Traditionally, healthful diets and lifestyles have been examined only in relation to single nutrients, foods, or food groups in terms of dietary exposure. An alternative approach is to conceptualize an index based on vegetarian food pyramid guidelines as a measure of overall diet and lifestyle quality. Our objectives were to: (1) develop the Vegetarian Lifestyle Index (VLI); and (2) evaluate adherence to the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid (VFGP) among a low-risk population of Adventists. The index was based on the operationalization of 14 dietary and lifestyle components. All components were equally weighted. Higher score reflected greater adherence to the VFGP. The analytic sample (n
= 90,057) comprised 47.7% non-vegetarians, 5.6% semi-, 10.1% pesco-, and 29.0% lacto-ovo-vegetarians, and 7.7% vegans, of which 1.1% were current smokers and 9.9% were alcohol consumers. Population mean VLI score was 7.43 (SD = 1.75) ranging from 1 to 12.5. Non-vegetarians (6.14; 95% confidence interval (CI), 6.06–6.21) had a significantly lower mean compared to semi- (7.31; 95% CI, 7.22–7.40), pesco- (7.41; 95% CI, 7.32–7.49), and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (8.16; 95% CI, 8.08–8.24), as well as vegans (8.88; 95% CI, 8.78–8.96). Vegetarians scored on average 1.18 to 2.73 more points than their non-vegetarian counterparts. Results demonstrate that the index has strong discriminant ability across distinct dietary patterns. Additionally, the VLI provides a useful measure of diet and lifestyle adherence to further refine vegetarian food pyramid guidelines.
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