Wednesday, April 11, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Obesity in Young Women

"The abundance of cheap food with low nutritional value in the Western diet has wreaked havoc on our health; in America, one third of children and two thirds of adults are overweight or obese and are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
                                                                   --Ellen Gustafson

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When I travel, I love to watch people.  On a recent trip, I was acutely aware of how many young women were obese.  I saw women in their 20’s struggling to walk, sometimes struggling to breath.  Every one of these overweight and obese women wore more layers of clothes that anyone else, even in hot weather.  Whether it was shopping at Costco, passing through airports, or eating in restaurants, I saw America through the eyes of unhealthy adult women.  
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults in the U.S. have obesity.  Kids who have obesity are at increased risk of obesity in adulthood.  One reason for concern if a woman is obese (or overweight) as an adult is when she becomes pregnant.  There are real consequences to the health of the child born to a woman who is obese, just as there are risks to the health of the mother. 

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Being born to a healthy mother – and father - is one commitment all children should expect.  Being overweight or obese during pregnancy places the person at higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).  Being obese as a young woman often carries lifelong psychological scars. 

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Teaching young women about the importance of healthy eating, regular physical activity, good sleep habits, and being at a healthy weight is something schools should be teaching, doctors should be talking about and programs such as Healthy Start should embrace and honor.  

Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits and Vegetables

We owe it to ourselves to become aware of what it means to practice good health habits every day.  More importantly, we owe it to America’s next generation because our children's health depends on our own health.   

Eat real food - whole food, plant-based.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  Be active every day.  Make good sleep a priority.  Avoid processed foods.  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: My Love Affair with Walnuts

"People need to eat whole food plant foods, primarily whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  That diet supports our lives.  We ought to live to be 90 or 100 without any diseases."  
                    --John Mackey, co-founder and current CEO of Whole Foods Market

Perhaps it was growing up with a walnut tree outside my bedroom window in Sacramento, California.  My mother would pay us to bag walnuts.  I learned how to carefully shell walnuts, often eating more than made it into the pile for cooking and baking later.

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Many years later, I learned that gently toasting walnuts makes their flavor pop.  When I made my first walnut-basil pesto, I knew I could eat freshly made pesto and Italian pasta every day!  

Walnuts are considered the healthiest of all the nuts.  Like other nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts), they are made primarily of unsaturated fats, the good fat, and are very good for us – in moderation, of course.  Unlike most other nuts, walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (essential because they are not made by the body, you have to get them from food).  Foods containing omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as walnuts, flax seeds (use ground only please), wild salmon and olive oil are good for your heart health, preventing anxiety and depression, improving bipolar disorder, improving triglycerides, and reducing inflammation.

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A couple of years ago, someone told me about the “God’s Pharmacy” video on  In this video, key foods are connected with the health of organs in the body.  Walnuts actually look like little brains and are connected to brain health because of their nutritional value to the brain.  

No wonder I have always had a love affair with walnuts.  This special nut has been a part of my life in a big way since moving to Sacramento when I was five.  

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Walnuts make delicious, easy snacks.  They greatly increase the nutritional density of recipes.  They give baked good a nice crunchy texture.  After all, what would zucchini bread or carrot muffins be without walnuts? 

Let's ensure that kids develop healthy brains and have access to foods that can promote good moods, prevent depression and memory disorders.

Please store walnuts in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness.  To find some of my favorite walnut recipes, go to or click here.

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Teaching Kids to Cook

"Cooking is all about people.  Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring people together.  No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat."  
                                                                                                   --Guy Fieri

Restaurants don’t make healthy food and one-third of Americans don’t know how to cook.  No wonder so many Americans are unhealthy.

When our country was in a crisis during World War II, food was rationed. Americans were asked to start Victory Gardens so they would have their own sources for food.  

We could sure use some Victory Gardens now.  There is another food crisis caused by the explosion of unhealthy, processed, and convenience food and the overconsumption of sugar, salt, and bad fats. Kids are facing shorter lifespans than adults due to obesity, obesity-related diseases like diabetes, and poor health status at young ages. 

When parents don’t know how to cook or don’t make the time to prepare food at home, they cannot teach their children how to cook.  In my work as Wellness Architect for Growing Healthy Kids, I encounter thousands of children who don’t know how to make a simple vinaigrette dressing for a chopped green salad or how to make a basic tomato soup.  In my work assisting youth and young adults with disabilities on their paths towards employment, I encounter individuals who have no idea how to cook, who eat mainly highly processed, unhealthy foods, and who are overweight or obese because no one ever thought that teaching them how to cook simple, healthy recipes mattered. 

If kids don’t know how to cook, they will be slaves to the processed food industry and will be at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and decreased life spans.  They will be forced to eat in restaurants and fast food places that don’t care if your blood sugar is under control or if your leg is amputated when you are twenty-five because you developed diabetes when you were fifteen. 

It does matter if kids know how to cook or not.  

All children deserve access to healthy foods.  All children need to know how to cook as a step towards their personal independence.  If kids don’t learn how to cook, how to identify healthy ingredients, then adults are failing by not giving them the tools they need to live independent lives. 

Shop.  Chop.  Cook.  Repeat.  
With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Roundup is Robbing Our Children

"We won't have a society if we destroy the environment."  

                                                             --Margaret Mead

Image result for roundup weed killer "org"I really hate perfect lawns.  

At a recent workshop sponsored by Pelican Island Audubon Society, presenters talked about how herbicides being used at island homes and golf courses are washing into the Intracoastal Waterway, destroying its health, causing massive algae blooms, and killing animals and fish.  

Go into your favorite big box home improvement store and you will see huge displays of Roundup.  

