Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Pyramid
The original Vegetarian Diet Pyramid, the fourth traditional diet pyramid released by Oldways, was presented at the 1997 International Conference on Vegetarian Diets held in Austin, Texas. In October 2013, Oldways introduced a new version of the pyramid, which for the first time includes vegan guidelines
To create this updated Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Pyramid, Oldways brought together a world-renowned scientific committee to review extensive scientific data on plant-based diets and provide recommendations.
Click here for a list of committee members.
As Oldways’ decades-long exploration of the health benefits of traditional diets reinforces, many variations of vegetarian diets have existed in different cultures throughout history. 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. Best of all, this way of eating allows enjoyment of an abundance of delicious foods while consuming fewer calories, leading to better health and wellbeing.
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 optimal health, particularly when a wide variety of foods are eaten each day. Some vegetarians (especially vegans) may need to add supplements to ensure that they are getting all the essential nutrients they require.
There are many ethical, dietary, and cultural reasons to follow a plant-based diet. Agricultural sustainability is a positive aspect as well. The industrial food system, heavily focused on meat production (beef, pork, sheep, and poultry, etc.), is not sustainable. Plant crops (including grains, beans, vegetables) require fewer natural resources such as fuel, water, and land area than do livestock and poultry, making them more sustainable.
Recommended Daily Servings for Each Level of the Pyramid
Oldways Vegetarian & Vegan Pyramid has been created by our 10-member scientific committee to highlight the beauty and variety of whole plant foods that characterize healthy, well-planned meatless diets. It’s all about the food! This visual guide serves as reminder that it’s important to eat foods from all of the pyramid levels every day if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and from all but the top level if you’re a vegan. Although our pyramid features primarily fresh foods, please note that frozen, canned, and dried plant foods are also an important part of a healthy diet.
The information below is presented as a general guide to serving sizes for moderately active adults. Additional servings may be needed for highly active individuals, and fewer servings may be needed for less active individuals. Our committee reviewed My Vegetarian Plate (General Conference Nutrition Council), Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Plate, and USDA MyPlate, to come up with these suggestions.
If you have questions about specific foods or food groups or if you have diabetes or other health issues, we recommend that you seek the advice of a local dietitian to develop a meal plan that’s best for you.
|Foods||What counts as a serving?||Number of Daily Servings|
½ cup fresh, canned, or frozen fruit
¼ cup dried fruit
|1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables||4–6|
1 slice whole-grain bread
1 cup whole-grain cereal, ½ cup cooked brown rice, pasta, or other whole grains
|Beans, Peas, Lentils, Soy||
½ cup cooked beans, peas or lentils
½ cup tofu
1 cup soy milk
|Nuts, Peanuts, Seeds, Peanut/Nut Butters||
¼ cup nuts or seeds
2 tablespoons peanut or nut butter
|Herbs, Spices, Plant Oils||
Fresh or dried herbs and spices
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or other plant oil
Plant Oils: Up to 5
|Eggs and/or Dairy||
1 cup milk or yogurt, ¼ cup cheese, ½ cup cottage cheese
Eggs: 4–6 per week
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