Differences between the classical, vegetarian and vegan food pyramid

We all know that the first step to a healthy lifestyle is to take care of our diet. As the German philosopher, Feuerbach said in the 19th century: “we are what we eat”. Now we are also more aware that with our diet, in addition, we can collaborate in the protection of the environment by choosing foods that are sustainable with the planet.

Thus, regardless of the diet followed (traditional, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan …), more and more people are concerned about both the origin and nutritional quality of what they eat, and do so without sacrificing taste and varied and affordable supply. The similarities are clear, but what is the difference between the most widespread diets? Let’s look at it through its nutritional pyramids.

The nutritional pyramid system

We all know the classic image of the nutritional pyramid. It is a simple, schematic and very illustrative way to teach people of all ages the basics of what a balanced and healthy diet should look like.

Official bodies and health experts are responsible for updating the recommendations to adjust them to the habits of the population, as it can be adapted to specific needs or other diets, such as vegetarian or vegan. But it may be surprising to find many similarities between the three because they are all based on the Mediterranean diet and abundant consumption of seasonal vegetable products.

In addition, the basis of any diet should start from healthy habits, such as drinking enough water throughout the day, exercising, achieving an energy balance appropriate to physical activity, cooking with healthy techniques and recovering traditional recipes made with local seasonal products.

The traditional pyramid

According to the latest pyramid of healthy eating, carried out by the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition (SENC) in collaboration with scientific societies, a traditional healthy and varied diet is based on three large groups:

The base of the pyramid: lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Intermediate body, for daily consumption:

  • First level: whole grain cereals, bread and pasta, depending on the level of activity.
  • Second level: fruits (3-4 servings), vegetables (2-3 servings), olive oil for cooking and dressing in moderation.
  • Third level: more moderate daily consumption, to alternate throughout the week, such as legumes, nuts, fish, meat, eggs and dairy products.

The upper body of the pyramid: foods that are very energetic or high in fat that should be eaten occasionally and in measured portions, such as red and processed meat, sweets and treats, snacks and chips, pastries or alcoholic beverages.

The vegetarian pyramid

The general consensus is that a vegetarian diet is “ovolactovegetarian”, i.e. it also includes eggs and dairy products on an occasional basis. As can be seen in these recipes by Lidl, vegetarians base almost their entire diet on products of vegetable origin, so the low and intermediate levels of the pyramid are very similar to those we have seen in the traditional model.

The essential structure is the same: a basis for a healthy lifestyle and the last level reserved for products of exceptional or occasional consumption, such as sweets, snacks or alcohol. In the intermediate bodies we find:

  • Vegetables: daily at every meal.
  • Cereals and grains: daily at each meal, better whole grains.
  • Legumes, seitan and soy derivatives: 6-8 times a week, combined with cereals to achieve complete proteins.
  • Fruit: 2-3 servings a day, preferably fresh and whole.
  • Seeds and nuts: a handful each day.
  • Dairy: 2-3 servings a day.
  • Eggs: 2-3 times a week.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 3-4 tablespoons a day.
  • Supplements: vitamin B12 and others as needed.

The vegan pyramid

Strict vegans do not eat any food of animal origin, including dairy, eggs or honey, and are especially committed to protecting the environment and leading a sustainable lifestyle that protects biodiversity. A well-planned vegan diet is based on a pyramid in which it is important to include a wide variety of foods from all food groups:

Vegetables: daily at each meal, trying to include raw vegetables once a day.

  • Cereals and grains: daily at each meal, better whole grains.
  • Legumes, seitan and soy derivatives: 6-8 times a week, combined with cereals to achieve complete proteins.
  • Fruit: 2-3 servings a day, preferably fresh and whole.
  • Seeds and nuts: one or two handfuls each day.
  • Drinks and dairy vegetable equivalents: daily, alternating varieties.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 3-4 tablespoons a day.
  • Supplements: vitamin B12 and others as needed, such as vitamin D or iron.
  • Organic” food, a healthy and sustainable bet for everyone.

Despite these differences in diet, all dietary styles share common characteristics, such as concern for health and also for the environment. That is why more and more Spanish households are opting for ecological or “bio” products in the shopping basket, a more sustainable alternative that respects the planet. Organic foods are also very nutritious and full of flavour, and cover a wide variety of products for all needs, as shown by Lidl’s organic products recognisable with the “BIO Organic” seal.

As stated in the “Bio Report” of Kantar Worldpanel Spain, Lidl has become the first distributor of Bio articles in our country, with a fixed assortment of more than 100 references available in all stores. It is a commitment to democratize organic food and make it more accessible to the entire population, vegetarian or not, as it covers a wide variety of different products.

In its Bio catalogue, it is possible to find everything from vegetable drinks, such as the very fashionable oat milk, to fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, rice and legumes, pasta and flour, dairy products, oil and sauces, snacks or sweets of all kinds. It is very easy to fill the pantry without spending too much and thus prepare our favourite recipes with organic products, healthy and full of flavour, such as those proposed below.

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