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26 Healthy Food Substitutes

Looking for healthy food substitutions? Here are 26 creative food swap ideas, plus more innovative saving ideas to help you eat healthy no matter what budget you're on.

How can a simple ingredient swap save you money and still taste good? Whether you’re substituting for speed or looking for healthy food substitutes, we’ll share some food swap ideas and some ways to get creative with saving money on your grocery budget.

What are food substitutions?


If you've ever been caught mid-recipe without a crucial ingredient, needed to make changes to your diet because of a medical condition like allergies, or if your dietary preference like going vegan means you have to give up certain ingredients, you'll know the struggle of having to find an alternative. 


Food substitutes allow you to keep eating your favourite foods with a healthy twist, adapt to new dietary preferences, or even help you successfully complete your meal when a quick grocery run is out of the question. 

There are so many food swap ideas out there but we've narrowed them down to the ones that will really stretch your food budget and help you find ways to make use of what you probably already have at home. 

Egg substitutes


Whether for leavening your baked goods or adding flavour and colour to your food, eggs are a staple for many households. If you find yourself all out of eggs or want to make some vegan-friendly swaps, here are some egg substitutes you can use.

Aquafaba

We've talked about the benefits of canned food before but here's another way to make your canned food work harder for you. Next time you open a can of chickpeas or beans, save the liquid -- that's aquafaba. It has a similar texture to raw egg whites and makes for a frugal egg substitution. To replace one egg, you can use three tablespoons or 45 grams of aquafaba. It's the perfect egg substitute for recipes that call for just egg whites, such as pavlova or macaroons.

Mashed bananas

Another popular replacement for eggs, mashed bananas are easily accessible and add moisture to baked goods. If you don't want your food to taste like bananas, opt for puréed avocado or pumpkin as they won't affect the flavour as much. Whichever you end up choosing, use ¼ cup or 65 grams of purée to replace one egg.

Yoghurt

A staple in many households, yoghurt is a great egg substitute for baked goods such as muffins, cakes and cookies. To replace one egg, use ¼ cup or 60 grams of yoghurt. It's best to use plain, unsweetened yoghurt to avoid altering the flavour of your recipe. 

Silken tofu

Silken tofu has high water content and is soft. To replace one egg, substitute ¼ cup or approximately 60 grams of blended silken tofu. Since silken tofu doesn't have a distinctive flavour profile, you can use it as an egg substitute where you don't want to alter the flavour too much. If you're baking, save it for dense treats like brownies, cookies and cakes. 

Ground flaxseeds or chia seeds

Flaxseed and chia seeds are readily found in stores and they're a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. To replace one egg, whisk 1 tablespoon or 7 grams of ground chia or flaxseed with 3 tablespoons or 45 grams of water until fully absorbed and thickened. 
Flaxseed and chia seeds have a strong nutty flavour and it can make your dish denser. For bakers this means that it will work best for wholegrain, oat, bran and corn type recipes.

Applesauce

Applesauce does more than complement roast pork; applesauce can be a great egg substitute. To replace one egg, use about ¼ cup or about 65 grams. Opt for unsweetened applesauce but if you're using a sweetened variety, reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe.

Butter substitutes 

Butter is the key ingredient for adding flavour to your meal and making your cakes light and fluffy. Without butter, your meals and baked goods might fall a bit flat. Luckily, there are plenty of butter substitutes available.
When it comes to swapping out butter for the foods listed below, it's largely a process of trial and error as many butter substitutes have unique flavours that can change the flavour profile of your finished meal or baked goods.

Olive oil

For stovetop cooking such as sautéing vegetables and meat, olive oil makes a great substitute for butter. In most recipes you can substitute butter for olive oil in a 3:4 ratio. So to replace 1 cup of butter, use ¾ cups of 180ml of olive oil. 

Mashed bananas

Not only can mashed bananas replace eggs, they can also act as a substitute for butter. To replace 1 cup of butter, use 1 cup of mashed bananas. This works best for baked goods such as cakes, muffins and cookies. 

Nut butters

Nut butters like peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter are great substitutes for butter. They work well for denser products like cookies and bars. Nut butters typically have less fat compared to butter so you'll need to add more fat like olive oil. To replace 1 cup of butter, combine 1 cup of equal parts nut butter and oil before adding to your recipe. 

Greek yoghurt 

Greek yoghurt is a protein-packed substitute for butter. If you're using Greek yoghurt as a butter swap for baking, look for full-fat yoghurt to help keep your baked goods moist. 

Avocado

Full of healthy fats and other nutrients, avocados are a healthier alternative to butter. To replace 1 cup of butter, purée 1 cup of avocados.

Pumpkin purée

Pumpkin purée can replace butter in most recipes. But since it's more watery than butter, use ¾ cup of pumpkin purée to replace 1 cup of butter.
 

Baking soda substitutes

Most recipes may only call for a pinch of baking soda but leaving it out means your cookies and bread may not turn out as light and fluffy as you'd want it. Luckily, there are a few things that you can easily swap out for baking soda.

Baking powder

Like baking soda, baking powder is also a leavening agent. However, they're not the same -- baking soda is almost three times stronger than baking powder. When substituting baking powder for baking soda, you need to use more baking powder to get the same effect as if you used baking soda.

To substitute baking soda, use about triple the amount of baking powder. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, use about 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Substituting with baking powder can result in a slightly saltier and more acidic flavour so it may be a good idea to reduce the amount of salt you add if the recipe calls for it, and replacing or reducing other acidic ingredients in the recipe.

Self-rising flour

Self-rising flour is a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. It's also responsible for making your baked goods rise. Just like when you substitute with baking powder, you might need to make adjustments to your recipe. Generally, 1 cup of self-rising flour contains 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt.

Soy sauce substitutes

Soy sauce is a staple in many households as it's used as a versatile condiment and in a wide variety of Asian cuisines. It brings a complex flavour and saltiness to many dishes. Here are three things you can substitute for soy sauce -- just be sure to taste as you go.

Salt

Soy sauce and salt are both seasonings for food. You can substitute salt for soy sauce but you will lose the complex flavour of soy sauce. This works best for dishes that don't rely on soy sauce for its flavour.

Worcestershire sauce

Another substitute for soy sauce is Worcestershire sauce. Both soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce are fermented so you still get the deep complex flavours, but Worcestershire sauce has much less sodium and no soy or gluten -- perfect for anyone looking for a gluten-friendly or low salt alternative to soy sauce. This substitution works best for dishes that use soy sauce for flavouring but not for saltiness.

Coconut aminos

Coconut aminos are made from fermented coconut tree sap (not coconuts), and taste similar to soy sauce but with almost three times lower in sodium; coconut aminos have 90 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon compared to 290 milligrams in soy sauce. Coconut aminos are also gluten-free and soy-free, perfect for those looking for an allergy-friendly soy sauce substitute.

You can use coconut aminos like you would with soy sauce, although you might have to adjust the sweetness of your recipe.

Sugar substitutes

There are many ways to sweeten foods without adding sugar. Here are three natural sugar alternatives you can use instead.

Honey

Before using honey as a substitute for sugar, experiment to determine the ratio you're comfortable with. Honey is sweeter than sugar so to replace one cup of sugar, you will need ¾ cup or 255 grams of honey. You will also need to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by approximately ¼ cup of liquid for every cup of honey used.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup has a low glycemic index, making it the perfect diabetes-friendly sugar substitute. Maple syrup is as sweet as sugar so you can replace sugar using an equal amount of maple syrup. Just remember to decrease other liquids in your recipe by 3 tablespoons per cup of maple syrup.

Molasses

Molasses are a byproduct of the sugar refinery process, but it isn't as sweet as sugar. It has small amounts of B vitamins, calcium and iron. To replace one cup of sugar use 1⅓ cup of molasses, and reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by about 5 tablespoons.

Stevia sweetener

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Milk substitutes

Milk is the key to creamier sauces and moist baked goods. If you need a substitute for milk, there are many alternatives to milk you can use in your cooking and baking.

Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is a convenient canned pantry staple. It's basically milk with less water so it's one of the best substitutes for milk. To replace milk, mix equal parts evaporated milk and water, then replace 1 cup of milk for 1 cup of your watered down evaporated milk.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a great substitute for milk because it adds moisture and texture to your final product. To replace 1 cup of milk, use 1 cup of yoghurt. Just make sure you're not using flavoured yoghurt, or it will change the flavour of your final product.

Sour cream

Sour cream is like yoghurt but with a more neutral taste and without the same tanginess. To substitute 1 cup of milk, use 1 cup of sour cream.

Water

In dire circumstances, you can substitute milk with water -- but your final dish won't have the same creaminess or texture. Swapping milk for water works best if your recipe calls for less than a ¼ cup of milk, such as pie crust or cookie dough. If you're going to use water, add a tablespoon of butter for each cup of water. This will replace the fat that would have been in milk.

Oat milk

If you've got some leftover oat milk from perfecting your lockdown lattes, you already know it makes for the perfect milk substitute due to its neutral flavour and thick texture. To replace 1 cup of milk, use 1 cup of oat milk.

Soy milk

Soy milk has a neutral flavour, making it a great milk substitute for stovetop sauces and baked goods as it won't influence the final flavour of your dish. To replace 1 cup of milk, use 1 cup of soy milk.

Vegetable substitutes

Substituting vegetables largely depends on your tastes but there are some easy swaps you can make, based on their cook time.
You can swap these quick cooking and less dense veggies:

  • Asparagus 
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli or broccolini
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Courgette
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • These denser veggies take longer to cook and can be easily swapped:
  • Beet
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrot
  • Parsnip
  • Potato and sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Turnip

    If you want to swap a quick-cooking vegetable for a firm vegetable or vice versa, just vary the cooking time by adding the ingredient later or earlier in your recipe. 
 

 

 

 

 


Substitute ingredients

 

Ingredient

Replace with these

Brown sugar (1 cup)

1 cup whole white sugar and 1/4 cup golden syrup

Baking powder (1 tsp)

1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Breadcrumbs

Use rolled oats, crushed bran cereal or plain cracker crumbs

Chocolate finely grated (30g)

Use 3 tbsps cocoa and 1 tbsp margarine

Cocoa (1 tbsp)

1 square of unsweetened chocolate

Desiccated Coconut

Shredded or desiccated nuts & dried fruits

Cornflour (1 tbsp)

2 tbsps plain flour

Cottage cheese

1 cup ricotta sauce (Whisk ricotta, salt and pepper until smooth)

Cream, reduced-fat cream, evaporated skim milk, natural yoghurt

All these can be replaced with each other most of the time.

Crumble toppings

Crush packet of sweet biscuits.
Drizzle fruit with manuka honey and bake.  
Place under the grill until golden brown. 

Fresh ginger

1/2 tsp ginger powder (or to taste)

Honey

Use jam, sugar or golden syrup

Macaroni Cheese topping

Crushed rice crisps add a slightly crispy baked finish.

Mayonnaise

Natural yoghurt

Meat (as the main ingredient)

Triple the amount of vegetables on pizzas, casseroles, soups and stews.

Milk

Milk powder and water

Olive oil

Butter, coconut oil

Raisins or sultanas

Dried currants, cranberries, pitted prunes, dates

Ricotta cheese

Dry cottage cheese

Self-raising flour

1 cup flour plus 2 tsps baking powder

Stock cube

Use vegetable cooking water, marmite or vegemite

Sugar

Manuka honey

Tomato juice

Add 1/2 cup tomato sauce to 1/2 cup of water

Vinegar

1 tsp lemon or lime juice, or 2 tsps white wine

HEALTHIER SWAPS YOU CAN MAKE

 

Ingredient

Replace with these

Sugar

Stevia sweetener

Cream cheese

Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese

White bread of wraps

Wholemeal bread or wraps

Butter or margarine

Avocado

Whole milk

Skim milk or nut milk

Flour

Oat bran

Pasta noodles

Zucchini noodles

Sour cream

Greek yoghurt

Salt

Herb seasonings

Rice or mashed potato

Finely chopped cauliflower (cauliflower rice)