Sunday, June 24, 2012


Make some healthy snacks for kids like I do.  Young's Produce Market.  

THIS WEEK I had the pleasure of speaking with a young boy and his dad at the end of their shopping visit to the eclectic Growing Healthy Kids Variety Store in Vero Beach, Florida.  The boy was 11 or 12 years old and appeared to be overweight.  I asked him what he was doing to stay active this summer.  He told me he was attending camp at The Skate Factory, a place my own son attended regularly when he was on the hockey team there. 

We talked about the daily exercise he was getting at The Skate Factory and how important exercise is for keeping kids healthy.  His dad silently nodded in agreement with me (out of his son’s line of vision, of course). 

I said to the boy, “You know it's important to cut down on the number of sodas you drink, right?”  I could tell by his answer that he probably drinks too much soda, as further evidenced by his dad's smile and comment:  “Yes, we’ve been reading the educational messages you have in your store.” 

“When you’re skating at summer camp, drink plenty of water!”  (The goal for children is at 5 to 8 cups of water every day.)   “Take some fresh fruit or veggies with you for a healthy snack instead of the juice boxes.”   I ended our quick educational session by asking the boy if he could help me by teaching other kids what he had just learned.  He smiled and said yes.  His dad seemed appreciative for having someone talk with his son in a positive way about how to avoid high sugar foods.  I got the clear message from this concerned dad that he was concerned about his son’s weight.   “Thank you for what you are doing here. We’ll be back!”

Here at 3 tips to help your kids eat less sugar:
  1. Drink less soda, including diet soda. 
  2. Drink 5-8 cups of water a day (adults need at least 8 cups a day).
  3. Eat fruit or veggies instead of drinking fruit juice or fruit drinks. 
How will you help your kids eat and drink less sugar and get to a healthier weight?


Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.
A nonprofit organization dedicated to halting, reversing, and preventing childhood obesity, one child and one garden at a time. 

To learn more about our education projects and how you can help, go to

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


True story.  This afternoon I volunteered to teach a class for a former coworker from Florida Department of Health.  She had asked me to do “my magic thing” in the kitchen as part of her grant program.  So I showed up with several bags of vegetables and the desire to empower kids for rest of their lives. 

At the appointed time, seven kids came into the kitchen from their summer program next door.  Then someone said to me, “There’s people here in the lobby for your cooking class, do you have room?”  Five more people.  Another twelve people a few minutes later.

Then I heard one of the adult summer program staff say to a teen boy nearby, “You can’t go in there, there’s not enough room.”  I heard the boy gently say, “But I want to go to the cooking class!”

STOP RIGHT THERE!  Who are we to deny a child a unique, fun opportunity to learn how to take responsibility for their own health?  I immediately stepped out of the kitchen, told the adult staff it was OK and asked the boy I’d love to have him attend.  Enough said.  LET THE MAGIC BEGIN!

Jump ahead 90 minutes to the end of the class when I asked the kids these questions:
“Which vegetable did you like best?”
“Was it easy to make?”
 “Do you think you can make this at home now?”
“Will you teach your parents to eat more vegetables as a result of attending this class?” 

Here is the recipe I made with the kids this afternoon.  It’s a simple, healthy twist on America’s favorite-PIZZA.  We used Thomas English Muffins (“Triple Health”) containing a whooping 6 grams of dietary fiber per muffin.  The kids (and their parents) learned about good carbs (dietary fiber, vegetables, beans, lentils, fruit) and bad carbs (refined sugar, soda).  They learned that dietary fiber is what fills you up.  They learned if you eat pizza from Papa Johns, Dominos, and Little Caesars you’re getting dough made from white flour with no fiber.  

Most of these kids have never been taught how to slice a green pepper or how easy it is to make your own pizza sauce.  They know now.  I also taught their parents that when you engage kids and teach them how to help in the kitchen, they are not afraid to try new foods, like green peppers.   I taught 2 boys how to cut up a green pepper “julienne” style and then everyone wanted to try it and loved it!  All of these kids had never been told that all the sodas and sweet teas they are drinking every day can cause them to not concentrate in school or cause them to get the same “touch of sugar” (diabetes) that some of their parents have.  Now they know, because while their dinner was baking, I taught them a lesson about how much hidden sugar is in what they drink everyday.  You had to be there to see the looks on the faces of the parents when I finished the sugar lesson.  POWERFUL!

It was a magical afternoon.  From the teen who wanted to be in the healthy cooking class to the mother who profusely thanked me 6 times afterwards to the little boy who had never tasted fresh blueberries before.  From the shy little girl who learned how to split whole grain muffins to the kids who took the flavor challenge and added a  dollop of pesto to their pizzas…THANK YOU FOR THE MAGIC!

And in case you are curious, here is the recipe we made this afternoon.  Now go make some magic with your own kids!

  • ·        6 English muffins, split in half
  • ·        1 large can tomato paste (plus garlic powder, parsley flakes, and water)
  • ·        2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • ·        1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • ·        ½ small onion, thinly sliced
  • ·        12 portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ·        1 small can sliced black olives
  • ·        Pesto (optional)

  • ·        Split muffins in half.
  • ·        Place muffins on baking tray.
  • ·        Spread pizza sauce (or tomato sauce).
  • ·        Add toppings of your choice.
  • ·        Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until done. 
  • ·        Serve with a chopped green salad or fresh fruit salad. 
  • ·        Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Choosing toppings for her healthy pizza

Nancy teaches a boy how to julienne a green pepper (with grandma's approval)


Thank you for helping us improve the health - and lives - of America's  children.
Nancy Heinrich