Wednesday, December 27, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Gratitude, Happiness, and Good Health

"If you want to be happy, be."  

                                                                                  --Leo Tolstoy

Having good health is elemental to having a good life.  All children deserve good health.  Our work is all about improving the health – and lives – of America’s children, one child at a time.    

So, dear readers, as we look to the beginning of a joyful new year, I am grateful to you for being part of Growing Healthy Kids’ journey and for your support of our work.  Our mission remains laser-focused on preventing, halting, and reversing childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases. 

As you await the sunrise of the New Year, I am sharing my favorite list of essential elements for a good life:

  • Have family and friends who care about you.
  • Live in a safe and comfortable home.
  • Have access to good foods for a strong body and healthy mind.
  • Spend time in nature every day.
  • Love yourself.
  • Laugh every day.
  • Look for the good in people.
  • Exercise often.
  • Share your gifts with those less fortunate than you.
  • Be an honest person.
  • Always value a good night’s sleep. 
  • Be kind to others.
  • Seek happiness.
  • Tell your children “I love you” every day.

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: How to Make Holiday Magic

"Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen."  
                                                                                 -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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December is a special time for children.  There is a special holiday glow this time of year as lights go up, schools close down, and kitchens around the world are filled with the delicious smells of cookies baking in the oven. 

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Make your holidays magical this year with healthy and delicious cookie recipes.  Two of my favorite websites for inspirations in the Growing Healthy Kids' Test Kitchen are: (click here) and (click here).   Both sites contain delicious recipes you and your children will love this season and for many holiday seasons to come.  Discover the joys of really good food by focusing on whole food plant based foods. 

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Our planet needs healing more than ever, our food supply needs to be reimagined and reengineered without chemicals and GMOs, and all the world's children need - and deserve - to be loved and treasured like special Christmas gifts.    

Wish you peace and joy!  And delicious cookies!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Start Now to Prevent Alzheimer's

“Alzheimer’s manifests as a disease of the elderly, but like heart disease and most cancers, it’s a disease that may take decades to develop.”
                                                      --from How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD (2015)

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What you eat can either feed disease or health. 

I always ask kids if they have family members with Alzheimer’s.  Hands go up in the air in every Nutrition Scientist Training Program class. 

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.  By 2050, this number could reach more than 16 million.  In 2017, the cost of Alzheimer’s is about $259 billion.  By 2050, this cost is projected to be about $1.1 trillion.  There are too many people diagnosed with - and family members affected by - Alzheimer’s to continue down the same path of simply diagnosing it and learning to live with it.  We need to actively work to prevent it, especially in children.  

It is vital that we teach parents that Alzheimer’s develops over decades and that what they feed their kids now can determine the future course of their kids’ health.  

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The added sugar, salt, and bad (saturated) fats found in processed foods like Pop Tarts, Kraft macaroni and cheese, Honey Buns, and McDonald's hamburgers are not good for our brain health.  All foods from animals (such as meat, chicken, milk, and cheese) contain saturated fats, which clog cells and prevent insulin from doing its job of allowing sugar to pass from the bloodstream into cells, where it acts as our fuel.  Try driving your car with a clogged fuel filter.   

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The human body contains 60,000 miles of blood vessels.  Holy cow!  It is only 24,000 miles to travel around the Earth.  It is logical that maintaining healthy blood vessels is key to a healthy brain. Eating plant-based whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) is what I have always chosen to do to keep my own blood vessels and cardiovascular system healthy.  How about you? 

Still not convinced that eating primarily plant-based whole foods can help protect you and your children from developing Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders?  Take a look at this list of 7 guidelines published in the article, "Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease," by Neal Barnard, et al. (Neurobiology of Aging, September 2014): 

1. Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
2. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
3. Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 15 mg per day.
4. A reliable source of vitamin B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 μg per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, may impair absorption.
5. If using multiple vitamins, choose those without iron and copper and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
6. Although aluminum's role in Alzheimer's disease remains a matter of investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contain aluminum.
7. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking 3 times per week.

Using food as medicine to prevent disease is a core belief in the work of Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  We teach children and parents how to prevent and reverse childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.  The food we eat can either feed diseases or our health.  The evidence is mounting about the power of eating plant-based whole foods.   

