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. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: How Much is Your Food Bill?

"God, I can push the grass apart and put my finger on Thy heart."  
                                    --Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet (1891-1950)

Radish microgreens from Zesty Fox Farms

Daikon radish and red potatoes (Aunt Zoraida's farm), honeybells (Schacht Groves)
and hydroponic tomatoes (Pure Produce Farm)
One of my favorite conversations with parents starts like this, “We can’t afford to eat healthy.” 

Recently, I had lunch with a health professional who said she and her husband had adopted a vegetarian way of eating before having their first child.  They have since resumed eating meat, chicken, and other foods from animals.  Now with two young children, they are saving to buy a home.  

In the process of looking at their budget, they have been amazed to learn how much more money they spend on food now that they are eating animal products compared to when they were vegetarians.  My friend’s comment was, “We had no idea it was so expensive to eat meat.  We are seriously thinking of going back to being vegetarians.”

There are so many health benefits to a plant-based way of eating, with its focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  Next time you go shopping, compare the price of a pound of lentils vs a pound of beef.  As my friend and her husband learned, it is expensive to eat meat.

Maybe we can't afford not to eat healthy...

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin N?

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." 
                                    --John Muir, father of the National Parks

A beautiful blue sky and palm trees

Selfie with the author, her mother and sister-in-law, Inger, on a Florida beach walk

The author in Mendocino, California with Pacific Ocean in background

The author hiking in Orgeon on a very cold day

Great blue herons in the Viera Wetands
Photo credit:  Edward Perry IV
Have you been outside lately?  Jogged on the beach?  Walked in a forest?  Enjoyed the solitude of the mountains? Listened to birds sing?

There is an epidemic affecting children's health that you won’t read about in newspapers or see on TV.  Kids are glued to their mobile devices.  Earbuds block their interaction with the real world.  Making eye contact is difficult, if not impossible.  They prefer texting over talking.  They are not learning how to play. Adults have accepted that technology is a normal part of life while neglecting to set boundaries for techology.  While kids may develop excellent hand-eye coordination skills playing videogames or texting, they are not getting their Vitamin N.

That is, Vitamin N as in Nature.  

Many kids today are suffering from nature deficit disorder, a term coined in 2005 by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods.  The lack of quality time outside connecting with the sky, trees, mountains, rivers, and beaches is affecting their balance, their physical health, their mental health, their attitudes about relationships, and the very core of their lives. 

Growing up in the West where rugged mountains, scenic rivers, and the wild beaches of northern California defined my childhood, I have always found my own peace when I am outside in nature.  Kids need that connection.  Spending time in nature is beneficial to our mental health and helping us stay connected to ourselves and to others. 

Starting right now, plan activities that take you and your children outside in nature.  Get a good dose of Vitamin N every day.  In my opinion, the minimum recommended daily allowance is an hour a day.  

On typical week days, I get a strong dose of Vitamin N via early morning walks, looking at the trees and watching the clouds, then a booster dose at the end of the workday relaxing in the back yard, enjoying the sunset while cardinals come to the bird feeder.  

On weekends, my goal is to obtain copious amounts of Vitamin N because of the high value I receive from playing outside in nature. 

How will your kids get their Vitamin N?  Reversing and preventing nature deficit disorder is one of the keys to raising Growing Healthy Kids. 

Go outside and play!

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” 
                                                             --Albert Einstein

While looking through Vero Beach Press Journal's weekly inserts of good works by good people, I always notice the photos of people where all or almost all of the people have obesity.  Large groups of large people.  They never look happy to me.   

Last weekend I ran into a classmate of my kid from high school and the marching band.  This young woman was always obese in high school but she has gained much more weight since graduation.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults. 

A friend recently posted pictures on Facebook with some of her “before” weight loss clothes and commented that she still feels obese in her mind even though she clearly is at a healthy weight now.  I have heard the same comment from others who have lost weight after bariatric surgery.  Even though they are thin now, they still think of themselves as obese.  That mental stigma did not go away for my friend and other people I know who have had the same weight loss surgery.   

The psychological effects of childhood obesity are rarely discussed.  All parents know how cruel kids can be.  When a child is obese, they become subjects of bullying and name calling by other kids.  They become socially isolated.  They may have lifelong effects from being overweight or obese as kids.

Foods containing added sugars, sodas containing high fructose corn syrup, highly processed foods like Pop Tarts and Honey Buns, fast foods from McDonald's and Burger King loaded with saturated fats, salt, sugar, and white flour are what I call “the Evil Empire.”  Sugar has become a legal addiction and our kids are addicted.  Robert Lustig, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at University of California San Francisco, calls this "the hacking of the American mind" and he has written a book about it. Reliance by parents on processed foods filled with added sugar must end, for the sake of the present and future health - and lives - of children.    

Transitioning to a plant-based way of eating based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is good for the health of people AND the planet.  Factory farming of animals for human consumption is a cruel and inhumane practice that is a leading cause of degradation of water and air quality. Cows are given antibiotics to keep them healthy and now people are becoming increasingly antibiotic-resistant.  Cows are given hormones to increase their milk production and people are developing cancers at increased rates.  

Improving the health – and lives – of America’s kids is our mission at Growing Healthy Kids.  Plant-based eating can be the difference for your kids!  

Together, with education and the commitment to do whatever we need to do to protect the health of children, you and I can be the difference so that obesity is NOT forever.  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


"I think careful cooking is love, don't you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give." 
                                                                         --Julia Child, American chef, 1912-2004

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This is soup season.  Soup is the ultimate comfort food.  I love to make a pot of soup because the smells of vegetables cooking in a yummy broth make my house really feel like a home.  

Soup is easy to make.  You can change a soup recipe based on what you have on hand in your kitchen.  Most soups are better the second or third day; make a big pot for dinner on Sunday and pack up the leftover soup for work or school lunches on Monday and Tuesday.  This is one of my favorite tricks for eating great food during the work week AND saving money!  

Freshly shelled beans, when available, can kick up a soup's flavor.

From the author's visit to New Albany, Indiana's Farmers Market last fall

Soup is delicious and good for you.  Learning how to make a pot of soup is a key concept in our Nutrition Scientists Training Program.  It is a great way to teach your kids how combining different spices and herbs creates great food.  When kids have the skills and confidence to make soup, they will be able to feed themselves for a lifetime.  

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Here is one of my favorite soup recipes (adapted from a recipe in The How Not to Die Cookbook by Michael Greger, MD with Gene Stone).  It is loaded with dietary fiber (beans, sweet potato and kale) and is perfect for anyone with diabetes or prediabetes.  Add some fresh bread with olive oil for dipping and you have a fantastic meal.  

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2–inch dice
  • 4 cups chopped fresh organic red kale
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes  
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1-15.5 ounce BPA-free can of cannellini beans)
  • 1 teaspoon white miso paste
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Savory Spice Blend, or to taste


Heat 1 cup of the broth in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, kale, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and the remaining 5 cups of broth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat to medium, add beans and cook until vegetables are tender, 20-30 minutes.  Ladle about 1/3 cup of the broth into a small bowl.  Add miso and stir to blend.  Pour the miso mixture into the soup.  Stir in nutritional yeast, parsley, marjoram and Savory Spice Blend.  Remove bay leaves.  Serve hot. 

Savory Spice Blend

Combine all ingredients in a blender to mix well and pulverize the dried herbs and spices: 
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds 

Store spice blend in glass jar in a cool, dry place. 

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