Wednesday, August 1, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Making Healthy Babies


“If I had my life to live over, instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.”
                                                                       --Erma Bombeck

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Thinking of getting pregnant?  There are so many things to consider if you are.  One of the best things that we can do is ensure that parents are healthy before they start thinking about making a baby.  Planning a pregnancy and making a baby means first making a commitment to quit smoking, to exercise, eat right, and avoid alcohol and drugs.  It also means getting to a healthy weight. 

The fact is that when a girl or woman becomes pregnant, being at an unhealthy weight increases her risk for a “high risk pregnancy” and delivering a baby with health complications. 

If you know someone who is thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with them about the importance of getting to a healthy weight first.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity was 39.8%, affecting 93.3 Americans in 2015-2016.  

It is time we dare to get embarrassed and talk with those we love about being at a healthy weight as part of prepregnancy planning.  Raising the awareness of this important step can help ensure that we are truly Growing Healthy Kids.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Moving Towards Health


“The poultry industry commonly injects chicken carcasses with salt water to artificially inflate their weight, yet they can still be labelled “100 percent natural.” Consumer Reports found that some supermarket chickens were pumped so full of salt that they registered a whopping 840 mg of sodium per serving – that could mean more than a full day’s worth of sodium in just one chicken breast.” 
                                       --from How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D.


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Factory farming of chickens is a brutal practice.  
The factory farming of animals in the U.S. says so much about our country. If we truly are to be an ethical society, then how can we tolerate the inhumane treatment of millions of animals who are slaughtered for food?  More than 8.8 billion chickens and 115 million pigs are factory farmed for food in the U.S. annually.  


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Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the U.S. and is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2018.  Fast food restaurants like McDonald's have gained a strong foothold outside of the U.S. Considering that we are what we eat, it is no wonder that colon cancer rates in Japan are as bad as they are in the U.S., “a rise that has been attributed in part to the fivefold increase in meat consumption,” according to Dr. Michael Greger.  A diet high in red meat and processed meats like hot dogs and salami is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. 

We can all move towards health by embracing the fact that we don’t need to eat animals to be healthy and to thrive. Hidden sources of sodium, such as when chickens are injected with sodium to artificially inflate their weight, are dangerous for people with, or at risk for, high blood pressure.  Considering that most people should limit their daily sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day, sodium intake can add up fast.  

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Aerial view of factory farming of animals. 

Preventing cancer, high blood pressure, and other conditions occurs when we increase our awareness about what real food is and where it comes from.  We need a food supply that does not pollute our waters, poisons us with toxins, and makes us sick. 

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How people think all chickens are raised. 

Choosing to follow a whole food plant-based way of eating is up to each of us.  It is better for our health, the health of our families, the ethical treatment of animals, and the health and sustainability of our planet.  It is a simple step for moving towards health. 

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Cleaning Out Your Brain


“Contrary to the current dogma, therefore, what is referred to as Alzheimer’s disease is actually a protective response to, specifically, three different processes: inflammation, suboptimal levels of nutrients and other synapse-supporting molecules, and toxic exposures.”
                                              --Dale Bredesen, MD, The End of Alzheimer’s

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You probably take a shower or a bath every day.  If you live in the tropics, like me, you may bathe 2 or 3 times a day.  A shower always makes you feel fresh and recharged.

What about your brain?  Did you ever think about what you can do to keep it clean, fresh, and recharged?

“Deep sleep is like a power cleanse for the brain,” according to Lisa Genova, neuroscientist and author of Still Alice, from a TED talk in April 2017.  Dale Bredesen, MD, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, also believes in the power of adequate sleep for protecting brain health. 

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Getting a good night’s sleep is important.  It certainly tops the list of my favorite activities!  On the infrequent nights when I can’t turn off my brain and I get only a few hours of sleep, I just don’t function well the next day. What we do know is that while we sleep, our brain does its housekeeping work.  Those who do not get enough sleep also are at higher risk for being at an unhealthy weight.d

Here are 5 tips for good sleep hygiene:
  1. Have a regular bedtime most of the time. 
  2. An hour before bedtime, power down yourself.  Turn down lights and turn off media.  Use this special quiet time to read or listen to music.
  3. Do not keep your cell phone right next to your bed.  Keep it at least 10 feet away from your head, and ideally, in another room.  This is especially important for kids. 
  4. Eat dinner at least 4 hours before sleep. Eating a meal right before sleep will interfere with sleep and prevent your brain from doing its housekeeping work. 
  5. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep (adults).  Kids need more. 

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Is Plant-Based Eating Good for Kids?


"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.  If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital."  
                                                                                     --Neal Barnard, MD

When I work with an adult with uncontrolled diabetes, I start by asking how many medications they take daily.  The answer is almost always ten or more.  Patients with diabetes are told, “once on insulin, always on insulin.”  They are prescribed medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  They may also be taking meds for neuropathy, depression and sleep.  One way we use to gauge success in reversing diabetes is when the individual can reduce or eliminate prescription medicines because they no longer need them.

