Wednesday, May 29, 2013



“No matter how great your idea is, you’re just a lone nut until someone follows you and transforms you into a leader.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart for following me to start the real momentum behind Instant Recess.  Now if every one of us shares this idea with others, we’ll have a real MOVEment on our hands!  That’s my wish for the New Year – that Instant Recess becomes an unstoppable MOVEment helping us to turn around the obesity trends in this country.” 

(from an email sent by Dr. Yancey to colleagues at the beginning of 2013)

                                     Toni Yancey, MD, MPH

Believing that you are on the right track is important, no matter what your goal.  Solving America’s obesity epidemic will be done by setting goals and finding the right track to achieve them.  Have faith that achieving your fitness goal or goals is important for parents.  

How do you get to a healthy weight?  One way is to eat less of the bad foods and more of the good foods.  Another way is to eat smaller portions and to not skip meals and snacks.  You can eat less and exercise more.  To STAY at a healthy weight, however, requires increasing the amount of regular exercise you get.  Without the exercise, most people who lose weight tend to gain it back. This has been verified over and over again in the key habits of successful losers, a national database of people who have lost weight and kept it off for more than a year.

I strongly believe that as parents, we must be good role models for children.   Especially when it comes to fitness.  The funny thing is, when we have a Growing Healthy Kids education project and we talk about what the physical activity recommendations are (60 minutes a day for kids, 150 minutes a week for adults), the kids always ask why the recommendation for adults is less than half what it is for kids.  Great question.  Maybe we would be healthier as a country if adults set the bar higher for their own fitness goals.

Did you know that a minimum of 10 minutes of exercise gives you cardiovascular benefits?  A lot of people I talk with say, “I don’t have any time to exercise.”  What we teach parents is to break your 30 minutes a day recommendation into either three 10 minute or two 15 minute exercise period.  Finding 10 minutes to take a walk then becomes an easy goal to set and keep.

The fact is that most Americans are getting far less exercise than our bodies require to work right.  Many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, can be prevented by staying at a healthy weight.  Dr. Toni Yancey has been working in the field of public health to educate churches and communities that fitness is essential to the prevention of obesity-related diseases.  She was a nonsmoker who died April 23 at the young age of 55 from a year long battle with lung cancer.  Dr. Yancey believed in short bouts of exercise, just 10 minutes, and she created a MOVEment called Instant Recess because isn't recess the best part of school that everyone looks forward to?  

Dr. Toni Yancey, creator of "Instant Recess"

The Growing Healthy Kids movement to reverse, halt, and prevent childhood obesity pays its respect to Toni Yancey.  We have lost a leader who fought to protect public health.  Her MOVEment and her message lives on.  To learn more about Instant Recess, click here.  

Now, I'm off for 10 minutes of Instant Recess.  On with the walking shoes and that's me out the door!

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013



“To improve health outcomes, we must get better at improving health literacy.” 

                                      --Nat Irvin II, DMA, M.A.
                                                                 Professor of Management
                                                                  University of Louisville, College of Business

Professor Irvin was making his final remarks at last month’s Health Equity Summit held at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.  The meeting was about bridging the gaps in the health of residents of Louisville, but his message applies to every city in this country. 

Improving health literacy is central to the mission and education projects of the Growing Healthy Kids movement.  Which is why we had a very important date with 40 elementary age children recently to talk about ketchup.

Hold on there.  Did you say ketchup?  Yes, ketchup.  The kids went nuts when they walked into the art room at the Boys and Girls Club in Sebastian, Florida and saw a bottle of Hunt’s “No Preservatives” tomato ketchup on the front table.  I heard kids say, “I love that stuff!”  and “Can I have some?”  An American staple, right?  Ketchup is made from tomatoes, but what parents often don’t know, or take the time to notice, is that it also contains added sugars and added salt.  

Teaching kids about sugar at the Boys and Girls Club (see the bottle of ketchup?)

