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Mark Bittman's VB6 Diet

The Promise

Could you go vegan part time? You will if you go on the VB6 plan.

If you follow TheNew York Times food section, you probably know Mark Bittman’s column, and you may have heard of his approach to eating: VB6, which stands for Vegan Before 6. That is, you eat like a vegan (no meat, dairy, or other animal products) until 6 p.m.

Bittman isn’t a doctor, nutritionist, or health professional, but he has been cooking and writing about food and food policy for more than 25 years.

He also has firsthand experience. At age 57, Bittman's doctor told him that he was 40 pounds overweight, prediabetic, and had high cholesterol. He says his doctor recommended that he go on a vegan diet. Bittman decided to radically change his diet but not totally give up all animal products, to see if that would help improve his health without medication.

Bittman writes about his diet in his book, VB6.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

On this plan, you’ll become a part-time vegan, eating mostly fruit, vegetables, grains, and beans until dinner, when you can eat whatever you like, in moderation. Bittman also gave up processed foods, like white bread, junk food, and pasta -- until 6 p.m.

The VB6 28-day plan includes much more fruit, vegetables, and other plant foods than you’re most likely used to eating. You can eat some of them in almost unlimited quantities. However, legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, whole grains, starchy or fatty veggies or fruits, and oils you should eat in moderation.

Bittman encourages snacking when the urge strikes, as long as you don’t eat when you’re not really hungry and don’t choose processed foods. He recommends reaching for fruit when you crave something sweet, even if that means eating two or three pieces.

He cautions against eating too many white potatoes, chips, and fries. He suggests treating fatty avocados and olives as snacks or alternatives to cheese but says eating an “avocado instead of a cheeseburger is always a fair swap.”

VB6 does not allow animal products, sugar, white flour, white rice, pastas, or processed foods before 6 p.m., or dinnertime. After 6 p.m. or at dinner, you may eat whatever and however much you want, including meat, cheese, alcohol, and sweets. But if you’re trying to lose weight, Bittman suggests that you eat and drink them in limited quantities, or use as garnish rather than centerpiece of a meal.

Bittman also gives you some margin. If going vegan apart from dinner doesn't work for you, could you do it for another part of the day? The time is arbitrary, Bittman writes.

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