Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: What a Wonderful Year!

"Fast food is high in calories, sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine.  It is highly processed, energy dense, and specifically designed to be highly palatable.  The majority of the fiber and a portion of the vitamins and minerals present in the origninal food have been extracted in processing.  Sugar, salt, and other additives are used to boost flavor.  The end product is packaged and sold conveniently to deliver the contents.  Which of these components could be addictive?  OR are they addictive all together?"

               -- Robert H. Lustig, M.D., from Fat Chance, Beating the odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, 2012

As people gather on the last day of 2014 to celebrate the close of one year and ring in the next, we reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Children are happy because of their extended break from school.  My son, Edward, and his friends from the Vero Beach High School Marching Band are enjoying fun times on the beach celebrating being home from college.  

January 2014:  Butternut Soup from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen

August 2014: Growing Healthy Kids at the launch party for The American Dream Factory in Fort Pierce, FL.  L-R:  Aida Santana, Barb Petrillo, Nancy Heinrich, Ella Chabot, Kristen Beck

February 2014:  Teaching 2 young Girl Scouts about how easy it is to eat food that is good for you, at the Fellsmere Farmers Market and Mercado, Fellsmere, FL.
For the Growing Healthy Kids movement, this has been a year of interacting with lots of children in a variety of settings, with great results like, “I LOVED the kale shakes we made in class!”.  
  • As a result of teaching healthy cooking classes for adults with diabetes, for example, we were asked to partner with Florida Veggies and More and were given grant funds from Rotary Club of Vero Beach to create a hydroponic children’s garden and build a new 6 week nutrition education program.  
  • Growing Healthy Kids was asked to partner with St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church in Fort Pierce and as a result, developed The Mother Project to educate women at high risk for, or already diagnosed with, type 2 diabetes.  Our first program of The Mother Project rolled out in October and was very well received by the community, heralded by community leaders as meeting previously unmet needs.  
  • We created a new partnership with the Navajo Nation's diabetes education efforts through our new chapter of Growing Healthy Kids in Tuba City, Arizona.
  • Our collaboration with Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County continued to bring health literacy and fun with healthy foods to some of the many children the club serves.  
  • We spoke at the January and October Summits for Parents of Teens and Tweens produced by as a way to “get the conversations started to encourage communication about the tough issues facing today’s families.”  
  • We had many opportunities to bring health literacy to the children served by Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program with an emphasis on teaching healthy and economical foods that kids want to eat.  
  • We have reached thousands and thousands of readers throughout the world with WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS, fulfilling our commitment to improve the health and lives of America’s children by providing global leadership to help reduce, halt, and prevent childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.  

What a wonderful year!

So, here we go with several goals of our organization for Year 2015:
  1. continue to influence health and food policies of organizations which serve children, including school districts throughout the southeast U.S. 
  2. conduct 4 workshops and healthy cooking programs with our new Growing Healthy Kids’ chapter in Tuba City, Arizona serving children and adults of the Navajo Nation.
  3. expand our nutrition education programs funded through partnership with Rotary Clubs and other civic organizations serving the unmet needs of youth.
  4. publish recipes created in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen for adults with diabetes so that we can reach more parents struggling to know what to eat and what to feed their children.
  5. launch our healthy food products online and through distribution agreements.
  6. create new strategic alliances with public and private schools and companies such as Bob’s Red Mill, GoDaddy, and others.
  7. locate a new office and volunteer coordinator for our organization.
  8. launch our new website featuring "wellness by design” packages.
Let's close out 2014 with another wonderful recipe from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen that features two powerful foods and spices:  lentils and turmeric.  Enjoy good food, love your kids. 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection


Serves 4
HEAT in a non-stick saucepan, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes:
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

STIR in and cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned:
  • 1-1/3 cups bulgur wheat

  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup green lentils

BRING to a boil, cover, then simmer over a very low heat for 25-30 minutes, until bulgur wheat and lentils are tender and all liquid has been absorbed.  Add more stock or water during cooking, if necessary. 
SEASON with salt, pepper, and cayenne. 
TRANSFER to a warmed serving dish and serve. 
  • Fresh parsley


  •  Lentils are a powerful source of dietary fiber.  About ½ cup (dry) has about 11 grams of fiber, almost half of what you in a day
  • Use French (Puy) lentils if you can find them because they retain their texture and also have a delicious flavor.

In gratitude for a wonderful year of health, happiness, wonderful family and friends, and good food!
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

PS-To contribute ideas, resources, volunteer time, or collaboration with a funding opportunity to help make our 2015 goals a reality, please contact me at:  

You can also support our work by ordering copies of NOURISH AND FLOURISH for your local library by clicking here.  Thanks!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Understanding Wellness

"The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around."
                                                                                         --Thomas A. Edison

My grandfather was a farmer in Indiana.  He grew corn, soybeans, and wheat.  Every spring he planted a huge vegetable garden behind the farmhouse for my grandmother.  During summer vacations, my brothers and I traveled to the family farm from our home in California.  We learned close-up and personal about the cycles of growing real food.  Eating fresh picked tomatoes from my grandmother’s garden is one of my favorite childhood memories!  Oh, the flavor! 

Fast forward to today.  People are talking a lot about a couple of subjects:  gluten-free foods (basically avoiding wheat, rye, and barley, required if you have celiac disease and preferred by those with food sensitivities) and non-GMO foods (see definition at the end of this paragraph).  I pay a lot of attention to food packaging and food labeling because it is something we teach as part of our path towards improved health literacy with the Growing Healthy Kids project.  Every day, I learn more about the issues of gluten-free eating and GMO vs non-GMO.  I find myself becoming a “subject matter expert” because so many people are asking questions, looking for answers, and seeking improved health outcomes. 
GHK TIP:  Let your kids play in the kitchen.  Get a garlic press!  

Growing grains is not the same as when my grandfather farmed.  Most of the soybeans and corn grown today (over 90%) comes from GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds, which, in my opinion, is venturing into a deep dark unknown of physical and environmental health problems.   Do we really know what the effect will be on our health?  Do you really want to believe the chemical companies that brought you Agent Orange are telling you the truth? 

“Don’t mess with God.”  When you start changing the genetic materials used to grow foods, the effects may be profound in 5, 10, or 20 years.  Genetically modified organisms are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory using genetic engineering.  (For more information on the Non-GMO Project, click here.)

“You are what you eat.”  You’ve heard that before.  My choice is to eat foods that are as natural and freshly picked as possible.  What is important to your health?  Eating vegetables grown by my local farmers and choosing to cook with grains that are from non-GMO seeds are two things that are important to me.  Understanding wellness means, to me, knowing where my food comes from. 

Food should taste good and it should be good for you.  Here’s a delicious new recipe from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen.  I buy zucchini, onions, and carrots grown right here in the county where I live.  This recipe has been kid-tested! 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Zucchini-Carrot Fritters

  • 2 small zucchini 

Place zucchini in a colander in the sink; toss with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for 10 minutes.  Squeeze out the liquid. 

Place zucchini in a large mixing bowl. 

Mix in:
  • 1 grated carrot
  • ¼ cup diced sweet onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup organic soy flour (or corn flour)

Fry small spoonfuls of the mixture in unrefined coconut oil, 3-4 minutes per side, flattening with a spatula. 

Drain on paper towels. 

Serves 4. 

  • Make extra fritters and pack some in everyone’s lunchboxes the next day. 
  • Using organic soy flour boosts the protein content.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: To Gluten or Not to Gluten?

“It helps to understand that food sensitivities in general are usually a response from the immune system.  They can also occur if the body lacks the right enzymes to digest ingredients in foods.  In the case of gluten, its “sticky” attribute interferes with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.  As you can imagine, poorly digested food leads to a pasty residue in your gut, which alerts the immune system to leap into action, eventually resulting in an assault on the lining of the small intestine.  Those who experience symptoms complain of abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and intestinal distress.  Some people, however, don’t experience obvious signs of gastrointestinal trouble, but they could nevertheless be experiencing a silent attack elsewhere in their body, such as in their nervous system.  Remember that when a body negatively reacts to food, it attempts to control the damage by sending out inflammatory messenger molecules to label the food particles as enemies.  This leads the immune system to keep sending out inflammatory chemicals, killer cells among them, in a bid to wipe out the enemies.  The process often damages our tissue, leaving the walls of our intestine compromised, a condition known as “leaky gut.”  Once you have a leaky gut, you’re highly susceptible to additional food sensitivities in the future.  And the onslaught of inflammation can also put you at risk for developing autoimmune disease.”
                                                                    --from Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD

Gluten – Latin for “glue” - is a protein composite that acts as an adhesive material found in a couple of grains: wheat, rye and barley. Individuals with celiac disease cannot process this protein.  People with celiac disease cannot consume foods containing gluten.  But the reality is that there is so much processed wheat in the American food supply these days (think McDonald’s hamburger buns, pizza, PopTarts and honeybuns, white breads, packaged cookies, and breakfast cereal, etc).  More and more people are developing a sensitivity to gluten because their bodies cannot handle the daily onslaught of huge amounts of it. 

“You are what you eat” is a saying we use in our Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen projects because when families understand how much processed wheat they are eating, and what happens to your brain and your body, your increased awareness will guide you to make better food choices.  For many people, learning about gluten sensitivities may be well worth their present and future health. 

Talking about gluten includes talking about the state of your digestive health (and your brain health, but more about brain health in another issue of WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS). Kids are so inundated with foods containing highly processed wheat and they are paying for it with stomach aches, constipation, irritability, lack of bowel movements due to the severe lack of dietary fiber in their foods, and the inability to focus.  Foods containing white flour turn to sugar as soon as they get into our mouth, setting off the chain of inflammation and disease. 

We rarely use wheat, even whole grain wheat, in the healthy cooking classes we do.  People often feel better when they limit, restrict, or eliminate their intake of foods containing wheat.  If you’ve ever felt bloated or have had a stomach ache after eating a sandwich, pizza, or flour tortillas, try eliminating all processed wheat for a week.  What you will discover is that refined wheat (also called “enriched” wheat – what a misnomer!) is in everything!  If this is too radical for you, then just eliminate all wheat except for “whole grain wheat” and see how you feel after a week.  

I feel sorry for all the kids who complain of a stomach ache on a regular basis and their parents think it is a ploy to stay home from school, when in fact, the kids could very well have a gluten sensitivity to all processed, refined wheat they are being bombarded with and their bodies cannot handle.  More education about gluten sensitivity is needed for parents, but also for teachers. 

Here is one of our very popular wheat-free recipes from recent classes.  It is, of course, kid-tested.  Enjoy!  

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection


COOK according to directions:
  • 1 box quinoa pasta

WHILE pasta cooks, whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl:
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons chardonnay wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs, finely chopped (I like parsley and basil in this recipe)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

DRAIN pasta when cooked al dente (do NOT overcook) and rinse with cool water.  Place in large mixing bowl. 

ADD the following and gently mix thoroughly:
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 cups fresh arugula, finely sliced (can substitute with fresh spinach)
  • Dressing (see above)

LET salad sit for about 15 minutes before serving so the flavors have a chance to dance together.  Serve on a bed of fresh, local greens with feta cheese on the side. 


NOTE FROM NANCY:  This salad will keep for a day and may even be better the second day.  If you make it for dinner, it makes a fabulous lunch for work (or school for your kids) the next day and all your coworkers will be envious of all the great flavors!  

Remember, kids need good food to thrive.  See you in the kitchen!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

P.S. For more great kid-tested recipes and tips, don't forget to order your copy of NOURISH AND FLOURISH here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Breakfast of Wellness Champions

"We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu.  We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity.  And we can help create a culture - imagine this - where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them."  
                                                -- Michelle Obama

The kids all wanted to know what they were going to make.  I surprised them with the announcement that the menu was all about breakfast.  We had an ambitious list of 3 recipes to create together.  The kids wrote out our class menu on the dry erase board:  kale protein shakes, French toast, and spinach omelets, all under the heading, “Breakfast of Wellness Champions”.

Kids tend to their vertical towers at Florida Veggies and More.

Showing off the French toast!  

