Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sugar, Kids, and Disease

"We don't need sugar to live and we don't need it as a society."  
      --Mehmet Oz, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and host of                                        "The Dr. Oz Show"

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March is National Nutrition Month.  How much sugar are your kids eating and drinking every day?  

One 8 ounce glass of apple juice contains as much sugar (28 grams) as a glass of Coca Cola.  Kids do not need dozens of grams of sugar every day, but that is exactly what both of these drinks contain.  

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Did you know...Food manufacturers pay grocery stores for product placement so unhealthy products are placed at your children's eye level.  Food manufacturers market unhealthy, sugar-filled foods to your kids in TV advertisements and in sponsorships of educational material used in public schools and afterschool programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs that kids are exposed to every day (such as Coca Cola).

The other day I was talking with the cashier while checking out of a store with provisions for an upcoming Growing Healthy Kids program.  The cashier, a young man in his early twenties, commented that everything I was purchasing was in the “healthy and organic” category.  I told him about Growing Healthy Kids and our mission to prevent and reverse childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.  He shared that he had gained a lot of weight in high school because he ate lots of junk food and he decided he needed to make a change.  I asked him what he did and can you guess what he said?  He started eating less foods high in sugar, including soda.  As I completed my purchase, I complimented the young man on his success and told him his new habits will last him his lifetime, putting him on the path to health instead of disease.    

"Children are developing eating habits and taste preferences that will last a lifetime," according to Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  "The sooner families begin to limit the amount of added sugars in their diets, the better."  

Do your kids have habits that will last them a lifetime of good health?  Eating too much sugar on a daily basis is a sure path to diseases and conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Processed  foods such as Pop Tarts, Honey Buns, cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals (especially those that have the word “crunch” or “sugar” in their names), and granola bars contain more sugar in a serving that kids should have in a day.  Read food labels to see what a serving size is and how many grams of sugar are in a serving.   If there are more than 10 grams of sugar in one serving, look for something else (especially if you are eating more than one serving).  Look for ingredients that end in “-ose” because that is how you can identify hidden sugars.  Watch out for added sugars such as "high fructose corn syrup", "dextrose," and "fructose". 

Kids 2-18 years of age should have no more than 25 grams of added sugars a day (about 6 teaspoons).  

Eat real food,  Broccoli.  Almonds.  Zucchini.  Strawberries.  Spinach.  Quinoa. Blueberries. Walnuts.  Buy the best ingredients you can afford.   Cut back or eliminate added sugars.  Kids are sweet enough just the way they are!

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


"...the key dietary messages are stunningly simple.  Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables and don't eat too much junk food.  It's no more complicated than that."  
                        --Marian Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University

March is National Nutrition Month.   Enjoy delicious meals that you and your kids cook together at home.  Start by planning a trip to your local farmers market and letting the kids pick out some locally grown vegetables.  Create a meal around fresh, locally grown and organic (where available) vegetables, add some quinoa, lentils or black rice and enjoy a great meal together. 

Cooking teaches kids that real food does not come from boxes with ingredients you cannot pronounce.  When you cook meals together with your kids, you teach them about the value of teamwork.  When you sit down together at the family dinner table, you teach them about respect, communication, and family values.

One of the key lessons we teach in our Growing Healthy Kids programs is about respecting the people who grow our food and respecting ourselves enough to eat good foods instead of processed foods filled with added sugars, salt, and fat.  After all, why eat foods that will only make us sick?   When I ask kids if they have any friends who stay home from school because of stomach aches, they all raise their hands.  Is it possible kids have digestive issues because they are being fed highly processed foods filled with sugar and refined flour but containing no dietary fiber?  Yes. 

Parents, our children, like us, deserve to eat food that not only tastes good but is good for you.  Life is too short to do otherwise!  Plan to do more cooking at home.   If you need help with a recipe, let me know (email me at 

Here is a so, so simple recipe your kids can help you make for dinner.  Add a green salad and grilled cheese sandwiches on whole grain bread and you have a delicious, healthy meal your kids will love!  TIP FOR SAVING MONEY:  Stock up on canned tomatoes when they are on sale.  

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GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 cup low fat chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in the butter and olive oil about 5-6 minutes on medium heat, or until onions become translucent.   Add the dried basil and cook another minute.  Add tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cook at least 15 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired texture.   Add salt and pepper, to taste.  A few minutes before serving, add cream.   Stir and serve.  Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The High Price of Cheap Food

“If you let corporations cook your food, they’re going to load it up with sugar.” 

                                                                  --Michael Pollan, author of Cooked

Common statement heard from parents:  “I can’t afford to feed my family healthy food.”

Nancy Heinrich's response: “Give me an hour and I’ll show you how.” 

Michael Pollan recently spoke at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach, Florida and one of our youth Nutrition Scientists was able to attend his talk with me.  Throughout Mr. Pollan’s talk, I said to her several times, “That is something we discussed in our class.” He kept coming back the fact that as food has become increasingly processed with the advent of the industrial food chain, people have cooked less and we have gotten sicker.

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Getting kids out to farms and farmers markets and into the kitchen is what we do.  As kids learn about using locally grown, fresh ingredients and that when you can cook at home instead of eating highly processed foods, they are also learning that they are no longer at the mercy of large corporations that prepare foods filled with added sugars, salt, and fat.  Giving kids the confidence to know how and where to shop for locally grown ingredients (organic where available), to prepare easily modifiable basic recipes, and to buy the best ingredients they can afford are some of our key lessons. 

Whenever I ask the kids in our classes if they have family members with diabetes or high blood pressure, most of the kids raise their hands.  Sometimes I also ask the kids if they know anyone with Alzheimer’s and more hands go up.  We know that Alzheimer’s is a disease process that is 30 or more years in the making before symptoms appear.  Diabetes has an incubation period of about 5 to 10 years.   

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The “ah-ha” moments we see in Growing Healthy Kids’ classes are a constant reminder of how essential our work is to reversing and preventing obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.  One of the essential lessons taught in Growing Healthy Kids’ educational programs is that everyone can afford to eat healthy foods.  Be the solution.  Cook at home with your kids!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS - If you need ideas to get you and your kids started in the kitchen, then a copy of NOURISH AND FLOURISH:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes may be just the thing!  Available at