Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Planning Healthy Lunches

"I grow my own vegetables and herbs.  I like being able to tell people that the lunch I am serving started out as a seed in my yard."
                                                                      --Curtis Stone

March is National Nutrition Month.  It is a good opportunity to evaluate what you eat and drink.  Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions.  If you can start making conscious choices about meal planning, you (and your health) will be on a better path.  

I know when I fail to plan lunches for work, I am really planning to fail with taking good care of myself.  When I give up control to my fast-paced work schedule and do not have access to healthy foods (please pass the lentil burgers), I use that as a reminder to get back on track with some simple meal planning.

Salad made by kids in a recent Growing Healthy Kids class:  organic lettuce, sunflower sprouts and just-picked strawberries with a healthy vinaigrette dressing (see below for recipe).

Sundays are special for me because that's when I plan for 5 days of healthy lunches.  A salad with fresh, locally grown greens at least 3 days a week really makes the work light.  Do I need to schedule my errands so I can swing by Osceola Organic Farm to get salad greens or can I harvest some from my Tower Garden?  Can I get some of Alex’s crunchy hydroponic cucumbers at the weekly Vero Beach Farmers Market? What about cooking a bag of garbanzos for making hummus mid-week and having nutrient dense garbanzos for my salads? 

Speaking of salads, here is my favorite salad dressing recipe (this works for a green salad or a whole grain pasta salad):

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Healthy Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Bragg apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon local honey
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground organic black pepper
I put the ingredients in a small container or a jar and pack it with my salad in a cooler. Shake well before using.  For a delicious dinner salad, use this dressing with local greens, sliced avocado and pear.  Simple, healthy, and delicious every time! 

Dare yourself to take 15 minutes and do some meal planning on the weekend so you – and your kids – have access to healthy lunches and snacks during the week.  Check out my pinterest pages for some great ideas!   This week I am inspired to make curried chickpea salad sandwiches (go to, search for “Nancy Heinrich” and look up my “Healthy Lunches” pins) or go to and search under recipes for the curried chickpea salad sandwich recipe.  With just a little planning, the week’s lunches are all set and you are on your way to a very nutritious and delicious week!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sugar, Kids, and Disease

"We don't need sugar to live and we don't need it as a society."  
      --Mehmet Oz, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and host of                                        "The Dr. Oz Show"

Image result for sugar

March is National Nutrition Month.  How much sugar are your kids eating and drinking every day?  

One 8 ounce glass of apple juice contains as much sugar (28 grams) as a glass of Coca Cola.  Kids do not need dozens of grams of sugar every day, but that is exactly what both of these drinks contain.  

Image result for coca cola canImage result for apple juice

Did you know...Food manufacturers pay grocery stores for product placement so unhealthy products are placed at your children's eye level.  Food manufacturers market unhealthy, sugar-filled foods to your kids in TV advertisements and in sponsorships of educational material used in public schools and afterschool programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs that kids are exposed to every day (such as Coca Cola).

The other day I was talking with the cashier while checking out of a store with provisions for an upcoming Growing Healthy Kids program.  The cashier, a young man in his early twenties, commented that everything I was purchasing was in the “healthy and organic” category.  I told him about Growing Healthy Kids and our mission to prevent and reverse childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.  He shared that he had gained a lot of weight in high school because he ate lots of junk food and he decided he needed to make a change.  I asked him what he did and can you guess what he said?  He started eating less foods high in sugar, including soda.  As I completed my purchase, I complimented the young man on his success and told him his new habits will last him his lifetime, putting him on the path to health instead of disease.    

"Children are developing eating habits and taste preferences that will last a lifetime," according to Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  "The sooner families begin to limit the amount of added sugars in their diets, the better."  

Do your kids have habits that will last them a lifetime of good health?  Eating too much sugar on a daily basis is a sure path to diseases and conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Processed  foods such as Pop Tarts, Honey Buns, cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals (especially those that have the word “crunch” or “sugar” in their names), and granola bars contain more sugar in a serving that kids should have in a day.  Read food labels to see what a serving size is and how many grams of sugar are in a serving.   If there are more than 10 grams of sugar in one serving, look for something else (especially if you are eating more than one serving).  Look for ingredients that end in “-ose” because that is how you can identify hidden sugars.  Watch out for added sugars such as "high fructose corn syrup", "dextrose," and "fructose". 

Kids 2-18 years of age should have no more than 25 grams of added sugars a day (about 6 teaspoons).  

Eat real food,  Broccoli.  Almonds.  Zucchini.  Strawberries.  Spinach.  Quinoa. Blueberries. Walnuts.  Buy the best ingredients you can afford.   Cut back or eliminate added sugars.  Kids are sweet enough just the way they are!

Image result for organic vegetables   
With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


"...the key dietary messages are stunningly simple.  Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables and don't eat too much junk food.  It's no more complicated than that."  
                        --Marian Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University

March is National Nutrition Month.   Enjoy delicious meals that you and your kids cook together at home.  Start by planning a trip to your local farmers market and letting the kids pick out some locally grown vegetables.  Create a meal around fresh, locally grown and organic (where available) vegetables, add some quinoa, lentils or black rice and enjoy a great meal together. 

