Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sleep=Growing Healthy Kids

"Sleep is the golden chain that ties our health and our bodies together."  
                                                           --Thomas Dekker

Image result for picture of sleeping kids

Cell phones.  I always ask kids where they keep their cell phones at night.  The most common answer is, “on my bed” or “next to my bed”.  

All parents need to know that having a cell phone within 10 feet of a child’s brain can interfere with brain development and the ability to get a good night’s sleep.  It is frightening how many parents are not educated about the dangers associated with children’s brain and cell phones.

“Sleep hygiene” is the habit of preparing one’s body and mind for restful sleep: no caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime, no TV or video games at least an hour before bedtime, no vigorous exercise right before bedtime, and creating one’s bedtime as a peaceful sanctuary.  Add “cell phones charging in another room” to this list. 

Talk with your family.  Ensure that everyone with a cell phone is charging them someplace other than right next to their heads at night.  Start a new family habit and move all electronics out of the bedroom.   At least unplug any electronics in the bedroom at night so the blue and red lights do not interfere with sleep.

Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep (see “Wellness Wednesdays” published August 19, 2015:  “Sleeping for Good Grades and Good Health”).  Not getting enough sleep is associated with being overweight and with poor academic performance.  Make sleep a priority.  Your brain and your body will thank you!  

Everyone deserves to "sleep like a baby" and ALL kids deserve to be Growing Healthy Kids.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Recipe for Happy, Healthy Kids

"Most cooks try to learn by making dishes.  Doesn't mean you can cook.  It means you can make that dish.  When you can cook is when you can go to a farmers market, buy a bunch of stuff, then go home and make something without looking at a recipe. Now you're cooking." 
                                                                                       --Tom Colicchio

Image result for picture of healthy kids

What are the essential ingredients that parents need to ensure their children are both happy AND healthy?  Keep the following ingredients on hand at all times:

  • A house filled with love and respect
  • A kitchen where kids can learn to cook
  • A family dinner table to eat together as a family most nights of the week and to share gratitude
  • Hugs and laughter (unlimited quantities)
  • Fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits (more vegetables than fruits)
  • Regular bedtimes so kids get enough sleep every night (key to helping kids AND adults stay at a healthy weight)
  • The habit of turning off all computers and digital devices at least one hour before bedtime

By keeping your house and pantry well stocked with the above ingredients, you are well on your way to ensuring your children are healthy for their lifetime.

Wellness Wednesdays is celebrating its 300th article for parents with this recipe.  As we approach our nation's Independence Day, celebrate your family and create your own recipes for healthy foods, healthy children, and healthy lives.  

Connect with local farmers at your local farmers markets.*  Teach your children about the benefits of eating locally grown foods from farmers who use non-GMO seeds and organic farming methods.  Celebrate health.  Celebrate life!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To find a farmers market near you, go to or click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Fun Summer Foods for Kids

"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children."  
                                                                   -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dear Parents,

Say “guacamole” 10 times real fast while jumping up and down on one foot.  Can you pronounce “jicama”?  Have you made starfruit (carambola), strawberry, and kiwi kebobs?

Image result for pictures of kiwiImage result for pictures of strawberriesImage result for pictures of starfruit

Making summertime memories and fun-filled adventures can be a challenge if you don’t plan.  Here are some ideas you can use to make this summer the best ever for your kids AND help them learn healthy eating habits on their terms:

  • Every week between now and when school starts, ask your kids to pick out one new fruit or vegetable when you go shopping together. 
  • Task the kids with researching what they choose, including its nutritional values, how to cut it up, and recipe ideas. 
  • Let the kids decide how to eat each new vegetable or fruit.  Can it be eaten raw or does it need to be cooked?  Can you use it in a salad or as a snack? 
  • Ask your kids to prepare a chart to track each week’s new treasure, what they made with it (if not eaten raw), and ask them to rate each item on a scale of “love it, it’s OK, or pass”.

Enjoy the summer.  Turn shopping trips into learning opportunities.  Go play! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Our Children's Mental Health

“The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.” 
                                                           --Dalai Lama

“Love life.”  Those were the only words on a sign carried by a friend, Steve Fugate, on his 34,000 mile journeys around the United States.  Steve has lost both of his children.  His response to this horrible loss was to walk around the country-several times.  His precious children are both gone.  But this man fiercely loves life and by sharing his story, he teaches others how to love life.

