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.