Cooking teaches kids that real food does not come from boxes with ingredients you cannot pronounce.  When you cook meals together with your kids, you teach them about the value of teamwork.  When you sit down together at the family dinner table, you teach them about respect, communication, and family values.

One of the key lessons we teach in our Growing Healthy Kids programs is about respecting the people who grow our food and respecting ourselves enough to eat good foods instead of processed foods filled with added sugars, salt, and fat.  After all, why eat foods that will only make us sick?   When I ask kids if they have any friends who stay home from school because of stomach aches, they all raise their hands.  Is it possible kids have digestive issues because they are being fed highly processed foods filled with sugar and refined flour but containing no dietary fiber?  Yes. 

Parents, our children, like us, deserve to eat food that not only tastes good but is good for you.  Life is too short to do otherwise!  Plan to do more cooking at home.   If you need help with a recipe, let me know (email me at 

Here is a so, so simple recipe your kids can help you make for dinner.  Add a green salad and grilled cheese sandwiches on whole grain bread and you have a delicious, healthy meal your kids will love!  TIP FOR SAVING MONEY:  Stock up on canned tomatoes when they are on sale.  

Image result for tomatoes

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 cup low fat chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in the butter and olive oil about 5-6 minutes on medium heat, or until onions become translucent.   Add the dried basil and cook another minute.  Add tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cook at least 15 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired texture.   Add salt and pepper, to taste.  A few minutes before serving, add cream.   Stir and serve.  Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The High Price of Cheap Food

“If you let corporations cook your food, they’re going to load it up with sugar.” 

                                                                  --Michael Pollan, author of Cooked

Common statement heard from parents:  “I can’t afford to feed my family healthy food.”

Nancy Heinrich's response: “Give me an hour and I’ll show you how.” 

Michael Pollan recently spoke at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach, Florida and one of our youth Nutrition Scientists was able to attend his talk with me.  Throughout Mr. Pollan’s talk, I said to her several times, “That is something we discussed in our class.” He kept coming back the fact that as food has become increasingly processed with the advent of the industrial food chain, people have cooked less and we have gotten sicker.

 Image result for kids cooking

Getting kids out to farms and farmers markets and into the kitchen is what we do.  As kids learn about using locally grown, fresh ingredients and that when you can cook at home instead of eating highly processed foods, they are also learning that they are no longer at the mercy of large corporations that prepare foods filled with added sugars, salt, and fat.  Giving kids the confidence to know how and where to shop for locally grown ingredients (organic where available), to prepare easily modifiable basic recipes, and to buy the best ingredients they can afford are some of our key lessons. 

Whenever I ask the kids in our classes if they have family members with diabetes or high blood pressure, most of the kids raise their hands.  Sometimes I also ask the kids if they know anyone with Alzheimer’s and more hands go up.  We know that Alzheimer’s is a disease process that is 30 or more years in the making before symptoms appear.  Diabetes has an incubation period of about 5 to 10 years.   

Image result for kids cooking

The “ah-ha” moments we see in Growing Healthy Kids’ classes are a constant reminder of how essential our work is to reversing and preventing obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.  One of the essential lessons taught in Growing Healthy Kids’ educational programs is that everyone can afford to eat healthy foods.  Be the solution.  Cook at home with your kids!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

PS - If you need ideas to get you and your kids started in the kitchen, then get a copy of NOURISH AND FLOURISH:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes may be just the thing!  Available at  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


"Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible."
                                                                            -- Dalai Lama

One of the first lessons we teach kids during the educational programs at Growing Healthy Kids is about treating food with respect.  This is why we take “field” trips to local farmers markets and introduce kids to the farmers and the vegetables they are growing.  We believe that when you know where your food comes from and you know how it is grown, that you will make better choices by respecting your food and how good you feel when you eat good food. 

 Image result for apples

Recently, I taught a healthy eating program for children attending an afterschool program where the local school district provides daily snacks.  Since part of the lesson was about reading food labels and raising awareness about what you consume, I checked out the day’s snack the children were given.  The drink, with 20 grams of sugar, was apple juice: “100% apple juice”.  I read the nutrition facts label.  The ingredients were:  “water, apple juice concentrate, calcium, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), vitamin A palmitate, and vitamin D3.  Contains concentrate from China.”  China???  Why are schools buying apple juice from China?  Something is wrong.  Very wrong.

America’s children who qualify for free and reduced school meal programs are being fed foods and drinks from China?  What other food products contain ingredients grown in countries where we have no idea what chemicals are being used? 

As a parent concerned about the health of children, I know that when we eat foods grown organically and free of chemicals that come from laboratories, we will be healthier.  As an epidemiologist who looks at the root causes of diseases, I know that we must ask about the relationship between foods grown with hormones, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides and diseases such as obesity and heart disease.

Read food labels.  Ask questions.  Our children’s health – and lives – are at stake. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.