Eating 4Leaf in the real world (with a little wiggle room)

Anytime, Anyplace—Even on Labor Day Weekend–I recently received this note from a reader in the Philippines. I responded by including a re-cap of my fine dining on the road this past weekend. First the note from Leo:

Hi Jim,

Today I’m one year eating plant based with minimal use of oils and fats. I live in the Philippines and I can tell you that I am suffering. There is hardly any place outside our home where I can eat a good vegan meal. Many of my friends argue always about my exaggerated request for healthy food.

The reasons for my choice are basically the wish for long term health. After reading many books including yours about plant based diet, I decided to give it a try. After one year on a strict diet I have no complaints about my health, I lost some weight and the numbers are good, but I feel that the quality of life and the pleasure of eating out and socializing with friends has suffered and I miss that. So I am contemplating adding back some non vegan dishes which I enjoyed before I started.

Why do I write to you? I am not sure, but I guess I am feeling somewhat guilty that despite reading your daily blog, which reminds me often why I am following this diet, I decide to go a slightly different way.

Thank you for the daily inspiration, I have a lot of respect for your perseverance! Regards, Leo

A lovely beach in the Philippines

Dear Leo,

Thanks for sharing your story. So you can’t get fresh veggies in the restaurants of Manila? Isn’t the native Filipino food similar to Chinese? Aren’t there a lot of veggie dishes on most Asian menus?

As you may know, I am not a strict vegan. I don’t like the label. But I am a 4Leaf eater and bet that I eat a much healthier diet than over 90% of the so-called vegans.

As for wiggle room, this past Saturday night at a gala dinner dance in New Jersey, I had a small portion of lobster with my dinner. As I always say, I never plan to have any animal products and I never buy them, but occasionally I may choose to have a few bites. Everyone must chart their own course, and I have found that most people are not crazy about the “all or nothing” rule for any diet-style.

Healthy lunch in a pub. Earlier that day at a burger-type dockside grille, I ordered a big bowl of edamame, a side order of sautéed spinach and a bake potato with no butter or sour cream. Washed it down with a bottle of Budweiser. Delicious, enjoyable, filling and inexpensive.

The next day at Dishes to Go in Grand Central Station, NYC, for lunch I had three small dishes: quinoa salad, kale salad with edamame, and roasted cauliflower. Outstanding. Here’s a photo of this meal that cost a grand total of $8.85 (including tax):

The Bottom Line. Our 4Leaf Program is all about maximizing the percentage of whole plant calories in your diet. While there is no scientific proof as to what percentage level will reverse heart disease or prevent cancer, I believe that a solid 3Leaf diet-style (over 60% of calories from whole plants) is far healthier than the typical vegan diet of fake meat, fake cheese, chips, sodas and lots of oil, sugar and a plethora of highly-refined carbohydrates. Two words. Whole plants. And keep on having fun.

Best of luck to you Leo and thanks again for sharing. Be well, Jim Hicks

Here are a few other 4Leaf focused blogs that may be of help.

This is what I plant to be doing on this holiday in New England.

Late summer fun at our yacht club’s Friday Twilight Racing Series

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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9 Responses to Eating 4Leaf in the real world (with a little wiggle room)

  1. Sal Liggieri says:

    I’m going to London and Dublin today via Virgin Atlantic: I know that food is going to be a major problem for me starting with the airline.

    For my flight via first class I requested a vegan meal with no oil, no salt, no sugar. Their response was that they could offer a vegan meal but it would include oil and salt.

    I emailed a vegan restaurant in London and Dublin requesting the same meal as above and their response was the same . . . all there vegan meals contain salt and oil. They suggested a salad.

    I guess for ten days in these two countries, I will be eating a lot of salad.

    My experience here in NYC has been much the same. When I enter a restaurant as a vegan they would rather you go away. They don’t want to disrupt the food flow to cook a special meal especially when the restaurant is busy. When they do take my order, it never comes the way I asked for, they lie just to get you out quickly.

    Most vegan restaurants DO NOT SERVE HEALTHY MEALS. Most meals have oil, salt, and/or the soy fake foods.

    The only safe restaurant for me is the local Chinese takeout where I order steamed broccoli with brown rice ($3.75), and I eat this about five times a week. Generally, Chinese food as cooked for the typical American is just as bad as the SAD.

    The Chinese staff do not eat the food they serve to their customers.

    But they do eat fish, meat, fowl and always with a big bowl of white rice. Amazingly, they are all pencil thin while the Americans they serve are mostly overweight.

    It makes you wonder?


    Heart Surgeons Kill First Man on the Moon: Neil Armstrong

    Click to access armstrong.pdf

    This Tragic Loss Should Become One Giant Leap for Mankind

    Neil Armstrong, who made the “giant leap for mankind” as the first human to set foot on the moon, died on Saturday, August 25, 2012. The cause of death according to his family was “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.” He had just celebrated his 82nd birthday when he went to the hospital on Monday, August 6, 2012 for a cardiac stress test. He flunked, and on Tuesday surgeons bypassed four blockages in his coronary arteries. This limited information from the media is enough for me to conclude that his death was avoidable; he should have never been operated on. His doctors gambled and we lost an American hero.


