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The Four New Food Groups

Everyone, from Nobel Prize winning doctors to Surgeons General, is recommending a vegetarian diet these days. One report after the other shows that vegetarians live longer and have much lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other diseases. But just how do they do it? Do they walk through the market with charts and calculators following some complicated formula?

What’s their secret?

Well, it’s no secret and it’s as easy as can be. Vegetarians simply include food from each of the Four New Groups every day in their diet. The Four New Food Groups are Legumes, Whole Grains, Fruits and Vegetables. By choosing a variety of food from these four food groups, vegetarians follow a diet that has made them the healthiest people in town. And the best part of it all is that vegetarian food is so delicious!

The Four Food Groups 

Just what’s included in each of the Four New Food Groups?


Legumes include peas, lentils and all kinds of beans - soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, even peanuts. All are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates including lots of fiber, calcium, iron and even have some essential fatty acids. They have no cholesterol and make a great replacement for meat in your diet. Lentils, black beans and garbanzo beans are especially digestible. Try lentils in a Shepherd’s Pie (page 000), black beans in a soup (page 000) or salad (page 000), and garbanzo beans in Hummus (page 000) or an Indian curry (page 000) for example.

Don’t forget the many soy products which are available. Recent medical studies have confirmed the benefits of soy. Tofu and tempeh offer particularly versatile ways to include soy in your diet. See the index for many different ways to prepare these products in delicious recipes. Many of today’s meat-substitute products are based on soy too, including veggie burgers, meatless hot dogs, soy jerky, fake bacon, pepperoni and bologna. Dairy substitutes such as soy milk, soy “cheese”, soy “yogurt” and soy “ice cream” have also become very popular. These should all be available at your local natural food store.

Although technically not legumes, nuts and seeds also are high in protein and provide an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and fiber. Include a handful of walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts or hazelnuts in your diet several times a week, or try nut butters for spreads, dips and sauces. Seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds add nutrients and crunch to your diet. Tahini, sesame seed butter, is one of the key ingredients in hummus which is a great dip for vegetables.

Whole Grains

Whole Grains include wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, cereals, pasta and whole grain breads of every kind. Also included are alternate grains, such as quinoa and amaranth, which are finding their way into many recipes and quickly increasing in popularity. Whole grains are powerhouses of energy and nutrition with generous amounts of protein, vitamins such as the B vitamins and vitamin E, minerals such as iron and zinc, and fiber. There’s an endless variety of ways of including the whole grains in your diet. Try whole wheat toast or oatmeal for breakfast, a whole grain burrito or pasta for lunch and rice or quinoa with your supper. Everyone needs some treats once in a while, so use whole grain flour and natural sweeteners, with cocoa or dark chocolate chips if you like, to make tasty cakes and cookies for a treat. See the Desserts section for many delicious healthy recipes.


The range of vegetables available is amazing, and every one of them is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Choose from among the cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and collard greens. These vegetables are especially well regarded both for their nutritional content and for their protective value against several diseases. Green leafy vegetables such as chard, spinach, arugula and the many varieties of lettuce provide excellent nutrition in salads. Tomatoes and peppers (technically fruits) of all varieties are great for salads and sauces and are high in vitamins and antioxidants. Eggplants and potatoes make great foundations for any meal. Versatile vegetables can be served as a salad, a side dish or a main dish and can be steamed, baked or stir fried.


There’s an abundance of fruits to choose from. Examples of berries include blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries. Citrus fruits include oranges, tangerines, lemons and grapefruit. Melons include cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. Tree and vine fruits include apples, peaches, bananas, figs and grapes. Tropical fruit include mangoes, papayas and kiwis. All fruits are loaded with vitamins, especially vitamin C. There’s a lot of evidence that fruits help reduce the risk of certain diseases, so choose a variety of fresh fruits to eat every day. They make ideal snacks and desserts and are scrumptious additions to salads.

Combine choices from these four food groups, add a few herbs, spices and other natural flavorings (oils, vinegars or sweeteners as needed) and you have everything you need for delicious and healthy meals. Look through the index of this book to find many recipes which incorporate these ingredients.

Beyond the Four Food Groups

In addition to food, doctors recommend drinking 6 to 8 cups of water every day, as an essential component to your diet. Taking a daily multi-vitamin helps make sure you are getting all you need and supplies Vitamin B-12, which is needed for diets which includes no animal products.

Our guidebook Veg-Feasting in the Pacific Northwest contains much more information on nutrition and the many advantages of a vegetarian diet written by doctors and dietitians. There you’ll find in-depth articles on feeding babies and their mothers, and attracting children to healthier foods. There are also special sections for athletes, women and seniors. You will also find more information how a vegetarian diet helps prevent diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.

The following are a series of recipies we hope you will try and enjoy.



Fabulous Spelt Muffins

Oceana Natural Foods Cooperative 159 SE 2nd Street, Newport, OR (541) 265-3893

We are famous for our fabulously awesome wheat-free vegan spelt muffins. We make two dozen every morning and always sell out! We enjoy creating unusual flavor combinations to keep our customers happy and healthy…Oceana Natural Foods Co-op

Makes 24 standard or 12 giant muffins

3 cups spelt flour 1 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling on muffins 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger or grated lemon zest 2½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon sea salt 2 large, ripe bananas, cut in chunks ½ cup soy or grain milk ½ cup safflower oil 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 tablespoon lecithin granules 1½ cups chopped walnuts, other nuts, or dried fruit, or a combination

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two standard or one large muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Place the bananas, soymilk, oil, lemon juice, vanilla and lecithin granules in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just a few traces of flour remain, then add the fruit or nuts and stir gently just until completely blended.

Fill each muffin cup almost to the top with batter (an ice cream scoop works well for this) and garnish the tops with oats. Bake until a toothpick inserted in one of the muffins comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 20 minutes for standard muffins, a few minutes longer for large ones. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Chef’s Tip You can substitute other fruits for the bananas and other nuts or fruit for the walnuts in this recipe. Try pureed pumpkin with cranberries (fresh or dried) and pecans. Or peaches with almonds. Or grated carrots and apples with raisins. Vary the spices to suit your taste, too. At the cooperative, the chef makes myriad variations, from Carrot Apple Ginger (their most popular), to the “oldies but goodies” like blueberry.

Cumin Carrot Soup - American

Nancy Berkoff, RD, EDD, CCE Contributor to the Vegetarian Journal, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group

This “creamy” soup tastes rich and has a satiny finish.

Serves 5

Vegetable oil spray 1 medium onion, chopped 1½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices 2 teaspoons ground cumin ½ teaspoon white pepper 2 cups vegetable broth 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley Shredded carrots (optional)

Spray a medium saucepan with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and shiny, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, cumin, and white pepper, and stir to combine. Add the broth, bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. Put the soup in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour the soup back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until heated through. Garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of fresh, uncooked shredded carrots, if desired, and serve.

Reprinted with permission Salads and Salad Dressings

Mexican Black Bean Salad

Chef Barb Bloomfield Author, Presenter at Vegfest Recipe from More Fabulous Beans, published by the Book Publishing Company

This salad makes a handy lunch and leftovers are equally delicious the next day. For an especially quick meal, you can use a 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed. Enjoy the cilantro in this dish or substitute parsley if you prefer.

Serves 6

½ pound potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups) 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup) 1 cup frozen corn 1½ cups cooked black beans 1 red bell pepper, chopped 6 radishes, thinly sliced 5 scallions, chopped ¾ cup medium-hot salsa ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro ½ cup low-sodium tomato juice 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 avocado, chopped into bite-sized pieces

In a medium saucepan, cook the potatoes in boiling water until nearly tender. Add the carrots and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the corn, stir, then pour the vegetables into a colander. Rinse under cold water to quickly cool the vegetables and stop the cooking process. Drain well. Combine the black beans, red pepper, radishes and scallions in a medium serving bowl. Add the potatoes, carrots and corn.

Combine the salsa, cilantro, tomato juice, lime juice and olive oil in a medium bowl. Mix well and pour over the vegetables. Toss gently but thoroughly. Before serving, top with the avocado.

Reprinted with permission

Broccoli and Cashews over Millet

Debra Wasserman Author, Co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group, Vegfest sponsor Recipe from Simply Vegan, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group

Light and delicate, millet is a nice, high-protein alternative to couscous. The combination of millet, cashews, and broccoli makes a substantial side dish.

Serves 5

2 cups millet 6½ cups water 2 tablespoons oil 2 teaspoons mustard seed 1 large bunch broccoli, chopped 1 medium onion, chopped ½ cup cashews, chopped 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Place the millet and 6 cups of the water in a medium saucepan, cover and cook over medium-high heat until the millet is soft, 15 to 20 minutes. While the millet is cooking, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds and cover the pan. As the seeds fry they will begin to pop (like popcorn). When you no longer hear any seeds popping (a minute or so), add the broccoli, onion, the remaining ½ cup water, cashews and soy sauce. Sauté the ingredients until the broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Serve the sautéed mixture over the cooked millet.

Reprinted with permission

Desserts: Orange Blackberry Cake - American

Swan Café (Community Food Co-op) 1220 N Forest, Bellingham, WA (360) 734-8158

This is a delightfully refreshing cake, with the winning combination of citrus and fresh berries. Try it with your favorite berriesraspberries, salmonberries, marionberries, blueberriesor a mixture.

Makes one 9-inch cake

6 cups unbleached white flour 4½ cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar 4 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons sea salt 1 cup canola oil ½ cup grated zest and 3 cups juice from 6 medium oranges, preferably organic 1 tablespoon vanilla 6 cups blackberries 1/3 cup cane sugar 3 tablespoons corn starch 2 cups powdered sugar

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a convection oven). Grease three 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with waxed paper, and grease and flour the paper. Sift the flour, 4½ cups granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the canola oil, orange zest and juice, vanilla, and 3 cups filtered water, then pour them into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Divide the batter evenly into the 3 pans and bake until the layers are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the layers 10 minutes in their pans, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

To make the filling, put the blackberries and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Combine the cornstarch with ¼ cup filtered water and stir to dissolve. Add to the berry mixture and simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside to cool.

To assemble the cake, whisk the powdered sugar with ¼ cup water to make a glaze. Place one cake layer on a plate and spread with 1/3 of the filling, then drizzle with a little of the glaze. Repeat with the second and third cake layers, drizzling any remaining glaze around the edges of the cake so it flows down the sides. Chill to set.

By Amanda Strombom, President Vegetarians of Washington


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