Being a vegan does limit you choices. If you’re an indecisive person, that may be a good thing. But if you’re like most people, you like options. Veganism limits your options in the most basic ways. Just ask anyone that’s allergic to something basic like dairy or gluten: they will most likely tell you that it makes eating more difficult.
Mark Bittman, a long time columnist for The New York Times, recently published his third book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health… for Good. Bittman has spent most of his life trying to show the American people the connections between food, health and our global environment. In promoting his book on various morning talk shows these past months, Bittman has consistently used science and reason to justify his eating routine and why he believes it works.
It stands to reason that eating animal products did the human race some good. However, Bittman points out that it wasn’t until the age of industrial agriculture that most people were able to afford animal products on a regular basis. Making meat, eggs and milk more affordable to people was a huge turning point in agriculture, but it has cost more than we know to global health. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock is a major (if not the leading) contributor to greenhouse gases and the unprecedented use of antibiotics in productions of this meat is making drugs less effective while encouraging the development of hardier disease-causing germs.
So then why eat meat at all? Why risk destroying the planet and your health just for a juicy cheeseburger? Bittman doesn’t have an answer for that, but he does know that eating one vegan meal does not mean your next meal has to be vegan. Flexitarianism is not a lifestyle, it’s a strategy, Bittman says. It gives people more options while getting them to eat more plants and fewer processed foods and fewer animal products.
Moreso, Bittman stresses that this end can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Whether you decide to be vegan until the weekend or vegan except for holidays and special occasions is really up to you. Bittman emphasizes that, “it is about eating better, or well, not perfectly, and it must be said that 'perfectly' has not yet been defined.” While it is true that studies have shown that plants may be protective against cancer and vegans and vegetarians have longer life expectancies than those that frequently eat animal products and processed foods, conclusive evidence has yet to surface. What we do know is that Cheez-It’s have about twenty different ingredients in them, while the only ingredient in tomato is tomato.
Having stuck to his VB6 diet for many years now, Bittman argues that dinner is the perfect time to bend the rules. After a long day at the office with little energy left, it may be comforting to know you can eat whatever you want when you get home. Maybe you have a date and you feel self-conscious about ordering a salad with no cheese, no dressing, no meat and no bread. However you need to frame it, this diet could revolutionize how people think about their food without depriving them of the things they love.
I know summer has arrived when my mom makes her colorful bean salad. It comes in many shapes and sizes, colors and varieties, but it always is popular among our dining guests. Not only is this dish simple and cheap to make, but it also gives you many, many options. The staples in this cold salad are the garbanzo beans, the parsley, and the lime juice. Everything else can be substituted for other vegetables and in different quantities. This is a great dish to make when everything in your garden is begging to be picked and you have no idea what to do with the abundance of food. Or, if you’re like my mom and you grocery shop hungry, this is one way to incorporate all of those veggies you bought before they go to waste.
2 cans of garbanzo beans
Jalapeño (to taste)
1 baby cucumber
½ bell pepper
Parsley (to taste)
1. Drain two cans of garbanzo beans and place them in a large bowl for mixing.
2. Chop 1 baby cucumber, ½ bell pepper, 1 avocado and some jalapeño into very small pieces. Make sure that you do not put any jalapeño seeds into the salad and do not touch your face until carefully washing your hands after chopping them.
3. Halve a handful of grape and heirloom tomatoes.
4. Put a spoonful of sundried tomatoes into the bowl along with everything you just chopped. Mix well.
5. Cut three limes into quarters. This allows you to squeeze the most juice out of every lime. This can also be adjusted to personal flavor.
6. Finely chop enough parsley to satisfy your taste. Mix this into the bowl. Dress the dish with more parsley and black pepper.