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Bill Clinton Explains Why He Became a Vegan

The 42nd president of the United States explains how we can — and for our health must — learn to love eating vegetables, too

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Clinton's daily menu

These days at the Clinton residence in suburban Chappaqua, New York, house manager Oscar Flores prepares simple meals for Clinton and Hillary, who vowed to start eating healthier after she stopped globe-trotting as President Obama's secretary of state.

For Bill Clinton, breakfast is almost always an almond-milk smoothie, blended with fresh berries, nondairy protein powder and a chunk of ice. Lunch is usually some combo of green salad and beans. He snacks on nuts — "those are good fats" — or hummus with raw vegetables, while dinner often includes quinoa, the Incan super-grain, or sometimes a veggie burger.

The former president has a tip for those who crave starchy food: "You can make whipped cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes, and it's great." Once a week or so, he will have a helping of organic salmon or an omelet made with omega-3-fortified eggs, to maintain iron, zinc and muscle mass.

The former president has a tip for those who crave starchy food: "You can make whipped cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes, and it's great."

In addition to his dietary changes, Clinton also walks two or three miles a day, outdoors whenever possible; plus, he works out with weights and uses an exercise ball for balance drills. And, of course, he continues to play golf, always walking the course without a cart.

Wherever he goes, Clinton finds signs that vegetarian and vegan alternatives are winning wider acceptance. During a recent visit to South America, the Peruvian president and his wife invited Clinton to dinner. "They made a whole vegan meal for me, and they ate it too." They'd obviously done their homework: The centerpiece, Clinton recalls, was this "unbelievable quinoa dish."

As we finish our hearty lunch, the new Role Model in Chief takes a helping of fruit for dessert. And he offers some final, practical advice to America's struggling yo-yo dieters: For anyone who wants to change, he says, "I would keep a record of everything I ate every day — what, when and how much. That's easy for everybody to do. Just go write it down. And then I'd start looking at it and say, what am I going to give up and what am I going to substitute?"

If you don't have the willpower to do it for yourself, he adds, do it for your loved ones. "A lot of people who are busy and stressed feel that eating and being comfortable is their reward," he says. But particularly for those who, like him, have children, he says "you have a responsibility to try to be as healthy as possible."

Sounding the themes that still drive him every day, Clinton wraps up our meeting with a message, reminding me that "the way we consume food and what we consume" are driving the unsustainable level of health care spending in America. To truly change the conditions that lead to bad habits and poor health, he warns, "we have to demand it by changing the way we live. You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, and that of your family and your country."

Joe Conason is a freelance journalist who writes about politics.

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VIDEO EXTRA

EAT LIKE A CHAMPION:  AARP fitness expert Martina Navratilova on why she eats "au naturel."

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