Eat real food.  Exercise regularly.  Repeat. 

Please pass the sunflower seeds. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Perfect Comfort Food

"Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite." 
                                                                                                  --Auguste Escoffier

I love it when my mother says, “I made a pot of minestrone soup today.”  Soup is the ultimate comfort food and minestrone, with its delicious blend of vegetables and beans and aromatic flavors filling the kitchen, always makes you feel like you are home. 

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Look no further than the vegetable drawer in your fridge and your spice rack to create a filling meal and wonderful memories.  Let your kids grate the carrots and chop the celery.  Add zucchini, green beans, or spinach, depending on what you have on hand.  Use cannellini or kidney beans, depending on your preference  Add a handful of your kids’ favorite whole grain pasta and you’ve got soup for the family!

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GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

 Minestrone Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup white onion, diced
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced or shredded
  • ¾ cup celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 28-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Saute onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil.  Cook about 6-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another minute.
  • Add herbs, potato, vegetables, crushed tomatoes, and broth.  Cook about 20 minutes.
  • Add beans and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove bay leaf.  Cook about 5 minutes and serve. 

Make some cornbread muffins* or serve with sour dough bread if you live near a great bakery!

Preventing diabetes never tasted so good! 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

*For the Perfect Vegan Cornbread recipe, go to or click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: November is American Diabetes Month

At the conclusion of a ‘Healthy Cooking and Healthy Diabetes’ class at a senior center, I served the grilled pepper and mushroom quesadillas I prepared to illustrate the lesson about dietary fiber.  After everyone finished eating, one woman lingered.  She approached me and said she wanted to thank me for the class lesson.  Her husband was several steps behind her.  She gave me a hug and quietly whispered in my ear so her husband could not hear, “You are the answer to my prayers.  My husband has diabetes and I’ve been so worried about him.  You have just taught me how I can help him.  Thank you.”
     --excerpt from Healthy Living with Diabetes: One Small Step at a Time by Nancy Heinrich

Teaching adults how to control and reverse diabetes is very important to me. Teaching kids and parents how to prevent diabetes matters even more because one in six kids in America is obese.

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November is American Diabetes Month and an opportunity to talk about what diabetes is (too much sugar in the blood), why people get it (not enough exercise, not eating enough dietary fiber, being overweight or obese, eating too much sugar and too many processed foods, and eating too much foods) and how to prevent it (eat more fiber, eat mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and exercise every day). 

People with diabetes are told by their doctors, “Take a pill.”  What about the kids being diagnosed with diabetes because they have been raised on a steady diet of Honey Buns, Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and Coca Cola and now are overweight?  Do we really want to put kids who are obese on diabetes medications where the main side effect is weight gain?  Or should we learn how to give our kids real food instead of highly processed food?  

For kids at risk of diabetes because of poor eating habits, it is essential that parents increase their awareness of why it is important to prevent diabetes.  When kids develop type 2 diabetes, they are at risk of developing complications such as neuropathy, eye problems including blindness, kidney problems, a 2-4 times increased risk for heart attack or stroke, amputations, and sexual problems.  When a teenager is diagnosed with diabetes, they can expect to have about a shorter lifespan than expected if they did not have diabetes by at least 15 years. 

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Preventing diabetes is a much bigger bang for the buck than treating diabetes.  How much does it does to amputate a foot?  A lot more than the cost of an organic apple.  

Kids needs fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  Real food.  

Soda and honey buns are not real food.  Apples are.

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American Diabetes Month is about raising our awareness of what diabetes is, what the complications of diabetes are, and why we need to be hypervigilant about preventing obesity and diabetes in America's children. 

Here are 6 Healthy Eating Tips for Kids (and anyone else who does not want to get diabetes): 
  1. Drink water, not soda.
  2. Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
  3. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table for afternoon snacks. 
  4. Eat breads and pasta that meet “The Nancy Rule” (first ingredient includes the word “whole” and bread or pasta has 4 or grams of dietary fiber/serving).
  5. Stop buying foods and drinks with high fructose corn syrup.
  6. Make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains.  “Enriched wheat” is not a whole grain. 

Please pass the whole grain tortillas.

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.