Julieanna Hever is a personal trainer, registered dietitian and a mother of two. She offers tips on healthy eating for every age group:
1) It can be difficult to convince the entire family to choose healthier options. Do you have any advice on pleasing picky eaters?
As a mom of a 2- and 4 year-old, I am well aware of the difficulty of pleasing everyone every time and I, too, constantly fight the requests to be a short order chef.
An important concept to remember is that children need to be exposed to a food a minimum of 8-15 times before they may actually accept it into their meals. In other words, repetition, repetition, and-oh, yes-repetition.
The second and most critical rule for teaching your picky eaters to pick well is to role-model. Research shows that children will learn the most by what they see their parents doing. So, if you want your kids to enjoy veggies, you need to love yours —especially when they are nearby!
Another idea is to make the child’s favorite food as a side dish to the main meal. That way, they might actually eat some of the other options as well.
Making food fun always helps, even with the pickiest of picky eaters. Challenge your kids (and spouse) to eat the rainbow everyday. That way they can have a goal and include the whole spectrum of antioxidants along the way. Fun recipes are easily accessible nowadays. Likewise, making a game out of mealtime can work too. For instance, challenge your little ones to try the most foods of anyone at the table. Whoever wins becomes the President of the “Tasters Club”.
2) You also serve as a consultant for the Ventura County Unified School District. How do you feel about the recent school lunch movement? How can parents get involved in school lunch policy?
When I was doing my Dietetic Internship, I had to spend a few weeks doing food service for an L.A.-area school district. I was so disgusted at what I saw that I promised myself then and there that when I had kids someday, I would ALWAYS send them to school with packed lunches and make sure they had zero money to purchase anything once they were on campus. I literally had to plug in ketchup at high amounts into a nutrient calculator to decrease the total percentage of fat in the meals. In other words, I had to manipulate the system and use ketchup as a VEGETABLE in order to satisfy the national “requirements”!!! It horrified me!
Needless to say, I am passionately supportive of the new rise in nutritionally dense school lunches. It is so desperately needed that any move forward will be beneficial.
I recommend parents get involved as much as possible. Be vocal about what you want to see. One of my kids is in preschool, so I find myself trying to recommend recipes to their teachers to replace ones they currently use in the classroom with the kids. Also, the hot lunches still do not meet my standard of healthy. Thus, I still pack a lunch for my daughter everyday. I am letting my money do the talking. By not participating in unhealthy options, I am still making a point. Better yet, talking to the administrators and pointing out possible healthier options is a way to delineate how to nutrify their school. Another method to consider is to write, e-mail or call to your local politicians. Voice your concern to your Mayors, Congressman, Senators and Governors. They represent us and need to hear our concerns.
Ultimately, what you teach your children at home will resonate wherever they are. I had the best day today because when I picked my daughter up from pre-K, the teacher told me that when they passed out doughnuts for snacks, my daughter opted to eat her apple from her lunch instead!!! YES! Score one for Mommy!
3) One of your specialties is pregnancy and perinatal health. Is it possible to eat a nutritionally sound, plant based diet while pregnant? What tips would you offer to ensure that both mother and child receive adequate nutrients
Not only is a whole food, plant-based diet nutritionally sound, it is literally the biggest gift you can give your child while pregnant and breastfeeding. Healthy eating is a combination of what harmful foods you avoid as well as what beneficial foods you include. Overall, think of that fetus or infant as a little person who is more vulnerable and susceptible to the toxins of this world than any adult. Growing at that extremely fast rate exposes them to vastly higher risks of disease later on from their exposure to harmful compounds. Eating a diet filled with plants will minimize their risk and make them armed and ready to handle the daily assaults of their new world.
During pregnancy, the key is to eat as many plants as possible from every color group. Folic acid is a critical vitamin during the initial stages of pregnancy and it is found in plenty from dark green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, asparagus, kale), legumes (lentils, peas and beans), and citrus fruits. Pregnant women have an increased risk for iron-deficiency anemia. But iron is easily attained on a plant-based diet by consuming large amounts of green, leafy vegetables and legumes. Protein is not a concern whatsoever for anyone consuming a purely plant-based diet. In fact, plant foods are higher in protein than animal products, plus they come packaged with thousands of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals as opposed to animal products that are wrapped with saturated fat and cholesterol.
On the flip side, things to avoid during pregnancy include artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors, hydrogenated fats, saturated fat, processed foods, animal protein, refined sugars and flours, MSG, and salt
With respect to breastfeeding, think of the same guidelines as described above and double them. As infants, breast milk is ideally the sole source of nutrition. If possible, breastfeed for at least a year. This provides your baby with the best immune system strength possible. The benefits of breastfeeding are huge and will help your child prevent disease for life! Every bite taken by the Mommy goes directly into the baby. Lifelong tastes are developed during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so that is another incentive to flood their little taste buds with veggies and fruits.
Of course, breastfeeding is not always an option, and utilizing a whole food, plant-based diet with your child as early as possible will still disease-proof them and strengthen their immunity for life.
Overall, plants are the superpower that can help anyone, at any age, prevent and reverse illness, enhance energy, improve performance, and bring about optimum health.
4) You offer in-home nutrition counseling, so it’s safe to say that you’ve seen your share of kitchens! What essential culinary staples are missing from the average home?
Indeed, I love looking in people’s refrigerators and cupboards…it’s so telling!
Staples for the pantry include spices, all dry grains (brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa, etc.), dry legumes (lentils of every color, split peas, beans), canned beans for quick meals, raw nuts, seeds, and nut butters, and whole grain bread, cereals, pastas and crackers. Jars of salsa and marinara sauce as well as cans of tomato paste and tomato sauce always come in handy. Finally, stock your cabinet with raw seaweed and rice wraps for an easy “burrito”; raw bars for quick snacks; and whole grain flours and other baking ingredients for a healthy dessert.
The refrigerator should be as colorful as a rainbow with fruits and vegetables of every and any seasonal variety. It should also contain fortified “milks” (rice, oat, soy, hemp or almond), miso, tahini, whole grain tortillas, and soy products (if you so desire).
5) What advice do you have for those suffering from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and osteoporosis? Can diet and exercise improve an already existing condition?
Diet is a HUGE chunk of the equation. All of the aforementioned chronic diseases are not only preventable from a proper diet, but they are literally reversible with a change in diet and lifestyle!!! Basically, you have total control of your health when it comes to chronic disease. Eating plants and exercising regularly has the power to completely turn around any of those diagnoses
Having a diagnosis of any disease is actually a sort of blessing-in-disguise because it forces people to take a sharp, clear look at what they are doing and then offers a choice: either continue your way of life and add numerous harmful drugs and procedures to your regimen or change your lifestyle and conquer the disease process waging war in your body.