1 – Grains and Seeds
Grains are the foundation of the vegetarian diet.
Grains include all of the cereal grains: Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, Fonio, Kamut, Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Rye, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Triticale, Wheat, Wild Rice and any food product made from them, as in bread and bakery products, pasta, crackers etc.
The grain we choose should be organic. We should choose whole grain rather than refined grains. Refining grain may increase shelf life but the process removes the dietary fiber, iron and many of the B Vitamins that are so important for good health.
Please note: Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein. It contains all 7 Essential Amino Acids which the body cannot produce on its own.
2 – Vegetables
Vegetables comprise the next layer of the vegetarian food pyramid.
According to the FDA we need to eat a minimum of 5 to 7 vegetables a day and more is better. Choose to eat widely in terms of their colors and textures. Generally speaking choose from among Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Kale, Spinach, Collards and Mustard Greens; Yellow and Orange Vegetables: Carrots, Rutabaga, Squashes, Turnip and Red Vegetables: Beets et al; also include the Cabbage family: Broccoli, Brocaflower, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli Rabi,. Tomatoes, and Potatoes. Bell Peppers are members of the nightshade family as are Tomatoes and Potatoes. Yams and Sweet Potatoes are not.
Learn more about going “Green” with Green Food Supplements.
Please note that Beans and Peas, as well as the pulses play a double role here being thought of as both vegetables and proteins. Similarly, Corn is thought of as both a grain and a vegetable. Also be aware that Cauliflower contains high levels of Boron which is an essential nutrient along with Calcium to building tensile strength in bones and provides a nutritional hedge against osteoporosis.
Finding non-GMO sources of most of these foods is becoming increasingly difficult however by choosing Organic Heritage Produce you will be in good shape. Farmer’s Markets are excellent sources of these foods and if you are fortunate enough to have a garden you can plant heritage seeds and grow your own. Adults should enjoy a wide variety of vegetables each day consuming about 3 Cups of them; school age children need between 2 to 3 Cups of them also. Younger children also need to be encouraged to eat a wide variety of vegetables early on in life. They can be hidden in soups, juices and bakery products.
3 – Dairy Products
Dairy Products comprise the next layer of the vegetarian food pyramid.
Dairy Products consist of Milk, Cream, Cheese, Yogurt, Kefir. Goat’s and Sheep’s Milk are more easily digested than Ultra-Pasteurized Cow’s Milk. Ultra-Pasteurizing Cow’s Milk breaks the peptides in it so that the body reads the substance as ‘plastic’ rather than food and creates mucus to rid the body of it. Many people are convinced that they have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy products when in fact they are sensitive to ‘plastic.’
Margarine left out will not attract flies for the same reason. However, there are also other forms of ‘milks’ available such as Soy, Rice, Oat, Hemp and Coconut. Such like ‘milk products’ are also used to produce ‘cheeses’ and ‘yogurt’, ‘sour cream’, ‘coffee creamer’ and frozen desserts for those with allergies and the vegans among us.
In the vegetarian food pyramid, two to three cups of Dairy Products or Dairy Substitute Products is an adequate daily allowance for most adults.
4 – Proteins
Proteins comprise the next layer of the vegetarian food pyramid.
Proteins in the vegetarian food pyramid consist of Beans, Chick Peas, Legumes or Pulses, Nuts and Seeds. Products such as Tofu, Tempeh (made of soy) and Seitan (wheat protein) all fall into this category. There are a number of products which have been manufactured from Seitan (Wheat Gluten) and Soy Anlogs (proteins) which resemble their animal counterparts: Soy Burgers such as Boca Burgers, Soy Frankfurters such as Tofu Pups. LightLife and Yves, among others, produce Tofu Dogs, Jumbo Hot Dogs.
There are other varieties of sausages such as Tofurky’s Kielbasa, Italian Sausage and Bratwurst, LightLife’s Gimme Lean Breakfast Sausage and Gimme Lean Ground Beef etc. There are also similar products imported from Taiwan which run the gamut from Soy Shrimp and Crab Meat, to Soy and Mushroom Mutton Chunk, to Vegan Ham, to Soy Chicken Nuggets and Drumsticks with wooden dowels for the bone! There are also various fish-like products.
The caution here is to always read labels. Manufacturers have a tendency to alter recipes without notice. Hence the product you have enjoyed for years may suddenly contain Egg White and no longer be suitable for your vegetarian diet.
5 – Fruits
Fruits comprise the next layer of the vegetarian food pyramid.
The Citrus fruits we all know and love are power packed with Vitamin C but they are not the only ones. Apples provide amazing amounts of fiber and pectin (found in the skin) which are two elements that accounts for the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Tree fruits: Apricots, Cherries, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums et al are also excellent sources of these nutrients as are Berries and Grapes of all varieties. Lychee, Persimmon, Pomegranate, and the Super Fruits like Açai, Gogi Berries, Mangostein, Noni, are all part of this picture. Blueberries by the way have the amazing ability to balance out Blood Sugar.
The average adult should incorporate 2 to 2.5 Cups of Fruit in their diet each day. Fruit Juice is more a more concentrated form of this food and should be counted as such. Depending on their age children need between 1.5 cups to 2 Cups of fruit each day to meet their daily requirement.
6 – Fats and Oils
Fats and Oils comprise the next layer of the vegetarian food pyramid.
Fats and Oils need to be used sparingly. While they constitute the “yum!” factor in culinary preparation they also pack on the pounds and we need to be very careful about how much saturated fats we enjoy.
Rule number one is avoiding all deep fried foods like the plague. French Fries and Potato Chips are best avoided or enjoyed very sparingly at huge intervals of time – like several months between servings.
The best oil to use for sautéed foods is Organic Canola as it tolerates high heat without breaking down. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the best possible oil for most other applications. While Butter and Earth Balance Margarine are the choices for most baking. Sesame Oil is also an excellent choice and there is nothing quite like Toasted Sesame Oil for some Oriental dishes.
Personally, I avoid Corn Oil with the exception of preparing some bakery products. Then I choose Unrefined Organic Corn Oil due to its buttery flavor profile. However, due to the GMO factor I do not use commercial Corn Oil and suggest you do the same. As a general rule I find unrefined, cold pressed oils are the products of choice.
Adults need no more than 5 to 7 teaspoons of oils and fats and children need between 3 to 6 teaspoons depending on their age and activity level.
Organic Omega 3, 6, and 9 are available in Flax and Hemp Seeds and their oils.. Hemp Milk has an abundance of them also. They are both also available in tasty cereal products and baked goods from several manufacturers.
7 – Sugars and Spice
Sugars and Spice top the vegetarian food pyramid and are to be used sparingly. Sugars include Sugar, Brown Sugar, Organic Sugar, Vegan Organic Sugar, Sucanat, Corn Syrup, Fructose, Sucrose, Maple Syrup, Agave, Brown Rice Syrup, Barley Syrup, Golden Syrup, Molasses and Stevia. Stevia is natural herb commonly known as Sweet Leaf. It is now marketed under several brand names including Truvia. Stevia has no calories and is a natural sweetener which is many times sweeter than sugar.
Please note that Sweet’nLow, Equal and other such like products are made of aspartame and are not sugar at all, neither are they healthy to ingest. It is best to avoid them and any ‘diet’ product containing them.
Spice and Herbs are not only flavor enhancers they also provide many health benefits. They are found in many recipes and many of them are also used as infusions or teas. They are powerful and are used sparingly.