Six years ago, Mark Bittman was a full-time omnivore. But then a doctor told him to turn vegan for health reasons, and suddenly Mark found himself facing a world void of meat, dairy, or processed foods. So the New York Times food writer decided to personalize his vegan diet and allow for some cheating. He called it “Vegan Before 6,” or “VB6,” and says it helped him improve his health and focus on cooking at home. Mark Bittman talks about his new book, and how a full-time meat lover adapted to part-time veganism.

Interview Highlights

Mark Bittman on Part-Time Veganism 9 May,2013forum

Mark Bittman, food writer, columnist for The New York Times, and author of books including "VB6: Eating Vegan Before 6," "Food Matters" and "How to Cook Everything"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Love the book and wanted to note even the carnivores in my family love his Tofu Jerky on page 189. We have friends whose children cannot have dairy and his Vegan Creamsicles have become a favorite. Love chickpeas and his Chickpea Ratatouille is a ten star winner.
    Love how he has something for those who have no desire to become fully vegan. Also reminds the reader we eat more vegan foods than many realize.

  • Shannon

    I believe in The China Study, the author T. Colin Campbell (a professor of nutrition at Cornell) said it was ok to cheat a little bit (5% of your overall diet) and still achieve the same health benefits of going vegan but that you should really be vegan 100% of the time.

  • burtkauf

    Same happened to me and it’s really easy to adjust to vegan… for some vegan restaurants and tips… Veggie Idea on 1700 block of Polk is maybe best in city. Try pumpkin curry and Wing bomb appetizers…

  • Stellaa

    What most people don’t understand about the real Mediterranean diet is that the real diet, my mother and grandmother, practiced the ecclesiastic fasting calendar, which was basically 140 days a year of vegan. No foods from an animal with blood. No fish, no dairy, no eggs, just legumes, vegetables and olive oil. The modern Mediterranean diet is a hybrid.

    • Angie Rammer

      Happy Bright Week!

      • Stellaa

        Thank you. I get so frustrated with the miss understanding that veganism is some modern invention, it was part of the western tradition. In fact, some interesting writing about how the imposition of vegan diet by the Catholic Church that was opposed by the Germans and other Western Europeans because it prohibited their local foods. So, the local food movement is also not a new invention but a political movement in the early dark ages. None of this food fighting is new.

    • hannah

      hmmm.. Don’t know how you get 140 fasting days, but the diet is definitely not linked to any religion. Olive oil and fish are older than Christ. I was born in the Mediterranean region and am now a flexivorious vegan, mostly because the meat and dairy I can afford taste like crap. But give me a slice of homemade blood sausage and I’ll gladly trade you a serving of my tofu stir-fry.

  • Bill_Woods

    It’s easy to tell whether a product contains GMOs. Just look at the list of ingredients and remember that GMO is spelled S-O-Y or C-O-R-N.

  • Chris OConnell

    Enjoying the show. But I have to object to linking opposition to GMOs with Robert Mugabe. That kind of guilt by association, I assume, is one of those accidents that happen when talking publicly so much.

  • chrisnfolsom

    One of the crazy things about America is our “All or nothing” mentality…. Moderation, and compromise is the only way to go – especially when you have kids or in complex family situations – almost everything has a spectrum especially in it’s application, but “we” are always looking for the new single gimmick or deal to solve all our problems…..

  • examineitmore

    While it’s great he advocates eating less animal products, he entirely misses the point of veganism – to eat in a way that minimizes harm to animals. Taking cruelty and violence into our bodies through our food is never healthy. Also, he should look more into the research on GMOs, there is proof of harm to us and the harm to the environment is clear.

  • Chris OConnell

    What about potatoes, another white food? I often hear them called bad for you but they seem like a whole, natural food to me.

  • examineitmore

    There is no such thing as ethical animal products.

    • hannah

      My 5 chickens are raised ethically. Sometimes I wish I had their life :o)

      • examineitmore

        I know there are people who treat their individual chickens well, but it’s important to look at the cruelty involved in the whole life cycle of the chickens. How are the chicks treated at the factory that supplies the them in the first place (not to mention how were their parents treated)? The boy chicks are gassed or ground up alive and many chicks die in transit. They are simply a commodity, their death or suffering is of little consequence to farmer raising them. If you raise your own from eggs, what do you do with all the roosters? Many who raise hens kill them when they stop producing eggs, while many others do not adequately protect the chickens from being attacked by dogs, foxes, raccoons, hawks, etc. Also, if you’re interested to know more about eggs and health, this is a great resource:

  • Susan Nawbary

    The paleo diet is an excuse to gorge on fatty meats but cavemen probably burned 1000s of calories we can’t. Cavemen eitheir feasted on meat for 3 days or starved and scrounged for roots 10 days after. Everyone thinks they’re an archeologist! Cavemen only lived to age 30 at best!

    • Fe

      lol great point Susan and its the combo of fat and sugar that make our diet healthy, there are too many good fats!

  • So much shifting in thinking about what’s good for you. Bitman’s current advice will likely seem as dated as the prescriptions that we now “know” are wrong. Fat was bad, now fat is good.
    Seems better to at long running diets like the Japanese or Mediterranean where we see health trends over generations.

