Awesome that you’re part of the free Weight Loss Challenge, hope it’ll offer you all you need to start – never hesitate to reach out for more support.

  2. On the switch for cauliflower instead of cheese is awesome. I am bewildered how smooth it is and how the other flavors are combined mbed perfectly. When you want to have a smooth cheese you can’t get it from “regular cheese”. You have oil in your food and each strand melts separately and produces lumps, whereas cauliflower doesn’t. It also has a neutral flavor. To die for!

  3. This is really a great stuff for sharing. Interesting post and learned nutrition values. Looking forward to see more posts about food.

  4. Just trying to transition here from being a huge meat eater and I love my butter. I have heart disease of course,makes sense, right! . I am kind of lazy,not a planning meals ahead kind of person, because when I do,I dont feel like eating what I made and it goes to waste. I sent in for some recipes from you,I havent checked them out yet. I just recently bought some vegan meat,like chicken tenders,but I dont feel the ingredients are great. They tasted pretty good though. I would prefer gluten free and corn free ,since cornnisnt that great for us. Any recommendations on store bought vegan meat,that you would suggest buying ,that tastes like the real deal or better,to trick my brain….thank u

    • Hey Alison,
      just keep trying different brands of vegan meats. Since I don’t know where you’re based, it’d be best to just google your country + vegan meat – I’m sure there’ll be a list of different ones. We haven’t seen any evidence why corn should be unhealthy for the general public – and pretty much any plant-based ingredients found in mock meat will be healthier than animal-based meat or butter, so no worries :)
      Why not look for some recipes that don’t require meat or meat alternatives at all? That way, you can just stick to whole plant-based foods.
      Wishing you all my best,

  5. Wow, this article and the whole website is packed with amazing tips and recipes for a low fat vegan diet, which I thought wasn’t so easy to do until now. Thank you so much for sharing all of these tips. Will help me a lot in my health classes as well ;)

  6. I understand that eating the whole fruit or vegetable may be better than juicing and smoothies for healthy people but I do think that there is a place for them. If it helps you to get your greens in by making a smoothie then I say do it. It is better than not eating it at all. You can hide many things in smoothies for kids that you could not get them to eat! As far as juices, they are so nutrient dense and are great for those who need to get the nutrition in quickly or are having a hard time eating. I have even heard of people using it in a feeding tube. Maybe it is not for everyone but I do think there are times and places for using smoothies and especially juices. Thanks for all of the work you all do. I love your recipes!

    • thanks for your comment and I totally agree! Healthy eating or sustainable weight loss is about making little shifts and smoothies are 100% better than most food choices one can make — we’ve just seen some high carb people gulping down 10-banana smoothies and wondering why they gain weight :)
      we appreciate your input and lovely feedback!

  7. Your content is super easy to digest and great for someone looking to learn about plant-based nutrition with minimal cooking skills required. Thank you!

  8. I’ve been a vegan for fifteen years and I was only eating somewhat healthily. I definitely wasn’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, mainly because I have a lot of tactile sensitivities from my autism. I don’t dislike the actual taste of most of them. I found a solution by throwing everything in my blender. Surprise, fruit tastes good through a straw and I can make sauces out of vegetables to put on grains. I can throw in all kinds of fruits and vegetables that I couldn’t stand to eat by themselves, allowing me to enjoy eating a much larger variety that I had been doing. I was very disappointed to learn that using a blender destroys the fiber in them because that is how I eat most of them. I eat plenty of whole grains and legumes so I hope that will make up for that some.


Leave a comment