Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holy Kale! From Aspiring Actress To Best Selling Author... Julieanna Hever's Story

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT
Once an aspiring actress, Julieanna Hever has now made a name for herself in the world of health and nutrition. She's become known as The Plant-Based Dietitian and is making a huge impact throughout the United States as she takes the message of plant-based nutrition to the masses.
Julieanna was recently featured on the Dr. Oz show speaking about the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet on one's overall health. She and Dr. Oz amazed their viewing audience by showing how eating healthy, wholesome foods transformed the lives of three female volunteers in just 48 hours. The volunteers saw their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers drop dramatically in addition to watching unwanted pounds melt away right before their eyes.
Julieanna has a Masters of Science in Nutrition and is also an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer. She's a best-selling author of two books and is also co-producer of a documentary featuring all the biggest experts in the field of nutrition and medicine. I was fortunate enough to grab an exclusive interview with her recently. I was able to get her to spill the beans on everything from how she grew up to her secret on helping athletes perform at their peak. I hope you find her interview as enjoyable as I did.

DR - What was your life like growing up - lifestyle, eating habits, etc.?
JH - In terms of diet, I wanted to be a vegetarian as soon as I read John Robbin's Diet For A New America when I was a teenager. I started by cutting out animal products, but I didn't know how to do it healthfully. So, of course, I ended up getting sick because I was eating rice cakes and fruit rollups since I wasn't sure about how to eat optimally. My parents were concerned about me and had their nurse-friend perform an intervention by taking me out to eat and ordered a giant steak with a pineapple ring on top of it for me. I'll never forget that steak! I wanted to pursue vegetarianism for ethical reasons, but did not have the knowledge to do so appropriately. 
I was always interested in nutrition but never thought of it as a career. Instead, I was an actress and dancer for many years. Ultimately, because my managers and agents kept telling me to lose weight, my pursuit of weight loss resulted  in my becoming a personal trainer. I taught my clients what I was trained to do, recommending the whole protein and veggies diet highlighting egg whites, chicken breasts, and vegetables. Needless to say, my clients kept getting questions about nutrition. But I didn't feel comfortable answering these concerns without knowing exactly what I was talking about. Trainers are not educated as dietitians and typically receive minimal nutrition education in the format of a chapter in the prep book for passing a training exam. Thus, I went back to graduate school to get my masters degree in nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian. In the meantime my business as a trainer continued to grow. I had minimal results in terms of weight loss. I was able to get my clients to lose some weight or maintain their status with a chronic disease, but I had no idea what the potential truly was. 
After finishing school and my internship, I became a mom and spent more time at home. Because of this, I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I ended up using the skills I had acquired in grad school on how to objectively analyze and assess primary research articles to continue my education. When I started digging into the wealth of information about plant-based nutrition, everything came together and it all finally started to make sense to me. I began to implement this approach with my clients once I started dedicating more time to my practice as a dietitian and trainer again. Suddenly, people started really getting healthy, proving that my instincts were right. It all started to come to fruition.  I love the magic that is whole foods, plant-based nutrition.

DR - So John Robbins is the reason that you're The Plant-Based Dietitian now?
JH - Yes! You can say that for sure! He's the one who sparked my fire. I gave him a copy of my book when he was in town a couple of weeks ago and that's exactly what I wrote when I signed it for him.

Kale is a nutrient packed superfood
DR - What's your favorite food?
JH - Kale. I love kale salads. I love kale smoothies. I love kale green juice. I put kale in everything I can. In my book I have this salad recipe called 'Holy Kale' with a tahini dressing that is my favorite lunch and dinner!

DR - Many people say exercise is the key to great health while others say it's diet. So, what is it? Food or fitness?
JH - Definitely both components are critical. You can get healthy, stay healthy, as well as achieve and maintain your ideal body weight with diet alone. I always say diet is about 85-90%- if not more-but exercise is critical for optimal health. If you want to take it to the next level, slow down aging, maximize your physical ability, feel great, and thrive, you have to exercise, too.

DR - You've just written a book called The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. Tell me about your book and is it just for the nutritionally challenged?
JH - It's absolutely not just for beginners, but is the perfect resource for beginners.  Because I'm so scientifically-oriented, the book is in depth, detailed, and there are a plethora of resources in it that everyone can benefit from. People who are experts in the field have said they're getting a lot of use out of it. It's a great introductory book and is also a 'take it to the next level' book.
I talk about why whole foods, plant-based nutrition is the key to success and how you can implement this was of life into your current plan. It has a chapter on exercise, sports nutrition, pregnancy, kids, seniors, standard nutrition information, more than 40 recipes, shopping lists, tips on stocking your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and much, much more. It's like the encyclopedia of whole foods, plant-based nutrition. That was my goal, and I wanted to make it easy enough so everyone could understand it but in depth enough so everyone could gain knowledge from it.

DR - You're also one of the masterminds behind the incredible movie To Your Health. Can you describe what makes this movie special and why people should see it?
JH - The goal of the movie was to get this information to the masses. I didn't want to just be preaching to the choir. I wanted the general public to realize how effective this way of eating is. We call the movie an "infotainment documentary" because it is a fun and entertaining "journey into the plant-based world". We went around the country and collected interviews from the leading experts in the field, the creme-de-la-creme of plant-based nutrition, including Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I worked with award-winning director, Jesse Pomeroy, to make it less documentary-ish and focused instead on getting a lot of information in a fun way. We broke it down into categories to answer the most commonly asked questions about nutrition, including  protein, supplements, metabolism, food addiction, and a few other fascinating subjects. We even have experts like professional triathlete and author, Brendan Brazier, and filmmaker Mike Anderson. We visited Farm Sanctuary and The Veggie Grill to do interviews. Our intention was to share the why's and how's of plant-based nutrition all wrapped up into a short, but sweet, 53 minutes.

DR - What do you think is the biggest obstacle in turning around the healthcare crisis in America today? Is there anything we as individuals can do to make a difference when looking at the big picture?
JH - There's so many obstacles, but it really boils down to money. Unfortunately, we don't have a Broccoli Counsel or the walnut producers putting advertisements on during the Super Bowl. It's the loud voice of money talking which is the biggest problem.
I think what we're doing is a grassroots effort. What the experts say, like John Robbins who's seen this happen, is that major movements, such as this one,  start from the ground up. Because we're up against some major money and powerful voices, we have to be persistent at getting this information across. As people find out about this and then start to make changes in their own diet, they see how effective it is and then it's a win-win and they're hooked, and they tell their friends and family about it. We just need to keep sharing the information. The more people who speak about this-like you and I and everyone else who's getting out there and talking, reading, writing, and lecturing about this-the better. 
That's why I was so excited about my opportunity to talk about this on The Dr. Oz Show. I've also been doing a lot of radio shows and lectures, which is good to build a lot of momentum. I think this says a lot about the temperature about what's going on right now. I do think we're getting close to a tipping point. The fact that the documentary Forks Over Knives has been so successful demonstrates that things are growing and people are truly interested and paying attention. The fact people like President Bill Clinton and a bunch of other celebrities are plant-based, means that word is getting out. I was recently in Toronto at the Toronto Vegetarian Association's Vegetarian Food Fest speaking. While I  was on a panel for a new documentary called Vegucated, I met Mike Zigomanis, a NHL player for the Toronto Mapleleafs, who recently went plant-based. People like him, who have a lot of fans, are really powerful at relaying the information. We need to keep getting the message out and let it spread like wildfire.

