Military Diet Substitutes For A Routine Update

Written by Varsha Patnaik

Want to lose 10 pounds in a week ? Well, yes that’s possible. That’s exactly what the military diet claims to do for you. The military diet is a calorie-restrictive, weight-loss diet, based on the idea of consuming fewer calories than you burn every day. It limits your calorie intake between 1000-1400 calories/day and helps you lose weight fast. What’s more? You are also given a set meal plan for the first 3 days of the diet. While you are free to eat whatever you want during the remaining 4 days, sticking with healthy and low-calorie food would help make the diet even more effective for you. If for any given reason, you find yourself unable to include any of the enlisted food items, you also have a list of pre-approved military diet substitutes you can swap with.

Going further in this article, we shall have a detailed discussion on why you would need a food substitute, what food substitutes can be used in the military diet, and how to incorporate the same in your diet.

Reasons To Make A Food Substitution

The military diet comes with a detailed meal plan and involves certain food items in particular.
The primary food list is as follows:

  • tuna
  • broccoli
  • banana
  • tea
  • coffee
  • grapefruit
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • peanut butter
  • bread
  • meat
  • vanilla ice cream
  • apple
  • cottage cheese
  • saltine crackers
  • hot dog
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • cheddar cheese

While it might seem like a quick and simple meal plan, some people might not be able to include one or a few of the enlisted food items in their diet due to the below possible reasons.

Diet Habits

Food swaps might be necessary for you if you follow any other diet in tandem or if you lead a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

  • Vegetarian- no egg or meat products.
  • Vegan- no meat, eggs, dairy, or any other food of animal origin.
  • Paleo- no whole grains, milk, legumes, or processed foods (1).
  • Ketogenic diet – low carbs, high fat (2).

Food Aversion

You might need a food swap simply because you can’t stand the sight or smell of that particular food item. For instance, some people might not like the smell of fish or the taste of any particular fruit.

Intolerance And Allergies

When your body is unable to digest certain food groups properly, it leads to allergies and intolerance. You might be allergic to certain food items like nuts or protein or intolerant to lactose in dairy products or gluten in grains (3). This would urge you to make a better-suited food swap for yourself.

Religious Restrictions

Certain religions are known to prohibit the intake of a particular food group or source (4). Few are listed below:

  • Mormonism- avoids caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee.
  • Islam- only allows Halal meat items, avoids pork.
  • Hinduism – mostly prohibits beef. A big population sticks to the lacto-vegetarian diet.
  • Buddhism – some sects might mandate strict vegetarianism.
  • Jainism – Jain people are strict lacto-vegetarians and also avoid root vegetables like onion, garlic, and potatoes.

Health Conditions

Having a prior health concern might restrict you from having a certain kind of food. For instance, people with diabetes are advised to limit their carb intake while if you have a certain heart condition, you might have to avoid food rich in sodium, fats, and cholesterol (5) (6).

Adverse Medicinal Reactions

Some medications might also interact negatively with certain food groups. For example, grapefruit which is included in the military diet is known to react adversely to anti-anxiety and blood pressure medications (7).

Given the possible reasons above, you might need to or prefer a food swap more suitable for yourself. Certain food swaps are allowed in the military diet to make it more flexible and doable for everyone as per their needs and preference. Further ahead, let’s see how you can incorporate food substitutions in the military diet.

How To Substitute Foods On The Military Diet

The military diet allows certain food substitutions that are pre-approved. However, it doesn’t provide any detailed measurements for the alternative food, only stressing the number of calories to be equal.

  • Use The Military Diet Substitutes Only If Needed

The military diet has a set meal plan because it works best that way. It is very particular about the food and calories included. While all the food swaps are officially approved, you must not go for one unless you need to. Replace a food item only when you have no other option. Also, do not go for all substitutions at a time or it might otherwise hinder your weight loss plans ultimately.

  • Measure And Match In Calories, Not The Size

When you are opting for a military food substitution make sure to match it in an equal amount of calories and not by size. While two fruits might seem similar in size and weight, most often than not, they won’t be the same in calories. For the enlisted food swaps to work as intended, the total calories of both the food items should be the same. Also, don’t be tempted to make a food substitution just because they belong to the same food group. For instance, while pork is also high-protein meat, it is not the best substitute for tuna because it’s high in its fat content as well.

