With a new cookbook out, a recently launched kids’ eco-clothing company, and a “wicked” healthy website, veteran plant activist Chad Sarno is pretty busy greening up the country. Oh, and did we mention his day job as the Healthy Eating senior culinary educator for Whole Foods Market?

Natural Vitality Living recently caught up with the plant-fueled author, chef and health advocate for the lowdown on his many endeavors.

Helping educate on healthy cooking at Whole Foods

If you’ve been to a Whole Foods Market lately, you probably noticed healthy tips around the store, recipe cards, and even a cooking demonstration area. As senior culinary educator for the chain’s Healthy Eating Program, Sarno gets a lot of say about these initiatives.

“We’re trying to remove the veil a bit with our program about what healthy eating really is. We offer a lot of recipes; we have health specialists in about two-thirds of our stores. We’re trying to get back to the store’s roots of healthy eating and culinary education,” Sarno says.

What are Whole Foods’ shoppers putting in their carts these days? “It’s impossible to nail down exactly what health concerns are driving the Whole Foods’ shopper,” according to Sarno. “We serve every demographic you can imagine, from the health conscious, to the active, to the people who are just foodies unconcerned with health. At Whole Foods, the one thing we do push is options.”

In his leadership role at the influential company, Sarno hopes to offer opportunities for people to dive a little deeper into their health. “I want to empower them to get back in the kitchen. Not everybody is going to make an intricate recipe every night; people are on the go, and they have busy lives. Our program is about helping people minimize processed-food intake, quick healthy solutions, and using fresh healthy ingredients—scratch-cooking, really.”

Feeding a 7-year-old

For Sarno, feeding his daughter is more than just putting a plate of healthy food in front of her. “I try to get her involved in the process. Every Saturday we go to the farmers’ market and she picks out some vegetables. She has a cutting board and little knife and she works alongside me preparing meals. She loves cooking. I think the trick for getting any kid to eat a little healthier is getting them involved; get them handling the ingredients rather than ‘OK, sit down and eat your greens.’”

Because Sarno’s been giving his daughter a wide variety of healthy options since she started eating, she’s got a palate primed for plants. “I’ve been getting greens in her since she was real young. I make her smoothies with fruits and some greens like kale. I used to put them in a dark sippy cup so she couldn’t see the color.

“Now at dinnertime, she gets her choice between a salad and a smoothie before her meal. She usually chooses the smoothie because it’s sweet. It’s great though, because she gets fresh fruit and kale, which she wouldn’t eat otherwise.”

Breakfast is usually her favorite: toast with avocado, and a squeeze of lemon (yes, parents, you read that right). Dinner might be simple pasta with fresh veggies or a “pita pizza” loaded with her favorite vegetables. “She loves to assemble them,” Sarno says.

What’s in his fridge?

No, Sarno’s fridge isn’t packed with the tempting prepared foods and gourmet goodies Whole Foods is known for. “There are usually lots of veggies and tofu in there and always kale. And then maybe whatever I see fresh at the market. Today I have these baby, baby, baby Brussels sprouts I picked up at the market. They are like pill size and absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and there’s usually some form of nondairy milk in the fridge.”

Crazy sexy kitchen

Sexy doesn’t make it into a cookbook title too often, but when you’re coauthor is the New York Times best-selling author of Crazy Sexy Diet (Skirt, 2011), Kris Carr, outspoken health advocate, it’s headline material. Collaborating with her was a no-brainer for Sarno.

“I’ve known Kris for a while now and she’s just this total powerhouse wellness warrior. I’m inspired by what she’s doing, and we’d been talking for a while about doing something on the culinary side and that’s how the book came about. I worked closely with her developing the recipes based on her personal philosophy around diet. We had a blast, a ton of fun.”

What makes this plant-powered recipe book different from all the other healthy cookbooks out there? Flexibility and ease, according to Sarno. “It reaches a wide audience and it’s incredibly accessible. I wanted to create recipes for people who didn’t cook, but also that chefs would find interesting. A lot of the recipes have different sauces and marinades and techniques, so you can mix and match and double or triple the number of recipes in the book.”

In the back of the book, you’ll find menus for special occasions and holidays, which come in handy when you want to offer healthier options for those typically fat-laden affairs. Suggestions for Valentine’s Day include Truffled Edamame Dumplings with Shallot Broth and Pineapple Rose Sorbet. There’s even a Game Day menu touting Green Chili Guacamole and Crazy Sexy Bean Chili.