Wednesday, April 24, 2013



“I can’t afford to feed my kids healthy foods.” This is something I hear from parents all the time.  My response is always the same, “Give me an hour and I’ll show you how.”  One of our local education projects that teaches parents the HOW part is our collaboration with Vero Beach Elementary School (VBE).  With over 600 kids and one of the highest rates of kids on the free and reduced meal program in Indian River County, Florida, VBE is a special school.  This school year saw the demolition of the old school and dedication of the new green school and the building of new garden projects, including a large hydroponic garden.  This week I stopped by VBE and visited Alex Gomez of Pure Produce, who built the garden.  He was  putting finishing touches on the project but when I visited, cucumbers and sugar snap peas were ready to harvest!  For young children to be able to see how to grow real food and then be able to attend our family education program with their parents and learn how to prepare foods that they love to eat is reward enough for me.   The school also has some square foot gardens built with a grant and volunteers from our local Audubon Society plus the first of several family plots.  If you live in the Vero Beach area, stop by the school at the corner of 12th Street and 20th Avenue for a look at how we can afford to feed kids healthy foods.  For Wellness Wednesdays readers in faraway places, here’s some pictures from the gardens at VBE.

Alex Gomez shows off the first crop of cucumbers at
VBE's new hydroponic greenhouse.

The square foot gardens at VBE are a hit with the kids!  

Raising community awareness about hunger and childhood obesity will be center stage tomorrow with the screening of A Place at the Table at The Majestic Theatre in Vero Beach.  What will follow will be a community discussion lead by a panel of local leaders in the fight against poverty, hunger, and obesity.  As one of the panelists, I look forward to discussing implementing local solutions to hunger, obesity, and education about healthy foods.  David Jackson, from U.S. Representative Bill Posey's office, will be the moderator.  

In this county more than 63% of all public school children are enrolled in the free and reduced meal program.  The economy is still in the tank.  There are kids are coming to school on Monday mornings who have had very little or no food over the weekend.  We have older adults having to choose between medicine and food.  There is an urgent need to quickly move beyond the rhetoric, regulations, and red tape and act to increase access to locally grown foods and education programs that teach and inspire individuals of all ages to eat real foods, not processed foods high in sugar, fat, and salt.  I encourage you to set personal goals for personal fitness and exercise.  

Getting to a healthy weight is easy to do when you get away from the cheap, processed foods and buy what is in season from the local farmers.  For others, it may mean starting a small herb container kitchen garden.  What can you do to increase your own access to locally grown foods?  Join me tomorrow at The Majestic Theatre at 5:00 PM and I promise you will leave with lots of ideas for taking action.

To see a trailer from A Place at the Table, click here:

For a great recipe using quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), my favorite supergrain which is also a complete protein, try this at home:

Glazed Shrimp with Quinoa and Curried Tomatoes

  • 1 cup red quinoa (don't forget to rinse quinoa in a fine sieve for 1 minute under cold water)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons red currant jelly
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Toast quinoa in olive oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir, and set aside. 
2. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Add shrimp and saute 3 minutes.  Add jelly and peppers.  
3. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add tomatoes, curry powder, water, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook 10 minutes, or until tomatoes break down slightly.  Stir in remaining butter and lemon juice.
4. To serve, place a mound of quinoa on plate and top with shrimp and curried tomoatoes.  Serves 8.  

This recipe was created by Daniel Lindley of St. John's Restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was printed in Relish Magazine (which has a great motto, "Celebrating America's Love of Food").  To find more recipes from Relish, click here.

In gratitude,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013



The April 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, fell into my hands by accident while helping my mother celebrate her birthday this week.  After all the guests had left, mom came out to the kitchen where I was working, holding several new magazines in her hands.  She asked, “Do you know where these magazines came from?”  Then she answered her own question with the realization that her longtime friends, Peggy and Cyrus, who had driven more than 2 hours from their home in central Indiana to attend the party, had left them for her.  Mom encouraged me to dive into The Oprah Magazine while I was visiting and I took the bait.  Why?  A cover story: “What does the ultimate food expert make for dinner?   Breaking bread with Michael Pollan" plus Dr. Oz talking about belly fat. 

Belly fat AKA visceral fat is the most dangerous kind of fat. 

Michael Pollan is the author of best-selling books including Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.  Something he said caught my attention: “I started to realize that cooking might be the most important factor in fixing our public health crisis.  People who cook eat healthier diets.  And this whole renaissance of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture that’s going on right now-these are economies we should support, and they depend on cooking.  It was the missing link I needed to explore.”  It is the link we have been exploring in our educational programs for several years.  

