Wednesday, February 27, 2013



This week’s WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS column is filled with ideas for parents to bring out the best flavors in real foods.  In our Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen programs, we teach kids (and parents, too) how to make kitchen herb gardens and how to season, cook, and flavor foods using fresh and dried herbs.  Learning to cook without relying on salt is important because when someone is overweight, they are more likely to have high blood pressure.  It is well known that the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be.  

As I like to say, when you know what to do, it is easy to eat healthy foods every day!

Spices, herbs, and sauces add depth and interest to everyday foods.   One of my new favorite finds, since discovering their store in a recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky, is a company called Penzeys Spices.  They search around the world for the best spices so that we can create and enjoy foods.  Their bumper sticker says it all: “Love People.  Cook Them Tasty Food.”  Their catalog includes recipes from readers and artwork from kids.  I’m really not into catalogs, but I do enjoy the one from Penzeys.  One of the first issues I received featured a Chicken Paprikash recipe by someone named Balog and I thought, "What a concidence!" because the parents of James Balog live in the same town as I do (Vero Beach, Florida).  I kept reading and was indeed delighted to find myself reading an interview with James Balog, the photographer and explorer who is documenting the melting glaciers with time-lapse photography.  A quote from him really hit home: “I dream of a society focused not on money or markets but on quality and meaning, purpose and goodness.”  Good words to live by.
Sauces are a great way to kick up the flavor without a lot of calories.

For three good reasons, herbs are a favorite topic in our educational programs with kids.  One, because we distribute a lot of herb seeds, two, because we teach kids how to propagate, plant, and grow the seeds, and three, because we use fresh and dried herbs in all our kitchen programs.  But I find there are many adults who know little or nothing about growing and using fresh herbs in cooking.  Just yesterday an acquaintance stopped by my house after arriving in Vero Beach for the winter from her other home outside out New York City.  I gave her a pot of fresh basil to take to her winter home here.  She asked me how to take care of it and what to do with it.  It made me realize that the simple ways to flavor foods that I have grown up with I take for granted and not everyone knows how to play in the dirt! 
Keeping several pots of fresh herbs can make cooking fun for your family!

Sauces are the third way to add incredible flavor to foods.  One of the books I am reading now, In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart by Alice Waters, has great recipes from lots of chefs.  I have long admired Alice Waters because of her commitment to using locally grown foods and because of her Edible Education Foundation, a national movement to change the way children eat and how they learn about food in the public schools.  Her work inspires me to teach parents just like you that when you start making simple changes to eat real foods, the health – and lives – of America’s children - YOUR children - will improve. 

Here are links to resources you can use:

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013



Last month I wrote a column about great breakfasts.  Now let’s talk about great lunches.  Since February is American Heart Month, we are going to keep the conversation going about how to keep our ticker ticking.  For a healthy heart, parents need to be aware of the importance of getting to – and staying at – a healthy weight.  What we feed our kids is a matter of great importance, because if they are categorized as obese when they are children, they are much more likely to be obese as adults.  Eating 3 small meals and a couple of small snacks every day is key to a successful plan for staying at a healthy weight. 

LUNCH IS A MEAL WE NEED TO EAT EVERY DAY.  Are you a parent who packs a lunch for your child (or children) every day?  What about your own lunch?  Do you skip lunch?  What are your kids eating for lunch?  Are you eating a lot of junk foods?  Sodas?  Cookies?  Are there Burger King wrappers in the car when you pick up your kids from school?  We are the role models for our kids, so whatever you eat, your kids are watching you, even if they don't say anything now.  

LUNCH IS ONE OF THE MEALS WHEN WE NEED A SERVING OF CALCIUM.  When you are planning lunches, for your kids or you, remember to include the calcium.  Kids need their 3 servings of calcium every day for healthy bones and teeth.  Adults need 3 servings of calcium for our heart health.  We all need calcium to get a good night’s sleep!  Remember that there are dairy sources of calcium (think milk, cheese, and yogurt) and non-dairy sources (think almonds and broccoli). 

GREAT LUNCH TIP #1:  Use dinner leftovers as the basis for a healthy lunch.  At my house, I plan dinners and cook a little extra so I can take leftovers for lunch the next day (and make all my coworkers ask me what smells so good!).   When I make a fresh fruit salad or a chopped green salad, I always make a little extra for lunch the next.  Package up a couple of slices of your child’s favorite cheese.  Place a serving of freshly prepared tuna salad in a beautiful container, add an oat bran pita cut into quarters, and you’ve got a healthy lunch that will have all the kids in the cafeteria (or your coworkers at the office) wanting to trade lunches. 

Use Barilla Whole Grain Rotini for a delicious pasta salad your kids will love!
GREAT LUNCH TIP #2:  Include whole grains in your kids’ lunchboxes.  One great suggestion is to make a whole grain pasta salad for dinner.  Just make a little extra for lunches the next day.  After dinner, let the kids pick out their favorite container and pack up some pasta salad for their school lunch, adding the right amount of parmesan cheese on top. 