Image result for steve fugate

In my work with people struggling from a lifetime of living with mental health issues, I often meet families who struggle because a child has a mental illness.  Some parents will do anything for their child and others decide that doing nothing and walking away is the best they can do.

Some conditions, such as bipolar, emerge in children when they are in their late teens and early twenties.  Learning disabilities are rampant among those I serve.  As someone who has always loved to read (I drove baby sitters crazy reading by flashlight under my covers late at night), it is heartbreaking to work with individuals with dyslexia who have never known what it is like to spend a Sunday lost in a good book. 

I want to introduce you to two people I have met in my journeys working with people with disabilities:

Alex, a wonderfully smart man who did not learn to read until he was 18. He is bipolar and has dyslexia.  No one noticed him struggling to read until he had lost his youth.  He shared that he tried to commit suicide several times because he knew he was different but did not know why.  He has spent a lifetime of regret wondering what would be different is someone had noticed his disability earlier and intervened sooner. 

Roger, a caring man who has never been able to keep a job more than a few months because of his disabilities until now because he is getting the supports he needs.  He has bipolar, learning disabilities, and barely reads, with no ability to understand numbers.  He struggles every day of his life with things most people take for granted.  He shared with me that when he was in public school, teachers knew he could not read or do math but they passed him from one grade to another anyway.  He said he felt ashamed to ask for help because he was the child and all the adults in his life just turned away and looked the other way.

Who are we as a country if we cannot recognize when a child is struggling with school work or missing school for unexplained reasons?  What kind of country are we that we allow children who through no fault of their own have dyslexia, learning disabilities, depression or attention deficit disorder to not be properly diagnosed and effectively treated? It takes a village to grow healthy children. 

Just as all children deserve access to healthy foods and time outside in nature, all children deserve access to mental health services and all children deserve happiness.  A young man called me this week to say that when he went to his first appointment for mental health care he was told that his copays were $40/visit, beyond his means.  Why should taking care of bipolar or social anxiety disorder cost more than a well child visit? 

We can do better.  Learn about the mental health resources in your community.  We are the village.  Help a child.  Listen.  As Steve Fugate knows too well, kids are really good at holding in their feelings.  Often we find out something is wrong when it is too late.  

Be the change you want to see in the world.  These are our children. Their mental health is directly related to the health of our communities.

For more information about mental health, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health website at

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Tomatoes, Diabetes and Alzheimer's

“The idea that your risk for Alzheimer’s is tied to diabetes may seem inconceivable at first.  But it makes sense when you consider the relationships shared between these two ailments.  Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugar.  And elevated blood sugar is toxic to brain cells.”  
                                            --David Perlmutter, MD, author of The Grain Brain

Heirloom tomatoes from my local farmer's market

I love tomatoes in the summertime.  When tomatoes show up at the local farmers markets, it makes my heart sing!   There is nothing is better on a summer day than a sliced tomato with fresh mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of fig-infused vinegar! 

If you read Wellness Wednesdays, then you know about the connection between high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s.  Starting with my first book, Healthy Living with Diabetes: One Small Step at a Time (, raising awareness about the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s has been part of the mission of the Growing Healthy Kids organization.

With the growing incidence of diabetes and prediabetes in the U.S., it is surprising to me that more health care professionals are not actively involved in educating their patients with diabetes about this connection and doing everything in their power to teach their patients how to control and reverse diabetes.  Eat less sugar and wheat; they feed an inflammation that affects the health of our brains. Eat more tomatoes, squash, and broccoli.  Food matters!

Below is a recipe I adapted from The Grain Brain Cookbook by Dr. Perlmutter.  Enjoy!   

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Roasted Tomatoes
  • ·        4 large ripe but firm tomatoes
  • ·        8 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • ·        2 Tablespoons almond flour
  • ·        1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • ·        2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ·        Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut each tomato in half crosswise.
  • Combine cheese and basil in small bowl.  
  • Spoon equal portions of the mixture on the cut side of each tomato half.  
  • Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. 
  • Place tomatoes, cut-side up, on a baking sheet.  
  • Bake about 10 minutes.  If desired, place under broiler until top is bubbling.

Serve immediately.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.