VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good

by Mark Bittman


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If you’re one of the millions who have thought of trying a vegan diet but fear it’s too monotonous or unfamiliar, VB6 will introduce a flexible way of eating that you can really live with for life.

Six years ago, an overweight, pre-diabetic Mark Bittman faced a medical directive: adopt a vegan diet or go on medication. He was no fan of a lifelong regimen of pills, but as a food writer he lived—and worked—to eat. So neither choice was appealing. His solution was a deal with himself. He would become a “flexitarian.”

He adopted a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits, and grains by following a healthy vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or processed foods) all day. After 6:00 p.m. he’d eat however he wanted, though mostly in moderation. Beyond that, his plan involved no gimmicks, scales, calorie counting, or point systems. And there were no so-called forbidden foods—he ate mostly home-cooked meals that were as varied and satisfying as they were delicious.

He called this plan Vegan Before 6:00 (VB6 for short), and the results were swift and impressive. Best of all, they proved to be lasting and sustainable over the long haul. Bittman lost 35 pounds and saw all of his blood numbers move in the right direction.

Using extensive scientific evidence to support his plan, the acclaimed cookbook author and food policy columnist shows why his VB6 approach succeeds when so many other regimens not only fail, but can actually lead to unwanted weight gain. He then provides all the necessary tools for making the switch to a flexitarian diet: lists for stocking the pantry, strategies for eating away from home in a variety of situations, pointers for making cooking on a daily basis both convenient and enjoyable, and a complete 28-day eating plan showing VB6 in action.

Finally, Bittman provides more than 60 recipes for vegan breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, as well as non-vegan dinners that embrace the spirit of a vegetable- and grain-forward diet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385344746
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 04/30/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 198,065
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

MARK BITTMAN is one of the country's best-known and most widely respected food writers. His How to Cook Everything books, with one million copies in print, are a mainstay of the modern kitchen. Bittman writes for the Opinion section of New York Times on food policy and cooking, and is a columnist for the New York Times Magazine. His "The Minimalist" cooking show, based on his popular NYT column, can be seen on the Cooking Channel. His most recent book, VB6, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale.

Read an Excerpt

Six years ago, the man I most trusted with my health said to me, “You should probably become a vegan.”
Not exactly the words I’d wanted to hear, and certainly not what I was expecting. But I’d asked Sid Baker, my doctor of thirty years, what he recommended, given that he’d just told me that at age 57, I had developed the pre-diabetic, pre-heart-disease symptoms typical of a middle-aged man who’d spent his life eating without discipline.
He’d laid out the depressing facts for me: “Your blood numbers have always been fine but now they’re not. You weigh 40 pounds more than you should. You’re complaining of sleep apnea. You’re talking about knee surgery, which is a direct result of your being overweight. Your cholesterol, which has always been normal up until now, isn’t. Same with your blood sugar; it’s moved into the danger zone.”

A more conventional doc would’ve simply put me on a drug like Lipitor, and maybe a low-fat diet. But Lipitor, one of the statin drugs that lowers cholesterol, is a permanent drug: Once you start taking it, you don’t stop. I didn’t like the idea of that. Furthermore, its effectiveness in healthy people has never been established, and it’s also been implicated in memory loss and other cognitive complications; I didn’t like the idea of any of that, either. And at this point, low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets have essentially been discredited: They might help you lose weight, but they’re not effective for maintaining that loss in the long term, and they may even wreak havoc on your system.
But becoming a vegan? A person who eats no animal products at all? Calling that a radical change to my lifestyle was more than a bit of an understatement. Yet it was clear that something had to be done. I asked Sid, “Is a compromise possible? Any other ideas?”
“You’re a smart guy,” he said. “Figure something out.”
I thought about this for a few days, and I recognized that what he was saying made sense. There are no silver bullets, and over the years it’s become increasingly clear—much as none of us wants to hear it—that the most sensible diet for human health and longevity is one that’s lower in animal products and junk food and higher in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and minimally processed grains.
I knew that, and I’m guessing you do, too. Yet the idea of becoming a full-time vegan was neither realistic nor appealing to someone accustomed to eating as widely and as well as I do. Furthermore, I had no interest in becoming an isolated vegan in a world of omnivores and—though I have vegan friends, to be sure—the world of omnivores is where I live. Full time.
Yes. I like vegetables and grains; I love them. I love tofu, too, when prepared well. Even back then, I was eating beans far more frequently than I ever had. But none of this got in the way of my enjoying pork shoulder, pizza, bacon, and burgers. I was not prepared to give up that kind of food. That sounded untenable and, more importantly, unsustainable for more than a couple of weeks.
So the question became: What could I do with the conflict between what was undoubtedly Sid’s very sound advice—“become a vegan”—and my own established, beloved, well-socialized lifestyle?
The answer, to me, was this: I’d become a part-time vegan. And for me, this part-time veganism would follow these simple rules: From the time I woke up in the morning until 6 in the evening, I’d eat a super-strict vegan diet, with no animal products at all.
In fact, I decided to go even beyond that: Until 6 p.m., I’d also forgo hyper-processed food, like white bread, white rice, white pasta, of course all junk food, and alcohol.
At 6 p.m., I’d become a free man, allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted, usually—but not always—in moderation. Some nights, this meant a steak dinner; some nights, it was a blow-out meal at a good restaurant; other nights, dinner was a tunafish sandwich followed by some cookies. It ran, and runs, the gamut.
Whatever happened at dinner, though, the next morning I turned not to bacon and eggs or a bowl of Trix but to oatmeal or fruit or vegetables. For lunch, rice and beans or a salad—or both. Throughout the day I snacked on nuts and more fruit.
I called the diet “vegan before six,” or VB6. And it worked.
A month later, I weighed myself; I’d lost 15 pounds. A month after that, I went to the lab for blood work: Both my cholesterol and my blood sugar levels were down, well into the normal range (my cholesterol had gone from 240 to 180). My apnea was gone; in fact, for the first time in probably thirty years, I was sleeping through the night, not even snoring. Within four months, I’d lost more than 35 pounds and was below 180—less than I’d weighed in thirty years. And the funny thing was, the way I ate in the daytime began to change the way I ate at night.
So why be vegan just until 6 o’clock? Am I suggesting that 6 p.m. is some kind of magical metabolic witching hour? Not at all. Truthfully, the hour itself doesn’t matter much, and if you habitually eat dinner very early, your plan may be VB5—or VB9, if you live in Spain. The point I was making to myself, and that I’m saying to you, is that dinnertime sets you free. Dinnertime, because that’s when you’re likely to want to eat the most, because that’s when you’re most likely to drink (and lose discipline!), because that’s when you’re most likely to combine eating with socializing, an important and even beneficial thing.