Creating customized LUNCHABLES can be fun using in-season fruits and veggies!

GREAT LUNCH TIP #3:  Pack either fresh in-season fruit or vegetables as part of a healthy lunch AND as a source of dietary fiber, which is what fills us up.  Right now in Florida, we’re getting the delicious Plant City strawberries in the markets and I can’t get enough of them at my house!  Pears are a fabulous source of dietary fiber.  Cut up a fresh apple into slices (add a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation) and pack a few slices of your child’s favorite cheddar cheese for a great lunch combo.  Or pack celery strips with a 1 ounce container of almond butter. 

All these ideas have received the Growing Healthy Kids Seal of Approval and are recommended for kids everywhere!  

For more healthy lunch box ideas, here are 3 resources parents can use:

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



February is a great month to learn about fiber.  This is American Heart Month and one great way to improve our heart’s health is to eat plenty of foods high in dietary fiber such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lentils and split peas. 

Half of your lunch and dinner plate should be fruits and veggies.

Lentil burger on a whole grain flatbread bun.  

I frequently write about the importance of dietary fiber because too many of us eat too little of it.  Too little fiber is a major contributor to our obesity epidemic.  When we are overweight or obese, our hearts have to work harder. 

Here are some facts and tips for parents:
  • Fiber is what fills us up and prevents us from overeating. 
  • Fiber is the GOOD kind of carbohydrate.
  • It is only found in plant foods.
  •  It is NOT found in foods that come from animals. 
  • Every day we need 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories  consumed (around 28 grams of fiber based on 2,000 calories a day).
  • As you increase your dietary fiber, increase the amount of water you drink.
  • Read food labels of the foods your kids eat most often to check for grams of dietary fiber.
  • Use “THE NANCY RULE” for buying breads and pastas:

  1. Choose products with 4 OR MORE grams of dietary fiber per slice or per serving AND
  2. The first ingredient includes the word “WHOLE”.

Here are links to great resources on fiber, heart health, and weight loss parents can use: and

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, February 6, 2013



February is American Heart Month.  This is the month when we raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of heart disease and steps we can take (like walking every day) to prevent heart disease.

The human heart - the engine for human life.  Take care of your engine so it can take care of you.

If you have heart disease, such as high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol in your family, AND you are overweight, did you know that losing as little as 5 to 10% of your weight can have a substantial impact on lowering your blood pressure and improving your cholesterol?  It's true.  One of the primary reasons why I started the Growing Healthy Kids movement and focus on solutions to childhood obesity was because of the results I saw among adults in my wellness classes who became educated about how they could get to a healthier weight and come off insulin and blood pressure medicines. When I worked with older adults taking ten or twelve medications and a couple of months later they started coming off their medications as their weight came down, I knew we had to take bold action to educate parents. 

Children who are overweight and obese are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.  Children are being medicated with drugs that have never been tested on children.  Children who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as teenagers will live about 17 years less than normal.  

We know that children who are not at healthy weights will have shorter lifespans than our lifespans - UNLESS WE BECOME EDUCATED AND COMMIT TO HALT, REVERSE, AND PREVENT CHILDHOOD child at a time. 

The best prescription we can write is one for education.  Education for parents about how to cut back the saturated fats in foods, like switching from whole milk to 2% or 1% milk.  Cutting back on trips to McDonald's for 10 piece orders of McNuggets and burgers and fries loaded with 3 days worth of sodium - and a guaranteed case of high blood pressure sooner, not later.  Education for teachers, principals and cafeteria managers, so that they will do whatever it takes - no matter what - to bring in locally grown fruits and vegetables to their school cafeterias.  Education for our business leaders so they will invest in the health of America's children through their employees' own health literacy.  

Being overweight is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease.  It ranks up at the top, just like smoking.  American Heart Month, in my opinion, should be all about America’s problem with eating the wrong kinds of foods and not exercising enough.  Too much of the wrong foods and not enough of the right foods.  Too much salt will raise your blood pressure.  Eating more calories than you need will cause you to gain weight.  Eating too much fat - mainly too much of the bad fats (saturated and trans) - leads to heart disease.

Obesity and heart disease are connected, just like heart disease and diabetes are connected.  If you have diabetes, for example, you are at 2-4 times higher risk for a heart attack or a stroke than someone without diabetes.   Heart attacks are the number one cause of death in the United States.  

Everything is connected.  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”  (quote by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club)

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or diabetes in your family, take a few minutes to watch this clip from THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION.  It might just change your life by motivating you to start making small changes that will lead to big results.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

PS - Growing Healthy Kids will be hosting screenings of THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION in 2013 as part of our Wellness Wednesdays series.  If your organization would like to collaborate with us on a screening, please contact me at  I look forward to hearing from you!