“Well, anyone that wants to transition to a plant-based diet, I would say start where you know, where it's comfortable. “
Julieanna Hever is here to discuss the benefits of plant-based diets and to provide recommendations on how to approach plant-based diets as an athlete.
Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, The Plant-Based Dietitian, has a BA in Theatre and an MS in Nutrition, bridging her biggest passions for food, presenting, and helping people. She’s also appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Harry, and The Steve Harvey Show.
Shireen: Podcasting from Dallas, Texas. I am Shireen, and this is a Yumlish podcast. Yumlish is working to empower you to take charge of your health through diet and exercise and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We hope to share a unique perspective and a culturally relevant approach to managing these chronic conditions with you each week.
Shireen: Julieanna Hever is here to discuss the benefits of plant-based diets and to provide recommendations on how to approach plant-based diets, especially as an athlete. Stay tuned.
Julieanna Hever is the plant-based dietician. She has a BA in theater and an MS in nutrition. Bridging her biggest passions for food, presenting, and helping people. She’s also appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Harry and the Steve Harvey Show. Welcome, Julieanna.
Julieanna: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Shireen: Such a pleasure having you on. So, help us understand… So, you’re known as a plan-based dietician, help us understand and help us just walk us through your journey to this name and this title. Well, it’s a long journey and it started way back when I was a little girl and I always loved nutrition and I was a dancer. My mom says I danced before I could walk.
And one day, I grew up in front of the mirror with all my dance friends who were doing ballet. One day my ballet teacher said to me in front of all of my other peers, from across the room. “Julieanna, cut out your snack.” And I was like, whoa, like I wanted the floor to swallow me up because it was such a shocking thing to hear, and I didn’t understand it because I was so young at the time.
But that set me on this journey to really understand body image and diet and nutrition and weight loss and all of that and I just started reading. So shortly after that, when I was a teenager, I stumbled upon this book by John Robbins called Diet for New America. And it basically explained how food had ended up in our plates and the connections between the environment and animals and the food supply.
In a way, I’d never heard anything prior to that about, and it was something that I didn’t want to participate in, but I didn’t know what that meant at the time. This was before there was internet and all of that, but I decided to not eat animals and I didn’t know what that meant. So, I was eating side dishes, I was eating granola bars and whatever I can get my hands on that just didn’t have animals in them.
And my parents were of course concerned. And so, because I wasn’t cooking yet or anything. My mom was like a vege-what? What are you doing? And so they staged what I like to refer to as my intervention, where they had their friend Kendra, who’s a nurse, and them took me to a steakhouse and proceeded to order me a teriyaki steak with a pineapple on top.
And she told me how I was going to be deficient in B12 and iron and protein and all those things. And because I didn’t know I was worried. And so, I remember I talk about this in my book, The Vegiterranean Diet, that my very first bite, it’s like once you know, you can’t unknow. But of course, I was socialized like all of us, most of us to eating animals is a normal way to go and that’s what we do here in this world.
So, I did, and I went back, but I kept thinking the vegetarians aren’t dying off like flies. There must be more to this story. So, I kept reading. I was just curious. I just kept reading and studying. Fast forward, I was an actress who in LA, my agent again, told me, you need to lose a few pounds for cameras.
I’m like, okay, here we go again. And they sent me to their personal trainer, and I fell in love with personal training. So, I’m like, I’m going to be a personal trainer because I loved that so much. And as soon as I became a personal trainer after I finished my undergrad, and thought I was done with school forever.
People were saying, well, asking me nutrition questions like, what should I eat? And I didn’t want to just spit back the information that I had memorized in a chapter in the personal training handbook. I wanted to understand why and know what I was saying. So, I immediately signed up or applied for graduate school and I fell in love with nutrition.
It was first time in my life, I did so well in school, and I loved every second of it. So, while I was personal training, I was learning nutrition and got my graduate degree and became a registered dietician, and there were all these little hints I picked up throughout the years. When it says you have to have this many servings of the dairy, dairy a day, and at the bottom of the page was like sponsored by the Dairy Council, and there’s all these little hints that I was gathering over the time.
Plus, I learned how to delve into the literature myself to find out, oh yes, you can get protein from plants. Oh yes, you can get iron from plants actually better sourced than from animals. And that was it. And then I switched my diet finally. This was many, many years later. And. Changed my health profoundly and then I switched over how I was working once I became a dietician. And in almost 18 years of working with thousands of people one-on-one and in all of my audiences and people that I’ve read my books, I have seen absolutely extraordinary things unfold.
So much so things that I was never taught was supposed to happen in graduate school. Like we were supposed to just attenuate the progression of a disease or to have them not go up in medications. But I have my clients get off their medications. Lose weight, get healthier, recover from chronic conditions that we never thought possible. And I always say results are typical because I see this every day.
Shireen: You mentioned just a little bit ago the exercise component and looking at that piece, nutrition is certainly really important, but it’s even more crucial for athletes and those engaged in a lot of physical activity. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about the benefits of plant-based diets to actually fuel, energy and rebuild muscle?
Julieanna: Absolutely. Yes. So really the best athlete, like the goal of the athlete is to perform as well as possible and to perform as well as possible. you have to recover well. Because if you have a good recovery, you could train harder, faster, more frequently.
And a plant-based diet offers so many wonderful benefits. Basically, the two most health promoting nutrients in the diet are phytonutrients and fiber, and those are found exclusively in plants. There are zero phytonutrients and zero fiber in animal products. So, if you’re consuming a whole food, plant-based diet, which is what I recommend, which is essentially a diet based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
In infinite tasty combinations, you’re getting a plethora of these compounds that are really healthy and they’re antioxidative and anti-inflammatory. So, all of those things help with recovery, so that’s why a lot of athletes purport really wonderful recovery and performance advantages, and the research is starting to support that as well.
Shireen: And what recommendations do you have for athletes who want to make the transition to a plant-based diet? What would you tell them?
Julieanna: Right. Well, anyone that wants to transition to a plant-based diet, I would say start where you know, where it’s comfortable. So, there’s so many things that we’re already eating that we don’t think about as plant-based, because that wasn’t really a thing back then.
But like most of us grew up eating oatmeal that’s plant-based or fruit that’s plant-based. So, look at our spaghetti marinara, pasta primavera or a veggie sushi roll or bean and rice burrito. Like there’s so many things that are already naturally plant based. Just start to think about it in those terms and then start to look.
So nowadays, so I did this 18 years ago and it wasn’t like we could just search online for, I’m feeling like lasagna. How do I make a plant-based lasagna? Well, now you can, there is anything you could eat now you can make plant-based and there’s infinite options available to you at the touch of your fingers.
Infinite books out there now. So, there’s never been a better time. So, start with what’s familiar. And then we are all really creatures of habit. Most of us eat the same breakfast, maybe one or two different breakfasts. Maybe we rotate between two to four different lunches. Maybe three to five dinner dinners in a week or two.
We’re very much creatures of habit so, you really only need to find maybe eight to 10 of your new favorite recipes that are whole food plant-based. So, the transition should be, find things you love, have fun with it. I always think of it like learning a new language, right? It’s like first you learn some, the letters, if it’s a different type of typographer letter of the language has different characters, and then you learn the words.
And so that’s maybe some different ingredients. Maybe you’ve never tried caviar lentils, or jackfruit or something that might be different, or even something simple like a cauliflower. Something maybe you’re not familiar with, that you don’t use very frequently. Just start experimenting with those and then put them together into these recipes, which again, you don’t have to do on your own because there’s so many of them available out there.
And I really encourage people to follow recipes because they are templates. Like someone’s already worked out all the details. You don’t have to think so hard. Just follow the recipe in the kitchen, make it simple. And then eventually you start aggregating recipes that you love because you should love your food. That’s really important.
And eventually you just don’t have to think about it. But like anything, like learning that new language, it takes time to get fluent, and it’s just a little learning curve, but it definitely gets easier with practice, and you just find your favorite recipes and you rotate between those.
Shireen: What do you think is the best approach to overcoming any challenges for those making nutritional adjustments in a plant-based diet?
Julieanna: What can you specify what you mean?
Shireen: Yeah. So, if they have got certain nutritional goals that they need to meet just given a health condition or something like that, what would you tell them as they’re considering a plant-based diet?
Can they get all the nutrients? I know you were talking about the B12 thing. Just sort of being exposed to that, what do you have for someone who thinks like, oh, no, plant based. I can’t get all the things I need to, that I would in diet that I currently have.
Julieanna: So, absolutely no diet is perfect. There is no diet where you’re getting a hundred percent of RDI you’re getting not too much of certain things. There is no such thing. So, the, of course, a plant-based diet is no different than that. it’s one of the healthiest diets that, it’s probably the healthiest diet we know of, but there are always things to be mindful of.
So, anyone going on a mission to have an optimal diet needs to do their homework and know what to look for. And so, I consider the nutrients of that are necessary on a plant-based diet to be, I call notable nutrients. And that the nutrients that we need to be aware of include vitamins B12. Vitamin D. That’s not unique to plant-based, that’s most people in the world are dealing with a vitamin D concern. Vitamin K2 may be an issue, and then iodine and zinc are the minerals and then the long chain omega-3 fatty acids may or may not be a concern, but those are things to be mindful of. And so, I have most of my clients just take a multivitamin that includes those nutrients. They all have different reasons and different balances, but they all need to be addressed but for different reasons.
Shireen: There’s a misconception in the fitness community that plant-based diets aren’t as beneficial as animal-based diet. Of course, you’ve probably heard quite a bit of that from people.
Can you dispute some myths associated with plant-based diets that you commonly hear?
Julieanna: Oh, there’s so many myths about plant-based diets. So where to begin? There’s so many. I would say the biggest one is that it’s difficult and like I was saying before about learning a new language, anything is difficult when you’re changing the way you think about things. And you are literally changing how you see your plate.
And again, it’s like you just need to try and play and be curious and have fun with it, and then it can be absolutely easy. It becomes so easy. You could even travel anywhere. I’ve landed on remote islands in the middle of Asia and stumbled upon coincidentally a plant-based menu. Like it’s so easy now.
It just so much more easy than it ever was that it’s just become a supe, very ubiquitous. That’s a nice thing. So that’s easy to bust. Then there’s the, it’s expensive, but you can go to any kind of diet and make it more expensive or more budget friendly. And in fact, the healthier plant-based diet, which is the one based on the staple foods that I listed before, that’s actually a really, really cost-effective way to eat. Whole grains, staple items like legumes, dried beans, those things are really, really, easy to find and really, really inexpensive.
So, I would say you want to steer towards or gear towards more of those staple foods anyway, and that will also help the budget and that makes it easy. But anytime you’re going for convenience foods or you’re eating at restaurants, that’s going to up the price no matter what you’re eating.
No matter if you’re omnivorous or plant-based or anything in between. Another myth that just doesn’t seem to go away no matter what in any, everywhere. It’s about protein. People are constantly on this persistent pursuit of protein and it’s so unnecessary, and I think it’s in this pursuit of protein. People are consuming unhealthy foods just to get enough protein.
And there’s like all these videos of how to get this many grams of protein and they’re like citing like double the amount that we actually need. So, what’s great about a plant-based diet is that you get ap, like ample protein, but you get it from a really, you know, good sources that are also packaged with phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals and fiber.
Unlike if you’re looking at meat, which doesn’t have any of that phytonutrients or fiber. And it also comes along packaged with things that we don’t want, or we want to minimize. Like saturated fat and heme iron and Neu5Gc, all those other compounds that we find in animal products. So ideally, you’re going towards getting your protein and everything else from whole food sources.
And if you’re eating enough calorie to sustain your weight or to be at the weight that you want to get to, you will get ample protein. It’s very, very easy to do on a plant-based diet that seems to be this myth that everyone is really obsessed with.
Shireen: You know, speaking of calories, a recurring issue within the fitness community is that plant-based diets don’t provide adequate calories, which leads people to revert back to their old diets? Can you tell us why this is such a common problem and then how can someone go about fixing that?
Julieanna: It’s not a common problem. That’s probably a misconception because it’s so easy to get your calories. It’s beyond easy to get calories. And I have people that are, most people come to me. I do a lot of weight loss.
My consultation, my coaching work is weight loss, and my clients lose 0.4 to 0.8 pounds a day, like very predictably so. I’ve got it down to eScience. It’s all documented in my last book, the Choose You Now Diet. But most people are trying to lose weight even on a plant-based diet. So that would kind of just right there suggest that that’s just not an issue.
If you’re consuming adequate foods, you can absolutely get adequate calories. It’s impossible not to. Weight gain is a very rare thing I see in my practice with people coming to me, not being able to gain weight, and usually that is more of an exercise thing or a health issue, not necessarily because they’re eating a plant-based diet.
So, calories are everywhere. In fact, most people are trying to limit their calories and it’s absolutely easy to get them on a plant-based diet and you get them really healthfully in that way.
Shireen: What would you recommend to avoid eating before and post workout?
Julieanna: Well, you know, it’s a good question because you want to feel good. You want to perform your best. You don’t want to be sluggish. So, I would always suggest the same foods like, or about the same foods, like getting towards foods that are light.
Especially before an exercise you want to either, some people work out on an empty stomach that that’s fine too for a lot of people and a lot of their workouts. It depends on your program and what you’re currently doing or how the intensity of the workout, but even what you’re going to eat. Varies based on the intensity, duration, frequency, what you’re going to be doing preceding your meal.
I just had a client that I walked through training for a marathon and as she went on, started with just some fruit and she did the entire marathon with dates and coconut water and she did great. She actually beat her goal and it just doesn’t matter. Could be really super light. You want to do something very light.
You want to have stuff that’s going to go slow through the GI tract, things that are heavy and fat. You never want to do anything in highly refined sugars and stuff like. You want to just keep it very light at the beginning and then afterwards there was this idea that that 30-minute window post exercise is supposed to be really important for absorbing nutrients and all that.
That’s not necessarily true. That’s been debunked and, but it does matter what you eat because you want to eat healthy all the time anyway. And you’re hungry and you’re empty and you’re out of glycogen, it’s a great time to eat a healthy diet. So, anything I would suggest for any other time of day would be the same thing.
So, you want to have a hardy chili, or a stew, or a soup or a nice, big salad with legumes or whole grains. There’s so many delicious ways to eat it. There’s no limit. So, you want to before you want to eat lighter, maybe on the starch here, if you need some more glycogen for that, whatever workout you’re doing, if you’re doing a long endurance type of thing.
But you don’t want to go in on a real full stomach. And the most important thing is if you’re doing a raise or an event or something more intense, you want to train for that. So, make sure you’re preparing your foods ahead of time and practicing with those foods ahead of time. So, you know how they feel in your body and there’s going to be inter-individual variability between people depending on what they’re doing and how they feel and how they’ve been training.
Shireen: Okay. And is there a certain recipe, I’m going to totally put you on the spot. Is there a certain recipe that you can share with us, either pre or post? Workout.
Julieanna: Oh my gosh. I mean, I’ve published hundreds of recipes. There’s so many great ones. I would, I love a–
Shireen: Your favorite. Your favorite one.
Julieanna: My favorite post-workout meal?
Julieanna: See, but it depends on the workout, and it depends on, is it summer or is it winter? Am I hot? Am I cold? I love a good, I mean, I’m a creature of habit personally, and I always go towards my same favorite recipe. So, like I have this cream of mushroom cauliflower rice that I love.
It’s very hardy, lots of mushrooms, and it’s very satisfying. It’s got some nuts and seeds in there. Very nutritious. I also love a potato salad. So today I had a really great run. So, I followed up with a good herb, Dijon potato salad. Had a lot of cruciferous vegetables and a maple Dijon dressing that was really delicious.
But it really depends on you. Some people are very, very different with how they feel after workout and before workout. I love to eat a really healthy, well-balanced. I’m very veggie forward. I just love to eat a lot of veggies and starchy veggies. Starchy veggies are very satisfying. So, when I have a really intense workout, I love to make sure I’m having more starchy vegetables.
