Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Since writing last week's column, The High Cost of Eating Cheap, I've have several conversations with parents which have caused me to lose sleep.  

This country has become The Fast Food Nation with an unhealthy reliance on highly processed, cheap foods and the result is a nation full of sick children.  Educating parents and grandparents about the good foods that kids need is what WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS is all about and I am even more passionate about the mission of the Growing Healthy Kids movement than ever before.  I have always believed that parents need to be educated about the relationship between what kids eat and the health of their kids.  If kids are not healthy, they will not be able to concentrate at school and to learn their ABCs and 123s.  I keep receiving lessons that grandparents also need education.

Let me share happenings from this week.  

One morning, while visiting a local elementary school at breakfast time, I stopped by the school cafeteria to take a look at what the kids were eating.  Keep in mind that the official position of the school district is that they are making great improvements to what the food choices are for the kids.  Most, if not all, of the kids who eat their breakfast at school qualify for the free and reduced meal program which means the kids eat for "free".  What I saw saddened me.  Believe me when I say that I believe that some food, even bad food, is better than no food.  Most of the kids were eating a tray full of white sugar.  Most were drinking the strawberry milk (it is fat-free, but what the staff won't tell you is that each carton contains a whooping 7 teaspoons of added sugar).  The day I was there I saw waffles made with white flour, topped with artificial maple syrup, lots of plastics bag of apple juice, and cinnamon toast.  Didn't see any protein for the brain power they need in class.  Didn't see any whole grains to give kids a sustained source of energy.  All I saw was sugar and lots of it.  Kids need breakfast.  Make sure your kids are getting what they need, not what is cheap and easy.  The elementary school cafeteria is where you will find the intersection of hunger and childhood obesity.  If you don't believe me, then go have breakfast at your local elementary school.  

I received a call from a parent who got my name at a school presentation.  She called asking for help with her young daughter's recent weight gain.  The daughter, due to a recent family relocation, just spent the past several months living with grandparents while her parents worked getting the rest of the family moved to their new home.  While the young girl lived with her grandparents, they apparently didn't say "no" to the child's food requests for ice-cream, hot dogs and McDonald's.  The mother and I have had several long conversations about how to make small changes to put the brakes on all the cheap, easy foods that are most likely the culprit in the child's rapid weight gain.  Two recommendations I made were to switch from whole milk to 1% milk and to limit trips to McDonald's to no more than once a month.  

The cool thing that happened this week was the grand opening of the new hydroponic garden at Vero Beach Elementary School, where Growing Healthy Kids is conducting a monthly wellness program for parents and their children.   Kids are now able to see real food grow as part of their school lessons and to taste the goodness and freshness all for themselves.  I am so excited about what is happening at Vero Beach Elementary School because it can be a model program for teaching kids and also their parents and grandparents that eating plant-based foods is so much better for your health than the highly processed cheap foods you find on the dollar menu at McDonald's or in the boxes in the middle of your favorite grocery store.   

In keeping with my promise to share tips with you, America's parents, here is a list of 20 basic pantry ingredients for your kitchen:

  1. red lentils
  2. brown lentils
  3. garbanzos
  4. split peas - green and yellow
  5. white beans - Great Northern or navy
  6. black beans
  7. pinto beans
  8. rolled oats
  9. basmati rice
  10. quinoa
  11. multigrain cereal
  12. dried whole grain pasta - spaghetti, penne, lasagna
  13. couscous - white for pilaf and whole wheat for breakfast cereal
  14. pearl barley 
  15. ground flax seeds (look for Bob's Red Mill brand)
  16. sunflower seeds
  17. walnuts
  18. pecans
  19. almonds
  20. apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the brand I recommend)

My advice to parents?  Limit the ice-cream or McDonald's for your children.  Ice-cream or an order of McDonald's french fries every day results in SUPER SIZED CHILDREN.  McDonald's once a month might be OK, but McDonald's once a week or more often will be detrimental to your children's health.  The food engineers are working at creating addictive food flavors.  The result of eating cheap food is a sicker generation of kids with shorter lives than ours.  That is an option we cannot afford.  Eat real food! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.