Doctors are well trained in writing prescriptions and treating diseases.  Doctors are not trained in using food as medicine to reverse diseases. 

Lentil vegetable soup
The evidence is clear:  a whole food plant-based way of eating is key to good health and reversing diseases such as diabetes.  

Is a plant-based lifestyle healthy for kids?  Absolutely yes!! Is fruit good for kids?  Are vegetables good for kids? Whole grains?  Legumes?  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good for everyone! Besides being an ideal way to eat, plant-based eating is also the most ethical way to eat.  On behalf of people, planet, and prosperity, parents should consider the future health of their children by learning about the cruelty inflicted on animals raised for food on factory farms.  Watch "Forks Over Knives" or "What the Health". Kids eating chicken McNuggets, burgers, and dairy products are more susceptible to asthma, gastrointestinal issues, cancer, skin problems, sleep apnea, heart disease, and obesity.    

I have yet to meet a parent who wants their kids to grow up and develop diabetes.  Let's stop the hemorrhaging and insanity caused by the consumption of inflammatory foods like meat and chicken.  Did you know the average American will eat about 222 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018?  

For delicious recipes and inspiration, check out what Chef Charity Morgan is cooking. She became a vegan chef when her husband, a player for the Tennessee Titans football team, gave up eating meat and became a vegan.  Now half the team is vegan.  Click here to go to Chef Charity's website.  

A must-read book for parents is Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right.

As an advocate for children's health, I strongly believe in the whole food plant-based lifestyle and its ability to prevent and reverse diseases.  Take a look at the resources I have included in this article and then talk with your family.  Together, we can improve the health - and lives - of America's children. 

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Literacy Matters


"Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice.  And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones.  Literacy will be dead and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well."  
                                                                  --Margaret Atwood 

Learning to read and spell are basic skills.  We have a responsibility to ensure that all kids learn these skills.



According to The Learning Alliance, in the U.S. only 36% of kids are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.  The consequence is that fourth graders who are not reading at grade level are likely to become our country’s lowest income, least skilled, least productive, and most costly citizens.  I would add that they will also become our least healthy citizens.

I believe that literacy is directly related to health literacy.  Not being able to read is a factor in whether or not an individual will enjoy a lifelong passion for learning.   

In every Growing Healthy Kids cooking class, we bring a dry erase board and a big bag of colorful dry erase markers.  The kids are charged with writing and decorating the day’s menu board.  The rule is that everything must be spelled correctly by the end of the class. Kids flinch and make faces about the rule but it matters.  Eating fruits and vegetables matter.  Knowing how to spell them correctly does too.



Spelling has always been one of my “things”.  I joke that I was an editor in another life because of my passion for the written word.  When I write, my goal is that the finished document will have perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  Growing up in California, my elementary school teachers emphasized spelling lessons. Class assignments were returned to students with corrections duly noted with the teacher’s red pencil circled around the offending misspelled word.  I am so grateful to my teachers and my parents for ensuring that I learned to read and spell.

Writing is a basic skill that must be learned early in life and practiced all of our lives. Spellcheck and autocorrect are not substitutes for the basic skill that comes from learning how to spell correctly.  Kids now expect their computers to make the corrections for them.  I see the results in every class we teach as kids struggle with spelling ingredients and reading food labels.



While health literacy is key to the mission of Growing Healthy Kids, so is knowing how to spell A-P-P-L-E.  

Have a blessed Fourth of July!

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Avoiding Added Sugars

"The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison."  
                                                                    --Ann Wigmore

When was the last time you read a food label to look for hidden sugars?  Food manufacturers are counting on the fact that most people don't read food labels to see what is in the food you eat.

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Sugar is either natural sugar and added sugar.  Natural sugar is what you find in fruit (fresh, frozen, and canned).  Use caution with canned fruit, however, because it may be in a syrup containing added sugar.  Most or all of the sugar we eat and drink should be natural sugar.  Fruit contains dietary fiber which slows down the absorption of the sugar in the bloodstream.  Added sugars are not the same as natural sugar.  High fructose corn syrup, considered one of the worst added sugars, is highly processed with "empty" calories, no nutritional value, and no dietary fiber.   

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Teaching kids (and parents) how to identify added sugars in processed foods like breakfast cereals, frozen foods, and drinks can improve health literacy and health status. 

Here are 5 steps to start eliminating added sugars:

Step 1:  Locate the “Nutrition Facts” rectangle on the food package or drink bottle. 
Step 2:  Look below the rectangle for the “Ingredients” list.  
Step 3:  Is high fructose corn syrup a listed ingredient? 
Step 4:  Do you see any other ingredients that end in “-ose”?   
Step 5:  If you answered “yes” in step 3 and/or 4, avoid that food in the future or at least cut back on how much you consume.  Look for a similar food with less or no added sugar.

All ingredients that end in “-ose” are sugars.  Excessive consumption of added sugars can result in an unhealthy weight or contribute to development of diabetes or cancer. 

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