Wednesday, December 30, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Birds and the Bees

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

                                                                       --Albert Einstein


When I saw this quote, I was reading an article about Honeybee Whisperers, the beekeepers in Slovenia.  Bees pollinate crops. Our food supply is dependent on honeybees.  Bee populations are declining.  Protecting the environment so honeybees can thrive seems like a given. 

Birds are like the canary in the coal mine.  When birds change their migration patterns due to rising temperature, drought, fires, floods, and other natural disasters, it is a warning.  When birds die because they cannot adapt to climate change, how long will it be before humans follow?

The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 forced humanity to pause.  Air quality improved as businesses shut down, cars were not driven, factories didn’t roar, and people stayed home.  However, daily pictures of long lines of cars waiting at food distribution centers on the evening news implies a society out of control.  Stories abound about how schools have pivoted to send home meals so children will not go hungry. Grocery shelves stripped bare, a food system on the brink of collapse.  

Food instability, food insecurity, and food deserts are detrimental to the health of children. Processed foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat are consumed by too many, too often.  Most Americans eat far too little dietary fiber – found only in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains – and it is no wonder that obesity and diabetes rates are so high.  

As 2021 approaches, we need local and regional solutions to how we grow and distribute foods.  I am a long-time supporter and advocate of local farmers markets, always seeking the farmers who grow organically.  I love being able to purchase food grown 5 miles from where I live and harvested 18 hours before I bought and cooked it.  Did you know that about 30% of the nutritional value of produce disappears in the first three days after harvest?  Transporting food across the country and around the world is not a smart way to get food on our table anymore.  It is also prohibitively expensive in terms of energy consumption as well. We must think "local" in terms of food.  

Our nation’s food supply is in a crisis.  COVID-19 has been a tough lesson highlighting  that our health is also a crisis, as those with obesity and diabetes are at high risk for infection and severe illness and death. The childhood obesity epidemic is a largely a symptom of a dysfunctional food system.  One big lesson from COVID-19 is that we need good food to maintain our immune system.  The Standard American Diet is killing us.  

We say good-bye to 2020, with a global pandemic and racial injustices still very much part of our lives.  Can the next year bring new perspectives in our relationship to good food, farmers, and our humanity to each other and to nature?  Can 2021 be the year of kindness that we so crave and need?  

Can we learn from our relationships with birds and bees?  I believe we can.  Our relationship with our own health, our environment, and our planet hangs in the balance.  Together, we can - and must - protect the health and lives of America's children.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Christmas Cookies for Santa

"Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk every afternoon about three o'clock and then lay down on our blankets for a nap."

                                                                           --Barbara Jordan



Schools are closed for the winter holiday and children are home with their families making cookies for Santa.  Here is a favorite recipe filled with healthy spices like ginger and cinnamon. 

Growing Healthy Kids:  Our Recipe Collection

Vegan Gingersnaps

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3-1/4 cups flour (I like to use 1/2 flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar, for rolling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat softened vegan butter and brown sugar together until creamy.  Add molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth. 

Add half of flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix on low until combined.  Add remaining flour. 

Fill small bowl with the sugar.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough for large cookies (or 1 tablespoon for small cookies), roll into a ball, then roll each ball in the sugar until coated.

Place balls on baking sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes (14-15 minutes for crispier cookies) until they begin to crack on top. 

Let cool for 15 minutes.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Roasted Root Vegetables

"I love root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, and turnips."

                                                                                        --Julia Child 



Some of my favorite vegetables are root vegetables that grow underground.  Some of the edible parts also grow above ground, as in the case of beets.  Beets are so good for you and beet greens are powerhouses of nutrition.  I have seen shoppers at local farmers markets buy bunches of beets and ask the farmer to discard the greens.  Whenever I see that happen, I happily offer to take the greens to saute in a bit of olive oil and fresh garlic.  

Here is a list of root vegetables for you and your kids to look for when you go to your local farmers market:

  1. Carrots
  2. Ginger
  3. Potatoes
  4. Beets
  5. Garlic
  6. Onions
  7. Sweet potatoes
  8. Fennel
  9. Celeriac (celery root)
  10. Turmeric
  11. Rutabagas
  12. Turnips
  13. Radishes

One of the local farmers at the New Albany Farmers Market in New Albany, Indiana grows garlic; cooking with fresh, locally grown garlic is pure joy.  When I roast root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yellow beets, and onions, I usually add a clove or two of fresh garlic.  Sometimes I roast veggies on parchment paper and other times I make foil packets of veggies.  Either way, this is a great way to prepare root vegetables enjoy on a bed of brown rice and quinoa cooked in vegetable broth.  A favorite dish of mine is fresh corn with minced ginger and coconut milk.  Something about ginger brings out the best of corn's amazing flavor. Ginger is also very good to slice into a cup of your favorite hot tea.  Ginger is very soothing and good for an upset stomach and digestion.  Turmeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories in the world.  

Enjoy root vegetables and incorporate them into your foods and meals.  You will be healthier when you do.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Autism and Gut Health

"Anything is possible!  If I can do it, so can you."
                                                       --Dani Bowman


An article in the November 2020 issue of Discovery magazine caught my attention.  The author wrote about a study of 18 kids with autism who were part of a study on fecal transplants and the transformational results of the kids in improving their gut health and communication skills. 

Gut health and brain health are interlinked.  Kids on the autism spectrum frequently have digestive and constipation issues.  When the intestines are inflamed, a child’s brain reacts in pain.  Autism is a mystery.  Researchers are making headway but not fast enough.

We know from the research of Zach Bush, MD and others, that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, may be a missing puzzle piece in the autism mystery. Glyphosate is a chemical compound that has infiltrated our nation’s water supply and food supply.  This herbicide was first registered in the U.S. in 1974.  It is an endocrine disruptor. 

Research and persistence are progressing to open up pathways to prevention, treatment, and answers.  Why are more males than females diagnosed with autism?  Why do many kids with autism improve on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet?  Is glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, the only culprit?  What is the relationship between glyphosate and leaky guy syndrome?  What is the relationship between the father’s age at time of conception and an autism diagnosis of a child?  What if the mother was ill during her pregnancy? 

In our mission to improve the health – and lives – of America’s children, we must continue to seek answers for families affected by autism.  Eat real food, organic whenever possible.  Shift to plant-based eating most or all of the time.  Choose fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchee.  Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, which cause inflammation.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: 5 Tips for Handling Stress and Anxiety in Kids

 

"It's not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it."
                                                           --Hans Selye


In a year dominated by a global pandemic, I have seen an increase in the number and frequency of webinars targeting professionals about the importance of self-care and personal wellness. 

But what about the children? 

The stress experienced by our children, especially those children who have ADHD, anxiety, and learning disorders, is hard to measure because kids don’t talk about their feelings.  When parents are glued to the news, what about the children?  How do children react to daily news about growing COVID-19 cases and deaths?  How do kids react to the often-sudden changes of school on, school off, school virtual, and learning from a computer screen on their kitchen table instead of in a classroom with a teacher and classmates? 

What we see is kids’ grades falling.  Kids are not sleeping.  Kids are withdrawn.  Kids are not having social interactions with other kids in the classroom and the playground. 

What will the long-term consequences be on the physical and mental health of children?   What are the short-term consequences?

We must be good stewards of children’s health.  We must be vigilant in ensuring we communicate with our children.  We must be aware of cues that kids may be experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. 

What can parents do if they think their child is experiencing stress and anxiety?  Here are 5 tips:

  1. Make healthy meals and snacks.  
  2. Don't buy junk food. Avoid food dyes, preservatives, sugars, and refined grains.   
  3. Have family dinners and ask your kids about their day.  
  4. Talk with your children every day and tell them you love them.
  5. Seek help from mental health professionals whenever you need help.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Giving Thanks

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."

                                                  --Desmond Tutu

November is when we gather together our families and friends to give thanks for all the good in our lives.  Thanksgiving is more than a special day of tradition and food spent with family and friends.  It is a time when our hearts are filled with compassion and caring.  It is when we realize how much we have, not what we don’t have.

This year we give thanks for our families and for health care workers.  We give thanks for the farmers who grow our food.  We give thanks for the gift of life.   

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Diabetes and COVID-19

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."

                                                                                     --Robert F. Kennedy 






As part of our health ministry's focus on solutions to childhood obesity, Growing Healthy Kids is creating health literacy workshops for residents in Akron, Ohio.  The motivation comes from the disastrous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on black and brown communities and the need to raise awareness about diabetes as a risk factor for COVID-19.  Under the banner of 2 Workshops, 2 Churches, 1 Purpose, Growing Healthy Kids is partnering with Business Training Capital Resource Inc. and the pastors at Akron Bible Church and Macedonia Baptist Church to reach church and community members with diabetes, especially those living in food deserts. 

Diabetes is preventable. It can be controlled, and for many people, if they do not have an advanced case, it can be reversed.  Now that COVID-19 is a deadly factor in our lives, we must be vigilant in protecting our health and that of our families. 

If you would like to join our efforts to improve diabetes health literacy in this expansive public health initiative, we welcome you.  Together, we can do so much. 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: How to Buy Bread

 

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from other persons.  Each of us has cause to think deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

                                                                         --Albert Schweitzer



Most bread sold in stores is pretty worthless.  Nutritionally, speaking. Food packaging is filled with misleading information.  When you see “multi-grain” on a package of bread, it means nothing. When you see “high fructose corn syrup” as one of the ingredients in bread, buy something else.  High fructose corn syrup is an added sugar linked to obesity and diabetes. 

My first book, Healthy Living with Diabetes: One Small Step at a Time, was motivated by my work helping older adults with diabetes gain control through health literacy. To simplify food choices for readers, I developed “The Nancy Rule” for buying bread and pasta.  This is still a great rule, whether you have diabetes or not. “The Nancy Rule” is this:  (1) 4 or more grams of dietary fiber per slice or per serving and (2) the first ingredient includes the word “whole”.

For most people, at least half of the grains we eat should be whole grains.  When you look at the nutrition fact labels of packaged foods, ingredients are listed by order of weight and in decreasing order.  So the first ingredient listed is very important.  If the first ingredient is “wheat”, that is not the same as “whole grain wheat”.  The word “whole” is key.  Whole grain means you are getting the bran, which is the outer part of the grain.  When you process grains to remove the outer coating of the grain (which is where the bran containing good stuff like B vitamins and dietary fiber is) you have a product that is shelf stable for weeks and months instead of days. 

Read food labels and make sure most of the breads that you buy meet “The Nancy Rule”.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: What's in Your Food?

"People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are healed by the health industry, which pays no attention to food."
                                                  --Wendell Berry, Kentucky poet and farmer


A key lessons in Growing Healthy Kids’ programs for children and parents is about knowing what you are eating. 

In hands-on workshops, our volunteers introduce children to farmers and walk through fields and greenhouses with them to teach about growing foods without chemicals.  We take kids shopping at farmers markets.  We teach kids how to read food labels on their favorite breakfast cereals. We do food tastings and cooking classes so kids can learn what they like. 

Here are 4 simple tips you can use to find out what’s in your food:

  1. Only buy it if you can pronounce all the ingredients.
  2. Count the number of ingredients.  If something has more than 5 ingredients, use it sparingly, or not at all. 
  3. Read the food ingredients lists and look for food dyes, such as “red #3”, "red #40", “blue #2” and "yellow #6".   Avoid food dyes at all costs, as consumption of them is related to ADHD and certain cancers.  
  4. Watch out for ingredients ending in “-ose”.  This suffix indicates the ingredient is a sugar.  Added sugars have no nutritional value.   

Follow these simple tips to greatly improve the quality of what you eat. 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Power of Parsley

 "Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group."

                                                                                  --Michael Greger, M.D.



One of my favorite ways to begin workshops with kids is to pass around fresh herbs and watch kids’ reactions as they guess what they are.  Most workshops involve recipes using fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, and oregano.  Flavoring foods with herbs is a marvelous gift to learn how to do.  Teaching kids how to hold a stem of fresh herbs, gently crush a few leaves between their fingers, and then smell the aroma is something all kids should learn.  The experience changes how you cook. 

Below is a great recipe that can really expand how you flavor foods. Parsley is the world’s most popular herb.  It is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A. 

GROWING HEALTH KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, roasted, peeled and seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place garlic, jalapeno, parsley, and cilantro in blender.  Pulse a few times until roughly chopped.  Add oil and vinegar and pulse until well mixed.  Scoop sauce out of blender into a bowl, add salt, and blend well. Use as a topping on baked potatoes or toasted baguette slices.  

Store in refrigerator for 2 days. 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Best Minestrone Soup

 "If your plan is for one year, plant rice.

If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.

If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

                                                                                     --Confucius


Fall is a great time to make your favorite soups.  Teach your children how to make several basic soups and you are giving them tools to feed themselves for a lifetime.  Kids can take an active role in making soup when you take them to the farmers market to shop for veggies and in the kitchen helping chop, dice, and slice (with parent approval and appropriate knife safety precautions, of course).  

Minestrone is one of my favorite soups because it is a perfect comfort food and it is so good for you.  You can also make it a thousand different ways with vegetable combinations and fun, small pastas.  Always choose organic vegetables and Italian pasta, whenever possible.  

This is the recipe that I prepare at least once every 2 weeks. Trust me on the lemon! 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

MINESTRONE SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

·        2 Tablespoons olive oil

·        1 medium yellow onion, diced

·        2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

·        2 celery stalks, thinly sliced (or substitute bok choi, sliced)

·        3 cloves garlic, minced

·        ½ teaspoon dried oregano

·        ½ teaspoon dried thyme

·        3 Tablespoons tomato paste

·        1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, with the juice

·        1 cup vegetables, sliced or cubed (zucchini, butternut squash, spinach, green beans, potatoes, spinach, etc.)*

·        3 cups vegetable broth

·        1 cup water

·        1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

·        1 bay leaf

·        ½ cup small Italian pasta (elbows or shells)

·        Juice of 1 lemon*

DIRECTIONS:

Heat soup pan with oil to medium heat.  Add onions and saute for 5 minutes.  Add celery (or bok choi), carrots, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.  Add remaining ingredients except for pasta and lemon. 

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover, cooking for 15-30 minutes.

I prefer to cook the pasta separately (in case any soup is leftover) and add a little to each bowl before adding the soup.

Before serving, remove bay leaf.  Cut lemon in half and squeeze a little on each bowl of soup. 

*NOTE FROM NANCY:  Adding fresh lemon juice is the key to a great minestrone soup, in my humble opinion.  My favorite vegetables for minestrone soup are zucchini and green beans. 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Obesity and Vaccines

"The most ethical diet just so happens to be the most environmentally sound diet and just so happens to be the healthiest."

                                                                                                --Michael Greger, MD

Until 2020 brought coronavirus into our lives, I admit I was unaware of the relationship between obesity and vaccine efficacy. 

Obesity is a strange bedfellow.  Medicines do not work as well when one is obese.  It turns out vaccines don’t work as well either. 

On August 6, 2020 the “America’s Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine,” by Sarah Varney was published by Kaiser Family Foundation on KHN.org.  It appears that obesity interferes with the body’s immune response. 

“Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese?  No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  “Will it still work in the obese?  Our prediction is no.”  

America’s children deserve access to good foods that promote health and help them maintain a healthy weight.  Highly processed foods, especially those with added sugars, contribute to obesity and inflammation.  Protecting the health of America’s children is about more than preventing the consequences from obesity.  The risks of obesity are mounting, in unimaginable ways, as we work daily to protect ourselves and our children from exposure to COVID-19.   

Who knew that obesity would become a major risk factor for viral infection, morbidity, mortality, and interference with vaccine efficacy?  It is more important than ever that we work to ensure ALL kids have access to healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, especially kids living in food deserts.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Healthy Foods Promote Disease Resistance

 "America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system." 

                                                                                --Walter Cronkite


The annual flu season is here, on top of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic for which obesity is one of the major risk factors for increased susceptibility.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 2010 there have been between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths a year from influenza (seasonal flu).  More than 210,000 Americans have died in 2020 from COVID-19.   

A strong immune system is one of the best defenses against threats to our physical health, including the seasonal flu and COVID-19.  Eating foods such as blueberries, flax seeds, and broccoli build a healthy immune system. Limiting and eliminating foods that cause inflammation such as all animal foods (meat, chicken, milk, cheese, ice-cream, yogurt) and refined or added sugars, is crucial to our health. 

Every bite, every meal is a choice.  Do I choose to eat to create health or eat to invite disease and inflammation?  Will I choose to make a salad of local organic greens, tomatoes, blueberries, and cucumbers or a beef burger filled with saturated fats on a refined wheat bun for lunch? 

Build a strong immune system.  Make most of what you eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  Choose organic whenever possible. Buy from your local farmers.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Fall Foods Are Good for the Soul

"I love comfort food - it's the basis of everything."

                                                                                  --Katie Lee



Fall foods are some of my favorite comfort foods. 

When leaves change colors and the temperature signals sweater weather has arrived, I know the bounty of fall foods is ahead.  There is something special about visiting farmers markets in search of locally grown winter squash like butternut and acorn from organic farmers.  Heirloom tomatoes, onions, and garlic fill the dining table as soup recipes start manifesting in my weekly menus.  Fresh herbs add layers of flavor to every dinner.

The comfort of fall foods is reassuring as we say good-bye to summer and think about the gifts of winter.  Favorite family recipes and the smells of cinnamon, acorn squash, and pumpkin create memories to get us through the winter. 

Take extra good care of yourself and your family.  Here are a few suggestions to make this fall a great fall:

  • Make your favorite comfort foods. 
  • Visit your local farmers markets and buy squash to grill, for soups, and to stuff with wild or brown rice and quinoa.  
  • Invest in some really good organic smoked paprika.  Use it with grilled vegetables.  Saute pumpkin seeds and smoked paprika in olive oil to finish your soups. 
  • Make an extra pumpkin pie for a neighbor.  
  • Share a pint of your homemade soup with a coworker.  
  • Make homemade croutons from a good sour dough bread. 
  • Walk in the fall leaves and celebrate the changing of the seasons.  

Enjoy being alive!

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Spectacular Spices


"Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group."

                                                                               --Michael Greger, MD 

One of my favorite spices in the world is organic smoked paprika.  If you have been to a Growing Healthy Kids workshop, then you have probably experienced the amazing flavor and taste of organic smoked paprika. People are always amazed to learn how different it is from regular paprika. 

Here is one of my favorite soup topper tips: sautĂ© a tablespoon of olive oil with 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon organic smoked paprika, and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt for a couple of minutes on medium heat.  Serve on tomato, tomato-butternut squash, or split pea soup. 

Herbs and seasonings are an essential part of any plant-based pantry.  Choose organic whenever possible because when you invest in the best quality ingredients possible, your foods will be so much better in taste and quality.  Here are 10 herbs and spices that are always in my pantry:

  1. Basil
  2. Oregano
  3. Thyme
  4. Garlic powder
  5. Turmeric
  6. Ginger
  7. Black pepper
  8. Cumin
  9. Smoked paprika
  10. Coriander

Enjoy spectacular spices. Grow herbs with your kids whenever possible so you can use them fresh.  As you cook with fresh and dried herbs, your kitchen will smell amazing  and your health will be the beneficiary! 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Destructive Stress and Diabetes

 "Chronic illness is a family affair."

                                          --Richard Cohen, from Chasing Hope


Preventing diabetes among kids who are already overweight and obese is key to the mission of Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  Some kids at unhealthy weights live in food deserts, lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and are dependent on SNAP benefits at home and the USDA's free and reduced meal program at school.  These kids are often bullied by other kids (and sometimes by adults who should know better), ostracized, and isolated.  The psychological effects of childhood obesity are well documented, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Stressors on the health of a child can have unhealthy consequences on the health of a child.   

Stress narrows the blood vessels and raises the blood pressure.  Someone with diabetes is at 2-4 times higher risk for a heart attack or stroke than someone without diabetes. Having high LDL cholesterol means the blood vessels are narrowed because the saturated fat found in foods from animals (think cheese, beef, chicken, ice-cream and full-fat milk) sticks to the inside of the vessels. 

Managing stress is important to everyone’s overall health, but especially important for anyone with diabetes or prediabetes.  In addition to “everyday” stress like the school class change bells, attending “virtual” school at home, loud noises, unexpected events like someone’s illness or death, being bullied, or being sedentary, everyone is also juggling year of “COVID” stress, a summer of racial injustices and uncertainty, and a presidential election of great consequence to the health of our country and the health of democracy.

Stress can kill you.  If it doesn’t kill you, it will age you.  If it doesn’t age you, it will remind you that living a balanced life matters a lot so turn off the source of the stress.

I walk as my antidote for stress.   Sometimes I will throw in a little walk/run to get my heart rate up a bit.  We need those walks to remind us to stop and smell the roses every day. Exercise, time outside in nature, and eating real foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) all play a role in managing stress.  What are you and your kids doing to manage stress? 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Rethinking Our Food Supply

 “The coronavirus disrupted the American food supply and it changed the way I shop, cook, and eat.”

