to your new book... your tenth one! Why?"
like the print media, because for a single effort, you
can reach so many people. For years, I did "one
on one" nutritional counseling, and for the same energy,
to reach so many people... it just feels more efficient
to me. And I also like putting the words down on
paper because you can work the words, and craft them
in such a way that you say exactly what you mean to say
before you put it out there. I like that level
new book is quite extensive and intrigued me. It
seems you constructed it deliberately to allow for different
ways of using the information."
because so many people don't like to read a book cover
to cover. There's a little bit of information at
the beginning for people who want the background, but
the bulk of the book focuses on the "how to" piece of
the challenge. From my experience that's what people
are the most interested in and need the most help with."
of the things that surprised me in your book was that even
though I've been cooking vegetarian/vegan and researching
diet issues for a couple of decades, you have an impressive
number of "tips'n'tricks" therein for shopping, cooking,
and eating, and I was surprised at how many of them I hadn't
thought of before. You break it all out really efficiently,
starting with breakfast and taking people through the main
meals, and even to restaurants. A great approach,
and not only just for getting the trans fat out of your
diet, but it's really a guide and a primer to eating healthier
all the way around."
that was my intention as well, because I think so often,
people get fixated on one aspect of diet and they lose
sight of the bigger picture, so I always try to put information
in perspective and in the context of the total diet. I
also think that it makes people see that it's easier
to pull this off if they see that all this advice is
interrelated, and that the net result is that you can
eat one way and address all of the various recommendations
that people are hit with all the time. Get more
fiber, eat less saturated fat, avoid trans fat, moderate
your protein intake, lower your sodium intake --- ALL
of that advice can be achieved by eating the same way."
book is very integrated and holistic. I also like
the way you start out by throwing out everything in the
kitchen that you haven't used, don't need, and has been
in there for decades. I mean, you start right from
the ground, basically, and build a whole new edifice for
people in terms of how they should look at their diet and
what works for me. That's why I approach it this
way. I feel that just getting organized is a really
important first step."
also do a marvelous job of providing resource, websites,
detailed tables of nutritional information, recipes...
it is truly comprehensive, and that surprised me. I
expected more on trans fats in one sense, but once you
establish that trans fats are not good, then, then the
bulk of the book is about how to eat right."
appreciate you noticed that. Again, I think that
it's so important that dietary advice be put into perspective,
otherwise, you leave people feeling like they have to
remember a hundred different things, and you leave the
impression that there's nothing left to eat, when in
fact, I'm hoping it's liberating to people to realize
that they can eat one way, and if they eat this one way
and focus on some over-arching rules, then all of these
details fall into place."
you also seem to believe in an incremental approach, calling
for a gradual transition rather than going "cold turkey" so-to-speak."
my own experience, and let's face it, I spent years doing
individual counseling, and from what I've seen of what
works for most people, is a gradual approach is the most
effective approach for most people. There are certainly
people who do well by just changing their diet over night,
and more power to them, but most people, I think, master
skills over time... and if they do it gradually (the
key is that they have to keep moving and not get stuck
in a rut), they have to keep moving forward, if they
can master skills as they go and build on previous skills,
then they're more likely to be able to maintain lifestyle
a very friendly approach, you are not lecturing, being
dogmatic... you're allowing for those people that are still
ovo-lacto... again, it's mainstream --- you do an excellent
job of setting it up so that one can a little more in either
direction and not feel bad."
I feel that diet is a very personal thing. What
motivates one person to change and what prevents another
person from changing, I don't know. You and I can't
motivate individual people. All we can do is support
and encourage, so I feel like that's my role... it's
to support and encourage positive changes. But
ultimately, everybody has to figure out what's right
for them, and what rate of change is right for them. It's
a very personal decision."
