There are many diet labels out there.

Vegetarian.  Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian.  Pescatarian.

Vegan.  Vegan before 6pm. (Yes, I know this one is controversial. I’ll explain in a minute.)

Plant Strong.


Fruititarian. (Yes, they eat only fruit.)

Raw Foodist.

What I find interesting is that these labels, which are really just styles of eating that put an emphasis on plants, are often transferred to our identity.

While some individuals strive to eat a vegan, vegetarian or raw food diet, others become vegan or raw foodists.  It is more than just their diet. It is who they are – their ideology. Their identity.

So when Mark Bittman, acclaimed food writer and cookbook author, published a book titled “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6,” the uproar was deafening.

Vegans everywhere bashed him for the title.  “No one can be vegan for just part of the day!”   They argue that you are either vegan or you’re not.  If you eat any animal products at all, then you are not vegan.

Raw, vegan and vegetarian diets continue to growing in popularity.  And for many, it is the answer to effortless weight loss, resolved medical problems and renewed energy.

While some individuals find it easy to adopt a meat and animal product free diet, others find it a stumbling block.  Because of an all or nothing approach, they inevitably fall off the wagon.

So they give up, deciding that “eating better” is just too hard. They go back to their burger and pizza lifestyle.

This is regrettable.

In trying to live by someone else’s diet label, many miss the opportunity to learn how to truly nourish their unique body.

What We Can Learn From Mark Bittman

Fortunately, Mark Bittman did not give up.

Overweight and pre-diabetic, his doctor told him to either go on a cholesterol-lowering statin drug or “go vegan.”

As a food writer, going vegan was a monumental hurdle.  But he didn’t like the idea of going on a statin drug for the rest of his life either.

His doctor told him to “figure it out.”  And that is exactly what he did with his part-time vegan approach to diet.

He eliminated animal products and highly processed foods from his breakfast, lunch and snacks – plant-based vegan style. After 6pm he allowed himself a reasonable dinner that included animal protein.

It worked.  He lost 35 pounds, and his cholesterol numbers improved.  He was able to put his declining health in reverse with a diet that worked for him.

What if he had attempted to improve his health with the all or nothing vegan or raw approach?  His entire career as a food columnist rested on his being able to eat a varied diet.  Had he gone that route, he may have just thrown up his hands and decided there was nothing he could do.

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Learn to nourish your unique body. Don’t give up! Just #eatbetter @FamsEatBetter

As a Certified Health Coach, I have personally experimented with many styles of eating.

“Going vegan” did not work for me.

Eating a raw food diet was too difficult in cold, dry winters.

Juicing, while refreshing and delicious in the spring, was not what I thrived on at other times of the year.

But did I benefit from trying to “go vegan” or “go raw?”

Absolutely.  The quality of our meals dramatically improved.  But instead of feeling guilty about accidentally putting half & half in my coffee, or getting into a battle over meat with my husband, I chose to learn from my experiences and incorporate what worked for me and my family into our diet.  I didn’t give up.  

How to Just Eat Better

I realized I could just eat better. Instead of trying to adhere rigidly to a diet label, I slowly upgraded the foods we were eating and shifted from meat-heavy to plant-centric by doing the following:

  • Replace highly processed frozen “meal starters” with quick and easy meals made from real, whole food ingredients.
  • Decentralize animal protein.  Instead of a large piece of meat on the plate, slice it up and use it in a limited way.
  • Replace some animal protein with plant protein.  A black bean burrito can be just as tasty and satisfying as a beef burrito.
  • Upgrade snacks and packaged products.  At the grocery store, read ingredient lists. When you run out of something, read the labels on the other options and pick something better.

With such gradual, step-by-step changes, I was able to bring my family along with me on this eating better journey.

Yes, we still eat pizza sometimes.  And my husband loves a big messy burger. But we have also learned to enjoy many meatless meals during the week.  Some of these meals are labeled vegan, vegetarian, or raw, but for us they are just delicious meals that nourish our bodies.

It didn’t happen overnight.  By experimented with new flavors and products, trying new recipes, (and tossing many of them out,) I finally found the right balance for me and my family.

I didn’t need a diet label.

You might not either.

Just eat better.

Have you tried to go vegan, vegetarian or raw?  How did it work out for you?  Share your comments below!