        --Ruth Reichl, from her article “The Changing American Table”



If I had a magic wand…the world would embrace whole plant-based eating for the sake of the planet’s health and people’s health.

Imagine a world where there are no meat processing plants because people have switched to plant-based eating for good and animals are no longer slaughtered for human consumption.  Picture rivers and lakes near factory farms no longer being polluted by animal wastes.  Think about how much healthier communities will be when people no longer have animal factory farms polluting their neighborhoods.  

In 2020 meat processing plants, where animals are systematically cut apart and packaged as food and where workers are subjected to inhumane conditions, have become COVID-19 vectors for widespread disease transmission.  For the first time, many people saw the dark underworld of what it is like to work at a packing plant as one plant after another had widespread infections among workers.  Keeping working conditions a secret appears to be a priority of these companies where animals are factory farmed to supply people’s insatiable desire for beef, chicken, and pork. In April 2020, Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing these plants to remain open. 

On June 27, 2020, CNN.com published a story called, “Why meat processing plants have become COVID-19 hotbeds”.  According to authors Anna Stewart, Ivana Kottasová, and Aleesha Khaliq: 

A number of scientists have suggested that the cold, humid environment inside the plants could help the virus spread. “These animal cadavers have to be sprayed with water all the time, so you have aerosols, and it’s cold…it is something that definitely deserves very thorough investigation,” [Dr. Thomas] Kamradt said.

Next time you order a quarter pounder burger, consider this little known fact: according to USGS.gov, it takes about 460 gallons of water to make a ¼ pound hamburger.  For every pound of beef, that’s about 1,840 gallons of water.  The average swimming pool takes 18,000-20,000 gallons of water to fill or the same amount of water needed for about 10 pounds of beef. 

As a longtime student of the benefits of plant-based eating such as reversing heart disease and diabetes, I believe the disruptions to America’s food supply due to COVID-19 are speeding up the realization that we must rethink our food supply.  There is a direct correlation between consumption of foods from animals and heart disease, obesity, and most cancers.  Using fossil fuels to move foods from one side of the country to another so that we can have access to fruits and vegetables year round makes no sense in light of the climate crisis emergency we have created by these practices we can no longer afford.  The picture below is a package of blackberries grown in California and sold in Indiana. 

Blackberries grown in California and sold in Indiana
It’s time to rethink our food supply.  

  • Eat real food. Avoid processed foods and foods from animals. 
  • Make most of what you eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  
  • Support local farmers.  
  • Learn how your food is grown and how far it traveled to get to you.  The longer it takes to harvest food and get it to your table, the less nutritional value it has.  
  • Factory farming of animals needs to stop.  When you shift to plant-based eating, the supply chain will shift to meet the new demands.  We are already beginning to see it with the increased demand for plant milks.   

Moving to whole plant-based eating is one of the powerful things we can do - for our own health and for the health of our home, Planet Earth.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Infant Mortality and Maternal Obesity

Babies are like bits of stardust, blown from the hand of God.

                                                                  --unknown author

Partners for Healthy Babies | Partners for Family Health

The death of an infant is not a normal event. 

Having a baby is a time of joy, love, and excitement because you are creating a new life to bring into this world.  The birth of a child is a celebratory event, a new beginning.

But some infants die before their first birthday.   

Infant mortality rate is the number of infant (aged under 1 year) deaths per 1,000 live births in a specified group. On August 21, 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report called Infant Mortality by Maternal Prepregnancy Body Mass Index:  2017-2018.  According to the report’s authors*, “Generally, infant mortality increased as maternal BMI increased from the normal through obese weight categories.”  The authors summarized the study’s findings with this statement, “Nonoptimal BMI before pregnancy has implications for infant and maternal health, given the potential for adverse health outcomes for both women and infants.”  They found a direct relationship between maternal weight and infant mortality. 

This study is an important reason that with the decision to become pregnant comes the reality of how connected being at a healthy weight is to the health of the baby.  Knowing that the more overweight or obese a woman (or girl) is when she is pregnant is directly related to an increased chance that the infant may die before the age of 1 is a reality that should, ideally, be part of pre-pregnancy counseling for all reproductive age women. 

*The study authors are Danielle M. Ely, Ph.D., Elizabeth C.W. Gregory, M.P.H., and Patrick Drake, M.S. This National Center for Health Statistics report can be downloaded from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.