Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Are Your Kids Addicted to Sugar?

"It's no coincidence that four of the six letters in health are "heal".  --Ed Northstrum

I was talking to a man the other day about getting his diabetes under control after he got “the talk” from his doctor.  He told me what he used to eat:   a banana and a honeybun for breakfast, sweet tea all day, and, well, you get the picture. He said, “I think I am addicted to sugar.”  Then there was the young mother I just met who has been recruited for a new Growing Healthy Kids initiative to educate mothers. She told me her 2 year old daughter eats candy for breakfast.  After we spent 3 hours together talking about diabetes and what our kids eat, she decided to make some changes now.  

Americans ARE addicted to sugar.  Sugar ranks up at the top in terms of food addictions, right up there with foods loaded with fats and salt.  It’s one thing to have a “sweet tooth” and to have dessert after every dinner.  It’s another thing to drink 5 or 6 glasses of sweet tea a day, hide cookies in your bedroom or ALWAYS have seconds (or thirds) of cake.
Image result for picture of cakes and pies

Most people eat too much sugar. It is hidden in processed foods.  In fact, food companies pay scientists lots of money to find ways to make food addictive so we will overeat. 

How much sugar is too much?  Here are the guidelines for the daily maximum sugar intake (source: American Heart Association):

Kids (preschool and early elementary)                      12.5 grams
Tweens and teens                                                       21-33 grams
Women                                                                       25 grams
Men                                                                             37 grams

Use these guidelines when buying food in boxes, cans, or packages.  Look at how many grams of sugar are in a serving, look at the serving size, then determine how many serving your kids eat.  DID YOU KNOW...Most serving sizes are by design INTENTIONALLY SMALLER than what people really eat.  By incorporating this tip into your food shopping, you will raise your awareness of how much sugar is in what you are eating. 

One of the most addictive sugars is HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP;  this is the most important sugar to eliminate from your kids’ foods.  The fact is that eating too much sugar is linked to problems such as obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity disorder, and lack of focus.  Buy foods with less sugar, not more.  When you start replacing high sugar foods with fabulous fiber foods, you start shifting to better health.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS - If you have a question you would like me to answer on "Pop Up Health", the fun weekly radio show I do with Chef Michael Glatz, send an email to  Listen on on Tuesdays and Sundays 3-4 pm (eastern); search for WAXE 107.9 FM/1370 AM.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: 4 Tips for Eating Real Food

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." --Abraham Lincoln

How conscious are you about your health?  Working in the world of preventable diseases, I notice weird things.  Like how much meat people have in their grocery carts.  Like parents who grab sugar-filled sodas from the chiller by the checkout counter.  Like people who smoke in cars with their children trapped inside.  Like how many extra layers of clothes overweight and obese children wear compared to children at healthy weights, even when it is 90 degrees outside.

Peas On A Wooden Board Stock Photo

Maybe my awareness about healthy habits goes back to my childhood growing up in Sacramento, California, where we always had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I have vivid memories of going to the California State Fair every year and seeing endless displays celebrating California's role as the nation's agricultural leader.  With today's news about the California drought, and the fact that HALF of America's fruits and vegetables are grown there, I am very concerned about the future impact of the drought.

Maybe my increased awareness goes back to Heinrich family reunions, when my cousins and I started taking progressive steps in our own lives to prevent heart disease in ourselves because it was what our parents, aunts and uncles were being diagnosed with and were treated for.  I remember as a child,  my father was a patient at Stanford University Hospital with heart disease.  He died many years later of a heart attack.  Knowing this, I have worked consciously to raise my awareness of my own risk factors for, and preventing, heart disease (blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, daily exercise, etc.) for optimal health outcomes.

Create your future.  Here are 4 tips for eating real food:

  1. Find your local farmers market and talk to the people growing food in your area.
  2. Learn what fruits and vegetables are in season where you live.  For example, in Florida, blueberries are in season right now.  In Indiana, it is strawberry season.
  3. Support your local farmers and producers by buying food from them.  This creates a demand and provides local jobs. Stop buying foods grown outside of the U.S.
  4. Plan your meals around fresh (or frozen, if fresh choices are not available) fruits and vegetables.

To connect to a site I use to find delicious, healthy recipes, click here.  This site contains articles and recipes written by a woman who shares the same philosophy as mine: to make healthy choices every day.  She currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and teaches all over the world.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Alzheimer's Disease and Diabetes

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

Last week I was talking with someone about Growing Healthy Kids' projects to reverse childhood obesity and the economic consequences of NOT preventing diabetes in kids who are overweight.  He shared that his parents had Alzheimer's disease and diabetes and that he had just been diagnosed with prediabetes.  His questions quickly became an expression of his concern and worry that he, too, will develop Alzheimer's disease.

As we talked about the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's, he soon asked how to prepare plant-based dinners.  Of course, I was happy to make suggestions.   We talked about how he could easily create a foil packet filled with vegetables such as zuccini, sweet potatoes, and red peppers (one of my favorite combinations) tossed with a little olive oil, a couple of garlic cloves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to roast on the oven or on the grill.  Add quinoa and a serving of some fresh, seasonal fruit and you have a most delicious, healthy, AND economical meal!   I keep a bottle of Bragg Liquid Aminos on the table to use for seasoning foods like quinoa and veggies (and adding a nutritional kick).  

Is there a connection between disease and food?  Absolutely yes.  Children, like adults, do best when they eat small meals and snacks often.  A snack can be some avocado mashed up with a little lime juice and sea salt on a slice of whole grain bread or some almond butter on a couple of slices of apple.  Is there a connection between brain health and food?  Absolutely, yes.

Are your children getting healthy foods and snacks every day?  Foods filled with added sugars, salt and fats are, unfortunately, part of a disease-laden SAD  (Standard American Diet).  The SAD diet has gotten us unhealthy kids (1 in 3 kids age 2 and older is overweight or obese) plus very expensive diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's that affect more people each year and get more expensive. Think we are paying a lot for health (read: disease) care now?  Just wait five years.  Think it is expensive to eat well?  Try getting sick.

Who wants to eat SAD foods when there is so much more health to be gained (and money to be saved when you prevent disease) from eating fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, oils like olive oil, and fish.  After all, the brain is 70% fat and gets most of the fat it needs from foods, like olive oil, avocados, fish, walnuts and soy foods, according to Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University's Cener for Musculoskeletal Care and Sports Performance.  "These healthy fats have been shown to improve cognitive function and brain health." Heller said.  "Conversely, research suggests that eating unhealthy fats like trans fats found in processed foods, and saturated fats in animal foods accelerated cognitive decline, poor memory, and is linked with an increased risk of dementia."

Learning to eat well is something all families should make a priority.  If you have a question about how to help your kids eat better that you would like me to discuss on "Pop Up Health with Nancy Heinrich", my weekly radio show with Chef Michael Glatz from La Patisserie Vero Beach, just send an email to  Come on, let's change the world together!

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Preventing Diabetes and Other Expensive Diseases

“What struck me was that, time after time, much of what I was seeing was preventable. This is the great tragedy of the health of our nation right now.”      -- Dr. Vivek Murthy, the new U.S. Surgeon General, speaking about his experiences as a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

The fact is, physicians in the U.S. are paid to treat your diseases, not prevent them.  According to Dr. David Agus, a regular contributor to CBS, the U.S. health care system is “not incentivized to prevent disease.”  Instead, the system pays doctors to treat your diabetes or your cancer.   

It has always been ironic to me that we call it a “health care system” when in fact we have a “disease care system.”

Think about diabetes.  What if doctors prescribed fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains instead of insulin?  What if they said, “Take this prescription for real food and go to your local farmacy?”  Instead they say, “Take this prescription for drugs and go to your local pharmacy?”  What if people received education about how the added sugars, fats, and sodium in processed foods are contributing to a nation of obese Americans?  What if we all said to our doctors, “I will pay you to keep me OUT of the hospital.” 

Another fact to consider:  type 2 diabetes is controllable, reversible, and best of all, preventable.  It is also an incredibly expensive disease, for the individual diagnosed with diabetes, for their family, for their employer and for our country.  In 2012, the estimated economic burden of diabetes in the U.S. was $245 Billion (yes, billion).  This is a 41% increase from the $174 Billion spent in 2007.  A 41% increase in 5 years.  Did your salary increase 41% in 5 years?  I didn’t think so. 

There are an estimated 86 million Americans with prediabetes, 9 out of 10 of whom don’t know they have prediabetes.  Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, and if you do nothing to change your eating habits, your weight if you are overweight or obese, fitness routines, stress levels, or amount of good sleep, then you will most likely progress to a diabetes diagnosis.  People with diabetes have 2-3 times higher health care costs than people without diabetes.  The pipeline is loaded so that physicians and hospitals will make a killing (no pun intended) off of your diseases. 

Improving health literacy is an essential component of learning how NOT to get diabetes.  We do a lot of work in the Growing Healthy Kids project to educate people about controlling and reserving diabetes, but more importantly, about preventing diabetes.   A favorite part of my work is when someone attending an education or healthy cooking program says, “Now I get it!  I can do this!” 

Most foods in grocery stores have nutrition facts labels.  We can choose to read the labels and then decide if we want to buy something, once we learn how to identify the added sugars, fats, sodium, food dyes, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners.  Most Americans eat too much sugar and too many refined grains (all bad carbohydrates) and not enough vegetables and whole grains (the good carbs). No wonder America's children are overweight, obese, and sick.  

Preventing disease is a priority for my family.  Is it a priority for your family?  Do you know how to improve your family’s health literacy?   Please email your questions about diabetes and other preventable diseases to

Don’t forget to listen to “Pop Up Health with Nancy Heinrich” on, my weekly interview with Chef Michael Glatz!  

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