Wednesday, February 22, 2017


"Let no one ever come to you without leaving 
better and happier.  Be the living expression of 
God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness
in your eyes, kindness in your smile."  
                                                                      --Mother Teresa

February is American Heart Month.  

While thinking about a title for this week's article, my consideration was about positive messages to empower parents.  Some of those ideas included:  Matters of the heart.  Heart health.  Heart beats.  Love your heart.  Take time for your heart.  Exercise your heart.  And the beat goes on.  

I settled on "Have a Happy Heart" as an inspiration for you to enjoy life, to take time to share fun times with your children and to empower kids to eat heart-healthy foods.  Sometimes we parents get so involved in day-day activities and forget the value of sharing meals with family and friends, to laugh, and planning our days so we can enjoy nature. 
The following pictures are from several recent Growing Healthy Kids' programs where we introduce kids to locally grown foods and heart-healthy habits. 

American Heart Month is about increasing your awareness so you have the best heart health possible.  Our heart is that small muscle in the middle of our chest.  The human heart is about the size of an adult’s closed fist.  The size and weight depends on the age, health, and size of the individual.  It weighs between 7 and 12 ounces-less than a pound.  It beats 100,000 times EVERY DAY.  It sends an individual’s 6 quart blood supply through the body 3 times EVERY MINUTE.  Your blood travels about 12,000 miles EVERY DAY  (source:  

Taking care of your heart is important and requires making conscious choices.  One thing all parents can do is become aware of all the added salt found in processed foods.
The message for keeping hearts healthy and happy is clear.

  • All kids need access to healthy foods.
  • Purchase fresh vegetables and fruits that are the colors of the rainbow.
  • Eliminate added sugars and other foods that contribute to inflammation and obesity.
  • Reduce consumption of processed foods containing added salt. 
  • Identify foods and drinks containing high fructose corn syrup and food dyes and don’t consume them. 
  • Buy foods from your local farmers whenever possible.
  • Cook at home.  
  • Buy the best ingredients you can afford. 
  • Be kind to others.
  • Laugh often.  
  • Be full of joy and gratitude.
  • Treat your heart with respect. 

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Love Foods that Love Your Heart

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."  

                                               --Helen Keller

February is American Heart Month.  Hence, all of the Wellness Wednesdays articles this month are devoted to heart health.  You know by now, as a reader of Wellness Wednesdays, that my focus is prevention of disease and promotion of health. Inspiring and empowering parents to raise healthy kids is why we are focusing this month on the topic of heart health. 

Heart Month 2017
Have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved ones.  
Preventing heart disease is very personal for me.  In my family, heart disease has been the number one cause of death. High blood pressure runs in my family. So does high cholesterol.  One in 3 Americans has high blood pressure. Having a family history of heart disease increases one’s own risks which is why prevention is key.  If you have an opportunity to reduce your risk and improve your health outcomes, then taking advantage of that opportunity seems quite logical to me. 

Parents want help to encourage healthy eating habits among their children. When kids are fed processed foods containing added sugars and salt, their hearts are not going to be happy or healthy.  

Where to begin? 

Start by reading food labels and looking for the hidden sugars.   Eliminate foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.  Identify ingredients that end in “-ose” (sugars) and “-tol” (sugar alcohols, often used in “diet” foods.  Eating foods high in sugar alcohols causes gastric distress and diarrhea.  Not what any middle school student needs or wants.

Doctor taking woman's blood pressure

Next, read food labels and look for the salt content.  Nearly all Americans consume too much salt. Most processed foods are high in either sugar, salt or fat.  If they are low on one, then they will be high on another.  For example, “low fat” foods often contain higher amounts of added sugars or salt so that the taste is still addictive to the palate.  The guideline for sodium is less than 2,300 mg a day (for ages 14 and up).  For kids less than age 14, the recommendation is lower.  Just one quarter-pounder with cheese from McDonald's has 1,100 mg of sodium.  Ten chicken McNuggets from McDonald's contain 905 mg of sodium.  The hidden salt in processed and ultraprocessed foods are increasing the chances that America's kids will develop high blood pressure, increasing their risk for an early diagnosis of heart disease or diabetes.
Cook meals at home.  The more you cook, the less processed foods you will consume.  The more you cook, the less added sugars your children will eat. 