The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate.  Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, is used to kill weeds.  Monsanto created glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops to allow farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops.  Most corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. 

Glyphosate is now widespread in our soil, water, and air.  A physician passionate about raising the flag about how destructive glyphosate is to human and environmental health is Zach Bush, MD, a triple board certified (internal medicine, endocrinology, and palliative care) physician.   Dr. Bush is educating people about how the toxicity of glyphosate is directly related to gut health, the epidemic of Autism (1 in 88 kids in 2012 to 1 in 44 in 2016), the high prevalence of chronic diseases in children (46%), and other effects from our increased exposure to toxins like glyphosate in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we shower and bathe in and the water we drink. 

Never has it been more true that “we are what we eat.”

Here is what you can do:
  • Do not use Roundup on your yard. 
  • Buy foods that are non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).
  • Support local farmers who grow non-GMO foods and follow organic growing practices. 
  • Start growing your own food using non-GMO seeds, even if it is one tomato or zucchini plant.* 

Time to go outside and pull a few weeds!  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*One of my favorite sources for non-GMO seeds is High Mowing Organic Seeds.    

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


"Energy drinks and energy shots, heavily marketed to adolescents and young adults, accounted for $6.9 billion in sales in the United States in 2012.  A 2011 AAP* statement cautioned that children and adolescents should not consume energy drinks because of their high content of caffeine and sugar." 
                                       --Andrew Weil, MD, from Mind over Meds            

Kids enrolled a Growing Healthy Kids education program
meet local farmers in Vero Beach, FL.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who have obesity are more likely to have:
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
  • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
  • Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux.

Other health risks related to childhood obesity include:
Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
  • Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life.
  • Social problems such as bullying and stigma.

Future health risks include:
Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity.  
Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are more like to be more severe.  

Here are 5 tips parents can use to teach your kids to eat for life:  
1.  Take your kids to local farmers markets and meet the people who are growing food near you.
2.  Every week, let the kids pick out a vegetable or fruit they have not tried; research recipes and prepare it together.  
3.  Read food labels and choose foods with less ingredients, not more. 
4.  Use foods that contain dietary fiber in every meal (i.e., oats and fruit for breakfast, green salads for lunch, roasted veggies and whole grains like brown rice for dinner). 
5.  Use “The Nancy Rule” to choose healthy breads and pastas:  4 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving and the first ingredient includes the word “whole”. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

*American Academy of Pediatrics

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: People, Planet, Prosperity

“One of the major factors contributing to global warming is industrial meat production.”
         --Noam Chomsky, cognitive scientist, philosopher, from the film, Vegan 2017

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Changing how we think about food is essential to our planet's survival.  

Changing the question from, “Are you getting enough protein?” to “Are you getting enough dietary fiber?” is essential for reversing the growing numbers of people diagnosed with preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. 

America's obsession with protein needs to be shaken up for the sake of our health and the health of our planet.   Animal protein is strongly associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.  Foods from animals contain saturated fats (the “bad” fats) and are solid at room temperature - and on the inside of your blood vessels).  Foods with saturated fats include: beef, chicken, pork, milk (excluding fat-free milk), cheese, and cream. 

To have a healthy planet for our children, we can grow and eat foods that are good for us, not disease-causing. People often tell me that buying healthy food is too expensive.  My response is always the same, "You think it is expensive to eat healthy?  Getting cancer is a lot more expensive."   

One change we can make to protect the planet’s future is embrace plant-based eating and pivot away from a food culture based on the inhumane factory farming of animals to meet America’s artificial demand for meat and dairy products.  

According to data from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, revised calculations of methane produced per head of cattle show that global livestock emissions in 2011 were 11% higher than estimates.  Increasing levels of methane are contributing to climate change and the effect on weather all over the world, according to an article published September 29, 2017 in The Guardian. 

To learn more about America’s obsession with animal protein, read Proteinaholic by Garth Davis, MD.  To learn how much protein is right for you based on your age, gender, height and weight, go to (or click here) and click on “calculator”.  You will be surprised at how little protein you really need.   

We have been deceived by the food industry's advertising campaigns that promote eating animal protein, such as the "Beef-It's What's for Dinner" and the milk mustache campaigns.  Eating too much protein, especially animal protein, is making us sick. 

I have always believed that when we care about the food we eat, treat animals ethically, focus on preventing diseases instead of treating them, then we will be able to get our fragile planet out of the emergency room and back to health.   

Lettuce and herbs growing on the author's Tower Garden

Eat real food.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


"Our taxes are being used to subsidize the production of foods that are killing us."  
                                --T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., from "Vegan 2017"

When I walk in a grocery store and look at prepared and processed foods, I am shocked by how expensive foods with cheap ingredients are.  In the checkout line, I always find myself mentally comparing what's in my cart, with organic brown rice, lentils, quinoa, plus fruit that is in season, to other shoppers with their meat, chicken, deli cheeses, and boxes of mac and cheese.  My weekly food bill is so much less than those who eat animal products and processed foods every day.  

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Next time you go shopping, remember that the only thing that matters is the ingredients.  Can you pronounce them?  How many ingredients are there?  5 or 25?  Any food dyes such as Red 40, Blue 1 (food dyes contribute to attention deficit disorder)?  How many hidden ingredients end in "-ose" (i.e., sugars)?  If the product contains grains, does the ingredient list include the word "whole" as in whole grains?  Anything other than the ingredient list on a food package is pure marketing.  

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If you and your family are interested in saving money on your food bill AND preventing diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure, then eat the whole food plant-based way!  Buy foods where you know what the ingredients are.  If you can't pronounce them and you don't know what they are, then it is probably a chemical or artificial ingredient and not good for you.  

It is no longer OK for us to blindly buy foods that will only make us sick.


With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.