For the first time, plant-based eaters have a food pyramid that suits their dietary needs. A new vegetarian and vegan diet pyramid was released by Oldways in response to the growing popularity of meatless diets. The pyramid is an updated version of the one created in 1997 and places more emphasis on fruits and vegetables than the original.
Foods are broken down into categories, much like with the traditional food pyramid. Whole grains have the most recommended servings, with 5-8 per day, followed by vegetables (4-6 servings), and fruits (3-4 servings). Beans, peas, lentils and soy make up another level of the pyramid, then nuts, peanuts, seeds and peanut/nut butters. Finally on the top levels are herbs, spices and plant oils, and eggs and/or dairy.
“It’s beautifully illustrated, and one of the most astonishing things to me is if you put your fingers over the top, it’s vegan,” said Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott in an interview with the Huffington Post. “In the past, we didn’t really account for vegans. Personally, I love cheese. But here, there’s not much difference between vegan and vegetarian.”
In 1997, the pyramid did not place much emphasis on fresh produce. Though it was designed as a guide for vegetarian diets, the images of fruits and vegetables were put off to the side and not emphasized at all. Now, they hold the largest space on the pyramid and show Oldways’ continuing commitment to whole, unprocessed and traditional foods.
“We’re not about food fads, we’re about traditions, taking the best of the past and bringing it forward,” Baer-Sinnott said. “It’s delicious, not expensive and it brings family and community together.”
To create the pyramid, a team of 10 scientists were gathered. They reviewed the data on plant-based diets that had been gathered over the years, and provided their recommendations as to how the pyramid should be structured. Because multiple variations of vegetarian diets have existed in different cultures throughout history, there was plenty of information on which to base the pyramid.
According to the Oldways website, “A plant-based diet can be an excellent source of all the necessary nutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and all nine essential amino acids) for optimum health, particularly when a wide variety of foods are eaten each day.”
The site also suggests that vegetarians, and especially vegans, may need to add supplements to their diet to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients their bodies require.
It’s the goal of Oldways to use their pyramid to help any who are interested in adopting a meatless diet, but unsure how to incorporate it into their daily lives. From the Oldways website, “This new pyramid reflects the vast variety of delicious, healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, herbs and spices, that fit into a healthy eating pattern.”
Image from Oldways