Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Creating a Legacy of Health: Educating Parents

Image result for family eating dinner

“Because if we don’t, who will?"

Since Growing Healthy Kids was founded in 2009, our mission has always been laser focused on creating and deploying solutions that prevent, halt, and reverse childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.  We deliberately work at two levels:  (1) educating children in our hands-on healthy cooking and garden programs such as the Nutrition Scientist program and (2) educating parents, especially those with diabetes, in workshops and healthy cooking classes.  Oh, what fun we have had!

When you start out early with good healthy habits and access to healthy foods, you will have those habits for a lifetime.  We have experienced firsthand that it is much easier to teach a 1st or 2nd grader to make good food choices than to teach a 9th or 10th grader who has been raised on honeybuns for breakfast, chips and soda for lunch and McDonald's for dinner.  We have gotten really good at answering the most common question from skeptical parents: “How can I afford to feed my kids healthy foods?”  

Here are 10 fabulous and real simple tips for parents to help you create a legacy of health for your children:
  1. Cook dinner at home.  Let your children help you. If they don’t learn to cook at home, they certainly won’t learn how to cook from going through the drive-through window at McDonald's.  This is an essential skill that all kids need as part of the solution to childhood obesity.  Our belief is that all kids need to know how to cook 10 basic recipes by the time they turn 10 (our "10 by 10" rule).  For some ideas, check out our book, NOURISH AND FLOURISH: Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes, available at  Pick up a copy for your family and buy an extra copy to donate to your local library. 
  2. Buy fresh, locally grown vegetables.  Take your kids to the farmers market.  Teach kids where real food comes from.  Meet the people who grow it.  This will encourage your children to seek out and enjoy real food. 
  3. Eat rainbows.  This concept is taught in every Growing Healthy Kids workshop.  We have it printed on our shirts and our aprons.  Teach kids to eat vegetables and fruits that are the colors of the rainbows.  Variety really IS the spice of life.
  4. Eat dinner together.  I know it won’t be every night for many families.  My son was in the marching band for all 4 years he was at Vero Beach High School so I know from experience.   Do, however, set aside at least 3 nights a week to eat together as a family.  Set the table.  Put all the cell phones in a basket in another room.  Light some soy candles.  Talk about the day.  Learning how to relax and dine is a habit that, sadly, many children never experience.  I know children who don’t have a dining table and eat dinner every night sitting in front of a TV. That is sad.  One of the best experiences in our Healthy Cooking classes for children is when we all sit down together to eat, laugh, and talk together.  Enjoy being together at mealtime as a family.
  5. Drink water, not soda.   
  6. No high fructose corn syrup.  Never buy foods or drinks containing high fructose corn syrup. Make this easy step your first strategy for eliminating added sugars and protecting your children’s health.
  7. Read food labels.  If there are ingredients you or your kids cannot pronounce, don’t buy it. Real simple. 
  8. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep is one of the risk factors in obesity.  If you get the right amount of sleep, your body is better able to do its job and process the food you eat during the day.   Makes sense. 
  9. Walk daily.  Real simple.  Plus it’s free!
  10. Laugh every day.  Send a joke in your child’s lunch box every day to school.  Read the funnies in the newspaper.  Watch comedies on your family’s weekly movie night.  Laughter is good for us.  Really good.   It relieves stress.  People who smile more also laugh more.  Smiling leads to happiness.  Happiness is healthy.  Happiness really is good for you!

What a fabulous year of WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS!   Thank you to all the children and parents who have played in the kitchen and on the farm with us.  Thank you to our collaborative partners including: Florida Veggies and More, Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County, Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program, Hope for Families Center (formerly Homeless Family Center), Gifford Youth Achievement Center, and Rotary Club of Vero Beach Sunrise.  Thank you to Bob's Red Mill, Publix Supermarkets, The Fresh Market, and Seminary Covenant Community for your support.  

Thank YOU for allowing Growing Healthy Kids to be a part of your life.  Being a parent is the best – and often the hardest – job we will ever have in our lifetimes.  Our children are our legacy.  Give them the gift of optimal health.  Because the best is yet to come!

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