Wednesday, November 25, 2015


"I tried every kind of dieting.  They said decrease your calories; increase your exercise; you're lazy; you're stressed out.  And then I met Dr. Lustig.  He said it was none of those things.  It was all the sugar and it was a lack of fiber.  I changed my food to the things he told me to do.  I've lost 100 pounds; I've restored my vitality, my health, and I'm happy."                            --Cindy Gershen

The evidence is mounting.  All calories are NOT equal.  A recent 2015 study* by Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist with University of California-San Francisco, looked at the impact of sugar on the metabolism on 43 obese children ages 8-18.  The study replaced calories from added sugars with starchy foods.  The study was NOT designed to reduce calories; in fact, children’s weight was monitored to ensure they did NOT lose weight during the study.  During the study, the children’s sugar intake dropped from 28% to 10%. 

Results were dramatic.  After only 9 days, all 43 of the children’s blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar improved.  What’s the take home message here?  We are eating too much sugar and it is negatively impacting the health – and lives – of America’s children.  

As parents, you and I have a responsibility to ensure that all children have access to healthy foods.  Let’s do WHATEVER IT TAKES to ensure that our children have access to food that is healthy, not food that makes them sick and unhealthy.  The fact is that if a child is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (normally a disease of older adults) that their lifespan will be reduced by 17 years. 

Here are 3 healthy eating tips for you and your children:
  1. Read food labels and look for any ingredient that ends in “-ose”, which is a sugar.  Buy a similar product with less sugar.
  2. Drink water, not soda or juice.  Many parents have been tricked to think that fruit juice is healthy for their kids.  Fruit juice is all sugar and no fiber.  Instead, choose some fresh fruit.  
  3. Avoid ALL foods which contain HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP.  This is the most highly processed form of sugar in our food supply and is highly addictive and destructive to our health. 

As we gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving this week, I want to acknowledge and honor the amazing volunteers who have made the Growing Healthy Kids' educational programs for children and parents a success.  It is because of you that we are improving the health and lives of America’s children.  Be kind.  Laugh every day.  Love life.  Eat vegetables.  Thank you. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

*The study was published online on October 27, 2015 in the journal Obesity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Kale, Kids, and Alzheimer's

“Follow the Mediterranean or the MIND diets and your mind will be sharper in six months – and less susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease decades later.”         

                                                                                  --Majid Fotuhi, M.D., medical director of NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center and affiliate staff at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland

Tuscan (or flat-leaf) kale

Every time I read an article about brain health and Alzheimer’s, I think about the emerging knowledge that Alzheimer’s is a disease which begins 30 or 40 years before the first symptoms appear.  An article in the October 2015 issue of AARP's Bulletin, “Eat Your Way to Brain Health,” is about the MIND* diet which emphasizes fish, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and a daily glass of wine.  Eating foods that contain the good, healthy fat (unsaturated fat) like olive oil, nuts, and fish (but not farm-raised fish) enhance memory and information processing. 

As parents, we should take note of all this emerging knowledge.  Scientists are documenting the foods that can keep our brains active as they attempt to urgently learn how to blunt the life-robbing effects of Alzheimer’s as the numbers of Americans affected continue to increase each year.  It is clear that Alzheimer’s does not develop in one month or one year.  It develops over several decades of eating foods that clog up the brain instead of eating brain-boosting foods that maintain healthy blood flow and prevent inflammation.  Choosing more of the good foods and deciding to eat less of the bad foods is what the Growing Healthy Kids workshops teach children and their parents.  This is why teaching kids to be Nutrition Scientists is so much fun!  

Here are some foods that are very good for your brain (now and in 30 years): 
  • Olive oil
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric (curcumin, its active ingredient, is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances in the world and a key ingredient in curry)
  • Nuts, especially walnuts
  • Beets, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, collards
  • Dark chocolate (I eat a little piece every day!)

Please pass the kale!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

*MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: November is National Diabetes Month

"In neighborhoods without a usable park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases by 29%." 

                                                                  -- Darell Hammond

Infographic image about Diiabetes

November is National Diabetes Month. 

In the US, more than 29 million Americans – or 9.3% of the US population - have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.  One in four Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it.

It is estimated that about 86 million Americans – more than 1 in 3 Americans - had prediabetes in 2012, of which only about 11% with prediabetes were aware of their diagnosis. 

Chances are you or someone you know has diabetes or prediabetes.  With obesity as a leading risk factor for developing diabetes, raising health literacy about the importance of getting to and staying at a healthy weight is key to the work and mission of Growing Healthy Kids.   

Here are six of my favorite tips to lower your family’s chances of developing diabetes or prediabetes:
  1. Eat fabulous fiber.  Make most of all the grains you eat WHOLE grains.
  2. Eat vegetables every day.
  3. Drink water, not soda or fruit juice.
  4. Walk briskly and frequently.
  5. Take time to smell the roses.
  6. Laugh often.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS - Here's how you can help Growing Healthy Kids to improve the health literacy of Americans. Make the commitment right now to get on the path of healthy eating and cooking.  Get 2 copies of Nourish and Flourish:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes - one for your family and one to give to your public library.  See the link in the top right corner of

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


"When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down 'happy'.  They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."  

                                                              --John Lennon

This week Growing Healthy Kids has been very busy teaching 3 classes for 75 children.  I wish it was 300 classes for 5,000 kids.  

Our children are drowning in sugar.  There are 600,000 foods found in grocery stores and more than 80% contain added sugar.  These processed foods are marketing directly and indirectly to kids.  It is no wonder we have a problem with childhood obesity in the United States. 

Children listen when they know someone cares and teaches so they can easily “digest the lesson” about how easy it is to make healthy choices.  It is so gratifying reaching little ones in an after school program, inspiring them to listen, engage, and learn for an hour.  The best part is the huge hugs when the children leave!  When a child says to me, “This is the best day of my life,” that is proof that our work is making a difference.    

The fuel for the obesity epidemic is the obscene amount of added sugars in the foods children eat.   As children learn to identify foods that are bad for them, they become more interested in foods that are good for them.  Once we teach children these two things, then we teach them how to prepare delicious foods.  Nothing is a better teaches than playing with your food! 

Why should you care?  Americans eat and drink an average of 41 teaspoons of sugar a day.  The recommendation from American Heart Association is 6-9 teaspoons a day, more than what is in one soda or one cup of fruit juice.  The human body is not designed to process 41 teaspoons of sugar a day.  When we and our children consume added sugars like the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas, most breads and cookies, the sugar is stored as fat.  Giving kids fruit juice is the same as giving them soda.

The fact is that excess  sugar is stored as fat.  Americans cannot afford the price tag that comes with childhood obesity.  When one child has a heart attack because they have been eating foods high in added sugars, we have done wrong.  If we do not take care of our children, then who will? 

While reaching 5,000 kids this week would have been terrific, it is an honor to reach the 75 children who attended our classes.  Most of those 75 kids have 2 parents, some have one.   Which means by empowering 75 kids we are also reaching at least 125 adults.  Empowering kids is like skipping a rock in the pond and counting the skips.  Each rock we throw in the pond is like one child.  The skips are the families that one child can teach, once they are empowered.  

If we don’t empower our children with the literacy needed to make good decisions about their health, then who will? 

Drink water, not soda.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.