Mark Bittman's Vegan-Before-6 Meal Plan

After a serious health scare, food journalist and author Mark Bittman radically changed his diet and quickly lost 36 pounds. Today, he's sharing his simple one-rule plan to help you do the same. Learn why going vegan before 6 p.m. could be the secret to better health.

Mark Bittman's Vegan-Before-6 Meal Plan

In 2006, food journalist and author Mark Bittman was 30 to 40 pounds overweight, pre-diabetic and suffering from high cholesterol. He was eating carelessly and on track for serious health problems until a doctor intervened and told Mark if he wanted to live better he needed to increase his intake of fruits and vegetables and eliminate meat and dairy from his diet. Hesitant to completely give up all the foods he loved, Mark came up with a plan that changed his life and can change yours, too: eating vegan before 6 p.m.

The program has just one simple rule: Avoid meat and dairy from breakfast until dinnertime. Instead, load up on foods that are packed with nutrients, not calories – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils. When dinnertime rolls around, however, you can eat whatever you'd like. The plan is easy, doesn't require a lot of sacrifice and works: Mark lost 36 pounds after just 4 months of eating vegan during the day.

Get started on the plan today with these breakfast, lunch and snack recipes from Mark.

Breakfast: Scrambled Tofu With Spinach


2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tbsp garlic, chopped

1 tsp salt

Black pepper, to taste

1 tbsp red chili flakes (or 1 or 2 fresh hot red chili peppers, minced)

1 1/2 lb fresh spinach, trimmed and rinsed well

1 1/2 lb firm or silken tofu, drained and patted dry


Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the chilis and cook, stirring, until fragrant, less than a minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the spinach and 1/4 cup water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted and fairly dry, 5 to 8 minutes.

Crumble the tofu into the pan and stir, using a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan and combine the tofu and vegetables; adjust the heat as necessary to avoid burning. When the mixture starts to stick to the pain, it's ready. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve hot or warm.

Snack: Tortilla Snack Crisps


Serves 4

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp salt

Black pepper, to taste

8 small corn tortillas


Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the tomato paste, olive oil, chili powder, salt and some black pepper into a small bowl. Put the tortillas on a baking sheet (or two) and use your fingers or a brush to smear a thin layer of the tomato mixture onto the top of each.

Bake until the tortillas are as chewy or crisp as you like them and the tomato paste has darkened slightly, 20 to 25 minutes. Break the tortillas into pieces if you like. Serve warm or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days.

Lunch: Eggplant Un-Parmesan



2 1/2 lbs eggplant

5 tbsp olive oil

1 1/4 tsp salt

Black pepper, to taste

1 onion, chopped

2 tbsp garlic, minced

2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes, with their juice

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, preferably coarse-ground


Heat the oven to 450°F and position two racks so that they've got at least 4 inches between them. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange them on two rimmed baking sheets.

Use 2 tablespoons of the oil to brush the top of each eggplant slice and sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Roast the eggplant until the slices brown on the bottom and sides, 10 to 15 minutes; turn and cook the other side until they're crisp in places and golden, another 5 to 10 minutes. When they finish cooking, remove them from the oven and lower the heat to 400°F.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion, sprinkle with another 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture comes together and thickens, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with about 1/2 inch of the tomato sauce. Nestle a layer of eggplant into the sauce and top with some of the basil. Cover with a thin layer of tomato sauce and repeat until all the eggplant is used up; reserve some of the basil for serving. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and lots of pepper and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Simmer the remaining sauce (you should have about 2 cups) over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, while the eggplant bakes.

Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes; let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining basil; pass the remaining sauce at the table (or refrigerate or freeze it for another use).

Dinner: Pasta With Peas, Ham and Lettuce



Serves 4


3 tbsp olive oil

2 to 3 oz thinly sliced ham, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips

1 lb pasta

2 tbsp butter

1 shallot, minced

Black pepper to taste

2 cups peas, fresh or frozen

1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch slices

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock or dry white wine, more as needed

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese


Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Meanwhile, put one tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add ham and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes; set aside.

When water boils, add pasta and cook until just tender; drain pasta, reserving some cooking liquid. Meanwhile, melt butter with remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook until shallot begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add peas, lettuce and stock or wine to skillet and cook until peas turn bright green and lettuce is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add pasta to pan and continue cooking and stirring until everything is just heated through, adding extra stock or some reserved cooking liquid if needed to moisten. Toss with Parmesan cheese, garnish with ham, adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

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