I had encountered the food pyramid more than just a few times as I went through high school in Africa. At that time, it was just stuff I had to remember for the examinations. I first paid more attention to it when I moved to the USA. Most refugees who landed in Minnesota in the Twin Cities fell in the category of Families with Dependent Children eligible for food stamps. Social workers, food bank, and food pantry operators issued nutrition guide line fliers.
The Old Pyramid
The food pyramid, I remember, was printed on a firm glossy card stock. It was the most colorful picture, showing proteins, vegetables, fruits, and carbohydrates arranged in a pyramid graphic. It was produced and promoted by the USDA, a government authority of healthy eating in the late 1980s – early 1990s, when I came to the USA with three little children. I had to pay attention to this guide.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was researching, “healthy eating,” to be exact. Guess who was on the first page, top of top 3? Yes, the USDA. I have to apologize to fellow vegans here before I say what I have to say next. In advocacy, sometimes, one finds oneself, entangled, embroiled, or unable to avoid being entangled or involved in a verbal scuffle or even out right fight with future allies. Well, I know that as I learned more and more about food, maybe not all that much, but when I found out that meat was not the only source of protein, I developed a degree of resentment for those who preached the meat doctrine. Among them was the good USDA, the benevolent group that helped me to figure out how to design meals for my little children when I first came to the USA. Shame on me, but it got to the point where every time I saw those letters, I clenched my teeth and got ready to “put them up”, but all is well that ends well.
The “New” Food Pyramid
I had the opportunity of reading a USDA guide to healthy eating that put a smile on my face. I must quickly say the guide mentioned the word vegan more than once. No, the guide, which had a revised food pyramid, was not a vegan guide. It was for vegetarians. But rather than clenching my teeth and putting my little vegan fists up, or preparing to kick a shin or two, I clicked my heels. There was something to celebrate here. I’ll show why. I am proud to share the information I gleaned from an article you can read in full if you want. It is always great when as a write I can quote a source which adds a lot of weight to what not so long ago could have been dismissed as an opinion.
Making Use of the New Food Pyramid
I would not be surprised if some people still refuse to believe we (not only vegans) can get protein from nuts, peas, beans, tempeh and tofu. One down. Yeah, what about the all-important calcium eh? where do vegans get their calcium from, eh? I’ll tell you. I looked further in the article and what did I find? I didn’t know some tofu is made with calcium, did you? Well, there we are for calcium, fortified soy milk or tofu made with calcium sulfate can provide calcium to the body. For cereal lovers, fortified cereals are another supply of calcium. Don’t forget orange juice. Now for a little surprise list of veggie based sources of calcium:
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- mustard greens and
- bok choy
I won’t lie, I did not know this when I turned vegan in 1991 (guess I just got lucky) for more than one reason. As I have said or hinted, I am not a calorie or vitamin counting type of eater. I see food and I eat it. Though I would never admit that and say it out loud in front of children. I know that any child that is smart enough to read this post is smart enough to know it’s not right.
Putting Meals Together
Healthy eating must include actually making sure that what I am eating is healthy. Luck has nothing to do with it. So, what kind of main meal could we put together using some of the ingredients above and a pantry. Choose my Plate suggests:
- Pasta primevera
- Pasta with marinara sauce or pesto sauce.
- Veggie or soy burgers
- tofu sausage or hot dogs
- grilled veggies
- And don’t forget a loaded salad with peas, beans nuts or even vegan cheese
Yes, credit to the USDA for mentioning vegan cheese in the healthy eating guide. Do not be afraid cheese eater, the new generation vegan cheeses are tasty and some even melt.
Before I sign off, I’ll leave you a link to take you to the article by Choose my Plate here
You can look up the article for more details if you wish