Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Embracing Plant-Based Eating

“A healthy diet can help prevent cancer, since up to 60% of cancer cases are diet-related.”  
        --Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (

Image result for vegetables

With a nation filled with people battling obesity, cancers, heart disease, and diabetes, it is clear that what we eat matters.  Factory farming of cows, pigs, chicken and other animals for human consumption is driven by America’s greed for cheap food.  Hidden within huge factory farms, however, are unhealthy practices such as the use of drugs like artificial growth hormones that increase growth.  Did you know that since 1994 recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) has been used to increase milk production of dairy cows?  Monsanto developed and produced rbGH, then sold it to Eli Lilly (source: American Public Health Association).  In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of rbGH, while it has been banned in the European Union and Canada have banned its use since 1999.  Australia, New Zealand, and Japan now also ban its use.  These unhealthy practices of raising animals in the United States result in a rise of unhealthy outcomes in humans.  

A friend who works in a gym recently told me about the gym's physical trainers who insist they need to eat meat to maintain their training regimens and muscle strength.  Oh, contraire! 

There is not only misinformation about vegetarianism and veganism but there is also a lot of fear.  Most Americans are dependent on meat as their primary source of protein. Unfortunately, the way beef and chicken are raised as mass-produced industrial products for buyers such as McDonald’s, there are more risks than benefits. Foods from animals contain saturated fats, one of the two “unhealthy” fats (the other bad fat is trans fat).  Saturated fats should be limited because they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.

Image result for legumes

The evidence is mounting that plant-based eating is one of the healthiest choices we can make.  Within the plant world, there are many sources of protein, such as lentils, quinoa, and beans.  Plant protein does NOT contain saturated fat!  Plant-based eating has always been the basis for what we do in the Growing Healthy Kids movement, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  It is the easiest way to achieve your daily intake of dietary fiber (28 or more grams) and anti-inflammatory foods (such as yellow, red, blue, and green vegetables and fruits).  

Please pass the quinoa! 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


“If you want something said, ask a man.  If you want something done, ask a woman.” 
                                                                                    –Margaret Thatcher

Image result for women empowerment

Educating, inspiring and empowering parents and communities is key to my mission of creating a world full of Growing Healthy Kids.  This article is for all the women who are raising kids, their own or others.  Parenthood comes in all shapes and sizes.  Your children may be your own biological kids.  You may be married to someone with children and now you are helping to raise their kids.  You may be a grandmother raising grandchildren.  You may be a mother who is mothering someone else’s children because they are latchkey kids or their parents are in jail or on drugs.  All these children are counting on women, as the primary caregivers in most families, to be there for them, to provide access to healthy food, to help them with their homework, to tuck them into bed.  

When a woman makes up her mind to do something, it will be done.  My Aunt Marcia is a perfect example and my role model for getting things done.  I will never forget when she decided she wanted a new window in her house on the farm.  She used a sledgehammer to smash a hole in the concrete brick wall and the rest is history. 

It is time for us to get out the sledgehammers so we can build the lives we want for ourselves and be positive role models for all the children we are raising, individually and collectively.  Begin by focusing on your own health.  Here is the checklist I have developed that keeps me accountable every day:
  1. Are you walking every day? 
  2. Are you giving yourself at least ten minutes for quiet meditation every day?
  3. Are you drinking plenty of water every day? 
  4. Are you eating vegetables every day?
  5. Are you eating several small meals every day?
  6. Are you laughing every day? 
  7. Are you having meaningful conversations every day? 
  8. Are you living on purpose every day?
  9. Are you having fun every day?
  10. Are you learning something new every day?

The following quote by Marianne Williamson always inspires me.  I hope it will inspire you as well:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is not our darkness but our light that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a Child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine as children do.   WE were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.   It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously allow others to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

Women have the power to live amazing lives.  Now is our time:  the world needs our greatness.   Because when we step into our own greatness, our children and our families will thrive. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


“In 2015, a total of 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese.  Since 1980, the prevalence of obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries and has continuously increased in most other countries.  Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than that among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries has been greater than the rate of increase in adult obesity.”

