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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Essays/Vegan Essays

Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T., also known as The Plant-Based Dietitian, is a passionate advocate of the miracles associated with following a whole food, plant-based diet--the established effects of which provide positive healthful benefits.

The author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition and the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine, she is also the co-author of the upcoming book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking to be published in December 2011.

Julieanna counsels a variety of clients in her Los Angeles, California-based private practice including elite athletes, adults, and children with various nutritional and/or medical concerns. She has lectured extensively throughout the United States and is published in prominent journals, magazines, blogs, and newsletters.

As co-producer and star of the "infotainment" documentary To Your Health, she interviewed a host of the plant-based world's most respected doctors and researchers to bring this important information to film and television audiences.

Her work as the Executive Director of EarthSave, International, has also provided an opportunity for Julieanna to bring whole food, plant-based nutrition to the forefront of efforts to improve the current global health crisis.

Julieanna received her Bachelors degree from UCLA and Masters of Science in Nutrition at California State University, Northridge, where she also completed her Dietetic Internship. She has taught as part of Dr. T. Colin Campbell's e-Cornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program, worked as a clinical dietitian at Century City Doctors Hospital, and has consulted for numerous businesses.

A Voice of Reason in an Unreasonable Society

By Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T.

Sometimes parents just don't get it. When I was a young teenager, I read John Robbins' Diet for a New America. Without doubt, it instantly changed me forever. Never had something impacted me so deeply, ringing true at the core of my soul as this book had. I found so much inspiration from the knowledge I had gained thanks to Robbins' insight and wisdom.

I was incensed, furious, determined! How did I go all of those previous years of my life without being told of the horrendous factory farming conditions, the way animals are horrifically harmed and murdered, how we are destroying the Earth by a gluttonous desire for cheap, convenient, and health-degrading "food."

Julieanna Hever As shocked as my initial reaction to this information was, I was even more disturbed when I tried to share what I had learned with my parents, relatives, and friends. We are so profoundly entrenched in a self-contained system perpetuating an endless list of myths surrounding the food we consume.

Of course, I tried to apply my newfound knowledge into my day-to-day life. I simply decided to cut out animal products. What does that mean? I had no idea. I was young, not educated in nutrition, not the person in charge of shopping or cooking in the house. Hence, I was at the mercy of my mom and fueled by a fire lit by John Robbins. So, I subsisted on fruit roll ups, granola bars, diet sodas, rice cakes, and whatever else I had nearby that was animal product-free.

Naturally, I began getting sick frequently, and extended my already teenage grouchy, difficult-to-live-with attitude. After a short time, my parents grew frustrated and impatient with my eating (my attitude, really, but they blamed my eating) and they employed their friend, a nurse, to instigate an intervention.

Suddenly, I found myself at a restaurant looking at a plate with a huge steak with a pineapple ring on top and being forced to eat that chunk of meat. That may have been the most disgusting food experience of my life. I can remember the feeling of the dead muscle in my mouth, and chewing and chewing while envisioning the sweet animal it once belonged to. And that was the end of my vegetarianism--at least for a while.

Fast forward several years…now, as a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Science in nutrition, and nearing two decades in the health and fitness world, I am on a mission to let everyone know that not only is a plant-based diet safe, but it is also actually far superior to the Standard American Diet (a.k.a. one focused on steaks with pineapple rings for protein and iron) in terms of health (of humans and the environment and the animals). In fact, my parents are reading my new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, and they are actually changing their diet! Ahhh, the cycle of life….

So, I am writing to those parents out there today whose children are expressing an interest in a plant-based diet. My intention is to urge you to open your minds to a way of thinking that is not only beneficial to your children, but also expressive of compassion and forward thinking that any parent can be proud of!

To Your Health If I could have offered my parents the following suggestions when I was initially engaged in this pathway, this is what I would have said:

  • I need a variety of these whole foods to stay healthy: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
  • I should eat the rainbow every single day to be sure to get ample phytonutrients and antioxidants.
  • I can easily get enough protein, calcium, iron, and other nutrients in my diet by eating this way, except for vitamin B12, which I can take via a supplement or fortified foods (nutritional yeast and plant-based milks).
I also would have found cookbooks to guide my mom to try these scrumptious, whole-plant-food recipes. When I was a kid, there wasn't even a fraction of the options available that we currently have at our fingertips. This is the reason I wrote my book--to show parents, kids, healthcare practitioners, friends, colleagues, and others that a whole-food, plant-based diet is easy. It offers diverse and delicious foods and destroys any assumption that the Standard American Diet can keep you healthy.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition will help answer any questions you may have about the why's and how's of plant-based nutrition. I certainly recommend it for any parents concerned about their child's health. The book will help parents focus on supporting their children and enable these young people to fulfill their nutritional needs. Of course, parents need to honor the foresight and compassion of their children for making the choice to go veg.

Click here for past Words from Other Birds Articles

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