As the kids learned, a serving size for ketchup is 1 tablespoon.  Next time you use ketchup, measure out 1 tablespoon and see how little that really is.  Then ask yourself, "Will I have one serving or will I be having 3 or 4 or 5?"  When I occasionally use ketchup at home, like when I make oven-baked sweet potato fries, I have more than 1 tablespoon.   But I don’t eat it every day or every week.  All the kids who eat chicken McNuggets every day are getting lots of hidden, added calories from the added sugars in the ketchup they are piling on the McNuggets.  That’s where we are getting into trouble with extra calories and extra weight.

How do you teach kids, or parents for that matter, that sugar is what we call the “evil empire” ingredient?  A little bit is OK for most people but it is easy to eat too much of it.

Let’s look at sugar by the numbers.  15-4-0-0-0-0-75 

One teaspoon of the white stuff has 15 calories.  
One teaspoon has 4 grams of carbohydrates.  
One teaspoon has no protein.  
One teaspoon has no vitamins.  
One teaspoon has no minerals.  
One teaspoon has no nutritional value.  
One teaspoon of sugar contains calories but no nutritional value.  
There are more than 75 names for sugar.  

The fact is that eating too much sugar leads to obesity, depression, diabetes, acne, tooth decay, inflammation, and other health issues.

A 12-ounce can of soda has around 44 grams of sugar.  That equals 11 teaspoons of sugar.   That’s 165 calories with no nutritional value.  What Growing Healthy Kids is asking parents to do is to start looking at the sugar content of the foods you are buying for your kids (and you).  Choose foods with less sugar, not more.  Drink water, not soda.  

A special thank you to Ella Chabot, Art Director at the Sebastian Boys and Girls Club, and Jordan Adams, Branch Director, for inviting Growing Healthy Kids to teach the children you serve.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013



“If we cut our skin or break a bone, we take it for granted that the body will heal.  But we can also heal from heart disease, weight problems, and diabetes-yet that will never happen if we do not get away from the foods that are causing the problem and take advantage of foods that heal.”  
                                               -- Neal Barnard, MD                                                                             

Later today I will be giving a talk which I hope will be the first of many talks in my education campaign for parents (for details about today's talk, go to the end of this column).  If we don’t start eating less of the foods that cause disease, as Dr. Barnard suggests, and start eating more of the foods that promote health, then our nationala childhood obesity epidemic will continue to take a great toll.  When kids are diagnosed with obesity, their risk for obesity-related diseases usually diagnosed in older adults will fuel new epidemics of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep disorders, joint problems, and more in younger and younger folks. 

We Americans love to have freedom of choice.  We want to have choices about what we can eat, what doctor we see, and what school our children can attend.  The problem is that we have so many choices, we are killing ourselves with the wrong foods.  So, back to my talk called, “How to Feed Your Kids for LIFE-tips for eating more of the good and less of the bad”.  One food that is causing the problems mentioned by Dr. Barnard is refined sugar, which is why you can be sure that we will be talking about sugar and its impact on kids.  

Did you know there are more than 75 different names for sugar?  The fact is that sugar has no vitamins, no minerals, no protein, no enzymes, and no nutritional value.  It does contain calories.  Sugar is a carbohydrate (the BAD kind) and we are eating way too much of it.  Sugar will kill you, not heal you.  The added sugars in the processed foods we love to choose to eat are making us fat and causing us to develop diabetes, depression, joint diseases, hypoglycemia, and more. 
Serve fresh fruit for a delicious dessert!

Here are 3 simple tips to get you started keeping your kids healthy: 

TIP 1:  If you are a parent and want to put your family on the path for a lifetime of better health free of disease, then start reading food labels to identify how much sugar is in a serving.  

TIP 2 :  Compare labels and choose the food with the lowest amount of sugar. 

TIP 3:  Start reading the ingredients for sugars, starting by learning to spot any ingredients that end in “–ose” and “–tol”.  

Use your parent power and be a role model for eating more of the good foods – and less of the badLet your kids see you reading food labels while you are shopping for foods.  Exercise that great American freedom of choice and choose health!  
School will soon be out and if you and your kids are ready to “play in the dirt” as we like to do in the garden-based Growing Healthy Kids movement, then you’ve got to check out what the Man in Overalls (and cofounder of the Tallahassee Food Network) is doing in Tallahassee, Florida.  Click here.

Next, if you are concerned about what your kids are (or are not) eating at school, or if you have joined your son or daughter for lunch in their school cafeteria and you didn’t like what you saw, then get educated by learning more about the farm to school efforts.  The more you know, the more you will be able to be a voice for improving access to locally grown foods at school.  Lots of good info for parents when you click here:

Life is about enjoying good food, so here is an easy, fast, and inexpensive recipe for all us working parents.  Enjoy making this delicious main dish for a fun, healthy dinner.  Let the kids help with chopping and slicing the greens!

Fast Pasta and Greens

Serves 4-6.


  1. One 10-ounce package whole grain pasta (Growing Healthy Kids’ Seal of Approval goes to the Dreamfields brand)
  2. One 16-ounce jar pasta sauce (our favorite:  whatever’s on sale) 
  3. 1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped, stems removed
  4. 1 zucchini, sliced
  5. 1-3/4 cups sliced mushrooms


Heat a pot of water to boiling.  Add pasta to the water and set a timer for 3 minutes less than the pasta cooking directions recommend.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the pasta sauce in a covered saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to bubble.  Reduce heat to low and simmer gently until ready to use. When the timer goes off, add the kale to the water and cook about 3 more minutes until the kale is tender. 

While everything is cooking, put the zucchini in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and dry fry until just brown, then flip the slices over and brown the other side.  Push the zucchini to the side, then add the mushrooms and stir-fry until soft.  Remove from heat.  When pasta and greens are cooked, drain them and put in a large casserole dish.  Add the hot pasta sauce and stir.  Put mushrooms and zucchini on top and serve. 
Check out the boxes of Dreamfields pasta from a recent Growing Healthy Kids program
at Vero Beach Elementary School.  The kids loved the recipe and the pasta!!

Recipe is from Fork Over Knives: The How-To Companion to the Feature Documentary Forks Over Knives, 2011.

Details:  Today's talk will be at the Vero Beach Main Library on 21st Street, 2nd floor, 3:45 PM sharp! And yes, you will learn a lot of practical tips about how to eat less sugar. 

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013



“People need to start growing their own food.” My friend, Kelly Nosler, stood up and said this during the lively community discussion at The Majestic Theatre following the recent screening of A Place at the Table.  Kelly is a 4th generation Indian River County resident working to bring new technology to classrooms, to families, and to neighborhoods so that people have affordable access to locally grown foods.   This is one of the strategies for solving the childhood obesity epidemic in America.  Buy a packet of seeds for your kids and see what happens when you plant them (the seeds, not the kids!). 

COMING SOON!  The annual Growing Healthy Kids Poster Contest will be announced this month.  This year’s contest will be held during the summer so your kids can create great art AND help us teach kids and parents around the world with their voices. 

One of the winning posters from last year's GHK contest.

Last week I taught two classes to adults who are caregivers for people with diabetes.  I was astounded, as usual, by the number of questions from the audiences about how food affects our health.  A lot of the questions were about getting to a healthier weight.  Many had questions about sodas, diet sodas, and foods labeled "sugar-free".  

An article in the April 29, 2013 online Wall Street Journal (WSJ) caught my attention about the magnitude of the impact that eating and drinking foods filled with refined sugars, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners is having on the health of our children.  In Children on Track for a Heart Attack, writer Ron Winslow discussed a new study based on nearly 900 children and young adults about the hardening of the arteries showing up in kids.  When this occurs, it is a sign of accelerated aging, according to Dr. Elaine Urbina, head of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  It raises the risk of dangerous outcomes relatively early in adult life.  Winslow writes, “The good news is that doctors believe health can be restored to young people’s arteries with regular physical activity and a healthy diet.  This includes cutting back on sugary beverages and foods high in carbohydrates such as potatoes, white rice and pasta.”

