The (meat- and dairy-free) food pyramid for health and optimum weight

The (meat- and dairy-free) food pyramid for health and optimum weight

Everyone is probably familiar with the food pyramid – a diagram showing the recommended types and proportions of each food type to eat. This is based on meat, dairy, wheat products as well as fruit and veggies. However, if you eat a plant-based diet, like we do here at La Crisalida, then the standard pyramid does not work!

In this article we look at a slightly different food pyramid (without meat and dairy) and consider why it is helpful when thinking about preparing healthy meals for you and your family.

Plant-based food pyramid for health

Working from the base of the pyramid upwards:


We recommend that you drink 2-3 litres of water (including herbal teas) on a daily basis. Whilst at the retreat, we suggest increasing this amount, to assist with your detox and to rehydrate (particularly in the heat and whilst taking part in the activities). Many people are de-hydrated. Remember, fruits and vegetables have a high-water content.

Fruit: 2-4 portions per day

When selecting fruit, choose some lower-sugar options, like lemon and lime, tomato and grapefruit. Berries are particularly good sources of nutrition. One portion of fruit is 1 medium apple / pear / banana or 2 plums / satsuma/ kiwis. One portion of berries is 80 to 100 grams. Consider eating fruit separate to meals, with a minimum of one-hour gap between eating food and eating fruit – some people find it will make the fruit easier to digest.

Green leafy vegetables: 2-4 portions per day

Green leafy vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition. This group includes: broccoli, kale, spinach, lettuce, rocket, cabbage, watercress, collard greens, bok choy and endive. These vegetables are also a good source of vegetable protein.

Other vegetables: unlimited

Eat as many vegetables as you want! Include a variety each day, of different of colours to deliver maximum nutrition. For most people, it is good to incorporate raw vegetables into your diet (you can try juicing them if you prefer). If you prefer hot food, then steam cook your veggies, rather than frying or boiling. Vegetables tend to be water-rich, which helps to hydrate and cleanse your body.

Protein rich foods: 2-3 portions per day

Great sources of vegetable protein include:
• Lentils
• Beans (including soy beans and soy products like tofu),
• Fresh peas or fresh beans
• Chickpeas
These items are known as legumes – they are great because they are low in fat, high in fibre and high in protein. One portion is 100g.

To ensure that you have a complete biological protein we suggest that you combine food groups, like legumes served with grains, or lentils served with green leafy veggies across the day or week.

Carbohydrates, especially wholegrains: 2-4 portions per day

For daily life, our body needs carbohydrates for energy and proper functioning of cells. If you have a very active lifestyle you will need a higher amount of carbs than someone who is sedentary. However, not all carbs are the same. Complex carbohydrates take a longer time for the body to break down and use, which provide you with more consistent energy than simple carbs. (Simple carbs are things like sugars, maple syrup, honey etc, or pasta, white bread and white rice).

A great source of complex carbohydrates are wholegrains like rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and spelt. These wholegrains also provide fibre – keeping your digestive tract healthy and helping to remove toxins from the body. Wholewheat pasta or wholewheat bread are also items to consider including in your diet. One portion is 100g. Potatoes are technically a complex carb, however they act more like simple carbs in the body. Choose a jacket potato over French fries! Or, even better, choose a sweet potato.

Nuts and seeds: 1 portion per day (50g)

Include portions of nuts and seeds in a meal or eat as a snack. These items, for example hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, are also a good source of protein, but are high in calories, so consume in smaller amounts. If you want to include flaxseed (linseed), we suggest that you grind the seeds, as this will make them more digestible.

Oils: 2 tablespoons oils / 1 portion per day

The body needs oils and good fats for essential functioning. However, we only need small amounts. Regular portions of avocado are ideal to include for essential fats. Oils and fats are high in calories. We like cold pressed oils, like olive and flaxseed. We prefer to serve natural (unheated), in a salad dressing with a squeeze of lemon or lime.


For an average woman, the above pyramid would provide around 2000 calories per day. To increase calories increase the portion size of the carbs (and/or protein) or eat the higher amount shown on the pyramid.

Think portion on your plate

A useful tip is to think about this food pyramid when meal planning or serving up your dinner plate. If you eat like this for most of your meals, you will reach and maintain your ideal weight.

Read more about the food served at La Crisalida Retreats on our food page here.

About the author

Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).