Exclusive Interview: 'China Study Cookbook' Author Leanne Campbell

Daughter of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study" and renowned nutrition researcher featured in "Forks Over Knives," Dr. LeAnne Campbell has learned for herself about the benefits of vegan eating. Campbell's "The China Study Cookbook" implements her dad's whole-foods, plant-based dietary recommendations in over 100 healthy and teenager-approved recipes from fruit crepes and samosas to pumpkin gnocchi and vegan chocolate cake. Packed with tips for people new to vegan eating, nutrition or cooking with whole foods, it's a great cookbook for those looking to get healthier or expand their cooking repertoires.

I recently had the chance to ask the cookbook's creator a few questions about the book and her experiences with whole-foods, plant-based eating.

Growing up with your dad, a pioneer advocate for plant-based eating, you must have been aware of the huge shift in people's openness to a vegan diet over the years. "Forks Over Knives" and "The China Study" have certainly influenced many people to rethink their diets. Describe the changes you've seen in people's attitudes toward plant-based eating.

LC: I think the fact that there are so many more options now that cater to a plant-based diet reveals the shift and growing demand. Also, I think there's growing interest from the medical perspective. Most of my dad's talks and lectures are with physicians, and they are demanding more and more of his time, with less resistance.

In light of your father's work and the healthful, whole-foods recipes in your book, people might think that you're purely motivated by health reasons. In the book's introduction, however, you talk about being deeply influenced by other factors, including resource usage and animal rights. Can you describe your awakening to these issues?

LC: Like I said in the introduction, the factors in my decision, between my dad's research and my own experiences, were simultaneous for me. In addition to the health reasons, the humanitarian, environmental and sustainability benefits of a plant-based diet made a lot of sense to me.

It is pretty incredible that a dietary choice can have such far-reaching impact: from our health, animals and the environment to global hunger. Meat consumption has certainly declined in recent years, and people are increasingly choosing a vegan diet, but what do you see as the greatest obstacles to more people changing their diets?

LC: For a lot of my friends who are interested in a plant-based lifestyle, they see resistance within their families. Sometimes it's difficult to convince the whole household when their spouse or children would like to continue to eat animal products. Some people also think eating a plant-based diet is hard and they find some of the food different or strange. Education goes a long way in helping with those struggles. Understanding the benefits of the lifestyle and how to implement it has helped a lot of my friends make the transition.

In the book you also talk about raising your sons to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. How and at what age did you explain to them why they eat differently from others?

LC: From the time they could talk! It was hard not to talk about why our family eats the way we do. Of course, if they went to their grandparents' house, they learned about it. When Steven was about three, his friend from next door was over to play, and I made them both soy hot dogs. Steven explained to him what they were eating, and why his family didn't eat regular hot dogs.

You mention that when your sons were growing up, and friends were asking them about eating different foods, their attitude was key to positive social interaction. What advice do you have for vegans in common social situations?

LC: When you're aware of all the different benefits of a plant-based lifestyle--health, humanitarian, animal rights, environmental, etc.--it's much easier to maintain a positive attitude. We've lived in some pretty conservative places, including Mississippi, a BBQ haven, but it never really bothered my sons. They were great about talking about their food with their friends and would sometimes even make a guessing game at lunchtime.

You offer such great advice in the book, including tips on how to make the transition to plant-based eating, preparing food as a family, quick shopping, meal prep and even storing foods in a way that maximizes their nutrient content. Is there one top tip you can give our readers who haven't read your book yet?

LC: Grab a variety of plant foods, your favorite spices, and start experimenting!