Wednesday, April 11, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Obesity in Young Women

"The abundance of cheap food with low nutritional value in the Western diet has wreaked havoc on our health; in America, one third of children and two thirds of adults are overweight or obese and are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
                                                                   --Ellen Gustafson

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When I travel, I love to watch people.  On a recent trip, I was acutely aware of how many young women were obese.  I saw women in their 20’s struggling to walk, sometimes struggling to breath.  Every one of these overweight and obese women wore more layers of clothes that anyone else, even in hot weather.  Whether it was shopping at Costco, passing through airports, or eating in restaurants, I saw America through the eyes of unhealthy adult women.  
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults in the U.S. have obesity.  Kids who have obesity are at increased risk of obesity in adulthood.  One reason for concern if a woman is obese (or overweight) as an adult is when she becomes pregnant.  There are real consequences to the health of the child born to a woman who is obese, just as there are risks to the health of the mother. 

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Being born to a healthy mother – and father - is one commitment all children should expect.  Being overweight or obese during pregnancy places the person at higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).  Being obese as a young woman often carries lifelong psychological scars. 

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Teaching young women about the importance of healthy eating, regular physical activity, good sleep habits, and being at a healthy weight is something schools should be teaching, doctors should be talking about and programs such as Healthy Start should embrace and honor.  

Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits and Vegetables

We owe it to ourselves to become aware of what it means to practice good health habits every day.  More importantly, we owe it to America’s next generation because our children's health depends on our own health.   

Eat real food - whole food, plant-based.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  Be active every day.  Make good sleep a priority.  Avoid processed foods.  

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: My Love Affair with Walnuts

"People need to eat whole food plant foods, primarily whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  That diet supports our lives.  We ought to live to be 90 or 100 without any diseases."  
                    --John Mackey, co-founder and current CEO of Whole Foods Market

Perhaps it was growing up with a walnut tree outside my bedroom window in Sacramento, California.  My mother would pay us to bag walnuts.  I learned how to carefully shell walnuts, often eating more than made it into the pile for cooking and baking later.

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Many years later, I learned that gently toasting walnuts makes their flavor pop.  When I made my first walnut-basil pesto, I knew I could eat freshly made pesto and Italian pasta every day!  

Walnuts are considered the healthiest of all the nuts.  Like other nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts), they are made primarily of unsaturated fats, the good fat, and are very good for us – in moderation, of course.  Unlike most other nuts, walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (essential because they are not made by the body, you have to get them from food).  Foods containing omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as walnuts, flax seeds (use ground only please), wild salmon and olive oil are good for your heart health, preventing anxiety and depression, improving bipolar disorder, improving triglycerides, and reducing inflammation.

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A couple of years ago, someone told me about the “God’s Pharmacy” video on  In this video, key foods are connected with the health of organs in the body.  Walnuts actually look like little brains and are connected to brain health because of their nutritional value to the brain.  

No wonder I have always had a love affair with walnuts.  This special nut has been a part of my life in a big way since moving to Sacramento when I was five.  

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Walnuts make delicious, easy snacks.  They greatly increase the nutritional density of recipes.  They give baked good a nice crunchy texture.  After all, what would zucchini bread or carrot muffins be without walnuts? 

Let's ensure that kids develop healthy brains and have access to foods that can promote good moods, prevent depression and memory disorders.

Please store walnuts in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness.  To find some of my favorite walnut recipes, go to or click here.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Teaching Kids to Cook

"Cooking is all about people.  Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring people together.  No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat."  
                                                                                                   --Guy Fieri

Restaurants don’t make healthy food and one-third of Americans don’t know how to cook.  No wonder so many Americans are unhealthy.

When our country was in a crisis during World War II, food was rationed. Americans were asked to start Victory Gardens so they would have their own sources for food.  

We could sure use some Victory Gardens now.  There is another food crisis caused by the explosion of unhealthy, processed, and convenience food and the overconsumption of sugar, salt, and bad fats. Kids are facing shorter lifespans than adults due to obesity, obesity-related diseases like diabetes, and poor health status at young ages. 

When parents don’t know how to cook or don’t make the time to prepare food at home, they cannot teach their children how to cook.  In my work as Wellness Architect for Growing Healthy Kids, I encounter thousands of children who don’t know how to make a simple vinaigrette dressing for a chopped green salad or how to make a basic tomato soup.  In my work assisting youth and young adults with disabilities on their paths towards employment, I encounter individuals who have no idea how to cook, who eat mainly highly processed, unhealthy foods, and who are overweight or obese because no one ever thought that teaching them how to cook simple, healthy recipes mattered. 

If kids don’t know how to cook, they will be slaves to the processed food industry and will be at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and decreased life spans.  They will be forced to eat in restaurants and fast food places that don’t care if your blood sugar is under control or if your leg is amputated when you are twenty-five because you developed diabetes when you were fifteen. 

It does matter if kids know how to cook or not.  

All children deserve access to healthy foods.  All children need to know how to cook as a step towards their personal independence.  If kids don’t learn how to cook, how to identify healthy ingredients, then adults are failing by not giving them the tools they need to live independent lives. 

Shop.  Chop.  Cook.  Repeat.  
With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.