Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid


Eggs, Sweets: Pie, Egg, Custard, Ice Cream, Cake, Cookie
Egg Whites, Soy Milks, Dairy: Egg White, Cheese (dairy & soy), Yogurt, Milk
Nuts, Seeds: Pine, Walnut, Pistachio, Brazil, Pecan, Almond, Sesame, Cashew, Pumpkin, Hazelnut, Macadamia
Plant, Oils: Corn, Canola, Avocado, Olive, Soybean, Safflower, Peanut, Other Nut & Seed Oil
Whole Grains: Oats, Wheat, Rice, Buckwheat, Flax, Bulgur, Quinoa, Amaranth, Seitan, Millet, Barley, Whole Grain Bread, Rye, Pita, Tortilla, Rice Cakes, Couscous, Noodles, Kasha, Pasta, Corn
Fruits, Vegetables: Fig, Grape, Raisin, Pear, Avocado, Chile, Mushroom, Herb, Tomato, Kale, Orange, Broccoli, Collards, Kiwi, Melon, Chard, Spice, Okra, Apple, Sweet Potato, Banana, Pepper, Asparagus, Cucumber, Manioc, Potato, Lemon Grass, Plum, Cassava, Onion, Cherry, Guava, Carrot, Cabbage, Squash, Leek, Egg Plant, Celery
Legumes (Soy, Beans, Peanuts and other Legumes): Soy, Peanut, Red Bean, Lentil, Pea, Kidney Bean, Tempeh, Tofu, Black-Eyed Pea, Dried Pea, Soy Flour, Textured Vegetable Protein, Adzuki Bean, Navy Bean, Miso, Pinto Bean, Split Pea, Lima Bean, Chick Pea, Mung Bean, Black Bean
Daily Exercise: walking, house cleaning, running, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, hiking, scuba diving, basketball, baseball, football, skiing, surfing, yard work, rollerblading, dancing, weight lifting, love-making.

The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid

The pyramid that represents a traditional healthy vegetarian diet incorporates these principles:
Variations of this traditional healthy vegetarian diet exist throughout the world, particularly in parts of North America, Europe, South America, and most notably, Asia.
Given these carefully-defined parameters, the phrase traditional healthy vegetarian diet is used here to represent the healthy traditional ovo-lacto vegetarian diets of these regions and peoples.
The design of the The Traditional Healthy Vegetarian Diet Pyramid is not based solely on either the weight or the percentage of energy (calories) that foods account for in the diet. It represents a blend of these that gives relative proportions and a general sense of frequency of servings, as well as an indication of which foods to favor in a healthy vegetarian diet.
The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid describes a diet for most healthy adults. Adjustments need to be made for children, women in their reproductive years, and other special population groups.
For persons who wish to improve their diet, this model provides a highly palatable, healthful framework for change.
Equally positive results can be obtained either by entirely adopting a vegetarian diet, or by alternating meals based on this vegetarian model with meals inspired by healthful dietary traditions of other cultures in other parts of the world, such as the Mediterranean, Asian, and Latin American diet models. Evidence is clear that people enjoy the foods of other cultures, and partake of these foods to enhance and augment their knowledge and understanding of different cultures.
This food guide pyramid is the fourth in a series that has been developed during the past few years to illustrate graphically the healthy traditional food and dietary patterns of various cultures and regions of the world. This initiative is a result of a multi-year conference series, Public Health Implications of Traditional Diets, jointly organized by Harvard School of Public Health and Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust.
It is an element of the Cultural Models for Healthy Eating project, a long-term Oldways educational program. These pyramids, taken as a group, offer substantive refinements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, refinements that reflect the current state of clinical and epidemiological research worldwide and our understanding of what constitutes optimal human nutrition status.

Diet Characteristics

Dietary data from vegetarians across the world that enjoyed the lowest recorded rates of chronic diseases and the highest adult life expectancy show a pattern similar to the one illustrated in the list below. The healthfulness of this pattern is corroborated by epidemiological and experimental nutrition.
  1. Multiple daily servings of foods from the three Fruits and Vegetables, Whole Grains, Legumes, and Beans mini-pyramids.
  2. Daily servings from the three Nuts and Seeds, Plant Oils, and Egg Whites, Soy Milks and Dairy mini-pyramids.
  3. Occasional or small-quantity servings from the Eggs and Sweets mini-pyramid.
  4. Attention to consuming a variety of foods from all seven mini-pyramids.
  5. Daily consumption of enough water throughout the day to assure good health.
  6. Regular physical activity at a level which promotes healthy weight, fitness, and well-being.
  7. Reliance upon whole foods and minimally processed foods in preference to highly-processed foods.
  8. Moderate regular intake of alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer or spirits (optional).
  9. Daily consumption of unrefined plant oils.
  10. Dietary supplements as necessary, based upon factors such as age, sex, and lifestyle, with special attention to those avoiding dairy and/or eggs (Vitamins D and B12).
What exactly is a healthful diet, and can a vegetarian diet be classified as such?
According to the 1995 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthful diets contain the amounts of essential nutrients and energy needed to prevent nutritional deficiencies and excesses. Healthful diets also provide the right balance of carbohydrate, fat and protein to reduce risks for chronic diseases, and they are obtained from a variety of foods that are available, affordable and enjoyable. Despite the endorsement of vegetarian diets by the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines, many myths concerning various aspects of vegetarian diets still exist.
The Protein Myth
The myth that the nine essential amino acids cannot be obtained without incorporating meat into the diet is gradually diminishing. People are quickly learning that they can easily combine a variety of grains and vegetables to ensure that all nine amino acids are obtained in adequate amounts. In fact, according to articles in the May 1994 Supplement American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, plant protein foods contribute approximately 65 percent of the per capita supply of protein on a worldwide basis.
The Diet of No Taste
Contrary to the wide-spread belief that a vegetarian diet must be monotonous and devoid of taste, vegetarian meals are very delicious and exciting, especially when several varieties of grains, fruits and vegetables are combined. A meal that removes meat from the plate and leaves only an unseasoned baked potato and a poorly-prepared salad may well be dull in flavor. However, when people discover and learn to experiment with the wide array of spices and herbs readily available for their pantry shelves, the combinations of flavors and tastes are endless, and vegetarian cooking becomes a culinary adventure.