Mostly Vegan

Monday, February 17, 2014

A few weeks back, I looked up and I realized I'd been on a red meat bender. Two dinners out had featured steaks, a special dinner at home had been a rack of lamb, and a cold, miserable day at work had lead to a delicious meatball lunch--you get the idea, I was eating a ton of red meat. While I love a nice steak here and there, I believe that meat of any kind should be eaten as a treat, not as an everyday food. My carnivorous behavior made me stop and consider my diet, and I decided I needed to make a change.

I'd heard about Mark Bittman's vegan before 6 pm concept (I interviewed him for New York Runner magazine a few years back), and decided I might give it a try. I even bought his book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good to help motivate my switch to plant-based mornings and afternoons. The book didn't offer me much menu inspiration, but I'm already an avid cook and not a big meat eater (it's definitely geared towards someone whose diet is further away from a vegan diet). However, I really like that Bittman includes a section called Building Blocks, which encourages readers to cook big batches of things like grains and beans to use as the base for many meals. While the book is packaged as a diet book of sorts, I think that Bittman really believes everyone should be switching towards a more plant-based diet, both for our health and for the health of the planet, and he thinks that a mostly vegan diet is something most people can manage--I agree.

After a week and a half, I can say that the VB6 concept is easily sustained for anyone willing to do a moderate amount of cooking. For breakfast, I ditched my usual yogurt for soy or almond milk (though I cheated with a dash of real milk in my coffee, which Bittman confesses he did at first too). Oatmeal with fruit is just fine without milk, and toast with jam or nut butter, is a vegan-friendly pantry breakfast. For lunch, I made many meals, but I also bought meals both to-go and in restaurants and had no trouble finding vegan options (admittedly, I'm located in cosmopolitan New York City). Vegan soups and salads are pretty easy to find anywhere.

I did notice a few interesting things that happened while sticking to a vegan diet before dinner. First, it became a lot easier to choose the healthy option when dining out. When out to lunch, I wasn't tempted by the cheeseburger on a menu; instead my eyes went to a slow-cooked black bean dish. Second, I found myself working more variety into my meals, instead of just the usual apples and oranges, I picked up some kiwis at the market. When cooking oatmeal, I decided to switch things up with some dried apricots and strawberries, instead of banana and raisins. As a mid-day snack, I made myself some popcorn with olive oil. Finally, I found myself more ecologically aware; when ordering a vegan lunch or shopping for plant-based meals, you're consciously making an effort to help save the earth, so I found myself saying, no thank you to the plastic spoon offered with my soup or the plastic bag to carry my groceries. (I try to avoid disposables like that on a regular basis, but I've been more vigilant  recently.)

So, for now, I'm sticking with Bittman's rule of eating vegan before dinnertime. Of course, there will be times when I'll break the rules, but that's the beauty of the concept: It allows for flexibility. What about you, could you go vegan most of the time? Why or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Liz Fenton said...

Well, I do like the cream in my coffee. And an occasional egg, or sometimes yoghurt. But maybe some days, and definitely no meat would be fine.


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