3 Day Military Diet Substitutes: Learning About Foods, Calories, & Dieting

What should I get?
Angie Moore
Written by Angie Moore

The military diet is quite easy to follow as it offers easy preparation and simple food choices. However, due to varying factors, some cannot follow the recommended meal plans. You may either have a pre-existing medical condition, food allergy, or simply you don’t like some of the foods included in the diet. It happens.

This is where this diet beats most of other weight loss meal plans out there. The diet is flexible and even the most basic food choices in the meal plans have their corresponding substitutes. Even more, you get an entire list of substitutes and you are not charged extra to access it!

Following, we are going to discuss some of the most common 3-day military diet substitutions so you’d understand better how this diet works. Also, it’s very important to understand why substitutions must be taken from their list and not random. This will be included in the mistakes you should avoid doing section.

Understanding substitution

The first rule of substitution: the serving size doesn’t matter, the amount of calories does.

For example, if you will replace tuna with almonds, you should not follow the serving size of the former and apply it to the latter. It only takes approximately twenty pieces of almonds to gain the amount of calories that a full can of tuna can give. Almonds, despite their bite-sized proportions, are heavy in calories. If you need to have a list of food to buy, check out our piece on how to select the correct food for the military diet.

Imagine eating a cup full of almonds by mistake. That will totally ruin your meal plan by overshooting your calorie intake. Proportions and serving sizes may vary, and that is why it is very important to know what you eat to be able to follow the recommended calorie intake for every single meal.

The importance of the meal plan structure

The meal plans in the military diet are not a random set of food options that are packed together in small portions in order to lose weight. These are composed of a carefully planned, tailored-fit set of ingredients that create a holistic and extremely effective combination. This way, you get to lose weight without compromising on nourishment.

Diet plan concept

The reason that this diet works is not just about the reduction of calorie content, but also how the nutrients and their effects interact during digestion. Of course, all this happens when the meal plans are followed to the dot.

Due to varying reasons, some individuals may not be able to follow the pre-determined meal plan. Some of these reasons might be because of allergies or just a matter of personal preference. This is where proper substitution comes in, and despite the food replacement, you could still achieve results that you want after completing the routine.

Always think fresh

Most of the ingredients in the military diet require fresh choices. They are very accessible and readily available to any household. This is extremely important for fruits, vegetables, as well as dairy and meat.

It pays to check the label, and for canned merchandise, always check the production and expiration date to avoid canned goods that have been sitting on the shelf for too long.

About grapefruits and oranges

Let’s start with the most commonly committed mistake in this diet: grapefruits are often replaced with oranges.

Just because they look alike (a bit) does not mean the former can be replaced by the later. Grapefruit is strategically included in this diet because of its nutritional and chemical effects. It has a proven weight-loss effect because it decreases insulin levels, which are responsible for glucose absorption. Many people out there who’ve been trying to lose weight appreciate the power of this amazing fruit.


So is there really a substitute for grapefruit? The honest answer would be no. It has a unique combination of enzymes that is not found in any other fruit. Replacing this with orange jeopardizes the diet plan and the closest alternative is to add half a teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water. This substitute allows the enhancement of pH balance of the body, which increases the effectiveness of burning fat.

Tuning the tuna

Tuna is one of the primary meal plan ingredients of this diet. It is a light protein source, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. The ideal tuna preparation for this diet is plain tuna, but this might be too bland to appeal to the taste buds of most people. The best alternative preparation will be grilled lean tuna with a serving size similar to a cup of canned tuna.

Nicoise tuna salad with salad greens, tomato, olives and flaked fresh tuna served on an omelette base, overhead view

Substitutes for tuna are very flexible because you can replace it with any lean meat of choice, but the closest replacement will be another type of fish. You can also read our piece on the benefits of eggs in the military diet for more insight.


Meat is such a great component in this diet because of its diversity in terms of options and preparations. However, this becomes a hurdle for vegetarians. In this case, you can replace meat with beans, lentils, or even Portobello mushrooms as worthy alternatives. These alternatives will require a larger serving compared to the meat to catch up on the calorie content.

Portobello mushrooms

For example, an ounce of lamb contains about 83 calories. On the other hand, a serving of Portobello mushroom, which is about one cup, only contains approximately 22 calories, while a tablespoon of boiled lentils contain 14 calories.

The caffeine fix

Like the grapefruit, coffee is one of the catalysts in this diet. It promotes an appetite-suppressing effect that is strong enough for you to feel it, but mild enough to be within tolerable limits. This is quite an easy fix for coffeeholics, but might pose a challenge to individuals who are not fans.

Caffeine fix

Green tea is the closest alternative to coffee because it shares a similar effect. However, do not even think about replacing the coffee with an energy drink or a soda! Remember that this is not just about the caffeine content, but the overall chemical effect of coffee. For tips on how to make coffee healthier, check our piece on this important topic.

Energy drinks and sodas may have caffeine, but they are also overwhelmingly filled with other ingredients that you don’t need. And let’s not get start on the sugar overdose!

Green Tea

Teas are milder substitutes. If you don’t like coffee, you should consider green tea as your best substitute. As much as possible, the substitution should be equivalent to the servings of coffee in the meal plan, which is one every meal and another for spare. While teas are a bit lighter, you should not overindulge on the intake.

Substituting your veggies

Vegetables share more streamlined calorie contents, thus making substitution a lot easier to estimate and follow. However, it is very important to refrain from consuming any condiments with your vegetables because this can alter the effect of the meal or add up unwanted ingredients and the calories that come with them into your body.

  • Carrots can be replaced by squash, beets, parsnip, or bell pepper.
  • Broccoli can be substituted by Brussel sprouts, spinach, or cauliflower.
  • If you don’t like your green beans, you can replace them with spinach, tomatoes, or lettuce.

