Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Is Plant-Based Eating Good for Kids?

"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.  If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital."  
                                                                                     --Neal Barnard, MD

When I work with an adult with uncontrolled diabetes, I start by asking how many medications they take daily.  The answer is almost always ten or more.  Patients with diabetes are told, “once on insulin, always on insulin.”  They are prescribed medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  They may also be taking meds for neuropathy, depression and sleep.  One way we use to gauge success in reversing diabetes is when the individual can reduce or eliminate prescription medicines because they no longer need them.

Doctors are well trained in writing prescriptions and treating diseases.  Doctors are not trained in using food as medicine to reverse diseases. 

Lentil vegetable soup
The evidence is clear:  a whole food plant-based way of eating is key to good health and reversing diseases such as diabetes.  

Is a plant-based lifestyle healthy for kids?  Absolutely yes!! Is fruit good for kids?  Are vegetables good for kids? Whole grains?  Legumes?  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good for everyone! Besides being an ideal way to eat, plant-based eating is also the most ethical way to eat.  On behalf of people, planet, and prosperity, parents should consider the future health of their children by learning about the cruelty inflicted on animals raised for food on factory farms.  Watch "Forks Over Knives" or "What the Health". Kids eating chicken McNuggets, burgers, and dairy products are more susceptible to asthma, gastrointestinal issues, cancer, skin problems, sleep apnea, heart disease, and obesity.    

I have yet to meet a parent who wants their kids to grow up and develop diabetes.  Let's stop the hemorrhaging and insanity caused by the consumption of inflammatory foods like meat and chicken.  Did you know the average American will eat about 222 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018?  

For delicious recipes and inspiration, check out what Chef Charity Morgan is cooking. She became a vegan chef when her husband, a player for the Tennessee Titans football team, gave up eating meat and became a vegan.  Now half the team is vegan.  Click here to go to Chef Charity's website.  

A must-read book for parents is Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right.

As an advocate for children's health, I strongly believe in the whole food plant-based lifestyle and its ability to prevent and reverse diseases.  Take a look at the resources I have included in this article and then talk with your family.  Together, we can improve the health - and lives - of America's children. 

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


"Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice.  And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones.  Literacy will be dead and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well."  
                                                                  --Margaret Atwood 

Learning to read and spell are basic skills.  We have a responsibility to ensure that all kids learn these skills.

According to The Learning Alliance, in the U.S. only 36% of kids are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.  The consequence is that fourth graders who are not reading at grade level are likely to become our country’s lowest income, least skilled, least productive, and most costly citizens.  I would add that they will also become our least healthy citizens.

I believe that literacy is directly related to health literacy.  Not being able to read is a factor in whether or not an individual will enjoy a lifelong passion for learning.   

In every Growing Healthy Kids cooking class, we bring a dry erase board and a big bag of colorful dry erase markers.  The kids are charged with writing and decorating the day’s menu board.  The rule is that everything must be spelled correctly by the end of the class. Kids flinch and make faces about the rule but it matters.  Eating fruits and vegetables matter.  Knowing how to spell them correctly does too.

Spelling has always been one of my “things”.  I joke that I was an editor in another life because of my passion for the written word.  When I write, my goal is that the finished document will have perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  Growing up in California, my elementary school teachers emphasized spelling lessons. Class assignments were returned to students with corrections duly noted with the teacher’s red pencil circled around the offending misspelled word.  I am so grateful to my teachers and my parents for ensuring that I learned to read and spell.

Writing is a basic skill that must be learned early in life and practiced all of our lives. Spellcheck and autocorrect are not substitutes for the basic skill that comes from learning how to spell correctly.  Kids now expect their computers to make the corrections for them.  I see the results in every class we teach as kids struggle with spelling ingredients and reading food labels.

While health literacy is key to the mission of Growing Healthy Kids, so is knowing how to spell A-P-P-L-E.  

Have a blessed Fourth of July!

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Avoiding Added Sugars

"The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison."  
                                                                    --Ann Wigmore

When was the last time you read a food label to look for hidden sugars?  Food manufacturers are counting on the fact that most people don't read food labels to see what is in the food you eat.

Image result for sugar "org"

Sugar is either natural sugar and added sugar.  Natural sugar is what you find in fruit (fresh, frozen, and canned).  Use caution with canned fruit, however, because it may be in a syrup containing added sugar.  Most or all of the sugar we eat and drink should be natural sugar.  Fruit contains dietary fiber which slows down the absorption of the sugar in the bloodstream.  Added sugars are not the same as natural sugar.  High fructose corn syrup, considered one of the worst added sugars, is highly processed with "empty" calories, no nutritional value, and no dietary fiber.   

Local blueberries
Teaching kids (and parents) how to identify added sugars in processed foods like breakfast cereals, frozen foods, and drinks can improve health literacy and health status. 

Here are 5 steps to start eliminating added sugars:

Step 1:  Locate the “Nutrition Facts” rectangle on the food package or drink bottle. 
Step 2:  Look below the rectangle for the “Ingredients” list.  
Step 3:  Is high fructose corn syrup a listed ingredient? 
Step 4:  Do you see any other ingredients that end in “-ose”?   
Step 5:  If you answered “yes” in step 3 and/or 4, avoid that food in the future or at least cut back on how much you consume.  Look for a similar food with less or no added sugar.

All ingredients that end in “-ose” are sugars.  Excessive consumption of added sugars can result in an unhealthy weight or contribute to development of diabetes or cancer. 

With gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.