The Lowdown: Vegan Food Groups

*Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, nor am I a doctor. I am good at reading, I do like to be well informed and to do things right. I also find that my body likes me much better and cooperates with what I want it to do when I take care of it. So this is The Lowdown, which is meant not to be an expert opinion but rather a practiced understanding.*

So if your childhood took place in the western world, you are probably aware of the four basic food groups the USDA introduced in the 1950s. You know: grains, fruit & veg, dairy and meat. And while most of us, as well as our friends and families, know all about the USDA list, very few of us ever actually ate the recommended daily servings regularly, if at all. Now, this next part is unsubstantiated but, I have a feeling many of us vegans don't eat all of the recommended servings from our very own, super awesome four food group plan.

Wait, what? There is a set of food groups designed specifically for a healthful, compassionate vegan lifestyle? Why, yes, yes there is. In 1991, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine came out with the Four New Food Groups as a response to the USDA's old four. Not only are these 'new' food groups vegan but, they meet 100% of your daily nutritional needs. If you're skeptical of the PCRM take some time to visit their wedsite (click their name, above); check out wikipedia for a bibliography you might find educational; or simply feel reassured knowing that some really awesome vegans play major rolls within the PCRM: Neal Barnard is the founder, and T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn and John A. McDougall are all currently on the advisory board. (They're all doctors, unlike me.)

So here is a handy chart I have lifted straight from the PCRM website. It didn't make it, they did. I just thought y'all would want to see the real thing, you know, because I'm not a doctor. And because I care.

3 or more servings a dayFruits are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Be sure to include at least one serving each day of fruits that are high in vitamin C—citrus fruits, melons, and strawberries are all good choices. Choose whole fruit over fruit juices, which do not contain very much fiber.
Serving size: 1 medium piece of fruit • 1/2 cup cooked fruit • 4 ounces juice
2 or more servings a day
Legumes, which is another name for beans, peas, and lentils, are all good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soymilk, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein.
Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked beans • 4 ounces tofu or tempeh • 8 ounces soymilk
Whole Grains
5 or more servings a day
This group includes bread, rice, tortillas, pasta, hot or cold cereal, corn, millet, barley, and bulgur wheat. Build each of your meals around a hearty grain dish—grains are rich in fiber and other complex carbohydrates, as well as protein, B vitamins, and zinc.
Serving size: 1/2 cup rice or other grain • 1 ounce dry cereal • 1 slice bread
4 or more servings a day
Vegetables are packed with nutrients; they provide vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fiber, and other nutrients. Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, chicory, or cabbage are especially good sources of these important nutrients. Dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin provide extra beta-carotene. Include generous portions of a variety of vegetables in your diet.
Serving size: 1 cup raw vegetables • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables


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