Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People

The anti-girth, pro-Earth eating plan for busy, real people.

By Mark Bittman from Reader's Digest | January 2009

Within four months, I’d lost more than 35 pounds and was below 180, less than I’d weighed in 30 years. In fact, of all my diet-related ailments, only my knees didn’t respond. (Oh well. One does age.) My weight has stabilized, and — perhaps more important — I’m at home with this way of eating. My doctor was happy with my progress. (Check with yours first.)

Today I eat about one third as much meat, dairy, and even fish as I did a few years ago. (Farmed fish has many of the same issues as farmed land animals, including antibiotic use and environmental damage.) I eat few refined carbs. But if there’s good white bread at dinner, I attack it, and I still have pasta a couple of times a week. I eat almost no junk food. I eat about three or four times as many plant foods (like green leafy vegetables) as before; probably 50 percent or more of my calories come from nonanimal sources.

For some people, a shift of 10 percent of calories from animal to plant may feel significant, though I doubt it; it would be the equivalent of maybe not having chicken on a Caesar salad at lunch. A person making that kind of shift, along with cutting way back on junk food and carbohydrates, might still see positive health changes. But a shift of 50 percent — replacing half your animal calories with plant calories — would be significant and need a conscious effort.

The goal of eating sanely is not to cut calories; it will happen naturally. Nor is the goal to cut protein, though again, you’ll wind up eating less. The goal is not to cut fat, either; in fact, you’ll eat more of it, though different fat (the same is true of carbohydrates). And the goal isn’t to save money, though you probably will; think of the cost of rolled oats ($1 a pound) and, say, Honey Bunches of Oats (about $5 a pound). Rather, the goal is to eat less of certain foods and more of others — specifically, plants, as close to their natural state as possible. Above all, this is a shift in perspective, one that means better eating for both your body and the planet.