Wednesday, August 31, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Healthy is the New Beauty-4 Tips

Image result for pictures of flowers in vases“I think both food and flowers really nourish your body and soul.  To have something beautiful around you, or to create something beautiful and delicious to eat, is one of the great joys of our lives.” 

                      --Barrett Prendergast, creator, Valleybrink Road

Sometimes beauty gets covered up by wearing too much make-up or synthetic clothes.  People live fast lives and eat processed foods, thinking it is a timesaver.  The costs of taking short cuts with the food we eat or thinking we are saving money by buying cheap products made from artificial chemicals and putting them on our faces and on our bodies are higher than one can imagine. 
Obesity-related diseases such as diabetes are very costly.  Some costs are direct costs (medicines, doctors visits, hospitalizations, lost wages) but many are indirect costs (increased insurance costs, dependency on others during times of illness, disability insurance, workers compensation).  These are all costs that people don’t associate with what they are going to feed their kids for breakfast or serve for dinner.  When parents routinely buy fruit juice and cookies containing high fructose corn syrup for afterschool snacks for their kids, they are not thinking, “I wonder how these choices will affect my child’s health and health-related expenses in 20 or 30 years?”  Drinking "cheap" sodas and fruit drinks and eating breads, snacks, and cookies made from refined white flour can result in very expensive diseases that shorten lives.  If a youth develops type 2 diabetes before age 21, it reduces lifespan by about 17 years. 
Preventing and even reversing chronic diseases such as diabetes is not difficult when one makes conscious choices. Those conscious choices include what we eat, what we drink, how much we sleep, how we respond to stress, and what we think.  It includes choices about eating plant-based foods and foods high in anti-inflammatory properties. 

If parents make the commitment to stop buying any food or drink that contains high fructose corn syrup, it will go a long way towards improving the health of children.  Avoiding highly processed sugars is a huge first step for anyone who wants to stop poisoning their bodies and start feeling AND looking better. 
Image result for pictures of vegetables

Here are 4 tips to ensure that "Healthy is the New Beauty" at your house:

  1. Have flowers on the dinner table every evening.  It can be as simple as one small flower in a cup.  Let your children be in charge of this task.  This little touch of nature serves as a daily reminder that beauty is all around us.
  2. Make water the primary drink in your house.  Most people (especially kids) don’t drink enough of it.  Water is the best ingredient for healthy skin (our largest organ) and healthy digestion (and gut health).  Too many kids have issues with constipation because they don’t drink enough water and don’t get enough dietary fiber (only found in plant foods grown in the earth). 
  3. Choose foods and drinks that contain no high fructose corn syrup.  This highly processed sugar is one of the most harmful substances we can put into our bodies. 
  4. Eat locally grown, organic vegetables and fruits that are the colors of the rainbow.  Support your local farmers and buy foods that are in season where you live.  The seasonal foods I am enjoying most right now are peaches and zucchini squash. What are YOUR favorite end-of-summer favorite foods?
In gratitude,

Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids
PS-For some delicious seasonal vegetable recipes, check out or click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: New Sugar Recommendations for Children and Teens

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." 
                                                                                                                                            --Buddhist proverb

Image result for high fructose corn syrup

If you subscribe to Wellness Wednesdays, then you know that our primary theme is educating parents and kids about the vital importance of reducing and eliminating the consumption of added sugars. Added sugars come in all shapes, sizes, and names.  Best known is high fructose corn syrup, or what I refer to as “the evil empire sugar”.  Added sugars are commonly found in foods and drinks such as ketchup, barbeque sauce, sodas, bread, chips, cookies, fruit drinks, and energy drinks. 

American Heart Association has just issued new guidelines for children and teens recommending that added sugars be limited to no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) a day. 

What does this mean for parents?  Time to become a sugar detective!  Take my Sugar Challenge:  for the next 3 days, read all food labels to identify the grams of sugars your kids are consuming.  Start educating yourself, if you are not already doing so, about how much sugar is in processed food.  Be aware of foods you buy at the grocery and also the foods and drinks in restaurants.  Do your kids drink mostly water and milk (great choices) or do they routinely drink fruit juice and sodas?  An 8 ounce glass of fruit juice has AS MUCH SUGAR as 8 ounces of soda. When you keep this food diary, you will see how quickly 24 grams can be consumed. 

It is important for parents to remember that there are natural sugars (found in fruit and corn) and added sugars.  Both contribute to obesity and diabetes if we consume too much.  While watching intake of added sugars is very important, it is equally important to be aware of the total sugars consumed. For more information about the new guidelines about kids and added sugars, go to or click here.

In gratitude,

Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: School Lunches for Growing Healthy Kids

Image result for quinoa

"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."                   --Mary Anne Radmacher

Labor Day is still ahead of us and kids are already going back to school around the country. 
Getting organized for school means creating daily routines and schedules.  One of those involves school lunches.  Will your young princes and princesses qualify for the free and reduced meal program or will you be packing lunches? 
Recently a friend gave me a challenge.  She asked for new healthy ideas for her young daughter’s lunch box.  She specifically asked for gluten-free choices, even though her daughter does not have celiac disease. 