  • I am vegan most of the time, I eat fish a few times per week (since 2006). In 2011 I lost 70lbs and am, for the first time in my life, the normal weight for my age and height. I love not being obese any longer!
    However, I still struggle with the concept that everyone has a different body. I have to be diligent to maintain my weight and too much sugar (I.e. A medium size soy chocolate shake) makes me feel terrible. My boyfriend on the other hand is normal weight and height, can easily play sports and be active (something I still struggle with) eats whatever veggies I make for him, but otherwise eats cookies, ice cream, pastries, chips, microwavable meals, and other processed food on a regular basis. It is difficult to accept that he can do this, eat whatever he wants, and does not seem to struggle whereas I do

  • Emily Mayberry

    Two questions: Earlier in the show Mark mentioned his transition away from meats primarily due to the massive processing that takes place along with the large amount of hormones etc., what is his opinion on locally animals humanely raised without the added hormones and are grass fed?

    Also, weighing in on the infants and milk discussion; my pediatrician speaks more about milk for protein than calcium. I’m concerned from a chemical standpoint the process of collecting milk and the high traces of phthalates found among other things in the milk. I’ve looked into making my own almond milk but it has very little protein. Considering that an infant up to 2 years old is still getting majority of their nutrients from milk/formula, do you have any alternative suggestions or supplemental ideas to reduce the amount of cow’s milk?

    • examineitmore

      Our problems are nearly always too much protein (causes many health problems), and eating a variety plant foods supplies plenty of protein. Maybe moving toward smoothies would help with a 2 yo child.

      For more info on milk, check out

      Regarding the first point, since there was no discussion about humane treatment of animals, it is obviously not a concern to Mark Bittman. There is no such thing as humane animal slaughter. Regardless of where they are raised, they are trucked to a slaughterhouse where they see and hear their relatives dying excruciating deaths. They are often improperly stunned due to the speed of the kill line and they are always bled and sometimes skinned alive. I recommend you read the World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, it’s very informative. The way organic farms treat animals is worse than conventional since they are banned from using the drugs typical of a conventional farm (e.g., antibiotics). For example, a dairy cow with mastitis has her nipples reamed out with something resembling a mini cork screw as many times as it takes. Animal foods are filled with cruelty and they are so bad for our own health. It’s time we break away from our cultural traditions that cause so much pain and suffering and recognize that there is a better way.

  • Seth

    What does Mark think of Gary Taubes’s work (for example, his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories”)?

  • Dayna

    I was encouraged to hear Mark say that junk food isn’t necessarily cheaper to produce and I’d love to hear how we can start demanding changes by manufacturers. If it’s not necessarily more profitable, then there’s an opportunity for a win-win – companies making money producing healthy foods, which could go a long ways in improving the health of America. I have three kids (ages 8, 5, 2) and I am so frustrated walking thru the grocery store – about 95% seems to be junk. And, while I cook from scratch nearly all the time, my kids eat a green smoothie every day – on weekends and on particularly busy days, I am grateful for healthy, easy to prepare foods; I wish I had more options at the store. So, what do moms like me do to demand that companies stop hiding behind accountability to shareholders or claims that folks won’t eat healthy foods?

  • Judith & Rob Dvorak

    Loved the sourdough rye recipe but rather bland. Made some improvements with 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup figs. Use a cast-iron pan to hold heat at 400F and a pan of water for crust.

  • Guest

    Mr. Bittman,

    Can you please talk about the effect of eating a heavier meal in the evening vs. during the day?


    Jan W.

  • Gtstricky

    How do we get kids (and schools) to eat/serve better food?

  • Stephen

    I’ve been a vegan since 1973 and a strict vegetarian since 1972. There were a few periods when I would try yogurt or eat vegetarian pizza. My milk allergies made me realize those diversions weren’t worth the consequences.

    I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since 1959, so strict diets weren’t new to me. I want to report that my health has been spectacularly good following this diet. I have a string of doctors who are basically astounded by my health and flabbergasted when I cure health problems in ways unknown to them.

    I had the good fortune living with a macrobiotic girlfriend for 2 years in the mid 70’s. Great lessons in learning how to cook natural foods. Yes they can taste really good.

    I would say the only 2 supplements a vegan needs are a B12 lozenge and vitamin K2, unless you like the Japanese food natto which I learned in the early 1970’s I didn’t like.

    My endocrinologist in Greenbrae is both frustrated and astounded by me. She’s aggravated I don’t take any pills. (She doesn’t count my supplements.) But she says one other time I had a patient as healthy as you.

  • Bob Killroy

    My only BIG problem with Mr. Biteman is that he calls drinks such as ones made from almond and soy as “milk”. Like many people he must be ignorant to the fact that by biological definition, milk can only come from the mammary glands of a mammal. I find it interesting that vegans won’t drink milk because it comes from an animal, but will happily erroneously label their drink alternatives as milk for marketing purposes or to imply that they have as much protein as milk.

    • to “milk” is also a process. I’m sure you have heard the phrase to milk something. “she milked him for all he was worth” The process of wringing or extracting. So, you are right in the mammalian definition. but almond,soy,rice,hemp milks are not trying to be “milk” they don’t want to be. 😉 I am sure Mark Bittman is well aware of the difference and I hope you are now as well. Makes sense right?

  • Amber

    One of the biggest favors my parents bestowed on me was to raise me as an informed, health-conscious vegetarian, and mostly vegan. Because I was raised with it, I’ve never felt like I was missing out–in fact, meat and meat products are mostly unappealing to me and my siblings. That one simple decision has helped keep our health and minimize our damage and our subsequent families damage to the environment. It makes veganism an easy choice for us and a no brainer when it comes to deciding how we will raise our children. I feel bad for all those people in an uphill battle against formed habits, cherished family recipes, and holiday memories that revolve around foods they’ve now sworn off. So much easier if parents choose to give their children the kind of culture that will sustain health and humanity into the future.

  • Tyranipocrit

    there is proof that GM is bad for you. There is proof. lies lies lies. Man, don’t hold back, speak mind–think for yourself.

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