  • Choose The Best Suitable Option

You might find more than one option for each food item on the military diet plan. While each can be measured and matched up in calories, not all of those would provide the same nutritional benefits as the original one. Out of the ones suitable for you, make sure to opt for the most nutritional food swap.

Similarly, while most meat products on the diet can be replaced with other meats, dairy, or plant-based protein sources, be mindful that vegan options might not match up in the protein content when we compare the calories (8 ).

To help you get started and make things easier for you, we have listed below a complete 3-day meal substitution plan.

3-Day Military Diet Substitution List

Day 1


  • Half a Grapefruit


1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a glass of water is the swap that is usually suggested as a substitute for grapefruit. But while this might seem odd to drink, it doesn’t match up in nutrients as well. You can swap it with any other fruit (preferably not orange) that gives you around 41 calories, 1.4 grams of fiber, and 44 mg of vitamin C as contained in half a grapefruit.

  • A slice of bread toast


If you don’t prefer bread, you can have ¼ cup of yogurt with ½ teaspoon of flax seeds, ⅛ cup of sunflower seeds, ½ a protein bar, one tortilla, and ½ a cup of whole-grain cereal or two rice cakes would also suffice instead.

  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter


The same amount of sunflower seed/ pumpkin/soy/almond/cashew butter, hummus, or bean dip can be used. Two tablespoons of plain sunflower seeds would also work instead.

  • A cup of tea or coffee (with caffeine)


You can opt for green tea instead of coffee. Hot chocolate (sugar-free) also has some caffeine to replace coffee or tea. In case you prefer energy drinks, then Red Bull (sugar-free) can also provide 76 mg of caffeine. Any other caffeinated drinks might have more calories than allowed.


  • Half a cup of tuna


You can have grilled tuna that’s equal in size as ½ or 1 cup of canned tuna. Though fish is the most preferable option in place of canned tuna, you can also have any other form of lean meat that adds up to the same number of calories. Vegetarians can have tofu, cottage cheese, or almonds while vegans can opt for half an avocado with 2 tablespoons of hummus.

  • One slice of bread/toast


One tortilla or two rice cakes can be taken in place of bread. Alternatively, you can have ¼ cup of yogurt with ½ teaspoon of flax seeds. ⅛ cup of sunflower seeds, ½ a protein bar, or ½ cup of whole-grain cereal, would also work.

  • One cup of tea or coffee (with caffeine)


Any kind of regular tea or green tea can be taken. Sugar-free versions of hot chocolate or Red Bull can also be included instead.


  • 3 oz of meat (any type)


In case you can’t have meat, you can substitute the same with beans, lentils, tofu, or portobello mushrooms.

  • A cup of green beans


You can replace beans with the same amount of calories from tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, or any other green leafy vegetables.

  • Half a banana


In place of banana, you can have a cup of ripe papaya, 2 kiwis, or even 2 apricots. Apple sauce, plums, and grapes amounting to the same calorie intake would also work instead.

  • One small apple


Plums, pears, grapes, peaches, zucchini, or dried apricots can be had in place of an apple.

  • A cup of vanilla ice cream


If you are restricted from eating ice cream, you can have a cup of any yogurt, (preferably fruit-flavored) or even apple juice. Dairy-free ice cream or flavored almond milk (except chocolate) would also work as a vegetarian or vegan option.

Day 2


  • One whole egg


You can have one chicken wing or 2 slices of bacon. Alternatively, if you are vegetarian, ¼ cup of seeds or nuts or a cup of milk can be taken. Half a cup of baked beans can be had as a vegan replacement.

  • A slice of toast


You can have a half cup of whole-grain cereal, ⅛ cup of sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup of yogurt with ½ teaspoon of flax seeds, or even half a protein bar. You can also replace toast with a tortilla or two rice cakes.

  • Half a banana


1 cup of papaya, 2 kiwis, or 2 apricots would work. You can also replace it with plums, grapes, or apple sauce as per your preference.


  • A cup of cottage cheese


You can have eggs, ham, cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt, or ricotta cheese as a military diet substitute for cottage cheese. Tofu can be had as a non-dairy substitute, as long as it’s an equal amount of calories. For vegans and vegetarians, 1 cup of unsweetened soy/almond/hemp milk and 2 tablespoons of hummus can be used.

