The vegetarian food pyramid can be followed to achieve optimal health and weight loss if followed in the right ratios of the food groups and the correct amount of calories from these food groups is adhered to.
The main food groups and recommended portions in the vegetarian food pyramid, starting from the top in order of portion size are:
- Fats, oils & sweets (To use sparingly)
- Dairy products (2 servings per day) or beans, eggs, nuts & seeds (5-7oz)
- Vegetables (3-5 servings per day) & fruits (2-4 servings per day)
- Bread, cereal, rice & pasta (5-8 servings per day). These portions will slightly differ when following a weight loss programme.
The bread and cereals section would have a maximum of 5 servings, as too many starchy carbohydrates make it more difficult to lose weight and it is best to eat these types of foods before 5pm as this also support weight loss. Also making sure the carbohydrate sources come from whole grains instead of refined sources like white bread & pasta will help weight loss, as these help to balance your blood sugar and metabolism. Sometimes even the types of grains you eat can affect weight loss & make you feel generally tired, lethargic and out of sorts, so minimising certain ones such as gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley & oats) may help to lose any stubborn weight & improve overall health, especially if you are intolerant to these.
The dairy products would be best from low fat sources rather than full fat, to help save on calories and other types of dairy such as goats and sheep’s products would be good to help weight loss as these are generally more easily tolerated & help to balance your metabolism more.
Also it is wise to use certain types of fats sparingly to support weight loss & for optimal health. The certain types of fats from the top part of the pyramid that would best be avoided all together are trans fats & some types of oils like vegetable, sunflower & rapeseed for cooking with. Olive and flaxseed oil are good to have on salads and they are a beneficial fat as they contain omega fatty acids which are good for general health, but do not to cook with these as they oxidise and are inflammatory, which can prevent weight loss. The best oils to include to cook with are coconut, ghee or avocado oil, as these are stable when you heat them and prevent any inflammation in the body, which helps prevent disease states.
The vegetable and fruits section can be eaten in the same recommended amounts as these are low in calories and also contain nutrients vital for good health.
As a large portion of the diet is coming from fruits and vegetables this makes this diet high in many types of vitamins such as vitamin C and beta carotene and many kinds of antioxidants, which are important to prevent diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, arthritis & diabetes. There is also a high amount of whole grains which provide minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamins such as B vitamins, which are all good to help support weight loss, optimal energy & general well-being.
When following any kind of weight loss plan it is important to eat enough calories to keep your metabolism ticking over, which is a minimum of 1,400 per day for women and 1,900 for men. Exercise is at the bottom of the pyramid, so incorporating regular exercise to burn extra calories & build muscle to optimise fat burning ability for easier weight loss is also important to achieve your goal.