‘All the benefits of a strict diet, without the deprivation.’ Sounds great right. But could you do it?
I loved the concept of Mark Bittman’s new book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6pm from the moment I first read about it in the Sydney Morning Herald. It immediately made simple sense to me, and played into my ‘everything in moderation’ standpoint in the nutrition world. Yes, we should be eating more fruits and vegetables and less animal products – but is it reasonable or even fathomable to expect people to turn vegan overnight? No. Do people still want to savour and enjoy their food? Yes.
Enter the VB6 concept. No animal products, processed foods or white flour products before 6pm. That’s a totally clean, vegan breakfast and lunch everyday – with a free pass in the evening to indulge in your steak, chicken curry and ice-cream if that floats your boat.
So just so we’re all on the same page, that’s no dairy, wheat (in the form of processed flour), eggs or meat before 6pm. Eating a plant based diet to begin your day increases your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and fibre intake and also your consumption on low GI, unprocessed foods.
One for the key ideas behind Bittman’s ‘diet’ (I not a big fan of that word – let’s say way of eating), is that you’ll feel so alert, healthy and nourished eating vegan during the day, that you’ll be less inclined to want to eat junk in the evening. So if you’re licking your lips thinking yippeeee this is a free pass to dial up your pal Dominos every night, it’s not.
I was recently fortunate to listen to Mark Bittman give a lecture about America’s food systems and his VB6 concept, during which he made a very interesting point. The aim of VB6 is to get people moving along the spectrum from the SAD (Standard American Diet – which Australian’s are consuming as well) to the ‘nirvana’ of veganism. Now, he doesn’t expect many people to actually get to the end of the spectrum and ditch the animal products for good, but he does believe any movement towards eating more plants and less meat and processed food is important. According to Bittman, less animal products is important for individual weight loss, overall health and wellbeing, the environment and sustainability.
For someone like me, this is not a huge stretch from my current diet. I (mostly) eat good quality meat a couple times a week, and (mostly) at dinner times except from the occasional tuna salad for lunch. A blanket rule such as VB6 appeals to me as it will force out the odd lazy morning when I’ve neglected to shop for fresh food and hungrily eye the pot of yoghurt in the fridge as the only edible breakfast source. I can assure you a 100% dairy breakfast ain’t good for anyone.
I believe following VB6 would inspire me to get more creative with my vegan cooking, and kick my ass into being prepared for breakfast and lunch at the office everyday. One can only assume the vegan options at the shopping centre food court are slim to none.
Reasons why I like this concept:
1. Everyone can give it a go. There’s no eliminating any food totally from the diet, no food that’s out of bounds. Bittman’s book encourages VB6-ers to listen to what their body is craving for and nourish it appropriately. After all, it’s actually been proven that no restrictive diet works in the long term – as disappointing as that is to the lemon detox advocates of the world. Seriously, do people think that actually works long term? The mind boggles.
2. It gives individuals the power to effect the environment and change our food supply. There are some scary facts out there – like the fact that factory farming accounts for 37 percent of methane gas emissions (in the US), or Global meat production has quadrupled since the early 1960s from 71 million tonnes to over 290 million tonnes in 2010 (Source: FAO). I won’t go into the gory details, but modern factory farming practices are pretty abhorrent.
It’s a simple message really, reduce the amount of meat you eat, and you’re doing your bit for the environment, even if it’s something as small as a meatless Monday. According to Bittman, if all Americans ate the equivalent of three fewer cheesburgers per week, they’d effectively cancel out the environmental effects of all the SUVs in the country. Woah.
3. He’s a straight talker. This guy is a New York Times columnist who has spent the last 20 years writing about food. He doesn’t beat around the bush, or talk about nutrition like it’s the holy grail. His book is down to earth, sensible, and gives people useful tools on improving their health through diet.
Reasons it might not be for everyone.
You need to use your initiative and intuition. Yes Doritos are vegan. No you shouldn’t eat them for lunch. Also, the free-for-all in the evenings might not be a great idea for those prone to the odd midnight binge. Where does a drunken 3am cheese toastie fit into the equation?
Plus, I know you’re thinking – um, what about my morning coffee? The hardest part for many people considering giving VB6 a whirl will be no morning lattes. Ouch. Alternatives could include soy or almond milk, or learning to appreciate the odd long black.
So what do you think? Would you give VB6 a go?
Here are some vegan recipe ideas on Mark Bittman’s website, plus a recipe for my vegan choc-banana chia pudding.
Cold noodles with sesame or peanut sauce
Barley salad with cucumber and yoghurt dill dressing
Every Healthy Day’s 4 ingredient choc-banana chia pudding
Chia seeds are rad. They’re little protein power houses that can be added to any dish and when combined with water they form a thick gel. This vegan choc-banana pudding can be eaten for breakky or dessert – and can be prepared in the blink of an eye. It’s also a nice chocolate alternative to my coconut vanilla chia pudding.
- ¼ cup Chia seeds
- 1 banana
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
Stevia or honey to sweeten (optional)
How to go about it:
Pop all the ingredients (leave ½ the banana to slice on top) into a blender or small food processor. Whiz up and pop into a cup or bowl to set in the fridge. Top with sliced banana, a sprinkle of cacao or cacao nibs if you have them handy. A drizzle of honey would also be nice.