Teaching kids and parents the essential elements of how to eat healthy by sharing with them how easy it is to prepare foods that are good are you has been integral to the mission of the Growing Healthy Kids movement since we began this work four years ago.  Americans didn’t gain millions of extra pounds of weight eating plant-based foods.  No, the extra pounds can largely be attributed to the extra calories, fat, and sodas that companies created to make our lives easier.  Not healthier, but easier.  The explosion of fast food restaurants, with their abundance of cheap, highly processed foods have stripped Americans of basic kitchen skills and the confidence necessary to put a healthy AND economical meal on the family table.  If Americans knew how much money is spent by these large companies to create foods and flavors that are addictive, they would rebel. 

Wood spoons (I prefer cherry) are
among my favorite kitchen tools.
What is your favorite?
What I have learned from teaching is that IT IS EASY TO EAT HEALTHY FOODS…when you know what to do.   We teach people what to do.  Parents can start with the Twenty Tips found in the bestselling Growing Healthy Kids project book, NOURISH AND FLOURISH, based on our educational programs.  With the numbers of children at unhealthy weights causing more and more kids to be at risk for obesity-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, learning how to cook is integral to reversing this epidemic that, if left unabated, will cause our children to have shorter lives than us.  Learning how to eat – and cook – real food is essential if our children are to have a chance to be healthy, smart, and strong. 

Here are 3 reasons why Growing Healthy Kids' educational programs empower kids and parents to eat real food:
  1. We include basic kitchen skills and techniques in every class.
  2. We encourage people to try new foods and flavors in our demonstrations using locally grown foods from local farmers.  (Heck, sometimes we have classes at the farmers market!)
  3. We teach how to use everyday kitchen tools.

To check out The Oprah Magazine, go to  To learn more about Michael Pollan, go to  To order copies of NOURISH AND FLOURISH, click here.  

For a healthy breakfast idea to help you burn fat and be a great role model for your kids, here's a recipe from Dr. Oz I found in the April issue of O:

  • 1/2 toasted whole grain English muffin
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 1 slice tomato
  • 1 egg, poached
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Drizzle olive oil over the English muffin.  Spread the avocado on the muffin and layer with a slice of Swiss cheese and tomato.  Place the poached egg on top and sprinkle with pepper, if desired.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Since writing last week's column, The High Cost of Eating Cheap, I've have several conversations with parents which have caused me to lose sleep.  

This country has become The Fast Food Nation with an unhealthy reliance on highly processed, cheap foods and the result is a nation full of sick children.  Educating parents and grandparents about the good foods that kids need is what WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS is all about and I am even more passionate about the mission of the Growing Healthy Kids movement than ever before.  I have always believed that parents need to be educated about the relationship between what kids eat and the health of their kids.  If kids are not healthy, they will not be able to concentrate at school and to learn their ABCs and 123s.  I keep receiving lessons that grandparents also need education.

Let me share happenings from this week.  

One morning, while visiting a local elementary school at breakfast time, I stopped by the school cafeteria to take a look at what the kids were eating.  Keep in mind that the official position of the school district is that they are making great improvements to what the food choices are for the kids.  Most, if not all, of the kids who eat their breakfast at school qualify for the free and reduced meal program which means the kids eat for "free".  What I saw saddened me.  Believe me when I say that I believe that some food, even bad food, is better than no food.  Most of the kids were eating a tray full of white sugar.  Most were drinking the strawberry milk (it is fat-free, but what the staff won't tell you is that each carton contains a whooping 7 teaspoons of added sugar).  The day I was there I saw waffles made with white flour, topped with artificial maple syrup, lots of plastics bag of apple juice, and cinnamon toast.  Didn't see any protein for the brain power they need in class.  Didn't see any whole grains to give kids a sustained source of energy.  All I saw was sugar and lots of it.  Kids need breakfast.  Make sure your kids are getting what they need, not what is cheap and easy.  The elementary school cafeteria is where you will find the intersection of hunger and childhood obesity.  If you don't believe me, then go have breakfast at your local elementary school.  

I received a call from a parent who got my name at a school presentation.  She called asking for help with her young daughter's recent weight gain.  The daughter, due to a recent family relocation, just spent the past several months living with grandparents while her parents worked getting the rest of the family moved to their new home.  While the young girl lived with her grandparents, they apparently didn't say "no" to the child's food requests for ice-cream, hot dogs and McDonald's.  The mother and I have had several long conversations about how to make small changes to put the brakes on all the cheap, easy foods that are most likely the culprit in the child's rapid weight gain.  Two recommendations I made were to switch from whole milk to 1% milk and to limit trips to McDonald's to no more than once a month.  

