In an interview with AARP the magazine, former president Bill Clinton sheds new light on why he decided to embrace a mostly plant-based diet for health and family. 

"I just decided that I was the high-risk person, and I didn't want to fool with this anymore. And I wanted to live to be a grandfather," Clinton says. "So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival."

When he first made the switch in 2010, the 66-year-old says that giving up meat wasn't the hard part — but cheese and yogurt was another story.  "I love that stuff, but it really made a big difference when I did it," he says. From the AARP:

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.

While the magazine is quick to call Clinton a vegan, they don't actually quote him as saying such. That's because while a majority of the former president's food comes from plant-based sources, he still admits to consuming "a helping of organic salmon or an omelet made with omega-3-fortified eggs" once a week "to maintain iron, zinc and muscle mass." I'm not at all trying to diminish his truly amazing diet — but he's not a vegan either; something he's touched upon in the past as a sign of respect towards those that shun all animal products.

“I'm very careful," Clinton said during an appearance on "The Rachael Ray Show" in 2011, "because strict vegans not only don't eat any meat or fish or dairy products, but they don't ever eat any processed breads and they're very careful what kind of oil goes into their food. So I, you know, I can't quite make that. My daughter, who was a vegetarian most of her life, beats up on me to eat more fish so I maybe have fish a little bit, once or twice a month, but I sort of lost the taste for all of it.”

In concluding his interview with the AARP, Clinton says that even if you lack the willpower to make the shift toward a healthier diet for yourself, you should 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 for those who, like him, have children, he says "you have a responsibility to try to be as healthy as possible."

Check out Clinton speaking with Wolf Blitzer about his plant-based diet below. 

Related on MNN: 

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Bill Clinton embraced vegetables to increase odds of 'long-term survival'
Former president tells AARP magazine that he 'picked the diet' that would best enable him to 'become a grandfather.'