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Breaking Down the Vegan Food Pyramid

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Breaking Down the Vegan Food Pyramid

Whether you’ve seen Health Canada’s rainbow Food Guide, or the new United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, it seems that everyone has their own version of a food guide. The first food guide was launched at the beginning of the 20th century in the United States, United States Department of Agriculture. (2011). A brief history of USDA food guides. Accessed 7/11/13 from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/MyPlate/ABriefHistoryOfUSDAFoodGuides.pdf and over the decades morphed from a wheel to a pyramid to the current plate graphic. However, many experts argue that it still has many flaws, even in its updated format. Vega formulator Brendan Brazier created his own food pyramid in a departure from the status quo to reflect clean plant-based nutrition. Here’s why:

Government Endorsed Food Guides are not always Perfect

Most government-endorsed food guides rely heavily on meat, dairy and grains. Some nutrition experts in America argue that this is because of powerful lobbying from large industrial food companies.Chan, M. (2013). WHO Director-General addresses health promotion conference. World Health Organization.  Accessed 7/11/13 from http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2013/health_promotion_20130610/en/

While the new MyPlateUnited States Department of Agriculture. (2013). MyPlate. Accessed 7/8/13 from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/MyPlate.htm for Americans does recommend making half the plate fruits and vegetables, it doesn’t define which types of grains, fats or proteins are most beneficial to your health. Instead of using a plate or a pyramid, Health Canada created a rainbow Food GuideHealth Canada. (2011). Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. Accessed 7/8/13 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.phpto divide food groups into Fruits & Vegetables, Grains, Dairy and Meat.

Upgraded Vegan Food Pyramid

When Brendan wrote his first book (in the US: Thrive: the Vegan Nutrition Guide, in Canada: The Thrive Diet), the food pyramid was a fixture of public nutrition education. In his quest for constant improvement, Brendan wanted to offer a fresh take on a food guide to reflect a clean, plant-based nutrition program that would help most people to thrive.

Vegan Food Pyramid Broken Down

The Base: Fibrous Vegetables

The base of the Thrive food pyramid is fibrous vegetables that provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrient-rich vegetables give you the micronutrients you need, without being high in calories.

The Middle: Proteins and Fruits

The next step on the pyramid is divided between plant-based proteins, and fruit—each filling 1/5 of your plate. Plant-based proteins are alkaline-forming, and rich in fiber. You can get adequate protein through beans, nuts, seeds and fermented soy (if you’re not sensitive). Fruits are easily digested carbohydrates that are also rich in vitamins and minerals. Choose raw, unsweetened whole fruits as much as possible.

The Top: Fats, Starches and Grains

The remainder of your plate will be filled with healthy fats and starchy vegetables. Unsaturated fats from plants—cold-pressed oils, nuts, seeds and avocado—support heart health and help to keep you fuller for longer. Finally we have our starchy vegetables—whole grain, pseudo grains (like quinoa, amaranth and millet), sweet potatoes and squash. Well balanced, these food groups—alongside plenty of hydrating water—will give your body the micro and macro-nutrients it needs.

Considering a plant-based diet but worried about getting all your nutrients? Check out Vega’s resources below to learn more about how a plant-based diet can easily help you thrive:

What are your favorite ways of fulfilling the vegan food pyramid?


No matter what better means to you, Vega shares the knowledge, nutrition, and inspiration to support your quest to thrive.