The Best You

Consider a Plant-Based Life and Live Longer

In our continued quest for wellness this month, we had the pleasure of speaking with fellow mom and A Plant-Based Life Cookbook Author Micaela Cook Karlsen.  She shared her take on why plants trump meat in the quest for a healthier lifestyle.  She was even kind enough to share some delicious recipes to prove it. You’ll be fascinated by the benefits of leading a plant-based life – it’s good for the whole family.  You’ll want to pick up a copy of her new book to learn more.

1. Why did you choose to lead a Plant-based life?

In the very beginning, around age 16 or 17, a couple of my friends were vegetarian, and I wanted to give it a try! I felt drawn towards eating more healthfully, but since I had struggled with feeling overweight for some time, I think the goal more in the forefront of my mind was to lose a little weight and maintain what I felt was a comfortable body weight for me. Over the years, my goals have shifted to be more focused on health for me and for the planet at the same time – and it’s nice that now that I’m so much more knowledgeable about a truly health idea, it’s very easy to meet both of those goals at once!

2.Why do you think it is important for people to consider living a plant-based lifestyle?

So many people in Westernized countries are facing either chronic illness or overweight. (Most people have heard that 2/3 of Americans are overweight and half those are obese.) As someone who has cancer, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis in the family, I’m concerned with living well into my old age, not just living longer. And as someone who struggled with weight and feeling comfortable in my body for many years, I feel so much compassion for anyone trying to lose weight unsuccessfully. As far as healthy weight goes, a whole food, plant-based diet is absolutely the easiest, most straightforward path to success because you can eat until you’re full without worrying about calories. I do believe with all my heart that important to accept yourself and your body wherever you are and whatever you look like. At the same time, for me, that’s balanced with my experience that when I finally got to a healthy weight for a woman my height, I started to feel so comfortable in a way I never had before! It’s easier than most people realize with plant-based eating.

3.How do you respond when critics say that a plant based lifestyle doesn’t taste good?

Many people mistakenly believe that tastes are fixed – almost as though your taste preferences were part of your personality. We enjoy what we are used to – so what we’ve eaten over the last few months, few weeks, few days, and even from morning to evening shapes what we want to eat and what we enjoy. Most people can recognize this with sugar – don’t eat it for a long time, and the attraction fades, but eat syrupy waffles on a Sunday morning and you’re probably in the mood for dessert that evening. People who say plant-based eating doesn’t taste good are simply accustomed to eating heavier animal foods and foods with added salt, sugar, and fat. If you switch to a plant-based diet without telling yourself you have to stick with it forever, if you can just stick with it for a few weeks, you’ll notice yourself starting to lose interest in some of the old foods. This means everyone has the ability to train themselves to genuinely enjoy healthy food!

4. What is your favorite plant based dish?

There are so many! Like most people who eat this way, I felt like diet expanded my diet rather than the reverse. Right now, one of my favorites is my own recipe Interstellar Lasagna in A Plant-Based Life. It’s a food I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

5. How do you recommend parents introduce a plant based lifestyle to their children?

It really depends on whether you are introducing it when they are little or older and have already established their own eating preferences. The second can be much more challenging. As parents, it’s inevitable that our children will exercise more and more free will as they get older. I think the best strategy is to help them develop good judgement, make sure they don’t feel judged for their eating habits, and then engage in a lot of dialogue with them about your own reasons for eating this way and your hopes that they will also choose a path of healthful eating – because, of course, you care about them! The biggest bang for your buck is cooking together. Let them choose plant-based recipes they are interested in, go shopping together, and then let them cook and experiment with minimal assistance from you. The more experience they have in the kitchen, the more empowered they’ll feel and the more ownership they’ll take over the food. Of course, make sure you keep delicious options on hand yourself in case what they’re making doesn’t turn out well!

6. What are the benefits of living this kind of lifestyle?

The benefits are many – you can easily achieve your ideal weight, you lower your risk for all types of chronic disease, and you can even arrest or reverse certain chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. You’re doing something good for the planet, as a plant-based diet has been identified as the most environmentally sustainable choice we have. And of course, you’re living a compassionate lifestyle which millions of animals will appreciate.


Micaela Karlsen

MICAELA COOK KARLSEN is a founding employee and former Executive Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. A contributor to the New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives and the creator of, a free online database of research on plant-based nutrition, she holds an MSPH in Human Nutrition from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is a PhD candidate in Nutritional Epidemiology at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She is the author of A Plant-Based life: Your Complete guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body (AMACOM). She lives in Boston.