  • One egg (hard-boiled)


½ an avocado can be taken in place of an egg.

  • Five saltine crackers


You can replace saltine crackers with rice cake. Alternatively, any other kind of cracker would also work, provided they match up the calories. You can also have the same calorie amount of couscous or quinoa instead.


  • Two hot dogs (with no buns)


Non-vegetarians can have turkey/soy/tofu dogs, deli meat, luncheon meat, bratwurst, or balogna. Vegetarians can have lentils, beans, or portobello mushrooms. Any other meat along with the fat would also work as long as the calories remain the same. The same applies to tofu as well.

  • One cup broccoli


Any green vegetable, for instance, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or spinach can be taken.

  • Half cup of carrots


Beets, celery, squash, bell pepper, and parsnip amounting to the same number of calories can be used in place of carrots.

  • Half a banana


2 kiwis, a cup of papaya, or 2 apricots can replace ½ a banana. Plums, grapes, or apple sauce would also work.

  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream


A cup of yogurt (fruit-flavored) or apple juice can be used. While almond milk in vanilla, strawberry, or banana flavor is a good non-dairy option, any ice cream that’s made dairy-free would work as a vegan option instead.

• Day 3


  • 5 saltine crackers


One saltine cracker has 13 calories. You can replace it with the calorie-correct amount of couscous or quinoa, or even rice cakes would work instead. In case you are having any other cracker, gluten-free or otherwise, make sure to match up to the calories.

  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese


You can have egg or ham instead with the same amount of calories. Cottage cheese also works well or you can substitute with non-dairy substitutes like soy milk, soy cheese, or tofu as well or ham.

  • A small apple


You can replace a small apple with peaches, plum, grapes, pears, dried apricots, or zucchini, as per the equal calorie intake.

  • Lunch
  • 1 egg (hard-boiled)


2 slices of bacon or one chicken wing can be taken in place of an egg. A cup of milk, 1/4 cup of seeds or nuts, 1/2 avocado, or 20 almonds would also suffice instead.

  • 1 slice of toast


½ a cup of whole-grain cereal, ⅛ cup of sunflower seeds, ½ of a high protein bar, or ¼ cup of yogurt with ½ teaspoon of flax seeds can replace a slice of toast. A tortilla or two rice cakes can also be had instead.


  • One cup of tuna


½ cup of canned chickpeas can be used as a military diet tuna substitute.

  • Half a banana


You can have 2 kiwis, 2 apricots, or a cup of papaya. Grapes, plums, and apple sauce would also work.

  • One cup of vanilla ice cream


Apple juice or a cup of any yogurt (fruit-flavored) can be taken. Another good non-dairy option would be flavored almond milk (other than chocolate) For vegetarians and vegans, any ice cream that is made dairy-free can be had.


The basic idea behind the military diet is to restrict your calorie intake. This 3-day weight-loss diet allows for certain food substitutions as long as you match them in calories. While certain substitutions like lean meat or tofu for tuna and rice cakes for saltine crackers might seem beneficial, there are a few others, like the military diet substitute for grapefruit by having baking soda in water which would not add any nutritional value to your diet.

You should also be mindful of leading a healthy lifestyle in the long term rather than resorting to unbalanced fad diets that tempt you to indulge in saltine crackers and ice cream for immediate short-term benefits (9) (10) Also, it’s always in your best interest to consult a licensed dietician before you start any diet regimen.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Paleo Diet – A Review
  2. Ketogenic Diet
  3. Food Allergies And Intolerances: A Clinical Approach To The Diagnosis And Management Of Adverse Reactions To Food
  4. How Personal Factors Including Culture And Ethnicity Affect The Choices And Selection Of Food We Make
  5. Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction As The First Approach In Diabetes Management: Critical Review And Evidence Base
  6. Cardiovascular Disease Prevention By Diet Modification: JACC Health Promotion Series
  7. Grapefruit Juice And Some Drugs Don\’t Mix
  8. Intake And Adequacy Of The Vegan Diet. A Systematic Review Of The Evidence
  9. Impact Of Lifestyle On Health
  10. Fad Diets: Lifestyle Promises And Health Challenges
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