Speaking of carbs, in another interesting WSJ article about a gathering of chefs at the James Beard Foundation Awards, I found another “sign” I have to share with you:  [Chef Jesse] Schenker has recently made headlines less for the food he was preparing than for his weight loss (about 55 pounds). He said he’s kept it off. “Seafood and vegetables,” he advised. “Cut out the carbs and the sugar.”

The fact is that obesity is the leading risk factor for diabetes.  If children are overweight or obese and have family members with type 2 diabetes, their risk for developing this disease at a profoundly young age is greatly increased.  As we know, if a youth is diagnosed with diabetes by age 15, it will subtract at least 17 years  from their lifespan. 

If you have a family member with diabetes, then do something to improve your own health literacy.  Get a copy of an educational DVD I produced that has a profound impact on anyone who watches it.  It is true to my mission of creating easily digestible ways to shift your health outcomes and improve your health literacy.  Here is the link:  

I’d love to hear from you.  What are YOU growing this summer in your kitchen garden?

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, May 1, 2013



"Gumbo is a taste, a feeling, a party." -- Paul Prudhomme

I love this quote.  Great food should be part of every family's traditions and when we gather together and enjoy a meal, it should feel like a party, a celebration.  Working on the frontlines of the obesity epidemic, I love to power up with great food every chance I can get, which is one reason why the first weekend in May is so much fun.

The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby, known as the Fastest 2 Minutes in Sports.  This Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky is the giant party known for fast horses, beautiful hats, great food and drinks.   Sunday is Cinco de Mayo, a holiday I love to celebrate because it is a great reason to make fresh guacamole and salsa.  Cinco de Mayo – or the fifth of May – commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).  While Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, it is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the United States. 

Haas avocados are rich in the good kind of fat. 
What do the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo have in common?  It’s an opportunity to celebrate really good food and fitness as well as foods that have a place in our cultures.  So if you are having a Derby party this weekend, consider making some fresh guacamole and salsa for your friends.  With Haas avocados  in season (and on sale for $1 each right now at Publix Supermarkets if you live in the southeast US) and fresh tomatoes hitting the local green markets in Florida, it is the perfect time to share one of the kids’ favorite recipes from Nourish and Flourish, our education project’s first published book featuring foods that have earned  the prestigious GROWING HEALTHY KIDS SEAL OF APPROVAL.  

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

CUT in half, take out seed, and scoop into a bowl:
·         1 avocado

MASH with a fork.

·         2 cloves garlic, chopped real small
·         1 Roma tomato, chopped real small
·         1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime
·         Hot sauce and salt to taste 
          Chopped cilantro (optional)
          a little chopped onion (optional)

SERVE with:
·         Your choice of chips*

*For demonstration purposes, Tostitos Blue Corn tortilla chips were used. 

The GROWING HEALTHY KIDS SEAL OF APPROVAL for this recipe was received 3/19/10 at the  Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County, Florida.

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS TIP #17:   Avocados contain the good kind of fat, called “unsaturated”.  Our bodies need fat to work right.  The key is that most of the fats we eat should be – you guessed it – the good kind.  Besides avocados, other foods that contain the good fats are fish, nuts, flax seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil and other liquid vegetable oils. 

We need to limit the bad fats we eat.  These are called “saturated” and “trans” fats.  Saturated fats are found in foods that come from animals such as meat, chicken, milk and cheese.  Trans fats are found in packaged and processed foods.  You can identify them by looking for the words “partially hydrogenated” on the list of ingredients. 

A GROWING HEALTHY KIDS “WATCH OUT!” alert for parents:  Food manufacturers are allowed to put up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving in a food and still label the food as “0 trans fat”.  

Have a great Derby party and Cinco de Mayo celebration this weekend!

Hats rule at the Kentucky Derby.


For Derby party recipes, go to click here.  Then click on "Derby Party". 
    For Cinco de Mayo party recipes from Delish magazine, click here:

Let's hear from you.  What is YOUR favorite party food to make for friends and family?

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids