Wednesday, June 19, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Nature's Delights


“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.”
                                                                                     --John Muir

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The other night my Uber driver brought me from the Louisville airport to my mother’s home about 10 PM.  As we pulled into Mom’s long driveway, I was instantly mesmerized.  Tiny white flashes popped all around us. Memories of summers spent at my grandparents’ nearby farm flashed before me as I realized I was seeing dozens of fireflies. 

Summertime in the Midwest is a magical time when kids are outside until darkness falls and the fireflies come out to play.  I believe that fireflies are a call to the child in all of us to play outside and engage with nature on our own terms. 

Spending time in nature for regular doses of Vitamin N plays a key role in our mental health.  Whether it is taking a walk in the woods, sitting outside at night watching the stars, the moon, and fireflies, or building sandcastles at the beach, time outside has the power to calm the everyday anxieties that have unfortunately become a part of modern life.

Getting kids outside and helping them to connect with nature is a big part of the mission of Growing Healthy Kids.  Recently, as part of a healthy eating program for children living at a homeless family shelter, we took kids to the beach and taught them Qi Gong relaxation and breathing lessons.  At the beginning of each class we repeated the lessons with the hope that by engaging kids at high risk for obesity and poor eating habits, our Vitamin N interventions will have a lifelong positive effect on these kids. 

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Teaching kids about the value of time spent in nature, whether quietly observing or actively engaging, is a lesson that can help everyone to live healthy, balanced lives. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Please Pass the Mushroom Gravy


"If I have one addiction in life, it's probably food."  
                                                                                 --Liam Hemsworth

This time of year, my visits to local farmers market include a search for cauliflower, especially cheddar cauliflower (so named because it is the same color as cheddar cheese).  A member of the cruciferous, or Brassicaceae family, cauliflower is related to broccoli, cabbage, kale, arugula, collards, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts.  What makes cruciferous vegetables so crazy good for you is that they are high in phytonutrients which reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. 

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Cauliflower is delicious when steamed until fork-tender and then placed in a food processor (or blender) with a little vegan butter, miso, pink Himalayan sea salt and pepper.  Blend until cauliflower is the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Serve with delicious Mushroom Gravy (recipe follows) for the ultimate in Growing Healthy Kids-tested and approved comfort food! 

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GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
MUSHROOM GRAVY
INGREDIENTS:
  • ·        1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ·        1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ·        2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ·        Pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • ·        3 cups mushrooms, sliced (baby portabellas are a great choice)
  • ·        1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • ·        2 Tablespoons + 1-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ·        1-1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • ·        2 Tablespoons low sodium tamari (or coconut aminos)

DIRECTIONS:
  1. In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, then sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add mushrooms and rosemary and raise heat to medium-high.  Sauté for 8-9 minutes.
  3. Stir in flour until all vegetables are coated. 
  4. Add broth and tamari and stir quickly.  Bring mixture to a simmer.  Cook about 5 more minutes, stirring often so it does not burn.
  5. When gravy has thickened and you are happy with it, remove from heat and serve over mashed cauliflower.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

#supportlocalfarmers #growinghealthykids #eatrealfood


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: June is Men's Health Month


“Nutrition.  If it is bad for your heart, it’s also bad for your penis.”
                              ---Menshealthmonth.org

June is Men’s Health Month.   Focusing on men’s health is a good idea.  Men in general have shorter lifespans than women.  That means kids and grandkids have less time with their male family members.

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According to menshealthmonth.org, “The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.  This month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.”

When I started the Growing Healthy Kids movement in 2009, it was because I saw the long-term consequences of childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes as a preventable threat to our nation.  If children live shorter lives than their parents, one big change we need to make is what we eat.  Preventing diseases and health problems in men is essential if we are to have a nation of healthy kids.  Kids deserve healthy fathers and grandfathers. 

I believe that plant-based eating is key to improved outcomes for men’s health and men’s lives.  The fact is that saturated fat is found in all foods from animals.  Saturated fat clogs arteries, especially the smaller vessels found in the eyes, the kidneys, and the penis. 

According to Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, "A plant-based diet is a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes.  Not only is this the most delicious 'prescription' you can imagine, but it's also easy to follow.  Unlike other diets, there's no calorie counting, no skimpy portions, and no carb counting.  Plus, all the 'side effects' are good ones."

Eliminating saturated fat from what one eats is a big first step toward improved health outcomes, especially for men, and especially for men concerned about their heart health and sexual health.  Erectile dysfunction is common in men with diabetes.  Reducing and eliminating intake of meat and other animal products and eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes is a path for men to live healthier and longer lives. 

Heart health and sexual health are very connected for men.  Take steps to protect the men in your family. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: One Sweet Tea at a Time

"Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) — nondiet soda, fruit drinks that are not 100% juice, sweet tea, sports drinks, and energy drinks — are the largest source of added sugars in the diet of US adults (1). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data showed that 49.3% of US adults consumed 1 or more SSBs on a given day during 2011–2014 (2). Frequent SSB consumption is associated with increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and dental caries."
                            —CDC RESEARCH BRIEF — Volume 15 — December 13, 2018

PCD Visual Abstract


Every workshop we teach in the Growing Healthy Kids project includes direct and/or indirect messages about avoiding added sugars in what we eat and drink.  We teach kids about the importance of reading food labels, avoiding foods that contain “high fructose corn syrup” and other sugars such as those that end in “-ose”. 

Teaching kids about making healthy food and drink choices is easy when they are surrounded by positive role models and can engage in hands-on learning.  On more than one occasion, however, I have intervened with adult and teen volunteers who showed up to help, not with a water bottle but with a soda in hand.  With a graceful nod to step outside, we quickly address the importance of not consuming SSBs before the kids arrive for class.  We explain that they volunteered to assist at a healthy eating workshop, not a class about how to develop a chronic disease like diabetes or arthritis.  We politely ask volunteers to leave the beverage in their car.  As much as we depend on volunteers to assist in all our workshops, we also need everyone to model the good behaviors.  So far, we have not lost a volunteer.  They have all heeded the message.  

As noted above by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49.3% of US adults consumed 1 or more sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day in 2011-2014.   No wonder kids think nothing of drinking sweet tea, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and nondiet sodas.  Half of US adults drink 1 or more of them every day.  

In the south, where I live, I am frequently asked to health coach people who have diabetes.  One of the first assessments I use determines what they drink.  My anecdotal observation is that most people in the south who drink sweet tea most every day would rather die from diabetes complications than give up their sweet tea before they have a meaningful diabetes education intervention.  They have no idea how much sugar is in one 12 ounce serving of restaurant-made sweet tea.  They don't ask, they don't read food labels if they buy a bottle of sweetened tea at the corner convenient market, and they don't want to know.  Once we enter a health coaching relationship, the light comes on and they become health literate, able to make informed decisions about how much added sugar they want to eat and drink vs preventing an amputation of a toe or limb, erectile dysfunction, or a heart attack as a result of uncontrolled diabetes.  

Until adults are willing to start making simple changes like switching to unsweetened iced tea, kids will need better informed role models if we are going to have an impact on the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the diseases associated with increased consumption of sugar. 

Please pass the unsweet tea.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids