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VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 by Mark Bittman (2013): What to eat and foods to avoid

VB6 - Eat Vegan Before 6pm - book by Mark Bittman of the New York TimesThe VB6 Cookbook by Mark BittmanVB6 (2013) is a weight loss book that encourages you to restrict what you eat before 6pm every day of the week, and to eat more freely late at night

  • Eat vegan before 6pm, mostly produce
  • After 6pm, you can also eat animal protein and slightly processed foods
  • Try to avoid more processed foods – if you do have them, limit them to after 6pm
  • Time of cutoff depends on your lifestyle – your evening meal is your trigger for freer eating

Below is a description of the food recommendations in the book.  Summary  |  Unlimited foods  |  Flexible foods  |  Treats  |  Foods to drastically limit.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of VB6 for a description of why the VB6 diet works, how to make it work for you, meal plans, and recipes

Order The VB6 Cookbook for “More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night”

The reasoning behind VB6

The book argues that we should eat more real, wholesome foods – when we eat a lot of foods with a low caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, we can lose weight. Animal food production is unsustainable, and we should have less of it but higher quality. Processed foods are bad for us and bad for the environment.

VB6 diet plan – food list

Start the plan for 28 days, and preferably continue it as a lifelong diet

It’s about doing your best to nourish yourself with real, wholesome foods most of the time and not beating yourself up when you don’t. As long as you’re committed to that, the occasional trip-up is not a big deal

  • Eat mostly unlimited foods, all times of the day – vegetables, fruits, seasonings
  • Eat some flexible foods, all times of the day – beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, oils
  • After 6pm (or whenever you have dinner), you can eat treats – meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, quality processed carbs, quality desserts
  • Highly processed foods should be drastically limited, and eaten only after 6pm

Unlimited foods

Eat freely and luxuriously from this category:

  • Vegetables
    • Cabbage-like vegetables and greens – bok choy (and other Asian greens), broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, chicory, collards, dandelion, endive, escarole, kale, all lettuce and salad greens, spinach, watercress
    • Nightshades – bell peppers, chiles, eggplant, tomatillos, tomatoes
    • Stalk or stem vegetables – artichokes, asparagus, cactus, cardoons, celery, fennel, kohlrabi, mushrooms
    • Edible-pod legumes – green and wax beans, snap peas, snow peas
    • Root vegetables and tubers – beets, carrots, celery root, jícama, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams
    • Summer squashes – pattypan squash, yellow squash, zucchini
    • Winter squashes – acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha, pumpkin, spaghetti
    • Aromatics – garlic, ginger, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots
    • Sprouts – alfalfa, bean sprouts, lentil, radish, soy, wheat
    • Sea vegetables – seaweeds and sea beans
  • Fruits
    • Citrus – clementines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, tangerines, tangelos
    • Melons – cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, watermelon
    • Berries – blueberries, strawberries, etc.
    • Stone and tree fruits – apples, apricots, cherries, figs, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums
    • Tropicals – bananas and plantains, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple
    • Any other fresh fruit
  • Condiments and seasonings
    • Salt and pepper
    • Fresh herbs, e.g. basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc.
    • Dried herbs, e.g. marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
    • Vinegars – e.g. balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, wine vinegars
    • Mustard – whole-grain and/or Dijon style; mustards without added sugars (like honey mustard)
    • Horseradish
    • Salsa (without fat) – get the good stuff in jars, not cans
    • Hot sauces, including srirachas and sambals
    • Pickles – any vegetable, as long as the brine is unsweetened – e.g. sauerkraut, roasted red peppers, olives, capers – wherever possible in glass containers instead of plastic and cans
    • Soy sauce – the real stuff
    • Miso – any color
    • Spices and spice blends – e.g. cardamom, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, fennel seeds, fines herbes, garam masala, ginger, jerk seasoning, mustard, nutmeg, pimentón (smoked paprika)
    • Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce/nam pla – not technically vegan, but the amount of animal products they contain is trivial

Categorizations are taken from the book

Flexible foods

These foods provide important nutrients, but they are generally more calorie dense than fruits, vegetables, condiments, and seasonings. Eat them sparingly at breakfast, lunch, or in snacks; after 6pm you have more latitude with the foods in this category

  • Beans/legumes
    • E.g. black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini, chickpeas/garbanzos, cranberry beans, fava beans, flageolets, gigante beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, white beans
    • Tofu or silken tofu, tempeh
  • Whole grains
  • Flexible fruits and vegetables
    • Avocadoes, coconut
    • Corn, peas, potatoes (all kinds), tropical tubers (like cassava, taro, and yucca)
    • 100% fruit and vegetable juices
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
    • Chia seeds, flax seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
  • Oils
    • Choose minimally processed, flavorful, unsaturated fats
    • Olive oil
    • Nut oils, sesame oil
    • Grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, or other vegetable oils
  • Sweet condiments and sweeteners
    • Almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, nut milks, oat milk, rice milk, soy milk
    • A-1 sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup
    • Relishes and chow-chows, sweet pickles
    • Honey (not technically vegan), maple syrup (grade B packs the most punch), sugar (turbinado is the least processed)
  • Baking ingredients
    • Baking powder, baking soda
    • Yeast
    • Whole wheat and other whole-grain flours e.g. brown rice flour
    • Cornmeal, polenta
    • Nut flours
  • Dried fruits
    • Apricots, cranberries, dates, figs, pineapple, raisins, etc.
    • Keep portions small, and reserve these for special occasions or as additions to salads, bean dishes, pilafs, and desserts

Coffee isn’t mentioned, although it’s vegan – tea is recommended


Eat these after 6pm, but don’t eat them nearly as often, or in as large quantities, as you used to

  • Meats, including
    • Chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, quail, turkey, and other poultry/birds
    • Beef, lamb, pork, and other meats
    • Venison and other game meats
    • Smoked and cured meats – like bacon, hams, salamis, sausages, etc.
    • Try to think of meat as a garnish rather than a centerpiece
    • Choose the best quality
  • Eggs
    • Eggs and products made with eggs, like custard and mayonnaise
  • Dairy
    • Hard cheeses – cheddar, manchego, Parmesan, and other aged and dried cheeses
    • Soft cheeses – aged mozzarella, blue cheeses, brie, feta, Monterey Jack, Muenster
    • Fresh cheeses – fresh goat cheeses, fresh mozzarella, mascarpone, quark, ricotta
    • Milk, butter, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, crème fraîche
    • Yogurt – preferably plain; the fat content doesn’t matter
    • Best: real milk and cream, plain cultured yogurt, and well-made, flavorful cheeses
  • Fish and seafood
    • Thick fish fillets – bass, char, cod, hake, halibut, salmon, striped bass, etc.
    • Thin fish fillets – catfish, flounder, mackerel, tilapia, trout
    • Fish steaks – halibut, salmon (wild is best), swordfish
    • Small-to-medium whole fish – anchovies, mackerel, porgies, sardines, smelt, whiting
    • Shellfish and mollusks – clams, crab, crawfish, langoustines, lobster, mussels, octopus, shrimp, squid
    • Canned or jarred fish are fine
    • It’s difficult to recommend eating fish very frequently because of sustainability issues – check the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch listings
    • Wild is probably better than farmed/aquaculture
  • Quality processed carbs
    • White pasta
    • White rice – e.g. basmati, jasmine, short grain
    • Rice noodles
    • Good white breads – the crusty, airy kind from a good baker
    • Egg breads – brioche, challah, and the like
    • Sandwich breads, focaccia
    • Pizza
    • White flour – unbleached – for breading and other baking
    • Crackers – whether they’re gluten-free, whole grain, other otherwise, they’re still treats
  • Fats
    • Implied in the book – vegetable-based saturated fats like coconut oil and palm oil should be limited, presumably as “treats”
  • Alcohol
    • Definitely off limits during the day, and up to you at night
    • If you’re seriously trying to lose weight, very limited drinking – or none at all – is something you should consider
  • Dessert
    • A small piece of cake is almost always just as good as a big one
    • Choose good-quality, preferably homemade, sweet treats – or a piece of dark chocolate or caramel – over a bag of supermarket cookies
    • After a week or so eating VB6, you may find that your cravings for sugar will be sharply diminished

Drastically limit

These foods should only be eaten during “treat” times, and only very occasionally if at all

Eat (almost) no junk food

Foods with more than five ingredients count as hyper-processed

  • Dairy
    • Processed cheese and sugary flavored yogurt
  • Fats
    • Avoid hydrogenated fats like vegetable shortening
  • Fast food
    • Be selective and resist temptation
  • Protein, granola, or so-called diet bars
    • Just eat real candy instead – it will feel more like dessert, it is likely to contain more real food, and might even have fewer calories
  • Frozen meals
    • Microwave dinner, Hot Pockets, etc.
    • Including “diet” ones
  • Chips
    • All kinds – fried, baked, or otherwise
  • Packaged salty snacks
    • Especially super-salty powdery snacks like Cheetos, Doritos, and Pringles
  • Processed bread
  • Soda or sweetened beverages
    • Including energy drinks, Gatorade, and sweet tea
    • Diet drinks probably aren’t good for you, either
  • Packaged desserts
    • Packaged cookies, doughnuts, fruit roll-ups, Twinkies, etc.
  • Sugary cereal
    • Most packaged cereal
    • Even so-called healthy options and granola are filled with sugar

Health benefits claimed in VB6

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar / hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome, overweight/obesity, prediabetes, stroke

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, and does not endorse it.

Get a copy of VB6 for a description of why the VB6 diet works, how to make it work for you, meal plans, and recipes

Buy now from Amazon Diet book
Order The VB6 Cookbook for “More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night”

Buy now from Amazon Cookbook
How has this diet worked for you? Please add a comment below.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Tony June 15, 2013, 3:20 pm

    I have a question about something I usually like to eat in morning as a light breakfast item with my coffee, namely a Kashi or FiberOne protein bar of some sort. Each has some nuts, high fiber, but they are processed. Do you think these fall in the category for the VB6 of Flexible Foods, or in the category of Limit or Drastically Limit?


    • Penny Hammond June 16, 2013, 6:19 pm

      Hi Tony,
      In the book he says that “protein, granola, or so-called diet bars” are foods to drastically limit – “Just eat real candy instead – it will feel more like dessert, it is likely to contain more real food, and might even have fewer calories.”

  • Joe Schaefer June 24, 2013, 3:04 pm

    My family has been vegetarian (some fish) for years now and we find ourselves ravenous and likely to misbehave in the evenings. I can see the benefit here though. That you strive for the perfect meal for the bulk of the day.

  • Sashalee March 26, 2015, 3:52 pm

    Hi there I just wanted to know in which category popcorn would fit?

    • Penny Hammond March 26, 2015, 4:53 pm

      If it’s unprocessed pop-it-yourself, it would probably be a flexible food. If it’s processed or sweetened, a treat.

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