What is the Vegetarian Food Pyramid?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The vegetarian food pyramid is a set of dietary recommendations constructed specifically for vegetarians, with their unique dietary needs in mind. Like other food pyramids, it is presented in the form of a simple pyramid shaped graphic, with a base consisting of foods which should be eaten regularly, narrowing to a pinnacle of things which should be eaten less frequently and in smaller amounts.

Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.
Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.

There are a number of different kinds of vegetarians, and each has a slightly different vegetarian food pyramid. More extreme vegetarians such as vegans and fruitarians have very special dietary needs, while more lax vegetarians such as lacto-ovo vegetarians and pescetarians have a food pyramid which is similar to that of omnivores.

Legumes are an important part of the vegetarian food pyramid.
Legumes are an important part of the vegetarian food pyramid.

There is also some dispute about the precise arrangement of the vegetarian food pyramid. Most pyramids have a base of whole grains. Some also include legumes in this base, while others place legumes in a higher tier, indicating that they do not need to be eaten with every meal. The next layer of the pyramid is usually vegetables and fruits, which should be eaten in abundance, followed by protein sources. Protein sources can include nuts, seeds, meat replacements, and for some forms of vegetarians, dairy, eggs, and fish. The top of the vegetarian food pyramid includes fats and oils, along with dietary supplements which are recommended for some vegetarians, such as B12 for vegans.

A vegatarian dish.
A vegatarian dish.

Things like alcohol and sweets may also be included in a vegetarian food pyramid. In some publications, they are at the top of the pyramid, underscoring the fact that they should be consumed in moderation. Other publications place them next to the pyramid, to show that they fall outside the foods which are necessary for a healthy diet, and that people should consume them in limited amounts.

Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.
Vegetarian meat crumbles are made of textured vegetable protein.

Everyone's dietary needs are a little bit different. While using a vegetarian food pyramid as a rough guide can be helpful for someone who is just starting to explore vegetarianism, it can help to consult a doctor to get specific dietary recommendations. It's a good idea to bring in a copy of a vegetarian food pyramid for a doctor to review, and to get his or her suggestions on any changes which should be made to ensure that someone's nutrition is complete.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women in particular have differing dietary needs because they are eating for two. It is possible to have a very healthy and safe vegetarian pregnancy, but it is important to make adjustments to the vegetarian food pyramid, including increasing dietary supplements, to ensure that the developing fetus is provided with the nutrients it needs. An obstetrician can provide specific dietary recommendations to pregnant vegetarian patients.

Most vegetarian food pyramids have a base of whole grains.
Most vegetarian food pyramids have a base of whole grains.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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