Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Ignoring Diabetes Gets Complicated

"I chalk up the fact that I got diabetes to my body saying, 'Dude, you have been doing wrong for way too long'." 
                                                                --Randy Jackson

Image result for healthy men
Recently, a friend told me her husband had a problem with his vision. He needed two surgeries on the good eye before they could operate on his bad eye.  It was a tough lesson in taking ownership of one’s health.  

I asked my friend if her husband had his A1C level checked recently and she said he had not been to the doctor in a while and she had no idea what his A1C result was.  Having diabetes comes with a lot of decisions to make if you don’t want complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, or vision loss or blindness.  Diabetes affects the entire family, as my friend is learning right now.  When ignored, diabetes becomes a much more expensive disease with the price of physical complications plus lost wages and time away from work.  

Let's talk about how uncontrolled diabetes can affect the eyes.  High blood sugar slows down the circulation of the blood.  Blood flow to the tiny vessels in the eyes can be affected.  This is called diabetes retinopathy.  If not detected early, it can lead to loss of vision and blindness. Controlling diabetes - by taking medications as prescribed, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet - can prevent or delay vision loss.

Here is the list of questions I have created for anyone recently diagnosed with diabetes:
  1. How often should I check my blood sugar?
  2. What times of day are best for me to check by blood sugar? 
  3. What are my daily blood sugar goals to prevent complications? 
  4. What happens if my blood sugar is too high and what do I do about it?
  5. What happens if my blood sugar goes too low and what do I do about it?
  6. Can I keep eating pasta and drinking sodas whenever I want?  What about fruit juice, bread, and grains like wheat? 
  7. What eating changes do I need to make?
  8. What is the A1C test and how often should I have it done?
  9. What should my A1C be?
  10. What about my blood pressure?
  11. What about my cholesterol levels? 
  12. How does stress affect my blood sugar?
  13. What tests do I need and at what frequency? 
  14. Do I need to see any specialists?
  15. Do I need to exercise?
  16. How can my family help me?
  17. What do I need to do besides check my blood sugar?
  18. If I don’t check my daily blood sugars, don’t monitor my A1C levels, don’t get an annual dilated eye exam, don’t check my feet regularly and don’t see a doctor regularly, I’ll still be OK, right? 

Sadly, the last question is the only one my friend’s husband ever asked since being diagnosed.  Having diabetes means getting educated by one’s doctor or by others on your team so that the plan for preventing complications is crystal clear to you.  Having diabetes means taking deliberate actions to maintain control and manage diabetes so that it does not control you.  In my experience working with patients, not all doctors are good teachers.  They often say to a patient, “Go to the bookstore and pick up a book about diabetes.”  Books can help to educate us but they often don't give us all the answers we need.

The reason I started Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. was because of people like my friend’s husband. Since successfully working with adults with diabetes and knowing that diabetes is controllable, preventable, and reversible, I focused on educating parents about preventing diabetes.   Obesity in children is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children.  Obesity, like diabetes, can be reversed and prevented.  

Image result for healthy foods

Mothers and fathers who have diabetes can educate their own families so that their children can learn healthy eating habits, the importance of being physically active and staying at a healthy weight.  The younger kids are when they learn good habits, the longer they will enjoy the benefits of good health. Ignoring diabetes gets complicated because diabetes has complications.  We can replace ignorance with awareness. 

Speaking of controlling diabetes with healthy eating, here’s one of my favorite new recipes.  It is even more special because of the delicious mangoes my neighbor gave me last week from her tree!


Black rice has more antioxidants than blueberries, according to a study by Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.  Known as “forbidden rice”, this delicious, nutty rice has a black bran coating has outrageously high levels of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, including vitamin E and anthocyanin (which gives the rice its black hue).

  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons liquid coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut aminos (or use Bragg Liquid Aminos)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups black rice
  • ½ red, orange, or yellow pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small firm ripe mango or avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

In a large bowl, whisk together orange juice, lime juice, coconut oil, coconut aminos, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk to blend.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat water to boiling.  Season lightly with salt and add black rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. 

Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. 

As rice stands, add red pepper, celery, cilantro, red onion, peanuts, scallions, mango or avocado, and jalapeno to the large bowl containing dressing.  Stir to coat ingredients.

Add black rice, stirring gently until coated.

Allow to sit for 30 or more minutes for flavors to blend.

SOURCE:  Coconut: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Superfood by Stephanie Pedersen, 2015

If you or a loved one has diabetes, get help now.  Start at or click here.

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


"My diabetes is such a central part of my did teach me also taught me about moderation...I've trained myself to be super-vigilant...because I feel better when I am in control."
                                                                         --Sonia Sotomayor

Today, diabetes reared its ugly head when I least expected it.  While shopping for fresh vegetables, I saw a man suddenly slump over the bananas.  I rushed to his side, assisted him to a chair, and got a manager’s attention.  

When asked if he had diabetes; he replied yes.  An employee was immediately dispatched to get orange juice for the customer.  Was it a low blood sugar event?  It very well might have been.  Only the doctors in the emergency room will know.  I am saying a prayer that he receives the help he needs.  

The threat of low blood sugar - plus other complications such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy, kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy, and gastroparesis - is a very real scare for millions of Americans living with diabetes.  Managing diabetes is not spectator sport.  Successfully managing diabetes takes work, vigilance, and education.  It requires knowledge about healthy eating habits and importance of daily fitness routines.   Can diabetes be managed?  Yes. 

The question for parents is, can diabetes be prevented?  Yes.  What does it take to do that?  The same as managing diabetes:  work, vigilance, education, and knowledge about healthy eating habits and the importance of daily movement.  Making decisions to ensure that our kids stay at a healthy weight. Choosing foods and drinks without added sugars.  

ALL kids deserve access to healthy foods.  ALL kids deserve parents who are informed and health literate.  ALL kids deserve the opportunity to erase their nature deficits to ensure their mental health is balanced with their physical health. 

Without informed and health literate parents, our children’s risk of developing diabetes is greatly increased.   Diabetes is a preventable disease, only if we dare to become embarrassed and do whatever it takes to ensure our children’s health – and lives. 

In gratitude,

Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Foods for Happy, Healthy Kids

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."  
                                                                        -Walt Disney

Dark chocolate is one of my favorite foods.   A simple daily pleasure is enjoying several small pieces every afternoon.  Dark chocolate (look for chocolates with at least 70% and where cocoa, not sugar, is the first ingredient) promotes good moods, lowers blood pressures, and produces satiety.  

Dark chocolate
Recently I did a taste testing with some elementary age kids.  We compared several different kinds of dark chocolate, looking at the cocoa vs sugar contents.  The amazing thing was that almost all the kids preferred the dark chocolates where the first ingredient was cocoa, not sugar.  We did a “compare and contrast” between the dark chocolate and milk chocolate; when the kids left they had a solid understanding of why dark chocolate is a better food choice.

The fact is that besides being a delicious AND healthy treat, dark chocolate is one of the foods that promote good moods.  Here are more good mood-promoting foods for kids:
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially dark-skinned berries such as blueberries and blackberries
  • Oily fish such as wild salmon and tuna, which promote brain health
  • Turmeric, the spice which makes curry yellow and contains some of the highest levels of anti-oxidants of any food on the planet

Ella Chabot (L) shopping for locally grown veggies at a farmers market in Johnson City, TN

Print the following list of ideas to bring healthy, good mood foods to your kitchen pantry, dinner table, and lunches for school or work:
  1. Teach them about good foods such as dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, and dark-skinned berries that promote good moods, increase focus, and prevent attention deficit disorder. 
  2. Give them a day a week when they get to plan a dinner for the family. 
  3. Shop together at your local farmers market (find one near you at
  4. Buy age-appropriate kitchen tools and invite your children to chop and cut vegetables and fruits with you (a favorite choice in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen is  always the lemon squeezer).
  5. Give your kids choices ("Do you want to cut up red peppers or snow peas?")
Veggies for happy, healthy kids 

Create healthy, lifelong memories with your children by ensuring they have access to good foods.  

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Learning at the Library

"I wouldn't say that processed meals, ready meals and takeaways aren't relevant; it's just that over the past 40 years there have been 3 generations of people who have come out of school and and gone through their home life without ever being shown how to cook properly."  
                                              --Jamie Oliver

Summertime is a great time for kids. Three months of playtime!  Sometimes playtime comes with passive learning, when kids don’t even know they are learning. 

I recently taught a workshop for elementary age kids at a public library called, "Becoming a Nutrition Detective".   While everyone sampled gluten-free crackers with the sun-dried tomato hummus made in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen, the kids learned about reading food labels.  It was a powerful lesson for not just the kids but also for the parents who sat quietly around the perimeter of the room. 

Our message is clear:
  • ALL kids need access to healthy foods.
  • Eliminate added sugars (one clue: common sugars end in “-ose”.)
  • Less ingredients is better than more.
  • Identify foods and drinks with high fructose corn syrup and food dyes.  Make the commitment not to consume them.
  • Can you pronounce the ingredients?  If not, don’t eat them.   
  • Buy vegetables from the farmers near where you live.
  • Teach your children to cook.  
Learning at the Library with Growing Healthy Kids

Make learning fun.  Every day is an opportunity to improve the life of a child.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Eat healthy foods. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.