But even though the time itself is arbitrary, it has the power to make you stop and think before acting. In fact, the rules are what VB6 has in common with “regular” diets; because anyone can say (and many people do), “Eat sensibly, don’t overeat, increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, eat less junk and high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.” If it were that easy, there’d be no need for diets. But by telling you “Don’t eat animal products or refined foods during the day, and feel free to eat what you like at night,” VB6 gives you the structure you need to exercise limited but effective discipline in a way that accomplishes all of those things.
During the day you’ll be observant, and eat way more fruits and vegetables than you probably have until now, and virtually none of the foods that we know cause your metabolism to go haywire, putting a downward spiral in motion. In the evening, you’ll still eat more thoughtfully, but won’t necessarily avoid or limit foods you love and can’t imagine eliminating from your diet. Simply put, at 6 o’clock you can put “the diet” on hold—a compromise that offers the benefits of restraint without the hardship of perpetual denial. Even reading this now, six years after I began, it still sounds pretty good to me.
This is not to say that my adapting to VB6 was seamless. I wasn’t exactly “becoming a vegan,” but this new diet was certainly not the way I was used to getting through the day. In 2007, when I first embarked on this plan, I’d been a professional food writer (and eater!) for more than twenty-five years. My diet had become increasingly indulgent and untamed, and my opportunities for eating “well”—that is, lavishly—were near constant. I had few rules and, I thought, little need for them. Like many of us, I ate what tasted good to me.
Even before this conversation with Sid, my thinking about food and eating had begun to change—enough so that his suggestion that I become vegan wasn’t completely out of left field. I knew, for example, that we Americans eat too much junk food and too many animal products. I knew that food was being produced in an increasingly mechanized and unprincipled manner, without taking into account the welfare of consumers—that’s us—or the environment or animals or the people who grew or processed it. And I knew that our health as a country was going down the tubes, and that the Standard American Diet (SAD for short, and it is just that) was at least in part responsible.
The combination of thinking that way and my new way of eating led to profound changes in my life; it changed not only my diet but my work. I didn’t want to become a preacher or even a teacher, but the more I thought about our diet, the more I practiced VB6, the more I recognized that these changes were essential not only for our health but for that of the planet and many of the things living on it.
I began to write not only about cooking but about eating, about food. I began speaking publicly about the relationships among eating, health, and the environment, and I began changing my work at the New York Times: After nearly twenty years of writing about recipes, cooking, and the delights of food, mostly for the Dining section, I branched out to Week In Review and other sections. This led, eventually, to my becoming a Times Opinion writer, with my main subject being food: how, what, and why we eat, and the forces that affect those things.
There’s no lack of subject matter, that’s for sure: Food touches everything. You can’t discuss it without considering the environment, health, the role of animals other than humans in this world, the economy, politics, trade, globalization, or most other important issues. This includes such unlikely and seemingly unrelated matters as global warming: Industrialized livestock production, for example, appears to be accountable for a fifth or more of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.
But chances are you didn’t buy this book to save the planet, or to improve animal welfare, or even to think about those things. You probably bought this book because you wanted to improve your own health or, even more specifically, because you wanted to lose weight.
If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place, because VB6 can help you do both of those things. My own weight has stabilized and my health has improved over the course of the last six years, and VB6 can do the same for you and help you to do it, not with some two-week snake-oil miracle cure—though you’ll probably see changes for the better in the first two weeks you’re on this diet, if you take it seriously—but with an easy-to-make change that you’ll want to stick to for the rest of your life. And best of all, you will be able to do just that while eating as well as (or better than) you ever have before, and without denying yourself any food you really love.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dean Ornish ix

