GOING VEGETARIAN or vegan is a big commitment. While
the health and environmental
effects are undeniable, for some,
the tradeoff is too much to swallow. Enter VB6 or vegan before
dinner, an idea introduced by
New York Times food writer Mark
Bittman in 2009 that has gained
traction with those who want to
improve health but just can’t give
A 2015 study conducted by
the journal Frontiers in Nutrition concluded that a diet that is
vegetarian five days a week and
includes meat just two days a
week would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and water and land
use by about forty-five percent.
In the United States, even vegetarians get about twenty-seven
percent more protein than the
recommended daily allowance.
Omnivores typically eat sixty percent more protein than a body
needs, and the planetary—not to
mention health—implications of
such a diet are vast.
When Bittman's doctor suggested he cut out animal products
for his health, he decided to compromise. He pledged to go vegan
before dinner and allow himself to
enjoy whatever he wanted afterward. In his book VB6: Eat Vegan
Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and
Restore Your Health … for Good,
the food writer set out the rules of
the plan in simple terms. Eat vegan before 6 p.m., and, after that,
all bets are off.
“There are no silver bullets,
and, over the years, it’s become
increasingly clear … that the most
sensible diet for human health
and longevity is one that’s lower
in animal products and junk food
BY LIZZ SCHUMER
How going vegan
before dinner can
help your health
and our world.
and higher in vegetables, fruits, legumes,
and minimally processed grains,” Bittman
In his first six weeks on the diet, the
writer lost fifteen pounds. Within the next
six weeks, he reduced his cholesterol and
blood sugar, cured his sleep apnea, and
lost another fifteen. He credits his success to the flexibility of the plan, especially since his work as a food writer requires
him to eat a wide range of foods and his
social circle is mostly omnivorous.
Bittman calls the plan “an exciting
opportunity for you to change not only the
way you buy, cook, and eat food, but also
the way you think about it—all day long.
It begins with a rational philosophy about
the role nourishment—food—plays in our
lives; and out of that philosophy grows
a practice that will help you develop a
healthy, happy, functional, and permanent
new relationship with food.”
VB6 is not a diet. For many, it’s a way of
life that is both waistline and wallet friend-
ly. Local writer Kevin Purdy started doing
a more relaxed version of VB6 that he
calls “vegetarian before dinner” because
he “liked the idea o
ly a diet.” He does not avoid eggs and does
not stick to the diet if it inconveniences
those he's with.
“The health and environmental aspects
Lizz Schumer is a journalism professor at
are easy to talk about, but the ethics of
eating animals is trickier,” Purdy admits.
“I haven’t committed to a no-meat life,
and it’s hard for me to pretend that meats
can’t taste really good. I hope, however,
that by making meat less casual,―less of
something to expect, to make it the center
of your meal, then we can better respect
the animals we’re eating.”
In Buffalo, there are plenty of vegetari-
an resources and dining options available,
many of which are detailed in this issue.
By committing to VB6, whether Bittman’s
whole-hog or Purdy’s more lax version,
average Americans can make a huge dif-
ference in their health, and equally impor-
tantly, our planet's.
Canisius and a frequent contributor to
burgers with arugula