Shireen: Lovely, lovely. What foods would you recommend avoiding when first switching to a plant-based diet? Are there any?
Julieanna: Well, no matter when in your transition, it’s always best to avoid highly processed foods and no matter what kind of diet. It’s always best to avoid highly processed foods. And when I went plant-based, this wasn’t even a problem because there weren’t highly processed plant-based foods at the time.
But now there are very much so. Candies, cookies, ice creams, all the burgers and that you get commercially and all the stuff. There’s so many things. So, I would obviously, again, I want to always go back to the wholesome, the more wholesome, the better. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, leg mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices and infinite combinations.
Because there’s so many ways to prepare those in delicious ways. Even if you think of just like rice and beans, okay, you could do rice and beans with so many different flavor profiles. You can make a curry and make it more of an Asian style. Or you can make it more Latin style.
Like I love Mexican cuisines, so you could do it with cilantro and salsa and some avocado. Make it completely different tasting. There’s so many different ways to take just simple ingredients and create an entire different. Flavor profile or pallet. So, it’s really fun to experiment with starting simple, but I would always recommend staying simple, minimize process and package foods and staying as close to whole as possible for no matter what you’re eating in your diet. And no matter what stage of your journey you’re on.
Shireen: And if folks are turning to packaged foods, let’s say, what are things that they should look for on the nutrition label? On nutritional facts? That you recommend like, hey, look out for this.
Julieanna: Well, you want to recognize all the ingredients in the label. I always say just ignore everything on a package.
Accept the ingredient list because everything else is just marketing it, all of it. So you want to look for wholesome ingredients that you recognize. You don’t want to have like long names that you don’t even know what they are, how to pronounce them. You want to have the fewest amount of ingredients possible. You know, like you want to have quinoa and that’s it.
You know, like that would be one ingredient kind of a thing you want to look for. You minimize things like sugars and sugars will end with all the Ose’s. The O-S-E at the end, or there’s all these different pseudonyms for sugar, so be careful of that. You want to all the preservatives and there’s so many things that people are added to packaged foods to keep them shelf stable or, alive and preserved or thickened and all of that. So, you want to look for minimal amounts of that. And basically, if you recognize the ingredient names, that should be the easiest way to look for it.
Shireen: So that’s a good rule of thumb, is look at the ingredients. If you don’t recognize it, your body doesn’t need to get associated with it. Like, just keep it, keep it back on the shelf.
All right. Well, with that, Julieanna we are toward the end of the episode. At this point, can you tell our listeners how they can connect with you and then just learn more about your work?
Julieanna: Shireen, thank you. You can find me at Plant-based Dietician.com and on Plant-based dietician.com. You’ll find all of my social media profiles.
I’m on all of them, my books are all on Amazon and on my website and everything is right there.
Shireen: Okay, perfect. Well, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate your time. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning into another episode of the Yumlish podcast. We want you to head over next to our social media, head over to our Facebook, our Instagram.
Find this podcast post and answer this quick question. What obstacles have you faced when switching to a plant-based diet and how did you overcome it? So, leave us some suggestions for those who are wanting to transition into this new path in their life. So, tell us what obstacles you faced and how you overcame it.
Again, head over to our Facebook at Yumlish or head over to our Instagram and tell us how you overcame this. Thank you so much again, Julieanna. Really appreciate your time.
Julieanna: Thank you.
Shireen: Thank you for listening to the Yumlish Podcast. Make sure to follow us on social media at Yumlish_ on Instagram and Twitter and @Yumlish on Facebook and LinkedIn for tips about managing your diabetes and other chronic conditions, and to chat and connect with us about your journey and perspective.
You can also visit our website, Yumlish.com for more recipes, advice, and to get involved with all of the exciting opportunities Yumlish has to offer. If you like this week’s show, make sure to subscribe so you can hear more from us every time we post. Thank you again, and we’ll see you next time. Remember, your health always comes first. Stay well.