Vegan Food Pyramid
If you are thinking of going vegan for your health, the vegan food pyramid is probably one of the first things you want to look at. There is now an updated nutrition guide called the Power Plate which is a simplified version of the original vegan food pyramid guide. Click on the plate image for more information.
When I first became a vegan, I hadn't heard about the vegan food pyramid and just made sure I ate plenty of natural foods without checking my nutritional intake too closely. Then after being a vegan for a couple of years - and in the meantime discovering vegan treat foods - I discovered the pyramid and decided to look a bit more closely at what I was eating.
I discovered that I was eating the right variety of foods but I needed to make sure I was getting enough fatty acids, vitamin B12
Oh. And I needed to cut down on those delicious vegan treat foods too.
But I need to be honest here. I still don't watch my diet too closely. I don't take vitmain B12 tablets (and neither do my vegan friends), but that's not to say that you shouldn't either. I do eat vegan products which have been fortified with vitamin B12 and if I think I've eaten too many processed foods, I will cut back and eat more whole foods. For me, it's all about balance.
Above you will find the Vegan Power Plate. Click on that link for further information. You might also want to have a look at this PCRM page which explains the different groups even further.
The classic vegan food pyramid below shows the food items in their natural form but remember that these can also be made into delicious recipes.
The listed food varieties within the vegan food pyramid can be made into lovely wholesome meals.
For example, the protein section of the vegan food guide pyramid which includes items such as legumes, seeds and beans can be found in most vegan meat replacement foods which are made up of soya beans and are high in protein.
Protein can also be found in many everyday products such as baked beans, nuts, seeds, pulses, soya products and cereals (wheat, oats, and rice).
Calcium rich foods are so easy to incorporate into your vegan diet. Soya products are easily available in most supermarkets and are an excellent source of calcium.
Foods high in calcium also include broccoli, tofu, soybeans, collard greens, turnip greens, and calcium-fortified juice.
Vitamin D is naturally found in sunlight and most people can obtain a sufficient amount by spending a small amount of time outside everyday. Vegans can also get vitamin D from fortified enriched foods, such as soya milk and soya margarine.
Omega 3 Fats are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, seaweed and broccoli. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fats as are seeds, especially linseed (also called flax), rapeseed and hempseed (including the oils from these foods). Our old friend tofu is also a good source of omega 3 fats.
Fruits and vegetables and whole grains are self explanatory and are easily obtained.
What Constitutes A Serving?
Wholegrains, Cereals And Pastas:
The government has been saying wholegrains should make up around 50% of our daily intake for around fifty years now. I personally feel this needs to be updated. Carbs are addictive and times have changed radically since the 1950's.
1 medium bowl (40g) All Bran
1 large (90g) pitta bread
1 medium plate (230g) wholemeal boiled spaghetti
1 large slice (55g) wholemeal bread
1 large bowl (290g) boiled rice
Fruits And Vegetables:
1 large fruit such as a banana, apple or an orange
2 medium fruits such as kiwi, satsuma, plum or apricot
5 small fruits such as lychee or passion fruit
1 cup of very small fruit such as grapes or raspberries
1-1/2 tablespoons dried fruit such as currants or raisins
1 small glass of fruit juice
2 tablespoons of any cooked vegetables, e.g. broccoli, carrots, parsnips
1 small bowl of salad
3 tablespoons of small cooked vegetables, e.g. sweetcorn, peas
A serving can include fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced fruit and vegetables.
Calcium Rich Foods - Soyamilk And Alternates:
1/2 cup calcium-enriched milk substitute (eg. almond milk, rice milk)
Half a cup of tofu
1 cup of broccoli or other leafy greens
1 cup of legumes (baked white beans, navy, great northern, scarlett runner, trout beans)
1 carton of soya yoghurt
1oz of almonds
5 dried figs
Protein Rich Foods - Beans And Alternates:
1/2 cup of cooked legumes (beans or lentils)
4 tablespoons of nuts or seeds
2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter
1 Tbs vegan non-soy protein powder
Small portion of protein enriched meat substitute
*Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EFA):
1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil
1 heaped tablespoon of ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon of hempseed oil
1/4 cup of walnuts
* One of the above omega 3 servings is sufficient for your daily requirement.
You may have noticed that a lot of the food listed above contain more than one nutritional element required for your daily dietary needs. But you can also see that it is quite simple to achieve a healthy and balanced plant based diet which will give your body everything it needs to function well.
There is no need to take your calculator into the kitchen and measure everything you are going to be eating. If you use the vegan food guide pyramid as a guideline and ensure that you have a variety of all the different food groups, you will certainly get everything you need from a vegan diet with the exception of vitamin B12 (unless you make sure you are eating foods fortified with the B12 vitamin), and iodine (again, you can still eat some vegan foods with iodine in them), but may choose to supplement.
Some vegan diets are more nutritionally balanced than others, depending on your particular requirements. Vegans can still eat chips, cakes, biscuits, white bread etc, but too much of these foods would remove the benefit of a wholesome vegan diet rich in essential nutrients.
Any healthy diet must consist of a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables and this also applies to a vegan diet.
So, use the vegan food pyramid to guide you through the different food groups, and remember, nuts, beans, seeds, and soya etc can be made into fabulous vegan meals and do not have to always be eaten in their raw form.