                        --“Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years,” by The GBD* 2015 Obesity Collaborators, New England Journal of Medicine, June 12, 2017

The present and future health consequences of being overweight or obese as a child are too extreme to ignore.  Google the above article.  It is scary what the future holds for the children of the world, but especially American children, if we collectively fail to act.  


When I worked exclusively with older adults who had diabetes and obesity, I developed teaching strategies so they “got it” and could easily start making changes that led to improved health outcomes.  However, I kept looking over my shoulder at the rising number of children who were obese, both in the prevalence and incidence reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in my daily observations of children in elementary and middle schools.  My work and life took a dramatic turn with the decision to start a nonprofit organization called “Growing Healthy Kids” in 2009.  It was time to transfer skills learned successfully working with, and coaching, older adults to help children and their families at risk for obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 


Since then…
  • The Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen was started to develop delicious and healthy recipes with kids and for kids. 
  • I started the "Wellness Wednesdays" series to educate adults (thank you for reading it). 
  • Writing and publishing books like Nourish and Flourish:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes to give hope to families struggling to help their kids break the cycle of diseases became a priority. 
  • Growing Healthy Kids started partnerships with organizations like Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program to connect with children in an organic way so they can learn about healthy eating and physical fitness while having fun.

Reading the June 2017 New England Journal of Medicine article, “The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years” and the article about it initially printed by USA Today was both discouraging and encouraging.  It is evidence of unhealthy trends in how and what we eat, what we feed our children, increasingly sedentary jobs and hobbies, and families’ commitment (or lack of) to take kids outdoors to experience nature.  Each one of us can make a difference in improving the health – and life – of a child. 

photo of a man and two children eating

Not sure what you can do?  Here are 5 things to do with a kid: 
  1. Plant an herb garden. 
  2. Take a walk. 
  3. Learn to swim. 
  4. Set limits on their (and your own) social media/computer time. 
  5. Thank a farmer.

If you have an idea for collaborating on a solution to childhood obesity or know of an organization we should reach out to, please contact us at  Looking forward to your ideas! 

Until we are all part of the solution to the childhood obesity epidemic, we are all part of the problem. 

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

*Global Burden of Disease

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


“What we learned is that walking just 30 minutes a day can singlehandedly decrease 50% of your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, even Alzheimer’s and dementia.  We know that walking is the single most powerful thing that a woman can do for her health, so we knew we were onto something.” 

                                                  --T. Morgan Dixon, CEO of GirlTrek

Image result for girltrek

I like to watch TED talks several times a week.  It is a cool way to learn about new ideas and interesting people doing good things.  TED (Technology, Education, Design) talks started in 1984 as a conference; the nonprofit foundation’s stated agenda is “to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.” 

Recently, I watched a TED talk called “Walking as a revolutionary act of self-care” with T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison (May 2017).  Dixon and Garrison started an organization called GirlTrek to encourage and support black women to walk for the health of it.  Dixon was a history teacher in Atlanta who left teaching and partnered with her best friend so they could figure out how to make a difference in the lives – and health – of black women.  They became aware of how the poor health outcomes of black women were largely due to obesity and diabetes.  They also knew that women had the power to heal not only themselves but also their communities, if only they could prioritize their own health.  

While listening to their TED talk, I was reminded of the message I hear every time I fly:  “If you are travelling with small children, put on your own mask first.”

It is time for women to step up and take control of their own health in order to be healers for our families and our communities. We can no longer afford –literally and figuratively - to postpone our own health care.  As women and mothers, we must take care of our own health in order to protect the health of our children.  Reversing the childhood obesity epidemic depends on the health of women.  This is our time and the world is waiting for our greatness. 

For more information about GirlTrek, go to  Let’s empower our children.  The first step is empowering women.  Get ready, get set, walk!

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.