your book, you reminded me of Howard in two aspects. Howard
advocates educating one's self. Fundamentally, you
can't force people to learn anything, you can help them
educate themselves, and your book just does this in so
many ways, and I was just delighted to see this. The
other thing that reminded me of Howard was Jack
There's two wonderful quotes in your book from LaLanne. One
was how Jack LaLanne would go to a restaurant and order,
what, a salad made of at least 10 raw vegetables chopped
up fine with oil and vinegar, and always more than he could
remember the first time I saw Howard speak in front of
a group of people he was telling a the story of how he
once took a bunch of friends to a nearby pizza restaurant
after a lecture, and order extra-large pizzas for the group
with no cheese, but with all the vegetables they had and
salsa. Well, they didn't have salsa, and Howard gave
the waiter money and told him where he could buy some down
the street. Later, they actually created a pizza
there called the "Howard Lyman" or something like that,
that of course, has salsa on it. Reminds me of Jack
LaLanne as mentioned in your book."
other quote in your book that I liked, was "find out what's
good for you, then create a liking for it." Just
a wonderful way of phrasing an approach... it's kind of
off-topic, but can you talk a bit about your meeting Jack
my god, he's so energetic and so positive. I think
he must be 91 now, maybe even 92. I interviewed
him when he turned 89. More than anything, though,
the impression he left me with is that he is so highly
disciplined. Disciplined and energetic. You
know, I thought about the discipline, the statements
he made about deciding what's healthy for you and developing
a liking for it... that's in some ways a kind of a harsh,
disciplinarian approach, but it resonated with me, because
in my life I've done pretty much the same thing. I
found that rather than deluding myself into liking things
that were good for me, no... in fact, I found that I
really did like those foods, that you really can develop
a preference for the taste of whole wheat pasta. Or
a preference for the taste of fresh vegetables that are
not masked by the flavor of salt. You just have
to give yourself some time and focus --- think about
what you're eating --- focus on the flavors --- and you're
not convincing yourself it tastes good, you really think
it tastes good. But he was right. It's a
very disciplined approach, but what I have found is that
what he said is very true in my own life."
found out the same thing when giving up cheese. I
don't miss gooey cheese, but it did take me a little while
to adapt. Now I look for something different, there's
a subtlety to the taste and texture I now appreciate. It's...
it's a whole different way of looking at what I'm eating,
rather than just the "slam" of the gooey fat. It's
hard to explain that to people that you really can get
along fine, and in fact, expand your horizons by learning
SH: "Right. Very
recently, I've had a spate of people asking me if I miss
meat, you know, that sort of incredulous "don't you miss
meat?" I haven't had people ask me that question
in years, and they've asked it again recently. I
guess it must be one of those things you have to experience
to really understand, but I don't even dream about eating
meat. I have absolutely not one iota of interest
in eating meat. I don't know how I would fit it
into my diet; because there are so many other things
that I'd rather eat. I can't eat an unlimited number
of calories and I have to pick and choose. Meat
would surely not be not one of the things I'd add to
my diet, if I wanted to. I just wouldn't do it,
because I like the other foods so much. My diet
has so much variety in it, so much more variety than
the meat-eaters I know, it just doesn't even cross
my mind. I certainly don't feel deprived the way
many people imagine vegetarians must feel.
felt the same way recently. I went to a Thanksgiving
Buffet with my family, which is very unusual in itself. It
was very interesting to notice how bland the colors were
on everyone else's plate, I mean, yeah, they had the cranberry
sauce, but my plate was so colorful because of what I chose
to eat versus the beiges and the grays and the browns of
what they were eating. It was very apparent to me
the whole cornucopia available to you if you're not taking
up half the plate with a chunk of meat."
no wonder that when vegetarians go to a potluck, or you're
in a social situation where you order the vegetarian
meal, and yours looks so much better than anyone else's."
twenty years ago, on plane flights, I used to get those "how
did you order that?" comments from other passengers."
went to Australia by myself several years ago, and it
was a "dive trip." I was out on the Barrier Reef
for four or five days, and I said that I was a vegetarian. We're
on this small boat out on the reef for days at a stretch,
and all they've got is a limited amount of food, this
wasn't like I was at a restaurant. So the chef
would make these meals each day, and I would invariably
be in the back of the line, and by the time I'd get up
to front of the line, the vegetarian food that had been
put out would be gone. After the first couple of
times that this happened, I finally spoke up and said
something, and from then on, they had me going through
the line first before everyone else did. But that's
just an example of what always happens. So it's
intriguing to me, that when given the choice, people
really do find the vegetarian options to be appealing."
books... 200 grad students... how do handle balance...
how do you relax?"
SH: (laughs) "I'm
not very good at balance. Year after year after
year, that is my New Year's Resolution. I think
I must have some kind of compulsive need to work."
your dedication. How does your husband handle it?"
a "Type B" laid-back Southern guy. We're a good
balance for each other."
he also a vegetarian?"
he a vegetarian when you met him?"
no no.... he's from North Carolina, and he was big into
biscuits and barbecue. I had an influence, but
I definitely put no pressure on him. We were dating
when he went vegetarian."
you have any favorite food indulgences?"
SH: "Coffee! Coffee
is one vice. I've tried to decaffeinate a few times
unsuccessfully, and frankly, I'm not worried about it. I
figure coffee is a plant extract and can't be all bad. I
love the aroma, I love the flavor. Just like the
commercial used to say, coffee is the calm moment in
the day. It's one of my crutches."
do you like for breakfast?"
like dry cereal for breakfast. I like a big bowl
of some kind of whole-grain dry cereal with soy milk. I've
got these big pottery chili bowls, with handles, and
so it's probably equivalent to three or four ordinary
bowls of cereal, so I eat a gigantic bowl of cereal in
the morning with at least two cups of soy milk. It's
either that, or a couple of pieces of whole wheat toast
with trans fat-free margarine spread and jelly."
tempeh, or seitan?"
like candy to me. We have a local Chinese restaurant
in Carrboro, it's called "Jade Palace," and they make
the most awesome sesame tofu. It's cubes of tofu
with a delicious sauce, and that's another one of my
vices. They serve it with steamed broccoli and
steamed rice, and it's just delicious. Like candy. It
reminds me of seitan, it has the same texture."
are some of the people that have inspired you most in your
I hate it when people ask me that question, because I'm
always so afraid I'm going to leave out someone important."
your mother, obviously..."
my mother was a very early influence... my mother and
about in academia?"
again, there've been numerous people who've been mentors
to me. Some in vegetarian circles, others not. I
think I'd rather not name people as I don't want to leave
that's fine... can we talk about books that have influenced
let me think here. Y'know, these are the questions
that three hours later you start remembering: "I
should have said..."
MS: (laughing): "...it's
what you're thinking now..."
thanks... that takes the pressure off! Some of
the books that were early influences for me included: "Diet
for a Small Planet" and "Laurel's
Cookbook," and "Faith, Love, and Seaweed," was the very
first... I mentioned that earlier. It's funny...
I have very minimal memories of the book, actually. I
can remember the cover looked like, and I can remember
how much it affected me... motivated me... I
don't remember all that much about the content of the
book. The early, 1970s vegetarian cookbooks actually
inspired me. They were homey, friendly, and the
foods all seemed like comfort foods. They were...
a lot of those recipes were really high in saturated
fat. There was no shortage of sour cream, and eggs,
and milk, and butter, and cheese in those recipes."
some of the authors have cut back in the dairy in their
recipes. I think Nava
Atlas and Mollie
use less high saturated fat ingredients in subsequent versions
of the Adventist cookbooks, too, I had very on early
in my life."
were very simple and straightforward, too, but they were
very very good."
unpretentious, uncomplicated sort of home cooking. All
of those books were very very friendly to me. There
were some Adventists cookbooks, I'm not an Adventist,
that I somehow came across in the 70s that were really
homey with that attitude. I can't remember the
titles of all of them, but I still have them on my bookshelf,
with yellow and dog-eared pages. I have fond memories
of those books. It was often cookbooks that influenced
me earlier on."
amazing the range from simplicity to the complex, but incredible
recipes in some of the newer vegetarian or vegan cookbooks...
the Pickarski's, or Tucker at Millennium..."
juxtapose that sort of interest in food with the Helen
Nearings of the world. I remember Helen
in one of her books, stated that she doesn't aspire to
being a great cook, in fact she's not all that much that
interested in recipes either, she just wants to use simple
ingredients to make flavorful foods and she doesn't want
to spend all day cooking. Her very practical, no
nonsense approach is also very appealing to me. I
appreciate gourmet cooking... I love nothing more than
to go out to a wonderful restaurant and have a beautiful
meal, because I can appreciate the aesthetics of fine
cuisine. But it's not how most people live."
