Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Death by Pop Tarts

Paradise Greetings,

When I arrived to teach the "Making Healthy Snacks" class today, I noticed the board in the kitchen had the official after-school snack menu supplied by the school district: "pop tarts and chocolate milk". As I set up the blenders to make my famous Fabulous Florida Fruit Shakes I spied industrial packages of pop tarts at the end of the counter.

The kids tapped to participate in our class due to their good behavior also spied the Pop Tarts on the counter and their little hands and arms started indiscriminately grabbing for them.

We snatched the Pop Tarts from the counter and put them up out of sight of the children, all of whom had previously indicated they had a mother, father, brother or sister on medication for high blood pressure and/or diabetes.

The "Making Health Snacks" class began. One child was asked to read the recipe. Another was asked to measure out the ingredients. The children had no idea how to tell a "teaspoon" from a "tablespoon" so it was clear that basic literacy was a problem. Once we got past the literacy issue and engaged the kids in a discussion about the frozen blueberries, peaches, and mangos and the benefits of ground flax seed and fat-free Greek yogurt, the blenders started whirring happily as more and more kids came around to see what was happening in the kitchen and what the excitement was all about.

After the first chef spoon held by the girl wearing the Growing Healthy Kids apron (with superpowers) elicited a "Wow, this is great!" reaction, sample cups of our Fabulous Florida Fruit Shakes were passed around to the 40 or so kids and staff in attendance. As parents came in to pick up their little ones, the kids eagerly asked for samples to share with them and we were happy to oblige.

Not once did we hear kids asking for a pop tart for their mom. Funny thing...when you give kids a choice, they always choose health!

Thinking about what happened today, I know that if our school district provided kids with the same options that Growing Healthy Kids is teaching kids, then the job of reversing childhood obesity in Indian River County and the rest of the nation would be soooooo much easier. Pop tarts and chocolate milk or Fabulous Florida Fruit Shakes. Which do you want YOUR kids to have?

Next time you go to the store, pick up a box of Pop Tarts, count the number of ingredients, then read the list out loud. If you want the recipe for Fabulous Florida Fruit Shakes, post a comment.
Growing Healthy Kids - improving the health - and lives - of America's kids, one child and one garden at a time.

To your perfect health.

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

PS--Thanks to The Community Church of Vero Beach and Vero-Treasure Coast Kiwanis Club for supporting this project!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Preventing Diabetes with Local Vegetable Gardens

Paradise Greetings,

Is it any wonder we have 11 and 12 year olds children being diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea? For a long time I have been writing about the fact that obesity leads to diabetes and diabetes may in fact lead to Alzheimer's disease. I also write about the urgent need to prevent the wave of diabetes that is coming among American children if we don't figure out pronto how to change the numbers: the 1 in 3 kids who are overweight or obese.

Through the hands-on garden-based education programs of Growing Healthy Kids and its focus on solutions to the childhood obesity crisis in America, we are teaching kids and adults how to eat smarter and move more.

Look around. Children in elementary school get a half-hour of physical education a week. They are allowed to go days without eating a fresh apple, orange, or tomato. Indian River County, Florida schools just lost its Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program. What's wrong with this picture – shouldn’t fresh fruits and vegetables be the centerpiece of our school lunch program instead of an afterthought???

Look what our children are being fed. Walk into any public school where kids are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program and see for yourself. I see highly processed foods. I see hormone-infested meat, chicken, and milk kids because “it’s complete nutrition according to the USDA.” Poverty and obesity go together. School food service managers will tell you, “The kids are getting complete nutrition, we’re following all the guidelines of the USDA.” I wonder if all the good people who work for USDA eat what they make our kids eat? We need new rules! Please visit

Mark Hyman, MD, has just written a great column called “The Link between Poverty, Obesity, and Diabetes” (see Give it a read.

Everyone, including First Lady Michelle Obama, is talking these days about "improving access to healthy foods." Healthy foods will soon be available at the large garden I’m planting this week with a group of children. These kids are living proof of the connection between poverty, obesity, and diabetes. Most of them have a close family member with diabetes. I’m working to teach them the connection between access to real food and health. So they won't develop diabetes.

America could use a national day of prayer on the truth about the connection between food and health vs food and disease. They say you are what you eat. What are you eating---health or disease? Are you preventing diabetes by eating lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains? Or are you feeding an undiagnosed cancer with daily doses of Arizona Sweet Tea, McNuggests, and Coca-Cola aka sugar, fat, and salt?

It's Sunday. Time to get moving and practice what I preach. Has anyone seen my garden gloves??

To your perfect health.
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3 Tips to Prevent Diabetes in Kids

Paradise Greetings,

Since kids don't come with an owners' manual, there are some things you have to take into your own hands. Take snacks, for example. Getting healthy or semi-healthy snacks into your house to replace the really unhealthy snacks should be part of your strategy. Kids are kids and some parents are stricter than others.

Here are 3 tips to prevent diabetes in kids (and getting to a healthier weight for adults):
1. On your next trip to the grocery store without children, plan 10 extra minutes to check the food labels of foods that come in a box. Scan the list of ingredients for these 2 words: "partially hydrogenated". PUT THAT BOX BACK ON THE SHELF. Now look for a similar product and buy one without partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats).
2. On your next trip to the grocery store with children, plan 5 extra minutes to show your kids what to look for on the food label. Send them down the aisle to research and find a cracker or cookie without trans fats.
3. Take a look at the loaf of bread you have at home right now. How many grams of fiber per slice? 1? 3? 6? less than 1? 4? If it is less than 4 grams of dietary fiber per slice, then buy a different bread next time with 4 or more grams of dietary fiber per slice. This is known as "The Nancy Rule".

Let me know which tip YOU like the best for Growing Healthy Kids (one child and one garden at a time). For tips about preventing diabetes in adults, please go to

To your perfect health.
Nancy Heinrich,
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Kiwanis Club helps Growing Healthy Kids

Paradise Greetings,

Yesterday, Growing Healthy Kids started building a very large garden at an afterschool program in northern Indian River County, Florida. What is special about this garden is the population of kids served is very high risk for type 2 diabetes. As you know, preventing diabetes in kids is central to the mission and work of Growing Healthy Kids.

Another reason this garden is special is because it is being built with the support of the Vero-Treasure Coast Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis Club is all about service to children, which is why this is, as the saying goes, "a match made in heaven". If you are a Kiwanian and want to implement the Growing Healthy Kids garden-based education project where you live to help halt and reverse childhood obesity, please contact me. Together, we can serve children.

Thank you, Vero-Treasure Coast Kiwanis Club, for supporting Growing Healthy Kids in its mission to improve the health - and lives - of America's children, one child and one garden at a time.

To your perfect health.
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Friday, September 10, 2010

3 Tips for Parents

Paradise Greetings,

It's been a busy week planning several new gardens throughout Indian River County. My back yard planting and potting table is covered with pots of seeds sprouting seeds, ready to go in the ground soon. The next couple of weeks will be nonstop working in the gardens with the kids!

This is in stark contrast to another report just released that shows most Americans are eating a lot less vegetables and fruits than needed.

Here are 3 tips for parents:
1. Give your kids a choice of what I call a fruit appetizer: "Would you like a banana or a plum?" Works every time. Another great question to ask kids when you're planning a grocery trip is this, "What 3 fruits would you like to have this week?"
2. If you have picky eaters (isn't that most kids??), then finely shred carrots, zucchini, and squash to sneak into spaghetti sauce, pancakes, and muffins. We need to eat more veggies than fruits is the general rule.
3. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to obesity.

Growing Healthy Kids - improving the health - and lives - of America's children, one child and one garden at a time.

To your perfect health,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids