Wednesday, December 25, 2013



Wellness is a state of mind.  It starts with the conscious intention to be healthy and balanced.  To respect ourself and others. To live peacefully.  Everything we need follows from this intention. Be mindful of what you eat.  Exercise often.  LOVE LIFE.
                                                 ---Nancy L. Heinrich

What a great year for Growing Healthy Kids!  So many great kids have participated in our educational programs.  So many parents have asked questions, seeking answers for growing their own healthy kids. 

I am grateful to the children, parents, volunteers and supporters of Growing Healthy Kids, the businesses and organizations who have helped our programs to thrive, to everyone who has read Nourish and Flourish, and to all the farmers who grow the foods we need. 

As a gift to wrap up this wonderful year, I am sharing some “best practices for parents” from Growing Healthy Kids' projects, workshops, and lessons:


  • Find your local farmers markets. 
  • Talk with your local farmers.
  • Read food labels. 
  • Buy foods with less sugar.
  • Buy foods with more fiber.
  • Eat more kale, dark chocolate, and blueberries. 
  • Teach your kids how to make 10 basic recipes.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Make cookies with applesauce or pumpkin instead of butter.
  • Schedule time every day to do nothing. 
  • Flavor foods without salt. 
  • Eat breakfast. 
  • Eat protein in your breakfast – it is brain fuel!
  • Drink water.
  • Buy cereals, breads and pastas where the first ingredient includes the word, “whole”, as in whole grains.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat wild salmon, strawberries, and walnuts.
  • Buy your kids a lemon squeezer. 
  • Take family wellness walks. 
  • Buy your kids a pack of basil or oregano to plant.
  • Buy a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Eat dinner together most nights of the week.
  • Practice instant recess.
  • Buy vegetables and fruits from your local farmers.
  • Have naps.
  • Laugh every day.


  • Don’t eat foods containing food dyes. 
  • Don’t eat farm raised fish.
  • Don’t buy foods containing “partially hydrogenated” fats.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Don’t eat tilapia.
  • Don’t allow cell phones at your dinner table.
  • Don’t buy soda.
  • Don’t be mean. 
  • Don’t buy foods with more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

A very Merry Christmas to all! 

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013



"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." 

                                                   --Nelson Mandela

When it comes to the health of our children, parents agree on one thing:  we will do whatever it takes. 

The Growing Healthy Kids movement is improving parents’ knowledge about the foods to eat more of as well as the foods to eat less of, plus the importance adding regular, healthy doses of physical fun and fitness.  Our education programs teach kids and adults how simple it is to eat well.  We empower them with knowledge and skills to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity-related cancers and other preventable diseases.  Learning to eat smart  helps children get to – and stay at – healthy weights.  The key to our children living lives longer than ours – not shorter - is teaching them how to make lifelong habits of eating foods that are good for us and planning fitness into each day to prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases. 

Lessons children learn in our kitchen classroom are what I fondly call THE RECIPE FOR GROWING HEALTHY KIDS.  Here is the list of 5 essential ingredients:

FACT:  Kids will learn better when they start the day with a burst of protein. 
About ¼ of what we eat should be protein.  Choose to eat fish at least 2 times a week.  Choose lean, low-fat proteins.  Avoid or limit meats loaded with fat. 
GHK TIP:  Include protein in your kids’ breakfast every day.

FACT:  There are 3 kinds of fats: one is good and two are the bad kinds of fats.  Most of the fats we eat should be the good fats.
Good fats:  unsaturated fat
Sources of unsaturated fat:  nuts, fish, liquid vegetable oils, flax seeds, avocados
Bad fats:  saturated fat and trans fats
Sources of saturated fats:  any food that comes from an animal (meat, chicken, ice-cream, cheese, milk (except for skim milk), etc.)Sources of trans fats:  look on food labels for any ingredient that includes the words "partially hydrogenated”
GHK TIP:  Make most of your fats the “good” kind and eat fish at least twice a week.

FACT:  There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates.  Most of the carbs we eat should be the good fats.

The good carbohydrate:  dietary fiber
Sources of dietary fiber:  vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, lentils, split peas
Why we need dietary fiber:  Fiber is only found in foods that come from plants.  Fiber is what fills us up.  Aim for 28-35 grams of dietary fiber a day.   Most children (and adults) eat far less dietary fiber than their bodies need. 

The bad carbohydrate:  sugar
Sources of sugar:  sodas, candy, processed foods, most breakfast cereals, energy drinks, fruit juices. 
GHK TIP:  Choose breads and pastas that have “4 or more” grams of dietary fiber per slice or per serving.  Check the Nutrition Facts label and limit foods that have more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.   Learn the difference between good and bad carbs and use this knowledge when you and your kids are grocery shopping.  

FACT:  Water is the fluid we need to drink the most of.  Most people drink far less water than they need.  Drink water, not soda.  Aim for 8 glasses of water a day.

Did you know that getting enough sleep is key to losing weight and staying at a healthy weight?   Provide guidance for your children so they have a regular bedtime to ensure they are getting plenty of sleep every night.  
GHK TIP:  Establish “sleep hygiene” habits such as turning off the TV, the computer, cell phones, and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime and not drinking caffeinated drinks in the evening to wake up feeling refreshed every morning.

