J. Morris Hicks spent many years as a business management consultant, then as a senior executive for fashion companies like Ralph Lauren, of NYC. In 1999, he launched his own executive search firm- The Ansley Consulting Group, a firm that is still active today.

But Mr. Hicks has developed a new passion. Beginning in 2002, he began a study of the foods Americans eat. He was fascinated to learn how the standard American diet was affecting not only our personal health, but the health of the planet. After years of research, he wrote Healthy Eating, Healthy World. In it, Mr. Hicks interprets the information he discovered and presents it in an easy-to-read format.

Mr. Hicks took time out of his busy speaking and consulting schedule to answer a few questions for us. I encourage you to check out the important information in his book!

In your book, you do a great job outlining the drastic changes in the American diet in the last 50 years or so. One of your statistics was particularly powerful: In 1960, the cost of healthcare was 5.2% of the gross domestic product. In less than 50 years, that figure has tripled to 16%. It’s projected to double from that figure in 25 years. Can you explain how our current eating styles have impacted these numbers?

Our current eating styles are driving up to 80% of our cost of health care. Although we were eating some meat and dairy in 1960, our consumption of unhealthy animal-based and highly processed have skyrocketed. And fast food, which was just getting started in 1960 is ubiquitous today.

How has your own diet changed since you started research for this book?

When I started my research in 2002, I was eating a pretty healthy version of the Standard American Diet. That means that I was eating lots of fruits and veggies along with my meat, dairy and processed foods. By the end of 2003, I was almost vegan, but more importantly—I have been deriving over 80% of my daily calories from whole plants, still in nature’s package. As we said in the book, being vegan or vegetarian is not necessarily healthy. If you ask a vegan about their diet, they’ll start out telling you what they don’t eat—when what they ARE eating is far more important, and many of them are eating a very unhealthy diet.

According to this notion, we humans have a tendency to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. How do these natural tendencies influence our behaviors today?

Most of us are following our natural instincts in an unnatural world. Unless we educate ourselves about food, we become victims of the “pleasure trap,” and partake of high fat, unhealthy foods three meals a day.

Dr. Dean Ornish and Nathan Pritikin both developed plant-based diet plans that- as announced in 2010, for the first time ever- are covered by Medicare and Medicaid for reducing cardiovascular disease. Why is this a big deal?

Because it’s the first time it’s ever happened. The doctors in the “system” have always said that “lifestyle changes” never work because people don’t have the willpower to make those changes permanent. But now that people can get Medicare to pay for a disease-reversing program, the word will begin to spread more rapidly about these life-saving approaches to vibrant health.

I was blown away when I read that in NYC alone, there are 800,000 diabetics. City officials have described this as an epidemic. How has this happened? And tell us about the exciting research showing that diabetes can be reversed.

The epidemic happened because there are millions of low income people in NYC who are victims of our food system. Not only do we not tell them what they should be eating, but the cheapest calories they can buy in their neighborhoods are fast food. And with ads for those fast foods running non-stop on their TVs, those people have no chance.

As for reversing type 2 diabetes, there are five pioneering medical doctors featured in the first three chapters of our book—they have all seen that disease easily reversed in 95% of the cases, with a whole foods, plant-based diet. And the diet works within a few weeks, not months or years.

Franklin Delanor Roosevelt once said, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” How have modern-day farming practices led to the destruction of our valuable soil?

Whether our cattle are grazing or eating grain in a feedlot, they’re taking their toll on our soil. Most of our farmland in the USA is dedicated to growing feed for our livestock. And we’re not using sustainable methods for growing that feed—tons of fertilizer, not enough crop rotation and a never ending search for more farmland. But if we all shifted to a plant-based diet, we could easily feed ourselves on 90% less land—meaning that that land could be returned to nature. And Mother Nature would replace that topsoil.

John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, makes it sound so easy when he says that so much waste could be saved if everyone ate one less burger. How can this be so?

When it comes to meat and dairy foods—on a per calorie basis, it takes 20 times as much land, 20 times as much water and 20 times as much energy. The waste involved with our diet-style is enormous. John (who endorsed our book) was implying that eating one less burger per week saves more energy, water and land than driving a Prius and taking short showers.

So reducing our meat consumption is not only better for our health, it will help to save the planet. What other food choices can we make that would do the same?

Eliminate milk, cheese, eggs, poultry, highly processed foods and fish. We don’t “need” any of those unhealthy foods and all of them are responsible for monumental damage to our health and the environment. The secret is expressed at 4leafprogram.com — and can be summed up in two words: Whole Plants. Get most of your calories from whole plants.

How has your own health been influenced since you’ve changed your diet and lifestyle practices?

When I first started in 2003, my doctor was trying to put me on statin, E.D.,  and hypertension drugs, but all three problems disappeared when I switched to whole plants. I also lost about 25 pounds without trying, my acne cleared up, I stopped getting sick so often, I sleep better and I do not take a single prescription drug. Now that I have achieved vibrant health, I have also elected to only go to the doctor when I have an accident. I have just said NO to the $100 billion “disease screening” business in this country. I am 67 years old, 6 feet tall and weigh 155 pounds. I also still have all my hair, and it is brown, not white.

You say you prepare most of your own meals now. Can you share your favorite recipe?

It’s a toss-up between my Sailors Daily Oatmeal and my Sailors Super Lunch!