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

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Gardening for Health

Spring is God's way of saying, 'One more time!'
                                                                                                   --Robert Orben

My favorite season is spring.  The trees are popping in brilliant color, the dogwoods are blooming, and farmers are getting ready to plant.  The hunt is on for delicious locally grown foods that can make meal planning full of fun and flavor. 

Volunteers tasting herbs during a recent Growing Healthy Kids'
trip to Shining Light Garden

Planting kitchen herb gardens is on my agenda for the next week.  Fresh mint, basil, cilantro, and oregano are some of the herbs that will enhance your family’s meals in wonderful ways.  Teaching kids about real food is important to do consciously because what most kids are exposed to in their school meal program is a sorry substitute.  In the Growing Healthy Kids programs, we take kids to farms where they talk with the people who grow foods, see how foods grow, and experience herb and vegetable gardens. 

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All kids deserve access to real food.  This spring, start your own kitchen herb garden with your family.  A couple of packs of seeds, some dirt in pots and you are on your way to new flavor-filled foods!
In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Power of Plant Protein

“The fact is you’re not getting the nutrition you need on a meat-based diet and you’re going to get dramatically better nutrition on a plant-based diet.”  
   --Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, Founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

One question I am asked frequently is, “Are you getting enough protein?”

Quinoa salad with grape tomatoes

With a plant-based way of eating, it is simple to get all the protein one needs.  The fact is that most people consume way more protein than they need.  Excess protein can cause a strain on the kidneys.  When the source of protein is from animal sources, a common side effect can be inflammation with its own set of issues and complications to one’s health. 

Protein abounds in the plant kingdom.  Consider quinoa, lentils, and soybeans.  All 3 are protein powerhouses.  Quinoa, technically a seed but used as a grain, is a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids. 

The question people should be asking is, “Are you getting enough fiber?” 

Need some inspiration and great recipe ideas for plant-based eating?  Check out 

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Ready for Plant-Based Eating?

“When you know better, you do better.”  
                                                                                   --Maya Angelou

I love helping people shift to a healthy way of eating that can prevent and reverse many of the chronic conditions which consume massive amounts of resources unnecessarily.  Diabetes is preventable and reversible with plant-based eating.  So why are so many adults and kids being diagnosed with diabetes?  Why are so many people dying from diabetes and its complications?   With 9,4% of Americans having diabetes and one in three with prediabetes, the sign is clear that we need a solution, not more drugs. 

A Sunrise Vero Beach Rotarian helps teach knife skills.
There is plenty of evidence and research to support the fact that the healthiest way of eating is plant-based with a focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  With prominent physicians such as Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Dr. Zac Bush advocating for plant-based eating, it is a revolutionary time to be a foodie. 
Besides humans coming out as winners with the shift to plant-based eating, the planet always wins.  The methane gas produced by cows and the animal waste that pollutes our rivers and lakes are killing our planet and are major contributors to the climate change that marches forward like a death watch.  We do not have to kill animals in order to feed ourselves.  Factory farming of animals has no place in a civilized world. 

We are so much healthier when we eat plants, not animals. 

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Are Your Kids Connected with Nature?

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a commodity to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
                                   --Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac

Children should be active throughout the day, especially kids ages 3-5.  For kids 6-17 years of age, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Due to technology and smart phones, however, many kids are spending too much time on their screens and not enough time outside. 

Children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are 5x as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese as adults.
We need to get better at encouraging outdoor playtime as a community strategy for reversing childhood obesity.  Kids need to be able to research bugs, follow butterflies, and listen to the birds. 

A healthy love of nature was encouraged for my brothers and me as we grew up in California.  We went camping under the Redwoods, the oldest living trees on the planet, enjoying hikes through the Sierra and Coastal Mountains and swimming in the cold northern California lakes.  This habit of playing outdoors and connecting with nature was established when I was little and is still one of my favorite habits.

When kids smell a gardenia or watch a butterfly dance on a flower, their senses come alive and pure joy awakens the curiosity that makes our journey through life meaningful.  Connecting with nature teaches kids how to manage stress and live a balanced life. 

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Are your kids connected with nature?  Are they outside playing, running, and exploring?  If they are, they will thank you the rest of their lives.

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Gratitude in the New Year

"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul." 
                                                                                    --Henry Ward Beecher

Happy New Year! 

Waking up each morning and greeting the day is a profound experience to me.  Taking slow, gentle breaths to help focus my energy, thoughts, and intention is a gift I open every day.  Seeing the beauty of a flower lifts my spirits and makes my heart dance. 

As adults, we choose how we live.  Children do not have that choice.  They live where we live, they eat what we feed them, and they play when we tell them to play. 

Choosing to be a positive role model for children is a job I take seriously in my work with Growing Healthy Kids.  When I take groups of children to local Farmers Markets and introduce them to the farmers who grow vegetables and citrus, they learn respect.  When we visit organic farms to walk the fields with the farmers and talk about growing foods that keep us in health instead of making us sick, they learn the truth about what real food is.  When we prepare foods and converse together over a shared meal, they learn lifelong skills for staying healthy. 

Enjoy each day.  Say “thank you” often.  Smile.  Be grateful for your opportunity to life a profound life.  Be grateful for the opportunity to be a positive role model for your children.  

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

Photo credit:  Barbara DuPont