From our expanding recipe collection from the Growing Healthy Kids' Test Kitchen, I am happy to share this amazing variation on a traditional pesto recipe.  It features walnuts, a great source of good fats and omega-3s, and parsley, which has incredible benefits as an anti-inflammatory. 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

  • ·        1-1/2 cups walnuts
  • ·        2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ·        Crushed red pepper
  • ·        Sea salt
  • ·        ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • ·        ½ cup EVOO*
  • ·        ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes, or until golden.  Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a mortar, mash the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt until a paste forms.  Add the walnuts and parsley and pound to a coarse paste.  Slowly add the olive oil, pounding and stirring until blended.  Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt. Serve over roasted vegetables or whole grain pasta.

NOTE:  You can also make this in a food processor, quickly pulsing the ingredients.

*Extra virgin olive oil 

Education IS the most important weapon we can use to change the world.  Start with your own world and educate yourself family about the importance of reading food labels to identify foods containing the good carbs and good fats. Include some protein in your children's breakfasts every morning.  Every child deserves access to healthy foods and daily activity, beginning with YOUR children.  

In gratitude,

Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



“Flavor counts far more than elaborate techniques and presentations, and flavor begins with the best ingredients.  Each separate ingredient should be the finest you can afford, but if you can't afford it or you've run out of it, don worry.  Mediterranean cooks are notable for making do with what's at hand.  That's an attitude I try to cultivate in my own kitchen."  
                            --Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The New
                               Mediterranean Diet Cookbook

What’s your favorite dish to make together at home this time of year?  Holidays are filled with family traditions and foods are a central part of many traditions.  Making your children a part of your family’s rich holiday traditions is a great way to ensure they know the kitchen is a safe place to learn that when people respect good foods and each other, they are learning the recipe for a great life.  
Teaching a young boy how to use local fruits at a Growing Healthy Kids event with one of our partners (Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program)

One of my favorite sections in the middle of the store - dried beans and lentils!

"Yellow squash on purple rocker"

The original Growing Healthy Kid, my son, Edward

Great recipes start when you have all the ingredients on hand.  Having good foods in your fridge, pantry and on the table begins with shopping together.  Teach your kids where to look in the store and what to look for on food labels.   Did you ever hear to shop on the four walls first?  Around the perimeter of a grocery store is where you find the fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurts and cheeses, fresh fish and meats.  Start by shopping the perimeter, then move to the inside aisles.   The less processed your food choices, the better.  Fresh is best.  When you use the approach of “eat fresh, eat local”, you support your local farmers.  To learn about farmers in your community, go to click here.

While you and your kids make a list of your favorite holiday foods to make this month, here is a list of our family’s top 25 foods:
  1. Almonds
  2. Avocados
  3. Bananas
  4. Blueberries
  5. Extra virgin olive oil
  6. Eggplant* (see eggplant parm recipe link below)
  7. Garlic
  8. Kale
  9. Lemons
  10. Limes
  11. Lentils
  12. Onions
  13. Oranges
  14. Parsley
  15. Pears
  16. Quinoa
  17. Pesto
  18. Spinach
  19. Squash (any kind – they are all high in dietary fiber!)
  20. Strawberries
  21. Tomatoes
  22. Walnuts
  23. Wild rice
  24. Wild salmon
  25. Zucchini

From A to Z, from Apples to Zucchini, family traditions revolve around foods.  Make your family’s favorite foods fresh and delicious!  *For a link to a delicious, easy, and healthy eggplant parmesan recipe to make this holiday season, click here.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013



 “We as parents are our children’s first and best role models, and this is particularly true when it comes to their health…We can’t lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block.”

                                         --Michelle Obama at the Building 
                                         a Healthier Future Summit, 3/8/13

The facts are staggering:
  • One out of every 7 low income preschool children is obese. 
  • Kids spend an average of 8 hours a day in front of a screen.  
  • Girls who are obese will have an earlier puberty than normal. 
  • Obesity and physical inactivity are leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. 
  • Children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults.

As parents, we need to take responsibility for our children’s health.  It is not the job of their teachers or doctors.  It is up to parents.  To add years to their lives, add life to their years.  Are your kids getting enough fitness?  Most kids are NOT getting the minimum of what they need at school.  The minimum recommendation for children ages 6-17 is 60 minutes every day.  

Family walks are part of my family's traditions.  Make them part of yours, too.  That's my brother, Bill, in the middle at a recent family gathering in Kentucky walking with his children, Erika and Neils (on left side) and our nephew Christopher and his girlfriend, Chen (on right side).

Kids need a mix of 3 different types of fitness:
  1. Aerobic activity (this should be the majority of the 60 minutes/day, consisting of brisk walking or running)
  2. Muscle strengthening (at least 3 days a week, consisting of gymnastics or pushups)
  3. Bone strengthening (at least 3 days a week, consisting of exercise such as jump rope or running)

Take the lead.  Start by looking at yourself first.  Are you getting enough exercise?  Are you a good role model for your children?  As my friend, Sam, says, “Don’t talk, do.”  To learn more about the benefits of physical activity, click here.
Recently, I did a shoutout asking for ideas from you about what kids wanted to make.  My friend, Jill, responded that her daughter loves eggplant and she asked for eggplant recipes.  That started my quest for the perfect Baba Ganoush recipe (a Middle Eastern eggplant dip).  I found it and now you and your kids can enjoy Baba Ganoush plus 2 other amazing recipes that are super healthy, delicious, and fun to make with kids.  Click here.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.