VeganMoFo, Day 22: The New Four Food Groups (A Tutorial)

October 22nd, 2009 11:25 pm by mad mags


So the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – PCRM for short – has introduced their own version of the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, called The New Four Food Groups. (Actually, they created the guide way back in 1991 – when vegetarianism was just a niggling feeling worming its way up through the depths of my conflicted brain – but that’s neither here nor there. I just happened to discover the guide today, and that’s what counts. Particularly since I’m running low both on time and VeganMoFo post ideas!)

Naturally, PCRM’s reconstruction of the USDA’s food pyramid eliminates all animal-based products, instead focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes:

Many of us grew up with the USDA’s old Basic Four food groups, first introduced in 1956. The passage of time has seen an increase in our knowledge about the importance of fiber, the health risks of cholesterol and fats, and the disease-preventive power of many nutrients found exclusively in plant-based foods. We also have discovered that the plant kingdom provides excellent sources of the nutrients once only associated with meat and dairy products—namely, protein and calcium.

The USDA revised its recommendations with the Food Guide Pyramid, a plan that reduced the prominence of animal products and vegetable fats. But because regular consumption of such foods—even in lower quantities—poses serious health risks, PCRM developed the New Four Food Groups in 1991. This no-cholesterol, low-fat plan supplies all of an average adult’s daily nutritional requirements, including substantial amounts of fiber.

Specifically, PCRM recommends that you eat the following, along with “a good source of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals or vitamin supplements”:

Fruit: 3 or more servings a day

Fruits 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

Vegetables: 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

Legumes: 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: 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

Apropos last week’s discussion of how one can obtain adequate amounts of protein on a low-budget, cruelty-free diet, note that the only “faux” “meat” or dairy item PCRM mentions by name is soy milk: no Fakin’ Bacon, no Daiya cheese, no Purely Decadent ice cream. Instead, many of the foods touted by PCRM are relatively inexpensive: pasta, cereal, millet, chickpeas, beans, broccoli and melon. You can even grow items from two of the four groups in your own backyard and eat them raw! While not exactly free, it’s hard to get any less expensive than homegrown.

PCRM also produces a weekly webcast devoted to the dietary and health aspects of veganism. The most recent three episodes examine “The New Four Food Groups” in greater detail; so far, fruit, vegetables and grains have received their due, with an episode devoted to legumes forthcoming. I’ve embedded each after the jump.

Now go forth and veganize, my frugal grasshoppers!

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Fruit

“This weeks episode, The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Fruit, is the first of a four-part series highlighting the New Four Food Groups. Co-host Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., explains why fruit is a part of the new four food groups and why its good for you. Then co-host Jill Eckart, C.H.H.C., demonstrates how to make a Tropical Freeze smoothie.”

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Vegetables – Part 1

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Vegetables – Part 2

“This weeks episode, The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Vegetables, is the second part of a four-part series highlighting the New Four Food Groups. Vegetables come in a rainbow of colors, and co-host Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., discusses the nutritional benefits of eating a colorful array. Then learn how to boost your immune system by putting more orange into your diet: Co-host Jill Eckart, C.H.H.C., demonstrates how to make Breakfast Sweet Potato Pudding.”

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Grains – Part 1

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Grains – Part 2

“This weeks episode, The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Grains, is the third part of a four-part series highlighting the New Four Food Groups. Jill Eckart, C.H.H.C., discusses grains such as rice, barley, and quinoa—a staple of the ancient Incas. Then Jill shows you how to boost your morning with Fruited Breakfast Quinoa. Whole grains like quinoa are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, and protein.”

Updated to add: Legumes have finally gotten their due, too!

The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Legumes

“The New Four Food Groups: A Focus on Legumes, is the last part of a four-part series highlighting the New Four Food Groups. Jill Eckart, C.H.H.C., discusses the health benefits and cooking times of legumes such as mung beans, lentils, and pinto beans. In the kitchen, Jill uses black-eyed peas in Hoppin John Salad. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck, according to a Southern tradition. But why wait until January for the fiber, protein, antioxidants, and other benefits this legume offers!”


Photo credits:

Geeky (unintentionally) vegan awesomeness via Flickr user Stéfan.



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5 Responses to “VeganMoFo, Day 22: The New Four Food Groups (A Tutorial)”

  1. jeni treehugger Says:

    Eat the rainbow!
    It is the only way.

  2. Shannon Says:

    I love PCRM. My husband did their 21-day Vegan Kickstart last month. I did it with him, to try and offer help and advice to other new vegans. He’s since gone back to being omni with the goal of making a slow transition to vegetarianism, as cheese has him in its addictive clutches. I’m proud of him for being so open, though, and for supporting the choices I make as a vegan.

  3. Olivia Says:

    I have a friend who has drawn a rainbow chart and she hands it to interested non-vegans.

    By the way, she hands out anything that will attract people to this movement. This month, for instance, she celebrated 20 years of being vegan and her 65th birthday by handing out to everyone she met Yummy Earth lollipops with a dot pasted to each side. She wrote the number 20 on one dot, and the number 65 on the other side. She got lots of admiring comments and none oppositional.

  4. VeganMoFo, Day 31: Ginger Snaps, Vegan Zombies & Hallow-weenies » V for Vegan: Says:

    […] Which in turn is based on the old school USDA Food Guide Pyramid. (Yawn. Boring. Meat and dairy, no want.) […]

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