Wednesday, April 12, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sleeping for Success Part 2

"Because today is another chance to get it right."  

Growing Healthy Kids’ focus is on solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic and sharing resources and research with parents is essential to our mission.  

Many parents never think about the role of sleep in relation to weight loss.  You know how grumpy and sleepy you are when you don't get enough sleep?  The fact is that getting a good night’s sleep does a body – and mind – good.  The quality – and quantity – of your sleep matters in many aspects of your health, especially if you want to get to a healthier weight as a positive role model for your children. 

Image result for sleeping kids

In Part 2 of Wellness Wednesdays’ "Sleeping for Success" this week, I answer the questions in Part 1.  Here we go:  

  1. Do you absolutely love your pillows?  If not, then it is time to go pillow shopping.  Are you sleeping on the same pillows you had 2 years ago?  Or maybe even 3 years ago?  Pillows do not last forever and should be replaced every 6-36 months, depending on the type. 
  2. Your bedroom should be a peaceful sanctuary, clear of clutter and electronics.  If it is not, then plan a day (or two) to organize drawers, sort through and discard clothes that no longer serve you, and do some deep cleaning and furniture rearranging so the energy in your room flows. 
  3. If you have electronics in your or your kids’ bedrooms, then move them out of the bedroom or, at the very least, turn them to minimize the light while you sleep.  Those innocuous red, blue, and yellow lights can interfere with your sleep by tricking your brain into thinking it is daytime.  The goal is to make your bedroom as dark as possible at night. 
  4. Charge your cell phone at least 10 feet away from your head (never next to your bed) and, preferably, in another room.   
  5. Establish regular bedtimes that you and your kids can adhere to, even on the weekends. 
  6. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 6 hours before your bedtime.  Turn off computers, cell phones, and texting at least an hour before bedtime.  Keep chamomile tea on hand for a relaxing cup of tea to get you to sleep quickly.
  7. Turn off computers, videogames, and cell phones 30-60 minutes before bedtime.  This gives your mind and body time to wind down from the stress and adrenaline that electronics demand from us.
  8. If it takes you more than 20 minutes to get to sleep, then get up, move to another room, read a magazine or a book, and then try going back to sleep. 
  9. If you are sleeping less than 7 hours a night, you are probably not getting enough sleep.  Kids need more sleep than adults.  See chart (below) for hours of sleep needed by age.
  10. Do you sleep through the night or are you waking up one or more times?  If you are one of those people who wake up, only turn on the minimum number of lights needed to light your way to the bathroom so you can get right back to sleep.  The more lights you turn on, the harder it is to return to sleep.

Image result for sleeping teenagers pictures

Scientists know that when people do not get enough sleep, it is harder to lose weight.  If your goal is to get to a healthier weight, start by accessing your sleep patterns with my sleep survey (in "Sleeping for Success Part 1") and reviewing the solutions (listed above).

Ready, set, sleep!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sleeping for Success Part 1

"Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together."  
                                                                                            --Thomas Dekker

When I talk with kids and ask them where they charge their cell phones at night, the most common response, "next to my bed," drives me nuts.

Did you know that the consensus among scientists is that most brains do not become are fully developed until age 25?   For the sake of our children's present and future health, the worst place cell phones should be charging is right next to their heads.   Cell phones interfere with kids' brains while they sleep.  Make sure all phones are at least ten feet from your kids' heads when they are sleeping. 

Image result for sleeping teenagers pictures
I have created a 10 question sleep survey for parents (see below).  Most people take sleep for granted.  After all, we do it every night, so there's not much to it, right?  Wrong.  Scientists know that the quality and quantity of our sleep is important for our brain health and for our physical health.  While we sleep, our brains process information and our bodies recharge and replenish the immune systems.   

Here are 10 questions to think about before you go to bed tonight: 
  1. Does your bed have comfortable pillows, sheets, and blankets?
  2. Is your bedroom a restful and peaceful sanctuary?
  3. When you turn off all the lights in your bedroom, are red, blue, and yellow lights on your electronics still on?
  4. How close to your head does your cell phone charge while you are sleeping?
  5. Do you have a regular bedtime?
  6. Do you have a sleep routine when you wind down the day and prepare for the night?
  7. How much time before you go to bed do you stop using your cell phones and computers?
  8. How long does it take you to go to sleep once you lie down in bed?
  9. How many hours sleep do you get most nights?
  10. How many times do you wake up at night? 

There is a big reason why your answers to these questions can affect the quality of sleep.   People who don't get enough sleep have a harder time losing weight.  Getting to a healthy weight is key to preventing diabetes, for those who are at risk for diabetes, and to controlling or reversing diabetes, for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes. 

 Image result for sleeping teenagers pictures

As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our children’s health.  That starts with making sure everyone in the family is getting a good night’s sleep.  Sweet dreams, my love!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Planning Healthy Lunches

"I grow my own vegetables and herbs.  I like being able to tell people that the lunch I am serving started out as a seed in my yard."
                                                                      --Curtis Stone

March is National Nutrition Month.  It is a good opportunity to evaluate what you eat and drink.  Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions.  If you can start making conscious choices about meal planning, you (and your health) will be on a better path.  

I know when I fail to plan lunches for work, I am really planning to fail with taking good care of myself.  When I give up control to my fast-paced work schedule and do not have access to healthy foods (please pass the lentil burgers), I use that as a reminder to get back on track with some simple meal planning.

Salad made by kids in a recent Growing Healthy Kids class:  organic lettuce, sunflower sprouts and just-picked strawberries with a healthy vinaigrette dressing (see below for recipe).

Sundays are special for me because that's when I plan for 5 days of healthy lunches.  A salad with fresh, locally grown greens at least 3 days a week really makes the work light.  Do I need to schedule my errands so I can swing by Osceola Organic Farm to get salad greens or can I harvest some from my Tower Garden?  Can I get some of Alex’s crunchy hydroponic cucumbers at the weekly Vero Beach Farmers Market? What about cooking a bag of garbanzos for making hummus mid-week and having nutrient dense garbanzos for my salads? 

Speaking of salads, here is my favorite salad dressing recipe (this works for a green salad or a whole grain pasta salad):

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Healthy Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Bragg apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon local honey
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground organic black pepper
I put the ingredients in a small container or a jar and pack it with my salad in a cooler. Shake well before using.  For a delicious dinner salad, use this dressing with local greens, sliced avocado and pear.  Simple, healthy, and delicious every time! 

Dare yourself to take 15 minutes and do some meal planning on the weekend so you – and your kids – have access to healthy lunches and snacks during the week.  Check out my pinterest pages for some great ideas!   This week I am inspired to make curried chickpea salad sandwiches (go to, search for “Nancy Heinrich” and look up my “Healthy Lunches” pins) or go to and search under recipes for the curried chickpea salad sandwich recipe.  With just a little planning, the week’s lunches are all set and you are on your way to a very nutritious and delicious week!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.