One of the lessons kids learn from attending our Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen classes is to use the best ingredients you can afford to buy.  Another lesson they learn is that occasionally it is OK to have a little sweet.  On this particular Saturday, both lessons came together.  The kids saw the ingredients on the counter and their eyes got big:  real maple syrup, fair trade cinnamon, real vanilla, Greek yogurt, and fresh strawberries.  I showed them the loaf of crusty sour dough bread I purchased the day before from La Patisserie, our new local bakery in Vero Beach which creates the most delicious artisan breads, pastries, and desserts.  The kids all wanted a taste of the bread before we created our divine French toast.  I sliced off tiny bits for each to try.  They waited in anticipation for their first taste.

Two of the boys were given the task of slicing the fresh strawberries. After a demonstration, one of the boys questioned my instructions about how to cut off the top of the strawberries.  He asked if he could, instead, just lop it off with one quick slice.  I took a few minutes to explain why I wanted him to cut a very small circle around the stem and only remove the white part of the strawberry under the stem.  “Wasting food is not OK,” I explained.  “Someone worked hard to grow these strawberries.  They contain lots of vitamin C which helps keep you healthy and your immune system strong.  That is why I am asking you to cut them up as I showed you.”  There were no more questions from the strawberry team.  They got to work and did a fabulous job!

“This is a spatula.  Learn to use it correctly so that you don’t throw away part of what you are constructing.” We cracked the eggs into a dish, added cinnamon and a little cream.  The kids all wanted to whisk the ingredients together.  The bread soaked in the cinnamon and egg mixture while the griddle heated to the right temperature.  Each piece cooked, then I constructed the French toast:  a little powdered sugar, vanilla Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, and a small drizzle of real maple syrup.  Their faces were priceless as they savored each bite of breakfast heaven!

Another lesson the kids got in our class that morning was about respect.  This is something I talk about a lot in my healthy cooking classes:  respect for the farmers who grow our foods, respect for portion sizes that help keep us at healthy weights, and respect for the foods that create health, not disease.  

All three recipes at our breakfast class were a huge hit!  In the following days, I got some unexpected feedback which made all the preparation time beforehand and clean up time afterward worthwhile:  while shopping the following week, I saw one of the boys, a 5th grader, with his family.  I asked him which of the three recipes he enjoyed the most, to which he quickly replied, “The kale protein shakes!”  Another day, I received feedback through a coworker who knew the father of another boy from the breakfast class.  Apparently, this little boy, a 4th grader whose mother told me is an extremely picky eater, was so excited about the spinach omelets, that he had announced to this parents that he wanted to make spinach omelets for Thanksgiving dinner!  Getting elementary age boys and girls to love eating kale and spinach – now that is what I call success! 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I love November because it is National Diabetes Education Month.  For our Growing Healthy Kids movement, it is another opportunity to lead by example to empower children and educate parents.  That’s why this month we are going bananas teaching healthy cooking classes and talking about diabetes with adults throughout the Treasure Coast of Florida and the U.S.

Did you know
…diabetes is preventable?
…the “good” kind of carbohydrate that doesn’t raise your blood sugar is called dietary fiber?
…sugar has no nutritional value yet it is added to lots of foods and drinks because it is cheap?

Protecting our health means caring about our health.  Protecting our children’s health means learning how to read food labels and buying real foods, not highly processed foods filled with added sugars, fats, salt, and food dyes.  Remember last week’s Wellness Wednesdays article I shared with you about the woman with diabetes who had no idea what an A1c test was?  Doctors are treating diabetes but are not teaching about diabetes.  This bothers me because of all the people I have worked with who are taking medications for diabetes but who have never been educated about what to do if their blood sugar remains elevated or if their blood sugar falls way below normal.  If someone’s blood sugar remains uncontrolled, don’t just throw another medicine at the patient, educate the patient how to gain control.  The fact is that avoiding extreme highs and low is the goal if you have diabetes.  As I like to say to my adult students engaged in improving their health literacy, “you want to keep your blood sugar steady and even, like a flat-as-a-pancake kind of beach morning at Jaycee Park Beach.”

Did you know
…uncontrolled diabetes may very well be linked to Alzheimer's disease?
…children who eat diets filled with processed sugar may not only develop early onset diabetes but also early onset Alzheimer's?
…children diagnosed with diabetes as teenagers can be expected to live 15-17 years LESS than someone without diabetes?

Let’s get going with some leadership on how to not just control diabetes but how to prevent it and reverse it.  Parents can lead by example.  Dare to care.  Read food labels.  Cook with your children.  Eat dinner together as a family.  Invest in a copy of Nourish and Flourish: Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes for the price of one lunch AND support our health ministry to reverse childhood obesity and prevent obesity-related diseases like diabetes.  Buy a couple of extra copies of the book for your local library or church.  It’s real easy, just click here.  You can also invite Growing Healthy Kids to come to your community with weekend wellness workshops filled with healthy cooking classes and pantry makeovers; all you have to do is dare to care and dare to lead.  Just send us an email at to schedule a weekend wellness workshop at your organization, business, school, or community center. 

With your leadership, we CAN reverse the childhood obesity epidemic and ensure that our children have long lives to look forward to! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY: National Diabetes Education Month

It is November.  It is also National Diabetes Education Month.  Every year, we are reminded to have conversations about diabetes with our families, perhaps also with our doctors.  There are opportunities all around us to learn more about how we can protect our health by taking action. 

Let me share a conversation I had tonight...As part of a new partnership, Growing Healthy Kids was recently asked to create a four week nutrition class for mothers living in north Fort Pierce, Florida.  A small church with a big heart, St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church was founded in the 1920s by Bahamian immigrants.  A major church renovation was just completed and we were invited to use the church's new kitchen to bring health literacy into the community.  One of the women in the class told me at last week's class she was taking insulin and pills for diabetes, yet when I spoke about the most important lab test for people who have diabetes (the A1c), she had no idea what I was talking about.  That was my first sign that her doctor is treating her but not teaching her. 

Tonight’s nutrition class featured lentils (because they are such a great source for dietary fiber, the good kind of carbohydrate).  While we were talking about the recipe we were about to prepare together, I talked about some of the problems that come with diabetes, like heart attacks, strokes, and nerve damage to the feet.  Immediately, this same woman said, “That’s what’s bothering me now!  My feet are starting to burn all the time.”  Over and over again, she asked questions, great questions.  The more we talked, the more aware I became that she has had diabetes for years, yet she still knows so little about what she can control, such as the foods she eats. 

I am looking forward to seeing this woman next week at our next Wellness Wednesday adventure at the little church with the big heart nestled just north of Avenue D in Fort Pierce.  For me, bringing education about diabetes and empowering mothers and grandmothers about how we make choices every day about our own health and the health of our family, is why wellness matters.  The best way you can support our health ministry work in Fort Pierce and other medically underserved communities is to click here and purchase several copies of Nourish and Flourish: Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes for your own family and church.  

In case you would like to try the delicious recipe that had everyone's attention (including the children's) at tonight's nutrition class, here is the newest recipe from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen:

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

PLACE in a medium pan with 3 cups water, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to simmer:
  • ·         1 cup lentils

COOK for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain off excess water.
WHILE lentils cook, sauté over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes:
·         2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • ·         1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • ·         1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ·         2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • ·         Freshly ground pepper
  • ·         Sea salt
HEAT on a griddle (1 minute each side):
  • ·         Corn tortillas
SERVE tortillas with a spoon of lentils and top with sautéed vegetables, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.    
Makes 4 servings.

  •           Lentils are packed with dietary fiber (the good kind of carbohydrate).
  •      Double this recipe and store the extra lentils and vegetables in reusable containers and use for delicious, healthy lunches for your kids to take to school and for you to have at work.  Mix with cooked brown rice or quinoa for added nutritional value.
  •       Nutrition facts:  ¼ cup lentils (uncooked) have about 11 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of protein, 320 mg potassium and 80 calories.

  In gratitude,
  Nancy Heinrich
  Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

  P.S. To learn more about National Diabetes Education Month, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Lessons from a Box of Pop Tarts

Pop Tarts have always been a part of the Growing Healthy Kids project.  “HOLD IT”, you say.  "Isn’t Growing Healthy Kids all about teaching kids about healthy foods?"  Yes, we are.  Now that I have your attention, let's get straight to the lesson. 

The first lesson I ever received from a box of pop tarts was like a lightning bolt hit me.  It happened the very first time I met with the managers of the local Boys and Girls Club.  I put a box of pop tarts on the table to use as a visual for everything that we teach kids what NOT to eat.  However, before I started my presentation, one manager said, “That’s what we give to the kids every day for their snack.”  I almost fell out of my chair with the manager’s revelation. Turns out the local school district donated them to the Boys and Girls Club!  The thing is, he didn’t think anything was wrong with kids eating pop tarts!  That was more than five years ago.  I have never forgotten the lesson I learned that day:  Educating adults is critical. 

Fast forward to this month.  I designed a new program for children served by Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program.  Again, the visual focal point for the class was a box of pop tarts.  The children and the adult mentors all walked away at the end of the class wondering just how many other foods they have been mindlessly eating that could be causing more harm than good. 

Here are six simple lessons we can all learn from a box of pop tarts:

1.  Count the number of ingredients.  The more ingredients there are, the greater the chance there are hidden sugars and other bad ingredients. 

2.  Read the ingredients out loud.  How many ingredients do you not know how to pronounce?    If there is even one ingredient that you are unsure of how to pronounce, chances are it is a chemical or a highly processed ingredient that is not good for you.

3.  Look for sugar.  How many grams of sugar per serving are on the nutrition facts panel?  How many different names for sugar are listed as ingredients?  The other night I gave the children a list of fifty names for sugar to look for on the box of pop tarts.  They found way more than one or two!  The more sugar kids eat, the greater the chance they are eating empty calories that can cause health issues such as obesity, attention deficit disorder, and diabetes.  

4.  Look for what I call the “evil empire sugar”:  high fructose corn syrup.  This highly processed sugar is one of the worst ingredients we can eat.  Teach your kids to be nutrition detectives and to look carefully at the ingredients so they do not eat any foods containing this “evil empire sugar”. 

5.  Look for food dyes.  See if there are any ingredients that include “blue”, “red”, “yellow”, etc. on the food label.  Consumption of food dyes are  known to cause increased risk of cancer, hyperactivity, aggressive behaviors, thyroid disorders, asthma, insomnia, allergies, and more. 

6.  Identify where the item is physically located in the store.  Take pop tarts, for example.  Why is it that when I go into the cereal aisle in any major grocery store, pop tarts are always at the front of the aisle and there are many rows and shelves of them?  How much is being paid to the grocery store for front row placement?  Did you ever wonder why the steel cut oats don’t get the same respect?  It’s all about the profits.  When you use cheap, highly processed, shelf stable (we’re talking years) ingredients, you can spent more on advertising and you can make more profits.  The pop tarts are also in the middle of the store, where processed foods are found. Start your shopping trip on the walls on the store first, stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy, and seafood.

Our children’s health should not be for sale to the highest bidder.  Yet it is.  You can do something about it.  Look for cereals that are on the top row.  These will be the ones with only a couple of ingredients and less sugar.  They are not, however, at your children’s eye level.  Companies pay stores to get their products placed so that kids will have easy access to them.  So talk with your children before you go shopping the next time.  Make it a game to find a cereal with less than five ingredients, no color dyes and no high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: National Diabetes Education Month

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." 
                                      --Frederick Douglass

Diabetes is the reason why I started the Growing Healthy Kids organization.  After working with thousands of older adults in a wellness program for Medicare, I knew that something powerful needed to be done to protect the health – and lives – of America’s children.  Because obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes, children who are overweight and obese deserve are the reason for our education programs. 

Did you know that having dinner together as a family is one of the ways proven to help kids stay at a healthy weight?  So here are a few questions for you…How many nights a week do you eat together as a family?  How often do your kids shop with you?  Do your kids know how to set a table?  What is their favorite recipe to help you prepare? 

October 16th is the deadline for kids age 13 and younger to have their posters postmarked and on their way to us at Growing Healthy Kids.  The theme is “My Favorite Family Foods” and it presents parents with the opportunity to talk with their children about family traditions, cultures, and recipes.  For all the details, look at our September 3, 2014 posting.  Mail your 8-1/2” x 11” poster to: Growing Healthy Kids, 762 US Hwy 1, #106, Vero Beach, Fl 32962.  Winners will be notified by November 16th

We cannot afford to watch our children develop diseases typically diagnosed in older adults.   Have dinner with your kids tonight and have a conversation about your favorite family foods. What is YOUR favorite family food?

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS - I will be speaking this Saturday on FOOD AND MOOD this Saturday, October 11th at the 2nd Annual Summit for the Parents of Teens and Tweens at 1st Presbyterian Church in Vero Beach, Florida. Only $15/person.  Go to for details!   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Dear Parents,

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Obesity in children has more than doubled and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years.  In 2012, more than one in three children and adolescents were overweight or obese.  Obesity has immediate and long-term effects on health AND well-being.  One immediate effect for kids is being the recipient of bullying by their peers at school, especially if they are in middle school. When kids get bullied at school, they isolate themselves at home and at school.  They stop participating in after-school activities.  They complain about stomach aches more often than kids who are not overweight or obese and have higher rates of absenteeism.  Then their grades start dropping.  Then their self-esteem is affected.  

Driving to work every day, I pass a middle school and an elementary school.  I always notice the kids who walk to school because growing up, I walked to school.  I see many kids struggling to walk, walking slower than other kids who are not overweight.  I see kids wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts because they are trying to cover up their size, even though it is 90 degrees outside and other kids are wearing shorts and T-shirts to school.  I notice that the overweight and obese kids are walking slower than the rest of their classmates.  How can you not notice a child who is twice the size of other kids?  

What bothers me about my goal of raising awareness about the solutions to childhood obesity is that kids who are overweight or obese need better role models.  Take today, for example.  I happened to be at the local hospital and I observed that most of the health care workers were overweight or obese.  Outside the hospital, I observed health care workers smoking (instead of walking) on their break.  In the hospital cafeteria, I saw lots of highly processed, prepackaged foods, iceberg lettuce on the salad bar (yuck!) and a large display of sodas right by the cash register.  If most adults are eating foods high in added sugars and think nothing of drinking 3 sodas a day, then is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this country?

If childhood obesity is such a big problem, then do we really care enough to do something about it?  If the health care workers at my local hospital are any indication, then I would say no.  If the number of overweight and obese teachers is an indication, then I would say no.  

I could go on and on, but you catch my drift.  If childhood obesity is such a big problem, then WE MUST BE THE SOLUTION.  It is up to us to lead by example.  It is up to us to teach kids how to read food labels and be nutrition detectives.  But if we are drinking three sodas a day and taking our work breaks to smoke instead of take a 10 minute walk, then what are we really teaching our children about good health habits?  

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Drink water, not soda.   Choose fruit instead of fruit juice.  Read food labels and don't buy food containing trans fats. Take a walk.  Make one change a week.  Be a better role model.  Choose to lead by example.  Dare to care.  Be the solution.

 NEXT WEEK:  Lessons from a box of Pop Tarts

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

PS-If your kids are age 13 and younger, then look for the details about our 4th Annual Poster Contest on the September 3rd issue of Wellness Wednesdays.   We are SO EXCITED about tapping the voice of America's children!  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Navajo Nation, The Power to Heal Diabetes, and Growing Healthy Kids

"To provide diabetes prevention/intervention by promoting healthy lifestyle changes to reduce and prevent diabetes" 
       -- Mission Statement, Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project

Here are six questions to think about:

  1. Do you live in a food desert?  
  2. Do you eat differently (translate:  worse) than your grandparents?  
  3. Are you overweight?  
  4. Do you (or a family member) have type 2 diabetes?  
  5. Do you have limited access to fresh vegetables and fruits?  
  6. Are you concerned about a child or youth in your family who is at an unhealthy weight? 

Many of the kids and families I get the opportunity to work with answer “yes” to most or all of these questions.   Now, we have the chance to touch the lives - and health - of many more children. 

In recognition of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this month, Growing Healthy Kids is honored to announce that we have been invited  to work with children and parents in the Navaho Nation.  Diabetes among Native American youth is an often-ignored epidemic of national significance, fueled by issues of limited access to healthy foods and increased access to foods high in sugar and processed foods.  

We know that diabetes can be controlled, reversed and prevented by embracing healthier ways of eating, most of which are defined by issues of access, and by being active.  However, if you live on a reservation where a food store selling fresh vegetables is a 200 mile drive, access to healthy foods is a barrier to improved glycemic control. 


