Wednesday, December 28, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Healthy for a Lifetime!

“Everyone should walk the dog twice a day…whether they have one or not.” 
                                                                             --Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH

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The gift of health is the best gift we can give ourselves and our children.  What does it mean to you to be healthy?

Here are my ten essential elements for good health:
  1. Having family and friends who care about you.
  2. Living in a safe, comfortable home.
  3. Accessing good foods and knowing how to use them wisely.
  4. Spending time in nature and exercising every day.
  5. Loving yourself.
  6. Laughing every day.
  7. Looking for the good in people.
  8. Sharing your gifts to help those less fortunate than you.
  9. Being an honest person.
  10. Getting a good night’s sleep every night.
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Be kind to others.  Seek happiness.  Laugh often. Eat good food.  Repeat daily.  

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Happy, Healthy Hearts and Minds

"Sugar itself is the culprit in numerous 
health problems."  

       --Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at University of California's San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital

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How much sugar are your children consuming every day?  The answer is simple:  too much.

Most kids are eating and drinking added sugars, beginning before age 2.  The facts are clear: excessive intake of added sugars places children at risk for childhood obesity and other diseases.  
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A new study by Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut* clearly shows that children are eating excess amounts of added sugars as a result of marketing and advertising to both parents and kids.  Added sugars cause inflammation in the body which is the underlying and/or contributing factor for type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases.  Protecting our children’s physical health is essential. 

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 has a mental illness or will develop one.  This includes illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar, and schizophrenia.  Consuming added sugars puts unnecessary and preventable stress on young, developing brains and may be a contributing factor to some of these mental illnesses.  Protecting our children’s mental health is essential. 

Happiness and health are connected. Healthy minds and bodies are connected.  One of the simplest things parents can do is to reduce and eliminate their children’s consumption of added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.   Replace fruit juice with fresh fruit as part of a healthy breakfast.  Buy breads that contain 4 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving and where the word “whole” (as in whole grains) is part of the first ingredient ("The Nancy Rule").  Read food labels to identify how many different sugars are included (all ingredients that end in “-ose” are sugars).  If a breakfast cereal contains more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, choose one with less sugar.  Eliminate the use of artificial sweeteners.  Stop buying and drinking sodas – both regular and diet. 
What we buy and feed our children matters.  

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Cheap colorful sugar-filled fruit drinks, snacks, energy drinks and pop tarts are nothing but poison for kids’ bodies and minds.  Take the simple first step and plan meals around vegetables, some fruits, and whole grains and legumes.  Eliminate processed sugars from what you buy.   Become aware of marketing and food industry practices that mislead shoppers into buying foods that do not meet the nutritional needs of their babies, toddlers, and children. 

Making small changes will go a long way towards protecting children’s physical and mental health. Our children's health matters.  

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To read the full report by UConn's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, click here.

To watch Dr. Robert Lustig's Sugar: The Bitter Truth presentation on YouTube (with more than 6.8 million views), click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


"We eat every day, and if we do it in a way that doesn't recognize value, it's contributing to the destruction of our culture and agriculture.  But if it's done with a focus and care, it can be a wonderful thing.  It changes the quality of your life." 
                                                                                         --Alice Waters

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While walking on the farm at Osceola Organics recently, the kids and I asked the scientist working with owner Kevin O'Dare what “organic” means.  His answer was simple:  “Eating food as God made it.  Nothing added that was made in a laboratory.”

This explanation was understood by all the children training in our latest class of Nutrition Scientists.  Having this clarity makes it easy to make good choices and what questions to ask when purchasing fresh vegetables and fruits.  When we discussed the lessons we learned at the farm, all the kids remembered what the scientist had taught them. 

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According to, the definition of organic is this:   “Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation.  Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

Organically grown food often has a higher nutritional value than food grown with chemicals and it just tastes better!   People will often complain that it is expensive to eat organic.  My favorite response is, "Chemotherapy for cancer is more expensive than eating organically."  

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When you buy foods grown by local farmers or ranchers, it is easy to learn how your food is grown:  just ask them!   To find the farmers near you, check out or click here.

Eating real, organic food changes the quality of your life.  Enjoy!   

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Everyone has the right to live a happy life.  
                                                                           –Dalai Lama

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When was the last night you saw something that took your breath away?  When I was walking among the Redwood trees on the northern California coast in September, I felt the wonder of being in God’s cathedral.  Working with children in the Growing Healthy Kids project allows me to see awe all the time.  

The first time a child prepares their own salad or sees a quiche being assembled and loves the smell of it baking in the oven or tastes dark chocolate for the first time, these have all been experiences when I have seen children smiling with the wonder of learning via firsthand experiences.  The way they look inquisitively at a new task they are about to master, such as learning how prepare a fresh tomato soup, puts awe into awesome.  

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Think about being outside in the rain with your mouth open to catch the raindrops.  Think about seeing the full moon or shooting stars.  Think about smelling a rose.  These experiences make us whole.  

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As parents, we work hard to ensure our children have wonderful lives.  Focus on the simple things, such as spending time together reading a book to a young child, riding bikes to the beach or making cookie chip cookies with your kids that they can take to their teacher as a Christmas gift. 

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Treasure the awe in life.  We need it for our health.  Seek new experiences whether it is visiting our National Parks, taking your children to the local farmers market, or making a family recipe together. Awe brings happiness in abundance to your life.  It keeps life fresh.  Experiencing happiness, after all, is what life is all about. 
In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: What Are We Cooking Next?

Learning lessons why organically grown is best
One of our Nutrition Scientists slicing locally  grown tomatoes

"Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much."  
                                                                                                               --Michael Pollan

Cooking with kids is ALWAYS fun!  When parents tell me, “My kids would NEVER eat (fill in the blank), my response is, “Come back in an hour and leave the kids with us in the kitchen.”   My favorite part of this is when the parents come back and say, “I can’t believe those are MY kids eating (fill in the blank)."

Need a great gift idea for kids this holiday season?   Here's my suggestion:  basic cooking skills, locally grown ingredients, and great recipes provide kids with tools they will use for the rest of their lives.   Empower kids to eat good foods and you give them the power to eat well and to be healthy.  It is that simple. 

Combine the healing power of unprocessed whole foods with plenty of daily physical fitness, fresh air, add kindness, smiles, and love, and you have the basic recipe for growing healthy kids. 

Walking at Osceola Organic Farm

Give your kids the gift that keeps on giving - cooking skills.  Here is a story that both warms my heart and saddens me:  many of the adult volunteers in our programs for kids tell me they wish they had been in classes like ours when they were children.  These volunteers are dealing with diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and cancer and have eaten processed foods filled with added sugars, salt and fats most of their lives.   They see the joy of the children in our classes as they learn how to prepare wonderful, fresh ingredients.  They hear the messages in our classes about how eating real food can prevent diseases such as those with which they are dealing now.  

Let’s give our kids the power to be healthy the right way by providing them with access to healthy foods, basic cooking skills, and recipes filled with great flavors, tastes, and nutrition. If we don't give them this freedom, then who will?  

Harvesting organic lettuce with Kevin O'Dare at Osceola Organic Farm

What we are cooking next in our Growing Healthy Kids Nutrition Scientists classes is whatever local farmers are growing.   In Indian River County, Florida, headquarters for the Growing Healthy Kids project, farmers are growing beautiful salad greens, tomatoes, citrus, and winter squash.  We are preparing beautiful salads filled with salad greens and yellow tomatoes from Osceola Organics and sliced oranges from the wonderful family-owned Schacht Groves (  I just picked up some kabocha squash grown at Indiana native Mark Smith’s Aunt Zoraida Farm here in Vero Beach.  These winter squash makes delicious soups.  Here is a link to a fabulous recipe for Kabocha Squash Soup:  click here.   Kabocha squash, like all winter squash, is a rich source of dietary fiber that fills you up, helps regulate your blood sugar, and is also a great source of beta-carotene (found in all orange vegetables). 

Remember this lesson:  FRESH IS BEST!  

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


"Gratitude can transform ordinary days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joys, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." 
                                                                                                   --William Arthur Ward 

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What are you giving thanks for?  Gratitude is very powerful and has been proven to contribute to good health. 

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Here are ten things I am thankful for this year:
  1. My wonderful family
  2. Talking with my mother every evening
  3. The doctors and nurses who helped me when I broke my wrist in April
  4. The ability to travel freely throughout the United States
  5. Living in paradise and just minutes away from some of the best beaches in the world!
  6. My August visit to Prairie Creek State Park in northern California and walking in the Redwoods
  7. Best friends
  8. The opportunity to create educational programs for children and parents
  9. Sunrise Vero Beach Rotary Club’s support of Growing Healthy Kids’ Nutrition Scientists Program
  10. All the local farmers who grow delicious, real food for you and me to enjoy

What are YOU grateful for this year?

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Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

In gratitude,

Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

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