The cool thing that happened this week was the grand opening of the new hydroponic garden at Vero Beach Elementary School, where Growing Healthy Kids is conducting a monthly wellness program for parents and their children.   Kids are now able to see real food grow as part of their school lessons and to taste the goodness and freshness all for themselves.  I am so excited about what is happening at Vero Beach Elementary School because it can be a model program for teaching kids and also their parents and grandparents that eating plant-based foods is so much better for your health than the highly processed cheap foods you find on the dollar menu at McDonald's or in the boxes in the middle of your favorite grocery store.   

In keeping with my promise to share tips with you, America's parents, here is a list of 20 basic pantry ingredients for your kitchen:

  1. red lentils
  2. brown lentils
  3. garbanzos
  4. split peas - green and yellow
  5. white beans - Great Northern or navy
  6. black beans
  7. pinto beans
  8. rolled oats
  9. basmati rice
  10. quinoa
  11. multigrain cereal
  12. dried whole grain pasta - spaghetti, penne, lasagna
  13. couscous - white for pilaf and whole wheat for breakfast cereal
  14. pearl barley 
  15. ground flax seeds (look for Bob's Red Mill brand)
  16. sunflower seeds
  17. walnuts
  18. pecans
  19. almonds
  20. apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the brand I recommend)

My advice to parents?  Limit the ice-cream or McDonald's for your children.  Ice-cream or an order of McDonald's french fries every day results in SUPER SIZED CHILDREN.  McDonald's once a month might be OK, but McDonald's once a week or more often will be detrimental to your children's health.  The food engineers are working at creating addictive food flavors.  The result of eating cheap food is a sicker generation of kids with shorter lives than ours.  That is an option we cannot afford.  Eat real food! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013



When I hear a parent say, “I can’t afford to feed my kids healthy foods,” my response is, “Spent an hour shopping and cooking with me.”  Due to the increase in situational poverty, where people are losing their jobs and being forced onto food stamps and their kids onto free and reduced school meal programs, more and more kids are eating cheap calories and processed food.  Pop tarts and honey buns are what I call "weak foods" that are wreaking havoc on the health of America’s children.  The result of eating processed food such as pop tarts and $1 McDonalds menu items is that children are living sicker and dying younger.  Hunger and obesity are directly related.  We are not supposed to be diagnosing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in 12 year olds, but it is happening.  Just ask your pediatrician.

To raise awareness about eating healthy foods, one of Growing Healthy Kids' core education programs is our GIANT SALAD PARTY.  Yesterday the party was at the Fellsmere location of Indian River County Boys and Girls Clubs. After meeting Ms. Keisha Rainey last year during The Art of Healthy Eating for Growing Healthy Kids poster contest, she invited us to throw a GIANT SALAD PARTY for some of the child she and other staff provide afterschool services to.  The typical snack given to these children is free food from the local school district.  The free food consists of processed foods high in white sugars and white flours.  Staff has said the club cannot afford to provide healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit and veggies.  I hold a different opinion. I believe they can afford to provide healthy snacks for the children - it just hasn't been their priority...yet.  


Ms. Keisha Rainey (in orange shirt) and Ms. Mayra (on the left)
served the children a delicious afterschool snack!

Our young chefs for the day loved learning how to make the simple vinaigrette dressing!

At yesterday’s GIANT SALAD PARTY, the kids loved the food, especially some of their favorite items:  chopped apples, whole grain pasta (I used the Dreamfields brand), and sunflower seeds.  It was a wonderful scene to see 24 beautiful 6 year olds all eating fruit and veggies for their afterschool snack.  

In addition to learning some basic kitchen skills, the children learned to make a simple vinaigrette dressing.  They are now empowered to be catalysts for starting new family traditions with their own salad parties.  I can just hear it now, all across America:  “Mom, please don’t buy those pop tarts.  I’ll make a simple vinaigrette dressing and we can have a salad party instead!”  We can all learn the same lessons that the 6 year olds learned yesterday:  to be smart, healthy, and strong, you need to eat rainbows and other healthy foods.

Here is the recipe for you to try with your own family:

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Simple Vinaigrette
(French Dressing)

   MIX together in a bowl:
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar (the kids used apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard or 1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
BEAT  in gradually with a whisk or a fork until the mixture emulsifies:
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil    

If you live in the Vero Beach area, please join me the evening of April 25 for A Place at the Table at The Majestic Theatre, followed by a community discussion.  This film is by the same producers of Food, Inc. To see a preview of the movie, click here:  

Be part of the solution.  Help us ensure that all kids (and parents) have access to healthy food. 

A special thank you to Kevin O'Dare of Osceola Organic Farm for providing the fresh salad greens, tomatoes, and green peppers for yesterday's party!  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids