VB6: Mark Bittman’s Vegan Diet for Meat Eaters

With a lot of news reporting on the rise in child obesity, the effects of genetically modified foods (GMOs), and the scarcity of natural resources such as water and oil, we all want a ray of hope – we want some good news, already! What can we eat? What is the healthy diet? How can we eat and live while leaving less of a carbon footprint?

The August / September 2013 issue of  The Commonwealth magazine printed an excerpt of chef Joey Altman’s conversation with Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist and author of the book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health… for Good. Bittman has long been a conscious eater, offering his discriminating taste and opinion, but also meshing his appetite with social and environmental consciousness. While an ever growing number of us are excited about eating locally, seasonally and buying directly from the farmer to support our health and our local food sheds, Bittman’s new diet is a serving of good news we’ve been waiting to hear.

The Good News

cooking, Eva Antczak, farmers market, Marin, market-to-table, organic, Shanti ChristensenIMG_2947Bittman sees the nature of food consumption in the US in an optimistic light. He mentions a few incremental, yet positive trends:

  • People are cooking more at home
  • There is some evidence that obesity rates might be falling
  • There is more local and regional food available
  • More small and medium-sized farms are growing and connecting with consumers

As we change our perspectives about food, we may also begin to see how eating healthy is good for the environment. Bittman explained that by eating better, ‘the planet does better’. This may seem like an obvious connection to many and there have been numerous articles and books written on the veganism, human health and the health of the planet, yet it is still a challenge to get people to change their consumption habits.

Bittman’s Strategy – VB6

Many people recognize that in order to support a more sustainable future, we have to reduce meat consumption and increase plants in the diet. But this can be easier said than done, when so many Americans (including myself) eat meat regularly and can’t envision a diet without bacon and cheese!

However, Bittman offers an interesting solution and a diet he was able to realistically adhere to and enjoy. VB6 (Vegan Before 6PM) is Bittman’s attempt to integrate more plants into his daily diet without giving up meat completely. He thought, “I’m going to do this diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, [with] no processed food. I’m going to do that all day long, and then at night I’m going to do whatever the hell I want to do.” He went on to say,

But it’s not the only strategy; it’s a strategy, and I think it’s important to remember the bottom line: what’s most important to remember is to eat more plants. One mistake the USDA made 25-30 years ago was to tell more people to eat more foods that were low in saturated fats; the USDA was afraid to say “eat less meat” so they said “eat more foods that are low in saturated fats.” Instead of telling people to eat less of what they thought was bad for them – which may or may not be the case – they just said eat more and as a result we’ve seen the biggest explosion of weight gain ever in the history of the human race, right here in the United States [during the years] since the 1970s.

What’s clear is that we have to eat more plants; now we have to eat less of something else also, and what we have to eat less of is processed junk, which is mostly highly processed carbohydrates and sugar. This is nearly indisputable [and] it’s safe enough for me to say with full belief that we should be eating more plants and less highly processed foods, and that for a variety of reasons we should also be eating fewer animal products.

cooking, Eva Antczak, farmers market, Marin, market-to-table, organic, Shanti ChristensenIMG_2977Bittman suggests eating all-vegan, all-day until 6PM and then it’s all right to eat anything. Although he gives a timeframe, really when you break it down, this strategy is less about when you eat plants or meat, but instead about creating new habits around eating more plant-based and whole grain foods over the course of the day. Bittman argues that this eating strategy gets people hooked because it’s “attainable and sustainable” and “delays gratification”.  There is no reason to pine over the absence of meaty, cheesy satisfaction because you know you can have it later.

After Bittman tried this diet for six weeks, he lost 15 pounds. After another six weeks, he lost another 15 pounds. A visit to his doctor reported improvements in his health.

Everyone Wins

Connecting a better diet to a better future for the planet makes so much sense.  While the FarmsReach community has many livestock as well as produce farmers, when we choose to eat more plants, moderate our diet of meat, and remove processed foods, we can have incredible health benefits and dramatically decrease our impact on natural resources and the environment. Bittman’s book should be an interesting read and I’m looking forward to trying the VB6 strategy. Seasonal produce in California makes VB6 sound like a piece of cake (but not literally)!

One Thought on “VB6: Mark Bittman’s Vegan Diet for Meat Eaters

  1. lalitha on September 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm said:

    on one hand there is this…on the other hand, there is this:> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/business/chinese-chicken-processors-are-cleared-to-ship-to-us.html

    can anyone explain to me why american and canadian raised meat birds are sent to china to be processed?

    […] Under the new rules, the Chinese facilities will verify that cooked products exported to the United States came from American or Canadian birds. So no U.S.D.A. inspector will be present in the plants.

    And because the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling. Nor will consumers eating chicken noodle soup from a can or chicken nuggets in a fast-food restaurant know if the chicken came from Chinese processing plants.

    “We certainly don’t look forward to any more imports, but we also realize free trade is a two-way street,” said Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, which represents big chicken processors in the United States. “We’re hoping the Chinese will look a little more favorably on our chicken products and on other U.S. agricultural imports.” […]

    it’s not april 1st, is it?..:)

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