Wednesday, April 26, 2017


"To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind.  If a man can control his mind, he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him."  

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Recently I was talking with a friend (I'll call her Rose) when her husband (I’ll call him George) joined us in conversation.  George asked his wife, “Honey, do you want potatoes or rice with dinner tonight?”  She replied, “Neither.”

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Two years ago, George was admitted to the hospital for nonhealing wounds that he ignored until his wife made him go to the Emergency Department because she knew something was wrong.  He was admitted and diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes and was started immediately on insulin.  Ever since then, Rose has been coming to me asking for advice and to learn how to eat better because she does not want him to land in the hospital again.  She is eating much better herself and has even lost some weight.  That why she said “no” to having white potatoes or white rice for dinner. She chose to make a salad instead. 

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My friend's husband continues to eat as though he doesn’t have diabetes.  Chips.  White potatoes.  White bread.  Wheat pasta.  Fruit juice.  Few fresh fruits.  Fewer fresh vegetables.  I can sense Rose's frustration.   She asks me lots of questions so that she can learn about foods that can help control one’s blood sugar and foods to avoid.  

In this journey of her husband's diabetes, the unexpected blessing is that Rose has learned how to improve what she eats.  George, on the other hand, seems content ignoring tools and knowledge that can help him control his own health.  Eating a diet of daily potatoes, pasta, and chips is not helping his vision (he has already lost the vision in one eye and needed emergency eye surgery to attempt a repair) or his kidneys (his doctor reports that his kidney function is declining and he may need dialysis).  The eyes and kidneys contain the tiniest blood vessels we have.  When someone does not monitor their blood sugars and does not attempt to keep them under control by avoiding excessive amounts of bad carbs (like white potatoes, white rice, fruit juice, white bread, and wheat pasta), the vessels become blocked and circulation becomes sluggish, causing often permanent and non-reversible damage.  Doctors call neuropathy (numbness in the feet and hands), kidney damage, and diabetic retinopathy the “microvascular complications” of diabetes.   

Diabetes is preventable.  For those who already have diabetes, it is controllable and even reversible.  

Another friend of mine (I’ll call him Adam) had just been diagnosed with diabetes when I met him about five years ago.  He asked me a lot of questions and early on made conscious choices.  Instead of eating chips, he fills up on kale and blueberries. Instead of white potatoes, he enjoys pumpkin seeds and sweet potatoes.  He has given up eating meat and now prefers plant proteins.  He walks regularly.  His doctor says Adam’s diabetes is now so well controlled with good foods and regular exercise, that Adam has reversed his diabetes. 

Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds is key to preventing and controlling diabetes.  Exercise helps your body to use insulin produced by the pancreas.   There is an incredible video that shows the health benefits of vegetables, fruits, and nuts called God's Pharmacy available on YouTube.  To watch God's Pharmacy, click here.

Adults make their own choices when it comes to how they are going to eat once they have been diagnosed with diabetes.  Growing Healthy Kids is passionate about teaching kids and parents about good foods and good habits, such as getting to a healthy weight, that prevent diseases such as diabetes. 

Preventing diabetes is easy, when you make the right choices.  If you have diabetes, choose sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.  Choose brown or black rice instead of white rice.  Go look in the mirror and say out loud: "I can do this" because you can! 
To support our work to prevent diabetes in children, you can purchase a copy of Nourish and Flourish:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes (available at to donate to your local library.  For more tips and resources from Growing Healthy Kids, click here to go to our website. 

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

PS-If you know someone with diabetes who is ready to take control, go to for a copy of Healthy Living with Diabetes:  One Small Step at a Time.  This is my book that started the #GrowingHealthyKids movement!