Quinoa plants

I was happy to comply and made a home visit to have a talk with her little princess.  We started by talking about her favorite color of food:  white.  Fifteen minutes later she tried a bowl of quinoa pasta to which she had added a little olive oil and nutritional yeast (a non-dairy alternative for parmesan cheese).  Gauging by the speed with which she devoured the sample bowl and then asked for more, I would say the dish was a hit! 

Quinoa (pronounced keen’ wa) is actually a seed but most people consider it a grain.  It is a complete protein which makes it a superfood in my opinion.  It is easily digestible, which makes it ideal for little ones.  It does not have a strong flavor, which is another reason why it is ideal for little ones. Cooked quinoa makes a great dinner and is equally great for school lunches.  It also makes a key ingredient in a delicious breakfast bowl.  Enjoy!
If I've heard this once, I've heard it a hundred times:  “I’ve heard of quinoa but never tried it.”   Pick up a bag, cook it according to directions (be sure and rinse it in a sieve before cooking to remove the bitter coating unless the box says it is “prerinsed”), then use your imagination.  When I do healthy cooking classes with children, we have learned that you can’t go wrong with a little spinach and Roma tomatoes.  Whip up a dressing with olive or avocado oil, a little red wine vinegar, pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Toss well and let sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can blend, then serve.  Make a little extra and pack some for tomorrow's school lunch!

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Back to School Breakfast Ideas

“Food can be very transformational, and it can be more than just a dish.  That’s what happened to me when I first went to France.  I fell in love.  And if you fall in love, well, then everything is easy.” 
                                                                                              --Alice Waters

Image result for kids eating breakfast

It is that time of the year again.  Back to school!  New school clothes have been purchased.  New lunchboxes are ready for the first day of school.  Parents are loading up at the grocery store on foods for school breakfasts, lunches, and afterschool snacks. 

All kids (and parents) need breakfast.  What are the ingredients for a healthy breakfast?
  • protein (such as eggs, Greek yogurt, beans, and lentils)
  • whole grains or carbohydrates containing dietary fiber (such as quinoa, whole fruit and vegetables)
  • healthy fats (such as avocado, olive oil and nuts) 

What should you NOT eat?  Avoid foods that cause blood glucose and insulin levels to spike excessively high.  After all, what goes up must come down. If food comes in a box and the first ingredient is “sugar” or “refined wheat flour” pass it up and choose something else!  Refined carbohydrates turn to sugar as soon as they hit your mouth.  Highly processed carbohydrates, such as Honeybuns, Sugar Smacks, Fruit Loops, or instant oatmeal, turn kids little yo-yos of uncontrolled energy.  Extreme highs and lows in blood sugar have been shown to lead to overeating, bad moods, and lack of focus.

Image result for parfaits

Parents want simple, easy breakfast ideas.  At a recent back-to-school bash for Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties, Growing Healthy Kids was invited to share ideas about healthy breakfasts and snacks for young children.  We made dozens of healthy breakfasts parfaits for the kids and parents and EVERYONE loved them!  Here’s the recipe…


  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt (if using plain yogurt, add a little local honey)
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit (such as sliced bananas, pineapple, blueberries and/or strawberries)
  • ¼ cup organic granola

Layer in a cup or dish and enjoy for breakfast or an afterschool snack!

Do you live in Vero Beach?  Then stop by Patissiere on Old Dixie in downtown Vero, ask for Christian Garcia, the owner, and pick up a bag of the homemade granola.  It is one of my favorite granolas and makes a delicious, healthy topping for parfaits. 

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Summertime Family Fun

Image result for clouds

“Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy.  To 
do nothing and have it count for something.  To lie in
 the grass and count the stars.  To sit on a branch and count the clouds.”  
                                                                  --Regina Brett

Remember summer vacations when you were young?  Growing up in California, I spent hours as a kid in the branches of the walnut trees in our yard.  Each branch became a different “room” where I would daydream and imagine life's "what if's" until my mother announced it was time to come in for dinner. 

Another summer vacation memory is of family trips, camping under the oldest and tallest trees in the world, hiking in National Parks such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, family reunions in the Rocky Mountains.  Spending summers outside, exploring, connecting with and listening to nature is what I loved then and love now. 

Take your kids outside.  Walk on the beach.  Lie in the grass and count the stars.  Go take a hike.  Learn a new swimming stroke.  Have a neighborhood jump rope festival.  Ride bikes.  Run.  Jog.  Skip down the street. Learn how to play tennis.  Laugh often. 

Image result for kids running

Summertime is for making memories, time off from school, and being active. Make physical fun and fitness a family tradition.  Be happy.  Make fresh fruit popsicles.  Have fun. Live out loud.  Connect with nature. Now run fast and go play! 

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids