The Vegan Diet How-To Guide for Diabetes

The Physicians Committee

The Vegan Diet How-To Guide for Diabetes

Step 6: Focus on the “New Four Food Groups”

Overall principle: Choose low-fat, low-glycemic-index foods from plant sources. There is no limit on portion sizes of these foods. Avoid all animal products and keep vegetable oils to a bare minimum.

The "New Four Food Groups"

wheat bread

Grains: such as pasta, rice, high-fiber cereals, corn, oatmeal, bagels, bread, couscous, bulgur wheat, millet, barley, rye, etc.


Legumes: such as beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, white, baked, etc.), peas, split peas, lentils, nonfat soy products (nonfat soymilk, fat-free veggie burgers, textured vegetable protein, etc.)


Vegetables: any and all. Examples include potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, squash, green beans, bok choy, sweet potatoes, and artichokes


Fruits: all, except avocados, olives, pineapple, and watermelon. Bananas, apples, grapes, pears, peaches, oranges, melon, grapefruit, kiwi, berries, and fruit juices, among others, are all good choices.


  • Nonfat salad dressings and other nonfat condiments, fat-free vegan cookies, fat-free chips, crackers, and other snacks
  • Coffee (with nonfat, nondairy creamer)
  • Alcoholic beverages, used occasionally
  • Sugar, used occasionally
  • Used rarely: nuts, seeds, chocolate (nondairy), full-fat soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy cheese, etc.


Protein: Plant foods have plenty of protein. The recommended amount of protein in the diet for post-menopausal women is 10 percent of calories. Most vegetables, legumes, and grains contain this amount or more. Some that are especially rich (>20 percent of calories) include all the beans, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms. Those seeking extra protein can choose beans or lentils (especially in combination with rice or other grains).

Calcium: Plant-based diets actually reduce calcium requirements. Because diets rich in animal products cause the body to lose more calcium, a person on a vegan diet needs less calcium to stay in calcium balance. Good sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, beans, figs, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, or fortified, nonfat soy or rice milks.

Vitamin B12: Those following a diet free of animal products for more than three years (or at anytime in childhood, pregnancy, or nursing) should take a B12 supplement of 5 mcg per day. Any common multiple vitamin will provide this amount.