Wednesday, August 30, 2017


“If we avoided animal protein and instead increased consumption of fruits and veggies, we could substantially prevent and treat most of the type 2 diabetes we encounter.  This may be in part due to the high fiber in the plants, but it is also due to the reduction in inflammation by avoiding animal protein and fat.” 
                                                               – Garth Davis, MD, author of Proteinaholic (2015)

From the author's recent trip to the New Albany, Indiana Farmers Market

Can you imagine taking 18 medications every day for your diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol but not having enough money for fruits and vegetables? One of the advisors to Growing Healthy Kids asked if I could teach a friend of hers (the person described above).  I said yes and offered to start a conversation about food choices and eating foods full of dietary fiber that can put people on a different path.  

It blows my mind how people accept more and more pills from their doctor and never ask, “What else can I do besides take more pills?” The fact is that most doctors only receive about an hour of nutrition education in medical school.  Instead of being trained how to prevent diseases, they are trained in depth on how to prescribe medications for diseases.

The number of Americans with diabetes (30.3 million or 9.4% of the population) and prediabetes (84 million or 33.9% of Americans age 18 and older) is staggering.  What Americans are spending on diabetes ($245 billion estimated for direct and indirect costs) is even more staggering.  Medications for diabetes are 18% of the total cost.  The cost ($245 billion in 2012) is 41% higher than for the previous 5 years ($170 billion in 2007).  Pharmaceutical companies are profiting so much from people who have diabetes; do you really think they want people to know there is a way to reverse diabetes? 

Thanks to doctors like Garth Davis, MD (author of Proteinaholic), Neal Barnard, MD (founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), and Joel Fuhrman, MD (author of The End of Diabetes), there is irrefutable evidence that when people eat primarily plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains), not only do can they control diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol but they can often reverse these diseases and conditions without the use of pills.  

If this article resonates with you and you are ready to take the first step towards better health, especially if you have diabetes or prediabetes, then start by reducing your consumption of meat and animal products (cheese, yogurt, milk, ice-cream).  All foods that come from animals contain saturated fats.  Saturated fat causes inflammation. Do not be afraid of not getting enough protein; most Americans consume too much protein. There is more than enough protein when you eat plants. What do you think cows eat?  The question you should be asking yourself is, "Am I getting enough fiber?" instead of "Am I getting enough protein?"

Pills vs Food?  Pharmacy vs Farmacy?  The choice is clear to me.  Hippocrates said it best:  “Let food be thy medicine.”

Please pass the butternut squash. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


"The fact is you're not getting the nutrition you need on a meat-based diet and you're going to get dramatically better nutrition on a plant-based diet."  

       --Neal D. Barnard, M.D., founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (

Every week, someone confides in me that they are scared and asks for help with their diabetes.  Sometimes it is someone who was recently diagnosed.  More often, it is someone experiencing complications such as depression, neuropathy, or diabetic retinopathy.  Teaching people how to control, reverse and prevent diabetes - and other chronic diseases - is central to my mission of making a difference in the childhood obesity epidemic and why I started the charitable organization, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  No matter how busy I am, I always help when someone asks. 

Nancy buying organic veggies in California

Most people who have diabetes or prediabetes have never been educated about it.  They are given a prescription (or two or three) and told to come back to see the doctor in 3 months.  Drugs are not a replacement for education.  

The ABCs of Diabetes refer to the A1C, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol.  Becoming aware of what affects the A1C level, blood pressure and cholesterol (sugar, salt and saturated fat) is the key to diabetes management.  In some cases, if diabetes has been undiagnosed and/or uncontrolled for a long time, especially when an individual has microvascular symptoms, it is not always possible to reverse it.  

Type 2 diabetes has been referred to as “adult onset” diabetes, in contract to Type 1 diabetes where the pancreas makes no insulin and people are insulin-dependent.  However, due to the childhood obesity epidemic, kids are now being diagnosed with this “adult” disease in rising numbers.  Teens diagnosed with diabetes can expect to live about 20 years less than if they did not develop diabetes.   

The problem
  • Consuming added sugars (such as the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas, fruit drinks, snack foods and cookies) and refined grains (found in most breads, cookies, and crackers) clogs up the blood stream, slowing down the delivery of nutrients. 
  • Eating too much salt (found in most processed foods, aged meats, and fast foods) is the major cause of high blood pressure.  There is a direct correlation:  the more sodium you consume, the higher your blood pressure. 
  • Eating too many saturated fats, found in all foods that come from animals, is a major cause of high LDL cholesterol. 

The solution…A whole food plant-based way of eating is an evidence-based way to control, reverse, and prevent diabetes.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.  Are you ready?  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


“I recommend that my patients buy organic for these whenever possible.” 
                          --Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, MD, author of The Gene Therapy Plan

Grapes are the perfect summer snack for kids, right?  Put them in the freezer and they turn to candy, frozen orbs of natural sugar. When I shop for grapes, I always look to see where they are grown.  If they were grown in Mexico or in South America, then I never buy them.  If the label does not say that they are grown organically (without chemicals), I don't buy them either.  I only buy grapes grown organically and in the U.S.   

The twelve fruits and vegetables recommended by Dr. Gaynor that should be purchased organically grown are:
  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes, especially those grown outside of the U.S.
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

Making the decision to eat healthier comes naturally with an awareness of wanting to know how and where your food is grown.  As my friend, Kevin O’Dare, owner of Osceola Organics, says, “You should eat food the way God intended, grown without anything added that came from a laboratory.”  This is the lesson he teaches the children enrolled in Growing Healthy Kids' Nutrition Scientists Training Program.  

One of my jobs is to study diseases and their root causes.  There is an abundance of evidence-based research linking foods grown with chemicals to cancers and other diseases.    

In 1974 Monsanto introduced an herbicide called Roundup to effectively kill weeds without killing crops and plants.  It is used in more than 160 countries. It is ranked as the second most widely used U.S. lawn and garden weed killer. Nearly all corn, soy, and cotton grown in the U.S. is treated with glyphosate (source: In July 2017 the State of California implemented regulations that require the maker of Roundup to add a label that it is known to cause cancer.  The main ingredient, glyphosate, will appear on a list maintained by California of potentially cancerous chemicals (source: June 26, 2017).  

The use of Roundup by farmers and the rise in cancer rates is no coincidence. 

Here are 4 tips for getting great fruits and vegetables that can keep you healthy, not make you sick:
  1. Shop at your local farmers markets whenever possible.  For me, it is part of my Saturday morning tradition to get up and see what my local farmers have harvested.  Talk with your local farmers and ask them if they use chemicals such as Round Up.
  2. Don’t buy fruits and vegetables grown outside of the U.S.
  3. Whenever possible, buy organically grown food, especially the fruits and vegetables listed above.
  4. Talk with the produce manager at your favorite grocery store.  Let them know you are looking for organically grown foods so they will know there is a market for them. 

Organically grown foods simply taste better, in addition to being better for you. 

Please pass the organically grown cherries. 

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


"I challenge you to go to any school and open 50 lunchboxes, and I guarantee you there will be one or two cans of Red Bull, there'll be cold McDonalds and jam sandwiches with several cakes."  
                                          --Jamie Oliver

Image result for kids in school

The kids are going back to school.  Your job is to get them ready to learn.  This is the typical “to do” list” for parents:
  • Buying school clothes and uniforms
  • Buying school supplies
  • Preparing a list of emergency phone numbers for the school office in case your child gets sick
  • Getting required shots, school and sports physicals
Image result for kids going to school

Here are my 3 Back to School Tips for Growing Healthy Kids:
  1. Plan healthy breakfasts for every school day.  If your kids qualify for the free and reduced meal program, make the effort to check out your school district’s menus.  Teach your kids to identify and avoid foods high in added sugars, such as flavored milks that quickly raise their blood sugar and make learning difficult. Have breakfast with your kids at school so you can help guide their choices.  If your kids will be eating breakfast at home, make sure they have some protein, good carbs (fruit, vegetables or whole grains), and some of the good fats (such as nuts or nut butter).  Examples of delicious, healthy breakfasts:  (1) cooked rolled or steel cut oats (do NOT use instant oats) with almond milk, cinnamon, honey, chopped pecans, and dates or raisins and (2) almond butter on whole grain bread and half an orange.  Breakfast is the meal that kids need the most.  Don’t load your kids up with added sugars and saturated fats.  Skipping breakfast often results in overeating later in the day, resulting in weight gain and obesity.
  2. Make family dinners a priority.  Put all the mobile electronic devices into a basket in another room so everyone  can talk about their day at the dinner table.  Listen to your kids. Ask them to talk about the best part of their day or something nice they did for another student.  Children are losing the art of conversation and other social skills needed to succeed in life.  Studies have shown that when kids eat dinner together with their families at least half of the week, they are less likely to be overweight or obese. 
  3. Plan so your kids get plenty of sleep…70% of high school kids do not get enough sleep on school nights.  Children who don’t get enough sleep don’t get sleepy during the day.  Instead, they typically become hyperactive, irritable, and inattentive during the day (source: Children in preschool need 11-12 hours a day of sleep.  School-aged children and adolescents need at least 10 hours a day.  Teenagers need 9-10 hours a day.   Make a plan for bedtime on school nights based on when kids have to wake in the morning. If your 10 year old child has to be up by 7 AM to get ready for school, then they need to be in bed by 9 PM on school nights.  Not getting enough sleep makes weight loss more difficult, especially for adults.  
Image result for kids in school

ALL children deserve to be ready to learn when the school year begins.  Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, limit fried foods and meat consumption, especially aged meats such as salami and pepperoni. Plan meals that feature fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure your kids get plenty of outdoor play time every day and enough sleep every night.  

Preventing diseases such as diabetes and obesity is up to parents.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17% of U.S. youth ages 2-19 are obese.  Let's not allow our children to be Big Pharma's next victims.  

Now let’s get those kids ready for a great school year! 

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


“The thought of a hot bowl of soup is comforting, especially during the winter months.  But before you crack open a can, consider this.  Volunteers in a study were divided into two groups.  Both ate soup for five days, one from cans and the other from fresh ingredients.  BPA levels measured in the urine at the end of the study were 12 times higher in the canned soup group.  BPA has been linked to diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.”  
           -- from The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle by Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D.

Recently I posted a picture on social media of lentil soup I made in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen.  I believe that all kids need to know how to prepare a  great plant-based soup.  It turns out all adults need to know, too.  Many of you asked for the recipe, so, as promised, I am delivering it to you. 

Cubed butternut squash

I have a love affair with lentils and other legumes.  Lentils are one of the most perfect foods on the planet.  One-half cup of cooked green lentils contains about 140 calories, 12 grams of protein, about 9 grams of dietary fiber (which fills you up quite nicely), and they are super easy to cook.  They are incredibly AFFORDABLE for any budget!  I cook a pot of lentils most Sundays to use during the week.  Some of my favorite things to make with lentils are vegetable lentil soup, veggie burgers, dal, lentil tacos, and on salads for work. 

Rainbow carrots can be diced or shredded for lentil soup.

There are so many things you can do with lentil soup:  add purple potatoes, use rainbow carrots, add spinach or kale, top with pesto or garnish with some fresh parsley or cilantro from your garden.  Have fun making this recipe one of your family's favorites! 

 GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:
¼ cup green lentils (or use a combination of green and French lentils)
1 cup water

Cover, turn down to simmer and cook 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.  Set aside.

In another medium pan, saute for 5 minutes:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together in a small stainless steel bowl and let sit for 5 minutes:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh turmeric, finely grated (use gloves or else you’ll be wearing the orange!  If  you don’t have a source for fresh turmeric, then use dried)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (TIP:  Adding black pepper releases curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric.)

Add turmeric to the vegetables.  

3-4 cups water (or half water and half low sodium V8 juice)
1 Tablespoon white miso (available at most health food stores)
1 bay leaf
1 cup cubed butternut squash 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons tomato paste (TIP:  When I have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, which is almost always, I blend some to create my own richly flavored tomato paste.)

Cover and cook on low for ½ hour. 

Puree about ¾ of the cooked lentils (I use a blender stick because it is convenient and easy to clean up).   Add all the lentils to the soup pot.   Remove bay leaf.  Cook for a few more minutes, then serve.  Add Bragg Liquid Aminos to flavor as needed. 

TIP:  Add a 2” square of kombu (dried seaweed) while cooking the lentils.  This adds minerals and flavor.  Remove kombu when lentils are cooked. 

Once you experience the flavor of homemade vegetable lentil soup, you will never buy a can of soup again!  If you do buy foods in cans, only buy cans marked as “BPA-free” (refer to the quote by Dr. Gaynor at the top of this article). 

Preventing diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in children is important.  There are so many environmental factors that can influence the development - or the prevention - of diseases.  The choices we make matter.  Eating foods full of fiber matters.  Eating fruits and vegetables that are the colors of the rainbow matters.  Choosing to avoid foods from cans made with BPA matters.  (BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic containers and the linings of canned foods and drinks.  There is evidence that it can disrupt hormones of children, affect the brain and behavior of infants and young children, and may be be linked to diabetes, obesity, and ADHD.)  

I, for one, choose to eat lots of lentils and to be BPA-free.  How about you? 

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

PS - For more great lentil recipes, go to