Introduction 1

Part 1 Weight Loss and Better Living

1 The Diet with a Philosophy 9

2 Why VB6 Does Work 27

3 The Six Principles of VB6 68

Part 2 Making VB6 Work for You

4 Eating VB6 89

5 The VB6 28-Day Plan 119

6 Cooking VB6 127

7 Breakfast Recipes 136

8 Lunch Recipes 156

9 Snack Recipes 182

10 Dinner Recipes 196

11 Building Block Recipes 228

Source Notes 247

Acknowledgments 261

Index 263

Customer Reviews

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VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To all the reviewers complaining that the author isn't really a vegan, allow me to point out that he is not claiming to be.  He is suggesting that people incorporate some vegan recipes into their diet in order to cut down on the junk and meat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the book presents a series of very logical ideas. While the author understands what it means to be a vegan, he doesn't claim to be one. He does make a compelling argument that reducing animal-based foods in favor of unprocessed plant-based foods is good for both personal health and the health of the planet.  The ideas aren't new, but they are succinctly presented along with a strategy for implementation that is feasible for a broad range of people. Is it better to be a true vegan than "VB6"? Probably!  As an individual who does observe a vegan diet, I applaud Bittman's effort to shift toward a more sustainable one, even if it's only before 6! 
AikiPen More than 1 year ago
Absolutely enjoyed this book. He doesn't claim to be a vegan but he does promote that most of your food should be plant based. He is promoting a lifestyle not a diet. The whole point is being flexible. Yeah, he messes up but the next meal is right back on track. It feels highly doable. My biggest gripe is with the nook edition, many of the recipes have places where amounts don't show up just a ? in a box, I suspect they are fractions. It is kind of hard without the measurements. For example the Miso soup recipe calls for ? cups of miso. Guess I'll research other miso soup recipes and try to figure out the right ratio.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe how stupid these commenters are going on and on about "he has know idea what a vegan is, how can he say he's vegan, blah, blah ,blah. You . morons . are . not . getting . the . point. He's just saying to eat like a vegan for a part of the day so your caloric intake is lower and you can lose weight, he's not saying YOU ARE OFFICIALLY A BONAFIDE VEGAN FROM THE MOMENT YOU WAKE UP UNTIL 6PM. There's nothing wrong with people eating vegan part time. Not everyone is out to save the world with their diet some people just want to lose weight and be healthier Just get over yourselves already.
alwayslearningIA More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It's a good plan to follow to enable a person to experience the vegan way of eating without giving up meat. It emphasizes giving up sweets, sugars and fats which is good, basic, healthy eating. I eat mostly vegan, but once in a while I do eat meat and dairy, especially when that is the only choices offered when eating out. I recommend this book to anyone interested in healthy eating.
meac More than 1 year ago
Mark Bittman's writing appeals to me: he does meticulous research and then pulls it all together in a succinct and easy to read prose. I always knew that eating fruits, veggies, and whole grains were healthy, but Mr. Bittman explains why this is true by describing how the body digests all foods. Once you know this, you will want to limit your intake of processed foods for good! He quickly but thoroughly explains the science behind his plan, and then lays out the plan (complete with recipes) in a way that's easy to follow. Some people may think VB6 is just another gimmick, but it's actually a fairly easy and healthy way to live. His promise is true: if you follow this plan, you can maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle without having to count calories or points.
SPFL More than 1 year ago
Straight forward helpful and intelligent
BoysRGreat More than 1 year ago
Bittman's approach brings back to the table the color and variety of eating that previous generations of "kitchen garden" eaters experienced. His recipes are simple, adaptable, and tasty, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I had previously bought Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." I also bought it because I liked what I read in the introduction - that Mark Bittman's doctor told him that he should be a vegan because he had a few health problems that could be resolved with a change in his diet. This book is filled with good advice and recipes. However, I'm giving it three stars because I felt it lacked a more personal revelation about Mr. Bittman. I've read many vegetarian/vegan books and Mr. Bittman reveals the same information that I've read countless times. I think I was just looking for more of how making the change affected HIS life rather than boilerplate statistics. It was still a very good read and the recipes aren't filled with crazy ingredients that you have to search high and low to obtain. It's a great read for anyone who is struggling with their eating habits and wants to become healthy. Mr. Bittman certainly isn't the first food author to suggest limiting meat consumption, but the way he lays out his plan certainly makes sense and it simplifies the diet and I think many people could benefit from this advice. It's difficult at first, but with consistency and determination, VB6 is a diet that CAN be followed with little thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This sounds like a great idea, I am started the diet today. I was Vegan for about 4 months a couple of years ago, I am also diabetic, when I went for my 4 months check up, my Triglycerides was up to 269, so my doctor said no vegan, I loved eating that way, made me feel good. so I think since its not all the way vegan, I get animal protein at night it may help. We will see when the Blood work come back. I am hoping to lose weight as well.
KittyKat5 More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. It isn't a diet book, but practical information I can take and apply everyday. It isn't about a drastic change, but little things you can gradually do to improve your eating habits. I've tried a couple of the recipes and they are very good. If you want to start eating less animal products, this gives great easy ideas and ways to accomplish that,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good, soud advice and information. I like his philosophical bases for eating less meat and processed food (health, environment, animal cruelty, evolutionary roots, etc.) which strengthen your resolve to eat real food. Plus, I admire anyone who has the guts to criticize powerful corporations that have the public interest as their last concern.
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