you could have some dinner guests from history, who would
guy that I always had a crush on was Frank
Lloyd Wright. There
was an interview with Mike Wallace that I've seen that
gave me more insights into his opinions about things
even beyond architecture, and oh... was he ever appealing! So
Frank Lloyd Wright would be high on the list, as would
you were the Food Czar of the United States, and had complete
authority over all aspects of diet, nutrition, the food
supply, what we eat, how we eat, and so on... what would
you do, Madam?"
got a lot of energy and I've all kinds of ideas on the
things that I'd do. First of all, I would be very
political. I would be very careful to engage all
of the people that ought to be involved, that would have
a stake in the changes. But if I could just unilaterally
make some decisions, with the assumption being that everyone
would go along with the changes, then I would push really
hard to create a "culture of wellness" in this country. And
in particular, with focus on diet and fitness. It
would be a multi-pronged approach, and it would have
to address social and economic and behavioral determinants
for instance, and this is in no particular order, but
here are some of the things come to mind, I would increase
people's access to accurate nutritional information,
so that they could make educated decisions for themselves
about how to live their lives, what to eat, for example. I
would be in favor of some of the proposals that are on
the table right now, including the labeling of nutritional
content of restaurant foods at the point of purchase. In
public cafeterias and school lunchrooms, I would make
nutritional information easy to access and very clearly
stated. I would make changes to the nutrition fact
labels on food packages, so that only the most relevant
was there, and it was very clearly stated so that people
understood what it meant. I would pay particular
attention to reducing the barriers to change that make
it so difficult for people to put into practice recommendations
for good health.
example, some of this pertains to reducing poverty, in
reducing the gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots." I
would increase people's access to safe parks and to recreational
facilities. I would make sure that people in all
neighborhoods had access to fresh seasonal locally grown
produce, and to meal programs. I would have universal
free meals for kids in schools, and I would put greater
restrictions on advertising that targets children with
junk food, and I would integrate nutrition education
into the public school curricula, from the very earliest
age, from kindergarten on up. I think nutrition
and health, just like personal finance should be integrated
into the curriculum. We should be giving kids practical
would put universal health care into place, let's go
for it, it's about time. We spend more on health
services than any other developed country in the world,
with the worst health outcomes. So I think we need
to put universal health care into place right now. I
would take a hard look at other food and nutrition policies
on the Federal level. I would remove some of the subsidies
that are now in place for animal agriculture. I
also think that the USDA needs to be removed from the
process of producing dietary guidelines for Americans. Right
now, the dietary guidelines is a giant effort between
HHS [Health and Human Services] and the USDA. They
are ineffective and need to removed from that process. In
fact, I think that we need to create one National Health
we should have one unified national health policy. Right
now, our system is too fragmented. And that's just
would you consider to be the biggest threats to proper
diet and nutrition in this country right now?"
disparity. I think the convergence of industry
and government, and poverty... economic disparity."
reading your new book, I was struck by a similarity to
trans fat in our food products, and high fructose syrpu
(HFCS) in our food products. It's unbelievable how
many products in the average grocery store have HFCS in
them, and for the same original reasons as trans fat: it's
thing I wonder about, is that it's so sweet, and I've
heard some comments around the theory that HFCS is so
sweet that its predisposing us to want foods that are
even sweeter than they used to be. It's surely
contributing to the obesity epidemic, and HFCS is typically
added to junkie foods anyway... foods that have low nutritional
value. I think you were right, you may have said
this earlier off-line, that HFCS will be the next trans
fat in terms of policy movement."
done some fantastic work, Suzanne, your dedication is amazing,
and all the books you've written... "Vegetarianism
for Dummies," just love the title. It had to be fun
to write that."
it was so much fun. It was a lot of fun. I
did the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegetarianism" before
c'mon... were those two books really that different?"
I really wanted to call them "Vegetarianism for Smarties!"