We are so looking forward about being able to empower, inspire, and educate children and families and look forward to each project in this new partnership.  We will set benchmarks for how we will define success.  We will share our story and our journey with you and invite you to come along the journey with us. 

America’s children deserve access to healthy foods.  ALL of our children.  If they live in a food desert, we have to create "food heavens".  We can teach our children that the way our grandparents ate and lived did not lead to obesity and diabetes.  We can all learn the benefits of being at a healthy weight.  We can - and must - grow foods using new growing methods like hydoponic and aeroponic to give families access to fresh, nutrient dense foods, wherever they live.  Whether children live in Vero Beach, Florida, inner city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or on the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, ALL of America's children deserve access to healthy foods.  

Oops!  Never heard of Tuba City?   We will be there soon, as part of our work to improve the health - and lives - of America's children, one child at a time.  To learn more about the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project, click here.

One of my favorite parts of WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS is bringing you resources you can use – here is one we fell in love with while doing research for our new collaboration.  We know you will love it, too!  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is working to eliminate diabetes among Native Americans where health has been lost because diet has changed. The PCRM has created a beautiful resource full of delicious recipes and tips.  If you would like a copy of The Power to Heal Diabetes: Power Plate Resources and Recipes, please click here.    

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS -- If your kids are age 13 and younger, read about our 4th Annual Poster Contest in the September 3rd issue of WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS!  Deadline for having posters postmarked is October 16th!  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Poster Contest for Kids 2014

"Every child is an artist: The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  
                                                                                           -- Pablo Picasso

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  This is why we have chosen this month to announce our national 4th Annual Poster Contest for Growing Healthy Kids.  This year's theme is “My Favorite Family Foods”.   Our goal is to encourage kids to express their visions about healthy foods.  Parents, please use this theme to talk with your children about family food traditions, preparing favorite recipes as a family, or favorite foods to grow at home. 

Guidelines for the 4th Annual Poster Contest for Growing Healthy Kids are below:
  • ·         The poster contest is open to all children in the U.S. who are 13 years old and younger on October 16, 2014. 
  • ·         Artwork must be no larger than 8-1/2” x 11”.  All media are accepted.  Chalk, charcoal and pastel entries should be sealed with a fixative spray to prevent smearing.  Combinations of media (crayons, colored pencils, chalk, pen, torn pieces of paper, pictures from magazines, markers, etc.) are acceptable.
  • ·         Only one entry per child. 
  • ·         On back of the poster please include:
o   Parent’s name, email, phone number, and address
o   Child’s name, age, and school name 

Deadline:  Posters must be received or postmarked by October 16, 2014. 

Mail posters to: Growing Healthy Kids, 762 S. US Hwy 1, #106, Vero Beach, FL. 32962. Winners will be notified by November 16, 2014. 

Each poster is judged on originality, artistic merit, and expression of the theme.  Participants agree to allow Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. to use their names and posters for educational, promotional, and publicity purposes.  Three posters will be selected by a panel of educators and artists and will be published on the Growing Healthy Kids website and in the next Growing Healthy Kids’ book about good food and health.  When posters are published, only the child’s first initial, last name, city and state will be included.  No other information will be published or shared.  Certificates of Recognition will be sent to the three children whose posters are selected, along with a signed copy of NOURISH AND FLOURISH:  Kid-Tested and Approved Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes.  All entries become property of Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  
A mother and daughter at a Growing Healthy Kids program
held at Gifford Youth Activity Center in Vero Beach, Florida.

We have a generation of kids at risk for obesity-related diseases.  The board of directors and volunteers who are part of the Growing Healthy Kids movement feel strongly about unleashing the power of the youth voice to improve the health – and lives – of America’s children and their families to reverse, prevent and halt childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.  We can learn from our children.  They can learn from us.  Kids are very observant about their world.  There are teachable moments all around us.  
Studies have shown that having dinner together as a family is one of the most important ways you can teach your children how to stay at a healthy weight.  Planning meals together, shopping together, cooking together, taking care of a kitchen herb garden, and enjoying food together as a family…these tasks are about so much more than food! So enjoy talking about this year’s theme and start creating some family food traditions of your own.  Most of all, have fun!
In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.