Recently, I have been reading about the changes Mark Bittman has been making in his diet. He describes it in his new book, Food Matters, which I have not read, but which has been described as a practical application of Michael Pollan‘s treatises on how to eat in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.
Essentially, Bittman is trying to eat vegan until 6 p.m., when he has a more traditional kind of dinner. He also avoids refined flours and sugars during the day. Following this diet, he has lost weight, boosted his energy level and improved his health. He keeps a food diary and has shared one week of eating (on the road, no less) here.
I admire this way of eating, but I don’t think I could do it. The vegan part is what would trip me up. Also, it is not ideal for me to have my heavy meal as the last meal of the day. If our culture permitted it, I would eat a large lunch, European-style, when I have the rest of the day to metabolize it and take advantage of the energy it produces. I hate going to bed feeling over-full after a large dinner. This, plus being under a baby curfew and therefore unable to go out for late dinners, has led my husband and I to going out for lunches or cooking nice brunches on the weekends, and then eating very light for dinner. I really enjoy it, and I wish I could eat that way every day.
But regardless, I couldn’t go vegan all day. I would have to allow at least yogurt and cheese. Plain yogurt is very good for you, and I find cheese to be just the right amount of protein and fat to satisfy me. I usually try to apportion it out ahead of time so I don’t eat too much.
Here is what my ideal day would look like, keeping Bittman’s principles in mind:
Breakfast: oatmeal with fruit, granola with yogurt and fruit, or vegan waffles with jelly; I allow myself one small glass of juice and 2 cups of coffee with sugar and half-and-half.
Work during the morning. Start cooking lunch around noon. Eat around 1 p.m.
Lunch: As the main meal of the day, it should include protein (meat, eggs or cheese), carbs and vegetables. Glass of wine.
Afternoon walk. Work during the latter part of the afternoon. Take care of chores and errands. Drinks during the day: tea with honey and water.
Snack (if needed): Small amount of cheese with whole-grain crackers; fruit; sliced avocado or tomato; nuts or trail mix; dip such as pesto or bean dip with raw veggies.
Light dinner: Preferably vegetarian and fast to prepare. Meal ideas include: salads; vegetarian stir-fry; vegetable soups; bean or vegetable cake; pasta and vegetarian sauce; bruschetta; spread such as hummus or guacamole on whole-wheat bread.
On most days, though, I have to switch the dinner and lunch because of work, and it doesn’t make sense to cook a big lunch just for myself. Naturally, I tend to snack more on those days.
Here’s another good tip that I need to implement soon: Get rid of all candy, chips, cookies and ice cream in the house. Make those things special. You either have to leave the house to get them (and they should be high-quality, if so), or you have to make them yourself. Either way, it takes some effort, so you will naturally eat less of the sweet stuff. We still have way too much candy left over from Christmas, but it is almost gone now, and I am definitely not buying any more.