When I selected vegetarian dishes to be the focus for my March cooking challenge at the new year, I had no idea that vegetarian would turn into vegan.
As 2015 has progressed, however, I’ve been reaching for more junk food than fresh fruit and vegetables, and my waistline has expanded accordingly. I once again find myself looking to drop a few pounds. WeightWatchers has been my go-to weight loss method for over 5 years now, but I have tired of the boomerang effect that occurs every time I go off (and then back on) the plan. I do not deny that counting points helps me lose weight and eat healthier, but I do not want to have to count points for the rest of my life in order to maintain that weight loss and healthy eating.
So I’ve been reading and thinking about taking a different approach to weight loss and maintenance, and I’ve settled on VB6, or Vegan Before 6, the “part-time vegan” plan developed by Mark Bittman. Essentially, you eat a vegan breakfast and lunch but relax the rules on meat and other animal products for dinner. While skeptical upon first hearing about the program (after all, incorporating more vegetarian dishes into my diet was already a bit of a stretch, so going vegan–even part-time–was on a whole new level), I was quickly sold after reading through Part One of Bittman’s book. His description of the effects of the Standard American Diet (with the appropriate acronym SAD) on our health was all too real for me, and I liked the idea of having a reduced role in supporting the animal industry of today. I decided to give it a genuine try.
I set today, March 23, 2015, as my first official VB6 day. In anticipation of today’s launch, I devoted several hours yesterday to preparing food for this week, as I know that preparation is key to healthy eating. In the morning I cooked a pound of dried chickpeas in my slow cooker according to Bittman’s Big-Batch Beans recipe in the book. For the record, chickpeas smell terrible while cooking. I suppose I should not have been too surprised, as I hate the smell of an open can of chickpeas. I love to eat them, though. The recipe yielded nearly 5 cans’ worth of chickpeas, and when I tossed some on my salad at dinner tonight, they were delicious — much more flavorful than canned, even when seasoned with only salt and pepper. I put most of the beans into the freezer in can-sized portions so that hummus or other yummy chickpea dishes will be easily made in the weeks to come.
I also prepared Bittman’s Greens and Beans Soup recipe using dried navy beans and 2 large bunches of kale for my work lunches this week. My typical weekday lunch for the past 5 years has been a turkey sandwich. Obviously with VB6, the turkey sandwich would have to go. I’ve been wanting an excuse to get away from so many sandwiches, anyway, so this became yet another reason to go VB6. The soup recipe yielded 9 individual-sized portions; I stocked the freezer with 4 of them and kept the remaining 5 in the fridge for this week. I clearly have no problems eating the same thing for work every day.
To kick off my day today, I tried my own variation on the John’s Daily Oatmeal recipe from Penzeys Spices. I had come across the recipe in my latest Penzeys catalog and had been immediately struck by the concept of hands-off, stove top oatmeal. I followed the cooking instructions exactly, but I used the following ingredients:
1 cup water
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
2 TB Hodgson Mill Flax Chia Blend
2 TB raisins
Dash of cinnamon
While I got myself ready for the day, the oatmeal cooked on its own to a perfect, creamy consistency. I need to tweak the ingredients a bit, though. I purposefully avoided putting sweetener in it as I’m trying to pull away from eating a lot of sugar, but I definitely would have liked it better had it been a bit more sweet. Tomorrow I’m going to try the oatmeal with just 1 TB of the flax chia blend and use unsweetened almond milk instead of the water.
For lunch I got my first real taste of the Greens and Beans Soup, and I was thrilled with how it turned out. It doesn’t seem like much–some onion, beans, and greens–but it was very tasty and quite filling. Rounded out with an apple and some raw almonds, my lunch kept me satisfied through a long work afternoon and evening (it was annual Open House night at my school).
I snacked on jicama sticks on my drive home and then prepared myself a simple salad (with chickpeas!) for dinner. I wasn’t feeling that hungry after my lengthy day at work, but I anticipate preparing more substantial meals at dinnertime on most days.
Overall, I’m feeling excited about VB6 after day 1. There are plenty of yummy-sounding breakfast and lunch recipes in the VB6 book that I am curious to try, and I look forward to feeling (and looking) better in the days and weeks to come!