  3. Robert Thatcher says:

    Eating out plant-based is difficult, especially in the south east. And it’s a big tradition in my family. But having a conversation with the chef or cook is good education for the restaurant and a way to expand their business, gain a repeat customer in you if they serve you something tasty and healthy. It’s also a form of outreach to those eating with you. In our culture many have come to not think a whole lot about what we put in our mouths. And now we face the resulting health crisis, that’s driving a health care crisis, that’s dividing our country. I had some fish on recent family vacation because my brother in law prepared it as a feast for our family. I don’t like eating fish for health reasons and because I don’t like how the seas are being scoured by industrial fishing. But it’s not about perfection. Dr. McDougall said there’s never been a fully plant-based culture. But we’ve got to shift the sides – those great greens, grains and starches – to the center. I sense there’s a broader shift going on in our culture. Maybe there will come a time when this way of eating won’t need a label, or be unusual. We all won’t need to quiz the chef endlessly before ordering. I won’t feel awkward when a friend says “Thatch is a veeeeegan.” Through messages like this daily blog and Dr. Greger’s videos, plant based eating will just be good eating.

  4. Denise says:

    I always enjoy your blog Jim – thank you! Once or twice a year I will have something with dairy in it. Otherwise I eat a plant based diet – about 60% whole plants according to your quiz. Like Dr. Mcdougall says, it’s not an all or nothing program but the closer you get, the better off you’ll be.

  5. Sal Liggieri says:

    My son had about thirty guests for my 86 birthday party. The people commented how well, tanned and slender I looked and that’s how far it went. My overweight son who is the chef at these family celebrations cooked his usual SAD foods . . . meat, fish and other high fat delicacies, and for me a vegetable dish with no oil.

    Most of the guests were fat and/or obese but not one . . . not one person was curious how this old man (me) was so slim and healthy looking at 86. So naturally, I volunteered to give a lecture-about plant based foods. For all that it mattered, I might as well have sung the Star Spangled Banner.

    Three leaf, four leaf (another name for moderation) . . . how does one draw the line on how much to deviate from the pure vegan diet. Animal foods-is one ounce okay, two ounces, four ounces, eight ounces? And does it stop there or is a little oil okay also and maybe a pastry or two.

    The problem I see is what are the limits before you are back to the (SAD) disaster diet.

    I’m strict with no deviation in my plant based diet. Anything else is just an excuse, a cop out . . . there is no such thing as moderation. It reminds me of the Frank Sinatra song:

    All Or Nothing At All.

    Sal Liggieri

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Sal and Happy Birthday and Labor Day weekend,

      It’s good to see you back making comments. As I said in my blog, we all have to chart our own course. I chose the 4Leaf route because it actually describes what I am eating—over 80% whole plants. As for “strict vegan,” that could mean almost anything (except for the no animal products requirement). Also, 99% of our population wouldn’t even consider going vegan, but they might consider quadrupling the amount of whole plants in their diet.

      But aside from the health aspects of our SAD, it will inevitably come to an end someday. That’s because it is grossly unsustainable. I look forward to seeing you in NYC sometime soon. Be well, Jim

    • Linda201 says:

      Hi Sal. Good to have you back. I always enjoy your comments, even the snarky, frustrated ones which I so understand. I have several compelling reasons for eating a whole foods plant based diet,as I’m sure you do. Even if I wanted to rationalize that eating a small amount of animal product occasionally probably wouldn’t adversely affect my health or the environment, there is still that troubling issue of an animal who died so I could eat something that is not only unnecessary for my health, but detrimental to it. My feeling is that if you don’t plan NOT to eat animal products when you are away from home, you are, by default, planning TO eat animal products. I don’t worry about going hungry if I’m someplace where there is little or nothing for me to eat. Being hungry for a few hours isn’t going to kill me. I figure I’ll just eat something when I get home.

      Also, Jim, I belong to online vegan groups and all of the particpants are whole-foods-plant-based; no animal products whatsoever, no oils, no sugar. We discuss whole-food recipes and people share information about the amazing benefits to their health they’ve experienced. Nobody eats fake meats or cheeses or any other processed foods, including oils. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that “typical” vegans eat such horrible diets.

  6. Leo S. says:

    Congratulatons on your efforts and accomplishments in improving your numbers. Keep up the good work and don’t wait for others to join you so you can feel comfortable in your socializing. Accept the fact that others may not change or feel as you do, but they don’t have to for you to benefit from positive changes you have made. As years go by people may comment on how much better your health may be and that you don’t need all the medications they seem to need. Others have made changes and have seen benefits, why not you? You may get to your senior years before you know it. It’s surprising how fast time goes by and how little change people make regarding the items they chose to eat. There is much information to be gleaned from these daily blogs. Most people don’t have or take the time to read everything, but if they do they will understand why it is important to make lifestyle changes. Keep up your efforts to fine tune your choices. Your cells will appreciate your better lifestyle and so will you.

    Here is a news release about Stallone’s son. Many young people are developing clogged arteries. These conditions are sometimes considered “normal” and nothing is done to try and reverse the blockage because many physicians and individuals are not aware that these conditions are reversable by lifestyle changes. Many doctors still tell their patients that “food has nothing to do with your condition.”
    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sylvester Stallone’s son Sage died at age 36 from natural causes due to a heart condition, coroner’s officials said Thursday.

    Sage Stallone’s death on July 13 was attributed to a condition that causes blockage of the arteries, and no other factors were involved. It has been classified a natural death.

  7. ~Kyrena says:

    This is the beauty of the 4Leaf program…room to move if you need or want to. I went out to lunch with some extended family members (who have concerns with the balance of my food choices) to a BBQ joint. I was quite excited to order their salad with smoked corn only to be told they did not have any salad that day (?????) So I adapted and went for two sides of collard greens, one of my favorites. Much to my chagrin when they arrived at the table they had been prepared with pulled pork. Oh well, rather than have the whole family up feel bad about me being the odd one out (they all had platefulls of pulled pork BBQ and fries) I chowed down on the collards, albiet sorting some of the larger pieces of meat out. Its all about choice, you can choose how to nourish yourself and you can choose how to react to circumstance.

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