Replacing carrots is quite easy, as it contains 41 calories per 100 grams and can be replaced with other more preferred vegetables possessing similar caloric value, such as beets, which have 43 calories per 100 grams. Broccoli has approximately 35 calories per 100 grams, whereas its more popular alternate, the cauliflower, has 25 calories per 100 grams.


If you’re not feeling the bread, substitute it with one-half of a protein bar, about one-eighth cup of sunflower seeds, or half a teaspoon of flaxseeds.

Protein bars with flaxseeds

Another good bunch of alternatives are rice cakes and tortillas, which have low calorie content but are just as equally filling. However, make sure to watch your seed consumption because it is one of the easiest alternatives in the entire list that often lead to overeating. Like nuts, seeds are small in size, but they pack in a lot of calories, so it is very important to stick with the recommended serving suggestion.

Saltine crackers

Saltine crackers taste good if consumed only once in a while, but they can taste too bland or underwhelming if consumed on a regular basis. The perfect alternate for saltine crackers will be rice cakes. Rice cakes are a perfect substitute for saltine crackers because of their completely different texture and more complex taste.

Rice cakes

While saltine crackers can be replaced with any other cracker of choice, it is important to ensure that the amount of calories is close to the intended calorie content. The serving size of saltine crackers in the meal plan is about five pieces, which is equivalent to 65 calories at 13 calories per piece. Rice cakes can easily cover this calorie requirement, but they require a smaller serving size.

Cottage cheese

The very light and healthy cottage cheese can be replaced by other cheese variants that you might prefer, such as cheddar or ricotta. You can also substitute it with a serving of egg or a small portion of ham.

Another good alternative is Greek yogurt, but it is important to use the plain one variant as your cottage cheese substitute. Lastly, you can also try to consume a serving of tofu, which is a non-dairy alternative that is packed with similar nutritional content.

Greek Yougurt

Cheddar cheese            

For the meal sets that require cheddar cheese, you can switch it out with the ones you switch cottage cheese with. The alternatives include ham, eggs, and even cottage cheese itself. We also have soy milk, tofu, or soy cheese if you prefer something that is non-dairy.

Cheddar Cheese

The recommended serving size of cheddar cheese is one slice, which translates to about an ounce. Almost all of the alternatives can follow their corresponding serving sizes, but be careful with ham (145 calories per 100 grams) and soy milk (54 calories per 100 ml).


A small banana contains about 50 calories and can be replaced with kiwis (68 calories per 100 grams), papayas (43 calories per 100 grams), or apricots (48 calories per 100 grams). These alternative fruit choices share similar calorie content and can be flavorful as well.  In addition, you can also try applesauce, plums, or a small serving of grapes.


Peanut butter

Peanut butter is frowned upon by individuals who have a known allergic reaction to peanuts, whereas some just don’t like the taste of it. The good news is that you can replace this with pumpkin butter, hummus, almond butter, or soy butter.

Peanut butter

If you don’t like spreads, a serving of two tablespoons of sunflower seeds can compensate for the calories and nutritional requirement of peanut butter.

Vanilla ice cream

Vanilla ice cream is probably the most “cheated” meal component in this list. Some unknowingly jeopardize their military diet schemes by substituting vanilla ice cream with another flavor. The most important rule is to never ever replace vanilla ice cream with another flavor that you like, with chocolate being the usual suspect.

Vanilla ice cream is the purest form of ice cream, with the least amount of flavoring and sugar, as well as the absence of other ingredients, such as nuts or chocolate chips, cookie dough, or even marshmallows.

Ice cream


You might be surprised at why water is on this list. That is because water is the only component of this diet that should not, for any reason, be substituted. It is free from added sugar, preservatives, flavoring, and the best part is, zero calories.

Drink water

Take lots of water, and not just any other fluid, to keep you hydrated. It will help you cleanse your body and ultimately help you lose weight. You will feel great after a week under the military diet augmented with increased water intake.

Substitute guide

As the substitutes have been listed down, you can refer to the chart below as a summary of your possible replacement to ensure the effectiveness of this diet by following its regimen with the correct food choices.

These food options are calculated in calorie content per 100 grams.

Military Diet Substitute Chart – Calories per 100 grams
Chicken 239 calories
Beef 250 calories
Salmon 208 calories
Mackerel 231 calories
Portabella Mushroom 26 calories
Lentils 353 calories
Lamb 292 calories
Green Tea 1 calorie
Black Tea 1 calorie
Brussels Sprouts 43 calories
Spinach 23 calories
Cauliflower 25 calories
Beets 43 calories
Bell Pepper 20 calories
Zucchini 17 calories
Flaxseeds 534 calories
Rice Cakes 387 calories
Sunflower Seeds 584 calories
Ricotta Cheese 174 calories
Cheddar Cheese 402 calories

The verdict

If the pre-planned meals are not compatible with you or your taste preferences, it is not the end of the road for you in terms of the military diet. You don’t need to find for the next diet that might work. With a great selection of equally effective substitution, there is a good chance that these replacements will help you accomplish your goal to lose weight safely and without compromising your health.

Remember that it is very important to follow the instructions, and when you substitute food items correctly, you will surely hit your goal and successfully complete the program.

About the author

Angie Moore

Angie Moore

Angie brings a mix of knowledge and experience in diet creation and fitness best practices. With Kansas State University‘s bachelor’s degree in dietetics and over 7 years of experience working with thousands of clients to better their life, Angie is passionate about your health and well-being. She is also a well-known foodie, having published a few books about diets that work. For most of the time, you can find her in the gym working out with friends and clients, pushing them for top results and fulfilled life.