About Our Substitution Guide

What if you want to follow a recipe, but you don’t have some of the ingredients. Or you like a recipe, but you don’t eat meat, or don’t like broccoli. Do you have to give up on the recipe altogether? This substitution guide is meant to help you substitute one ingredient or another based on what you have, and what you like.

Ground Meat

When a recipe calls for a ground turkey/beef/chicken, use any of the following:

Animal-Based Ground Protein:

We recommend 93% lean ground meat and poultry. This means they are 93% protein and 7% fat.

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb

Plant-Based Ground Protein

Tofu and tempeh can be eaten without cooking. Cook long enough to absorb flavors and heat through.

  • Firm tofu, crumbled
  • Lentils
  • Tempeh, crumbled, chopped or grated

Canned Tuna or Chicken

When a recipe calls for canned tuna, use any of the following*:

Canned Tuna

Go for “light” tuna, which comes from tuna varieties lower in mercury.

  • Canned chicken
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines
  • Chickpeas (mashed)

*Try to find low sodium versions of canned products. A diet high in sodium can contribute to elevated blood pressure.


There are so many different grains, so feel free to use what you like, what you have, or try something new. Remember that cooking instructions vary from grain to grain, so follow the instructions written on the box or bag. Whole grains are a great way to get fiber and other nutrients.

For grain bowls, pasta, or rice dishes

  • Brown rice
  • Farro
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Fonio
  • Millet

For porridges and oatmeals

  • Old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Steel cut oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Polenta
  • Mais Mouline
  • Grits
  • Amaranth

For Sandwiches and Other Recipes With Bread



  • Pita bread*
  • English muffin*
  • Corn Tortilla
  • Flour Tortilla*
  • Plain arepa
  • Sandwich bread*
  • Naan
  • Crackers*
  • Rice Cake
  • Bagel*

*These products come in whole wheat versions. Check the ingredients and make sure the word “whole” is used or that the package says 100% whole wheat. For more types of whole grains, information about health benefits, and recipes, visit the Whole Grains Council.

Starchy Vegetables*

“Starchy vegetable” is a term we use a lot when talking about food and nutrition. This is a vegetable with more carbohydrates than “non-starchy vegetables.” Starchy vegetables can be boiled, roasted, and sometimes mashed.

Roasted Potatoes



  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yam
  • Butternut Squash
  • Acorn Squash
  • Delicata Squash
  • Kabocha Squash
  • Cassava (boil then roast)


Boiled Potatoes

  • Sweet Potato
  • Yam
  • Green Plantain
  • Yucca
  • Cassava (boil then roast)

Mashed Potatoes

Boil or roast and then mash

  • Plantain, boiled and mashed
  • Yucca
  • Cassava
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery root/ celeriac
  • Squash (butternut, pumpkin, kabocha, acorn etc.)

*Other starchy vegetables are corn, peas and beans, but these are generally used differently than the starchy vegetables listed above.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

“Non-starchy vegetable” is a term we use a lot when talking about food and nutrition. These vegetables are low in carbohydrates, and are mostly made up of fiber and water. They are nutrient dense, and low in calories.

Vegetables for Sautéing

Use canned, frozen or fresh*




  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Summer squash
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Okra
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplant
  • Radishes
  • green beans
  • Kohlrabi
  • Chayote
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (napa, red, green)
  • Bok choy
  • …and many more!

Salad greens

Try mixing it up, because different greens have different nutrients.

Darker-colored greens are often more nutritious than light colored greens: for example, spinach has more nutrients than iceberg lettuce.

Try “massaging” kale with your dressing before eating it. The vinegar or citrus in the dressing helps tenderize the kale.

  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Arugula
  • Mixed greens
  • Cabbage, endive
  • Escarole
  • Cress/watercress
  • Lettuce such as bibb, red leaf, iceberg, etc.
  • Kale
  • …and more!

Cooking greens

These greens are hardier, and less tender than salad greens. They stand up well to some heat.

Try sautéing, or even roasting or grilling these for different flavors and textures.

  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Nok choy
  • Broccoli raab
  • Watercress
  • Dandelion greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Cabbage
  • Callaloo
  • …and more!

Aromatics Vegetables

These are vegetables that have a potent smell and flavor.

When sautéing, these are added to the oil before the other ingredients, so that their flavors can fully develop.

  • Onion (red, yellow, purple)
  • Leek
  • Scallion/ green onion
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Ginger




When substituting dairy milk for a plant-based milk, make sure that the plant-based milk is “unsweetened”. This means that it has no added sugar.



Higher in Protein:

  • Cow’s Milk
  • Goat’s Milk
  • Lactose free milk
  • Soy Milk

Lower in Protein and Calories

  • Almond Milk
  • Cashew Milk

Higher in Carbohydrates

  • Oat Milk
  • Rice Milk

Crumbled cheese

  • Feta
  • Blue cheese/ Gorgonzola
  • Cotija
  • Goat cheese
  • Paneer
  • Queso fresco

Shredded or Grated cheese

  • Cheddar
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Monterey jack
  • …and many more!

Vegan Options

  • Vegan Cheese
  • Nutritional Yeast


Herbs and Spices


1 teaspoon dried herbs = 1 Tablespoon fresh herbs

1 clove of garlic = ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder = ½ teaspoon minced garlic

Herb and Spice Pairings:

Herbs and spices enhance the flavor, aroma, and color of food and beverages and are a rich source of antioxidants.

Source: Spices By Cuisine from cooksmarts.com

Mexican spices

Coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cinnamon, chili powder

Caribbean spices

Allspice, nutmeg, garlic powder, cloves, cinnamon, ginger

French spices

Nutmeg, thyme, garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, herbs de provence

North African spices

Cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger, ras el hanout

Cajun spices

Cayenne, oregano, paprika, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, cajun seasoning

Thai spices

Basil, cumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, curry powder

Mediterranean spices

Oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, basil, ginger


Bay leaves, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, garam marsala, curry powder

Middle eastern

Bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, coriander, oregano, za’atar, garlic powder


Which oil to use can be confusing.

Our top choice for flavor and health: Extra virgin olive oil. It is rich in antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats.

Our top choice for budget and health: Canola oil. It is a good source of healthy omega 3 fats.

Remember to use oils within 1-2 months of opening them, and store them in a cool, dark and dry place such as your cabinet (rather than next to your stove). This prevents them from going rancid so they stay healthy and tasty for longer.


  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-choose-and-use-healthy-cooking-oils/
  2. https://actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-02-0083.pdf
  3. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0619p12.shtml


There are generally 3 categories of salt: iodized salt, kosher salt, and sea salt. The flake size of all the salts is different, which means 1 teaspoon of iodized salt does NOT equal 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt.

1 teaspoon kosher salt = ½ teaspoon iodized salt

  • One teaspoon of table salt weighs 6 grams and contains 2,325 mg sodium.
  • One teaspoon of sea salt weighs 5 grams and contains 1,872 mg sodium.*
  • One teaspoon of kosher salt weighs 3 grams and contains 1,120 mg sodium.

*The flakes of sea salt are inconsistent, so the weight and sodium content per teaspoon likely  depends on the brand.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/different-types-of-salt#other-salt-types
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16881-sodium--heart-health