Image result for lentils
Lentils are one of my favorite healthy heart ingredients.  If you can boil water, you can cook lentils.  They are easy to cook, very inexpensive, and very versatile.  They are high in dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and vitamin B-6.  Start using them once a week-your heart will love it!  Cook the following lentil recipe with your children.

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Lentil Salad with Walnuts

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:

  • 1 cup green lentils (rinsed and cleaned)
  • 3 cups water
Then cover, turn down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. 
In a blender or food processor, combine:

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Add to the shallot mixture:

  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Process until well blended. 
When lentils are tender, drain well and transfer to a serving bowl.  Add:

  • ½ cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
Add enough dressing to coat and toss gently to combine.  Serve warm. 

Learn more about heart disease.  Provide your children with good foods and regular exercise to help prevent it.  

To take the heart disease quiz, go to or click here.

Make YOUR life a great adventure!  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."  
                                                                          --Oscar Wilde

February is American Heart Month.  Being healthy means being a good steward of your heart. 

Image result for exercise motivation

 The fact is that for half of people with heart disease, the first sign is often sudden death.  I remember a man I used to work with in Palm Beach County, Florida.  He was the picture of health and an administrator for Florida Department of Health.  He was a runner, didn’t smoke, and ate sensibly.  He didn’t have diabetes.  One day he had a heart attack and died. 

Protect your heart.  If you have diabetes, you have 4 times higher risk for a heart attack or stroke than someone without diabetes. 

Image result for healthy hearts 
Commit to healthy eating.  Eat vegetables.  Drink lots of water.  Go easy on the saturated fats (found in foods from animals).  Make most of your fats the good ones (unsaturated) like wild salmon, olive oil, avocados and nuts.  Enjoy a small piece of dark (70%) chocolate daily.    

Image result for healthy hearts
Commit to your own fitness (more than 150 minutes a week).  Take walks.  Skip.  Ski.  Jog.  Swim.  Jump rope.  Kayak.  Anything that moves you!  

Enjoy your life.  Eat dinner with friends.  Laugh often. Repeat.

For more information about heart health and preventable and treatable heart conditions such as high blood pressure, go to or click here.

Take care of your heart.   

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


"Most women do not realize that heart disease is the #1 killer of American women." 
                                                                            --Monica Potter  

Image result for heart imagesFebruary is American Heart Month.  What can you do to protect the heart health of your children?  Start by being mindful of your own heart health.

We take a lot of things for granted with our bodies, especially our hearts.  Consider that the heart is the organ responsible for keeping us alive, working 24/7 without ever taking a break; it deserves more respect than it gets.  The simple fact is when it stops beating, we stop living.  As parents, we can set good examples for our children and actively and mindfully practice health promotion.  

Here are my 12 tips for being heart smart:
  1. Go for a walk every day.  Jog sometimes.  Your heart loves to exercise!
  2. Laugh every day.   It helps reduce stress. 
  3. Aim for 30 grams of dietary fiber a day (less for kids).  
  4. Eat your vegetables. Make your goal veggies on half your plate. 
  5. Choose legumes.  Lentils and bean are very heart smart.   
  6. Plan meals using vegetables as the focus.  
  7. Check out the Mediterranean way of eating.   It does a body good. (It also can help prevent depression.)
  8. Have a little dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) every day.
  9. Make most of your fats the GOOD fats (like olive oil, cold water fish such as wild salmon, avocados, and nuts).
  10. Get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once a year. 
  11. Keep your blood pressure and weight in control. 
  12. Learn about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, especially the differences in symptoms between women and men (see CDC graphic below). 

Image result for heart images

For information about the Mediterranean way of eating and delicious heart healthy recipes to enjoy every month of the year, go to or click here.

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.