Wednesday, August 9, 2017


"I challenge you to go to any school and open 50 lunchboxes, and I guarantee you there will be one or two cans of Red Bull, there'll be cold McDonalds and jam sandwiches with several cakes."  
                                          --Jamie Oliver

Image result for kids in school

The kids are going back to school.  Your job is to get them ready to learn.  This is the typical “to do” list” for parents:
  • Buying school clothes and uniforms
  • Buying school supplies
  • Preparing a list of emergency phone numbers for the school office in case your child gets sick
  • Getting required shots, school and sports physicals
Image result for kids going to school

Here are my 3 Back to School Tips for Growing Healthy Kids:
  1. Plan healthy breakfasts for every school day.  If your kids qualify for the free and reduced meal program, make the effort to check out your school district’s menus.  Teach your kids to identify and avoid foods high in added sugars, such as flavored milks that quickly raise their blood sugar and make learning difficult. Have breakfast with your kids at school so you can help guide their choices.  If your kids will be eating breakfast at home, make sure they have some protein, good carbs (fruit, vegetables or whole grains), and some of the good fats (such as nuts or nut butter).  Examples of delicious, healthy breakfasts:  (1) cooked rolled or steel cut oats (do NOT use instant oats) with almond milk, cinnamon, honey, chopped pecans, and dates or raisins and (2) almond butter on whole grain bread and half an orange.  Breakfast is the meal that kids need the most.  Don’t load your kids up with added sugars and saturated fats.  Skipping breakfast often results in overeating later in the day, resulting in weight gain and obesity.
  2. Make family dinners a priority.  Put all the mobile electronic devices into a basket in another room so everyone  can talk about their day at the dinner table.  Listen to your kids. Ask them to talk about the best part of their day or something nice they did for another student.  Children are losing the art of conversation and other social skills needed to succeed in life.  Studies have shown that when kids eat dinner together with their families at least half of the week, they are less likely to be overweight or obese. 
  3. Plan so your kids get plenty of sleep…70% of high school kids do not get enough sleep on school nights.  Children who don’t get enough sleep don’t get sleepy during the day.  Instead, they typically become hyperactive, irritable, and inattentive during the day (source: Children in preschool need 11-12 hours a day of sleep.  School-aged children and adolescents need at least 10 hours a day.  Teenagers need 9-10 hours a day.   Make a plan for bedtime on school nights based on when kids have to wake in the morning. If your 10 year old child has to be up by 7 AM to get ready for school, then they need to be in bed by 9 PM on school nights.  Not getting enough sleep makes weight loss more difficult, especially for adults.  
Image result for kids in school

ALL children deserve to be ready to learn when the school year begins.  Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, limit fried foods and meat consumption, especially aged meats such as salami and pepperoni. Plan meals that feature fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure your kids get plenty of outdoor play time every day and enough sleep every night.  

Preventing diseases such as diabetes and obesity is up to parents.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17% of U.S. youth ages 2-19 are obese.  Let's not allow our children to be Big Pharma's next victims.  

Now let’s get those kids ready for a great school year! 

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


“The thought of a hot bowl of soup is comforting, especially during the winter months.  But before you crack open a can, consider this.  Volunteers in a study were divided into two groups.  Both ate soup for five days, one from cans and the other from fresh ingredients.  BPA levels measured in the urine at the end of the study were 12 times higher in the canned soup group.  BPA has been linked to diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.”  
           -- from The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle by Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D.

Recently I posted a picture on social media of lentil soup I made in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen.  I believe that all kids need to know how to prepare a  great plant-based soup.  It turns out all adults need to know, too.  Many of you asked for the recipe, so, as promised, I am delivering it to you. 

Cubed butternut squash

I have a love affair with lentils and other legumes.  Lentils are one of the most perfect foods on the planet.  One-half cup of cooked green lentils contains about 140 calories, 12 grams of protein, about 9 grams of dietary fiber (which fills you up quite nicely), and they are super easy to cook.  They are incredibly AFFORDABLE for any budget!  I cook a pot of lentils most Sundays to use during the week.  Some of my favorite things to make with lentils are vegetable lentil soup, veggie burgers, dal, lentil tacos, and on salads for work. 

Rainbow carrots can be diced or shredded for lentil soup.

There are so many things you can do with lentil soup:  add purple potatoes, use rainbow carrots, add spinach or kale, top with pesto or garnish with some fresh parsley or cilantro from your garden.  Have fun making this recipe one of your family's favorites! 

 GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:
¼ cup green lentils (or use a combination of green and French lentils)
1 cup water

Cover, turn down to simmer and cook 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.  Set aside.

In another medium pan, saute for 5 minutes:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together in a small stainless steel bowl and let sit for 5 minutes:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh turmeric, finely grated (use gloves or else you’ll be wearing the orange!  If  you don’t have a source for fresh turmeric, then use dried)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (TIP:  Adding black pepper releases curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric.)

Add turmeric to the vegetables.  

3-4 cups water (or half water and half low sodium V8 juice)
1 Tablespoon white miso (available at most health food stores)
1 bay leaf
1 cup cubed butternut squash 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons tomato paste (TIP:  When I have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, which is almost always, I blend some to create my own richly flavored tomato paste.)

Cover and cook on low for ½ hour. 

Puree about ¾ of the cooked lentils (I use a blender stick because it is convenient and easy to clean up).   Add all the lentils to the soup pot.   Remove bay leaf.  Cook for a few more minutes, then serve.  Add Bragg Liquid Aminos to flavor as needed. 

TIP:  Add a 2” square of kombu (dried seaweed) while cooking the lentils.  This adds minerals and flavor.  Remove kombu when lentils are cooked. 

Once you experience the flavor of homemade vegetable lentil soup, you will never buy a can of soup again!  If you do buy foods in cans, only buy cans marked as “BPA-free” (refer to the quote by Dr. Gaynor at the top of this article). 

Preventing diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in children is important.  There are so many environmental factors that can influence the development - or the prevention - of diseases.  The choices we make matter.  Eating foods full of fiber matters.  Eating fruits and vegetables that are the colors of the rainbow matters.  Choosing to avoid foods from cans made with BPA matters.  (BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic containers and the linings of canned foods and drinks.  There is evidence that it can disrupt hormones of children, affect the brain and behavior of infants and young children, and may be be linked to diabetes, obesity, and ADHD.)  

I, for one, choose to eat lots of lentils and to be BPA-free.  How about you? 

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

PS - For more great lentil recipes, go to

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Finding Our Food Farmacy

“A study in the journal Cell Metabolism found that a person with high animal protein consumption (over 20% of calories coming from meat) is four times more likely to die from cancer, which is a similar rate as cigarette smoking.  The same study found that high protein consumption led to an increased risk of diabetes and overall mortality, and that proteins derived from plant foods were associated with lower mortality levels than animal-derived proteins.”  
            --Deepak Chopra, MD and Kimberly Snyder, CN, from Radical Beauty, 2016

The benefits of plant-based eating continue to mount.  As people look for ways to improve their health, eating mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes is not only good for you and your kids.  It is also good for the planet. 

With diabetes, hypertension, some cancers (such as breast, esophageal, and pancreatic) and other obesity-related diseases taking their toll on morbidity (illness) and mortality (death), it is logical that we should embrace making small changes towards a healthier way of eating.  As an epidemiologist, I study trends in diseases and look for the root causes so we can learn to prevent those same diseases.  The way we grow food and the food we eat, including the factory farming of animals for human consumption, deserves to be rethought. 

All kids deserve access to healthy foods.  Here are 7 of my favorite food rules for Growing Healthy Kids (and parents):
  1. Buy and eat organic foods as often as possible.
  2. Plan meals based on the vegetables and fruits that are in season and locally grown (I use a 100 mile radius for making decisions about what foods to buy).
  3. Take your kids to your local farmers markets and let them choose new foods to try.
  4. Make water and nut-based milks your primary drinks.  
  5. Teach your kids how to make 10 basic recipes (or send them to our Nutrition Scientist Training Program and we’ll teach them for you).
  6. Start a simple kitchen garden and let the kids water it and tend to it.  This could be as simple as growing one tomato plant or throwing a packet of basil seeds in a pot of dirt. 
  7. Buy age-appropriate kitchen tools for your kids to use with veggies and fruits.  

There is a connection between diseases such as cancer and high consumption of animal protein.  We can improve health outcomes by moving to a plant-based way of eating.    

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.