Julieanna Hever "The Plant-Based Dietitian" and Dr. Oz
DR - You were recently on the Dr. Oz show featuring the prehistoric diet. What's your take on a raw vs paleo vs plant-based diet?
JH - The paleo followers were upset since they assumed the "prehistoric diet" would be like the paleo diet, which I can understand. However, the whole concept of the paleo diet is unsubstantiated. There's no scientific evidence to support what it is claiming. You can talk about history and anthropology all you want, but how many times were cavemen really catching wild animals and eating meat three times a day?  
I didn't read the book, but I know the author was an anthropologist and not a medical scientist or healthcare practitioner. What I do know is what the research shows today. I have yet to see anything showing that eating large amounts of animal products is health-promoting. An interesting comment in response to this subject is why do paleo dieters get so mad at veganism when we are such a small population? Why aren't they arguing against the harms associated with following the Standard American Diet instead?

DR - I agree because the benefits people are getting from the paleo diet are from the fruits and vegetables right?
JH - Exactly. They're consuming those whole foods but there's no research showing meat is healthy. We know, in fact, that meat is detrimental to your health. There's no question and all the research shows this. Regardless of whether it's grass-fed or farmed, it's still filled with animal protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol, which we know is detrimental to your health.
In terms of the raw diet, I know a lot of people think they have to eat 100% raw food. I see this lead to people failing on this diet because it is hard to stick to. According to the research, we do not need to eat a 100% raw diet to thrive. Of course, eating a lot of raw foods is beneficial and I recommend this. There are also wonderful benefits to including cooked whole grains and cooked vegetables in your diet too. I actually have a section in my book talking about why people get into trouble when they try being on the raw diet due to eating too much fat from sources like coconut oil and other oils just to sustain the amount of calories necessary. You do need to consume adequate calories in a day, so if all you're eating is raw fruits and vegetables all day, then it's challenging to meet your needs. 

DR - I agree. I always tell people if the raw diet works for you and you're healthy then more power to you, but I'd rather have someone adopt some version of the plant-based diet than to just give up and go back to the Standard American Diet.
JH - Exactly. I agree as long as you're not doing the junk food vegan thing. That's why I always say whole foods, plant-based diet.

DR - Can athletes really perform at their best by eating nothing but plants?
JH - Without exception, all the athletes I have worked with thrive on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Their times get better, energy increases, recovery time is remarkably better, which leads to more effective training. They can perform better and practice harder because they're not spending so much time recovering. Athletes flourish on a whole food, plant-based diet.

DR - Brendan Brazier and the other athletes out there really speak to this too don't they?
JH - Yes. There's a ton of athletes who say they do they're best on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Carl Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Mac Danzig, Robert Cheeke, Derek Tresize, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Robert Parish, John Salley, Desmond Howard, Bill Pearl, Keith Holmes, and Edwin Moses.

DR - Speaking of sports, what mascot would you pick to represent this plant-based lifestyle if you had to pick a mascot?
JH - A walking Kale of course :)
DR - Great choice! Thank you so much Julieanna for enlightening us with all your wonderful information. You're an inspiration to many, and I look forward to more of your work!

For more healthy tips from Julieanna Hever check out her website and health blog where she unveils the miracles behind the world of plant-based nutrition.

If you like what you see here then you'll LOVE our daily Facebook and Twitter posts!  Also, don't forget to sign up for  Our Free Online Mailing List  to get all the latest updates from the Plant-Based Pharmacist!
by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

Check out Dustin Rudolph's book The Empty Medicine Cabinet to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today's common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on foods versus medications in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!

We'd love for you to join us in spreading the good word about plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine by telling your family and friends about our website at

Share and rate this post below or tell us what you think by posting a comment. Thank you again for stopping by and until next time... be happy, be healthy, and live the life you've always dreamed of!


  1. Fantastic interview! I really enjoyed reading Julieanna's story and I am thankfull for her efforts to educate people on healthy eating habits! Keep up the great work on the grassroots effort on plant based nutrition!

  2. Thank you for this great interview and your efforts to educate people about plant based nutrition!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.