Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate - The Vegan Way


Healthy Eating Plate Harvard School of public Health

My Harvard colleagues and I recently developed the Healthy Eating Plate, a healthier, clearer version of USDA’s MyPlate.

According to MyPlate, you could eat a hamburger with French fries and still call it a healthy meal. The latest science tells us, however, that such a meal is definitely not healthy as an everyday routine. Here are some of the healthy changes we made to MyPlate, which are illustrated above:

  •  The Healthy Eating Plate calls not just for grains, but for whole grains, since they are better for our health.  To our bodies, refined grains have a similar spike-and-drop effect on blood sugar as eating jelly beans.
  • On the Healthy Eating Plate we do not recommend potatoes as a vegetable because they have similar effects on our blood sugar as refined grains and sweets. 
  • The Healthy Eating Plate recommends limiting dairy to 1 to 2 servings per day (instead of with every meal), since research has shown that there may be increased risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer when we eat more dairy.  Industrial livestock farming also takes a huge environmental toll.
  • MyPlate includes red meat in the protein portion of the plate.  Yet research indicates that regularly eating red meat and processed meat may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer.  That’s why our Healthy Eating Plate explicitly says to limit red meat and avoid processed meat

Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate can be adapted to all styles of eating, including vegan eating plans. Here are some tips for putting together a Healthy Eating Plate, vegan-style:

  • Choose good quality protein from beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, seitan or tempeh
  •  Eat only whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat berries, whole wheat bulgur, millet, hulled barley, buckwheat, and/or quinoa
  • Eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice, since ounce for ounce, many juices contain the same amount of sugar as a regular soda
  • Eat plenty, and a variety of, colorful vegetables.
  • Drink water, coffee or tea with your meal

Appreciate your food and eat mindfully, savoring every bite!  Thank nature for all the wonderful foods that it has given us for our health and well-being.

What else would you add to a vegan version of Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate?


The grain section I believe to still be too big! Carbs are what's making people fat.. The quality of the grain does count... but Whole Wheat is usually genetically modified these days... and is extremely hard for most humans to digest! I personally suffer from Celiac Disease (can't eat wheat rye or barley) The more research I've done the more I think people should try to avoid all wheat products!! Many people attribute digestive problems to everthing but the wheat they consume - but it's often the problem. 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease now... and it's a direct result of the genetic changes the food industry has done to wheat - in order for it to rise quickly and it produces perfect uniform loaves of bread - but you know what REAL bread is not perfect and uniform! Real bread should be stale the next day...Quinoa pasta is a great choice for people who like pasta in my opinion.

A wholly vegan version could more strongly promote plant products and avoidance of non-vegan items (e.g., instead of "limit butter", say "avoid butter").

Regardless, this version has one mistake - it says "Limit milk/dairy (1-2 servings per day)" which implies that 1-2 servings are recommended. Instead, it should say: "Limit milk/dairy (<2 servings per day)" thereby making it clear that 0 servings is perfectly healthy.

Otherwise, I like it. You might consider adding fruit juice (real juice, not sugar-added kinds) and/or fruit smoothies as a source of fruit.