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.