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.