Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: School Lunches for Growing Healthy Kids

Image result for quinoa

"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."                   --Mary Anne Radmacher

Labor Day is still ahead of us and kids are already going back to school around the country. 
Getting organized for school means creating daily routines and schedules.  One of those involves school lunches.  Will your young princes and princesses qualify for the free and reduced meal program or will you be packing lunches? 
Recently a friend gave me a challenge.  She asked for new healthy ideas for her young daughter’s lunch box.  She specifically asked for gluten-free choices, even though her daughter does not have celiac disease. 

Quinoa plants

I was happy to comply and made a home visit to have a talk with her little princess.  We started by talking about her favorite color of food:  white.  Fifteen minutes later she tried a bowl of quinoa pasta to which she had added a little olive oil and nutritional yeast (a non-dairy alternative for parmesan cheese).  Gauging by the speed with which she devoured the sample bowl and then asked for more, I would say the dish was a hit! 

Quinoa (pronounced keen’ wa) is actually a seed but most people consider it a grain.  It is a complete protein which makes it a superfood in my opinion.  It is easily digestible, which makes it ideal for little ones.  It does not have a strong flavor, which is another reason why it is ideal for little ones. Cooked quinoa makes a great dinner and is equally great for school lunches.  It also makes a key ingredient in a delicious breakfast bowl.  Enjoy!
If I've heard this once, I've heard it a hundred times:  “I’ve heard of quinoa but never tried it.”   Pick up a bag, cook it according to directions (be sure and rinse it in a sieve before cooking to remove the bitter coating unless the box says it is “prerinsed”), then use your imagination.  When I do healthy cooking classes with children, we have learned that you can’t go wrong with a little spinach and Roma tomatoes.  Whip up a dressing with olive or avocado oil, a little red wine vinegar, pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Toss well and let sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can blend, then serve.  Make a little extra and pack some for tomorrow's school lunch!

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Back to School Breakfast Ideas

“Food can be very transformational, and it can be more than just a dish.  That’s what happened to me when I first went to France.  I fell in love.  And if you fall in love, well, then everything is easy.” 
                                                                                              --Alice Waters

Image result for kids eating breakfast

It is that time of the year again.  Back to school!  New school clothes have been purchased.  New lunchboxes are ready for the first day of school.  Parents are loading up at the grocery store on foods for school breakfasts, lunches, and afterschool snacks. 

All kids (and parents) need breakfast.  What are the ingredients for a healthy breakfast?
  • protein (such as eggs, Greek yogurt, beans, and lentils)
  • whole grains or carbohydrates containing dietary fiber (such as quinoa, whole fruit and vegetables)
  • healthy fats (such as avocado, olive oil and nuts) 

What should you NOT eat?  Avoid foods that cause blood glucose and insulin levels to spike excessively high.  After all, what goes up must come down. If food comes in a box and the first ingredient is “sugar” or “refined wheat flour” pass it up and choose something else!  Refined carbohydrates turn to sugar as soon as they hit your mouth.  Highly processed carbohydrates, such as Honeybuns, Sugar Smacks, Fruit Loops, or instant oatmeal, turn kids little yo-yos of uncontrolled energy.  Extreme highs and lows in blood sugar have been shown to lead to overeating, bad moods, and lack of focus.

Image result for parfaits

Parents want simple, easy breakfast ideas.  At a recent back-to-school bash for Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties, Growing Healthy Kids was invited to share ideas about healthy breakfasts and snacks for young children.  We made dozens of healthy breakfasts parfaits for the kids and parents and EVERYONE loved them!  Here’s the recipe…


  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt (if using plain yogurt, add a little local honey)
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit (such as sliced bananas, pineapple, blueberries and/or strawberries)
  • ¼ cup organic granola

Layer in a cup or dish and enjoy for breakfast or an afterschool snack!

Do you live in Vero Beach?  Then stop by Patissiere on Old Dixie in downtown Vero, ask for Christian Garcia, the owner, and pick up a bag of the homemade granola.  It is one of my favorite granolas and makes a delicious, healthy topping for parfaits. 

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Summertime Family Fun

Image result for clouds

“Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy.  To 
do nothing and have it count for something.  To lie in
 the grass and count the stars.  To sit on a branch and count the clouds.”  
                                                                  --Regina Brett

Remember summer vacations when you were young?  Growing up in California, I spent hours as a kid in the branches of the walnut trees in our yard.  Each branch became a different “room” where I would daydream and imagine life's "what if's" until my mother announced it was time to come in for dinner. 

Another summer vacation memory is of family trips, camping under the oldest and tallest trees in the world, hiking in National Parks such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, family reunions in the Rocky Mountains.  Spending summers outside, exploring, connecting with and listening to nature is what I loved then and love now. 

Take your kids outside.  Walk on the beach.  Lie in the grass and count the stars.  Go take a hike.  Learn a new swimming stroke.  Have a neighborhood jump rope festival.  Ride bikes.  Run.  Jog.  Skip down the street. Learn how to play tennis.  Laugh often. 

Image result for kids running

Summertime is for making memories, time off from school, and being active. Make physical fun and fitness a family tradition.  Be happy.  Make fresh fruit popsicles.  Have fun. Live out loud.  Connect with nature. Now run fast and go play! 

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids