Wednesday, December 18, 2013



"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." 

                                                   --Nelson Mandela

When it comes to the health of our children, parents agree on one thing:  we will do whatever it takes. 

The Growing Healthy Kids movement is improving parents’ knowledge about the foods to eat more of as well as the foods to eat less of, plus the importance adding regular, healthy doses of physical fun and fitness.  Our education programs teach kids and adults how simple it is to eat well.  We empower them with knowledge and skills to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity-related cancers and other preventable diseases.  Learning to eat smart  helps children get to – and stay at – healthy weights.  The key to our children living lives longer than ours – not shorter - is teaching them how to make lifelong habits of eating foods that are good for us and planning fitness into each day to prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases. 

Lessons children learn in our kitchen classroom are what I fondly call THE RECIPE FOR GROWING HEALTHY KIDS.  Here is the list of 5 essential ingredients:

FACT:  Kids will learn better when they start the day with a burst of protein. 
About ¼ of what we eat should be protein.  Choose to eat fish at least 2 times a week.  Choose lean, low-fat proteins.  Avoid or limit meats loaded with fat. 
GHK TIP:  Include protein in your kids’ breakfast every day.

FACT:  There are 3 kinds of fats: one is good and two are the bad kinds of fats.  Most of the fats we eat should be the good fats.
Good fats:  unsaturated fat
Sources of unsaturated fat:  nuts, fish, liquid vegetable oils, flax seeds, avocados
Bad fats:  saturated fat and trans fats
Sources of saturated fats:  any food that comes from an animal (meat, chicken, ice-cream, cheese, milk (except for skim milk), etc.)Sources of trans fats:  look on food labels for any ingredient that includes the words "partially hydrogenated”
GHK TIP:  Make most of your fats the “good” kind and eat fish at least twice a week.

FACT:  There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates.  Most of the carbs we eat should be the good fats.

The good carbohydrate:  dietary fiber
Sources of dietary fiber:  vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, lentils, split peas
Why we need dietary fiber:  Fiber is only found in foods that come from plants.  Fiber is what fills us up.  Aim for 28-35 grams of dietary fiber a day.   Most children (and adults) eat far less dietary fiber than their bodies need. 

The bad carbohydrate:  sugar
Sources of sugar:  sodas, candy, processed foods, most breakfast cereals, energy drinks, fruit juices. 
GHK TIP:  Choose breads and pastas that have “4 or more” grams of dietary fiber per slice or per serving.  Check the Nutrition Facts label and limit foods that have more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.   Learn the difference between good and bad carbs and use this knowledge when you and your kids are grocery shopping.  

FACT:  Water is the fluid we need to drink the most of.  Most people drink far less water than they need.  Drink water, not soda.  Aim for 8 glasses of water a day.

Did you know that getting enough sleep is key to losing weight and staying at a healthy weight?   Provide guidance for your children so they have a regular bedtime to ensure they are getting plenty of sleep every night.  
GHK TIP:  Establish “sleep hygiene” habits such as turning off the TV, the computer, cell phones, and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime and not drinking caffeinated drinks in the evening to wake up feeling refreshed every morning.

From our expanding recipe collection from the Growing Healthy Kids' Test Kitchen, I am happy to share this amazing variation on a traditional pesto recipe.  It features walnuts, a great source of good fats and omega-3s, and parsley, which has incredible benefits as an anti-inflammatory. 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

  • ·        1-1/2 cups walnuts
  • ·        2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ·        Crushed red pepper
  • ·        Sea salt
  • ·        ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • ·        ½ cup EVOO*
  • ·        ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes, or until golden.  Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a mortar, mash the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt until a paste forms.  Add the walnuts and parsley and pound to a coarse paste.  Slowly add the olive oil, pounding and stirring until blended.  Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt. Serve over roasted vegetables or whole grain pasta.

NOTE:  You can also make this in a food processor, quickly pulsing the ingredients.

*Extra virgin olive oil 

Education IS the most important weapon we can use to change the world.  Start with your own world and educate yourself family about the importance of reading food labels to identify foods containing the good carbs and good fats. Include some protein in your children's breakfasts every morning.  Every child deserves access to healthy foods and daily activity, beginning with YOUR children.  

In gratitude,

Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids