Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: November is American Diabetes Month

At the conclusion of a ‘Healthy Cooking and Healthy Diabetes’ class at a senior center, I served the grilled pepper and mushroom quesadillas I prepared to illustrate the lesson about dietary fiber.  After everyone finished eating, one woman lingered.  She approached me and said she wanted to thank me for the class lesson.  Her husband was several steps behind her.  She gave me a hug and quietly whispered in my ear so her husband could not hear, “You are the answer to my prayers.  My husband has diabetes and I’ve been so worried about him.  You have just taught me how I can help him.  Thank you.”
     --excerpt from Healthy Living with Diabetes: One Small Step at a Time by Nancy Heinrich

Teaching adults how to control and reverse diabetes is very important to me. Teaching kids and parents how to prevent diabetes matters even more because one in six kids in America is obese.

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November is American Diabetes Month and an opportunity to talk about what diabetes is (too much sugar in the blood), why people get it (not enough exercise, not eating enough dietary fiber, being overweight or obese, eating too much sugar and too many processed foods, and eating too much foods) and how to prevent it (eat more fiber, eat mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and exercise every day). 

People with diabetes are told by their doctors, “Take a pill.”  What about the kids being diagnosed with diabetes because they have been raised on a steady diet of Honey Buns, Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and Coca Cola and now are overweight?  Do we really want to put kids who are obese on diabetes medications where the main side effect is weight gain?  Or should we learn how to give our kids real food instead of highly processed food?  

For kids at risk of diabetes because of poor eating habits, it is essential that parents increase their awareness of why it is important to prevent diabetes.  When kids develop type 2 diabetes, they are at risk of developing complications such as neuropathy, eye problems including blindness, kidney problems, a 2-4 times increased risk for heart attack or stroke, amputations, and sexual problems.  When a teenager is diagnosed with diabetes, they can expect to have about a shorter lifespan than expected if they did not have diabetes by at least 15 years. 

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Preventing diabetes is a much bigger bang for the buck than treating diabetes.  How much does it does to amputate a foot?  A lot more than the cost of an organic apple.  

Kids needs fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  Real food.  

Soda and honey buns are not real food.  Apples are.

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American Diabetes Month is about raising our awareness of what diabetes is, what the complications of diabetes are, and why we need to be hypervigilant about preventing obesity and diabetes in America's children. 

Here are 6 Healthy Eating Tips for Kids (and anyone else who does not want to get diabetes): 
  1. Drink water, not soda.
  2. Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
  3. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table for afternoon snacks. 
  4. Eat breads and pasta that meet “The Nancy Rule” (first ingredient includes the word “whole” and bread or pasta has 4 or grams of dietary fiber/serving).
  5. Stop buying foods and drinks with high fructose corn syrup.
  6. Make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains.  “Enriched wheat” is not a whole grain. 

Please pass the whole grain tortillas.

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Are Your Kids at Risk for Diabetes?

“These chronic diseases are the cash cow of the pharmaceutical industry.”  
                                                            --Michael Gregor, MD, author of How Not To Die

Fresh cranberries:  1/2 cup has 30 calories and 2 grams of fiber.

Most Americans, including children, consume too few fruits and vegetables.  A poor diet (eating too few vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains and too many foods high in sugar, fat, salt and foods from animals) is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  

Public health officials endorse eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables.  Yet, study data just released this week from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that only 1 in 10 Americans is eating enough fruits and vegetables.  “The study confirms years of data demonstrating that Americans do not eat their veggies,” said Marian Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University in a recent interview to The Guardian.

The study found that only 12% of Americans meet the daily fruit recommendation (1-1/2 to 2 cups/day) and only 9% meet the daily vegetable recommendation (2-3 cups/day).  Men, young adults and people living in poverty all had especially low rates of fruit and vegetable intake. 

Pumpkins are high in fiber and beta-carotene.
One principle taught in every Growing Healthy Kids workshop is, “Eat Rainbows,” by eating fruits and vegetables that are the colors of the rainbow.   We bring blueberries, bananas, kale, kiwi, cucumbers, strawberries, and blenders to teach people how to make delicious healthy shakes and jumpstart their day with fruits and vegetables.  

Replace fruit juice with fresh or frozen fruit.  When you make this one simple change with your kids, you are reducing their sugar consumption and increasing their fiber consumption.  Fiber is found only in foods in plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.     

The author's healthy breakfast shake

One of my healthy habits is to eat most of my day's fruit in my breakfast shake and then eat a big green salad for lunch.  Pictured above is my typical breakfast shake containing blueberries, bananas, pomegranates, cucumber, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, matcha, ceylon cinnamon, and almond butter.  

Most days, I have consumed 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables by 1:00 PM.   How easy is that?

Lunch:  green salad with locally grown
red romaine lettuce from Osceola Organic Farm

Eating enough fruits and vegetables is key to getting enough dietary fiber, staying at a healthy weight, not developing diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  Fruits like blueberries are high in antioxidants and help detox the body and prevent memory disorders.  Vegetables, whether kale, sweet potatoes, or broccoli, contain vitamins and minerals that strengthen our bones and create strong bodies. 

Here are my Top 7 Tips to protect kids from developing diabetes: 
  1. Make seasonal fruits and vegetables the centerpiece of your meals and at least half of what you eat every day.
  2. Choose locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, when available. 
  3. Eat rainbows.
  4. Choose organic, non-GMO foods whenever possible.
  5. Eat whole grains and legumes like farro, barley, oats, quinoa, lentils, and beans every day.  
  6. Be physically active every day.
  7. Set limits for screen time.
Remember to support your local farmers. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Protecting Children's Heart Health

“Modern medical care has mostly evolved into a drug-distribution arm of the pharmaceutical industry, rather than being a profession primarily centered on improving people’s health.”
                   --Joel Fuhrman, M.D., The End of Heart Disease (2016)

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New guidelines released this week by American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology call for Americans with blood pressure 130/80 or higher to be treated for hypertension.  A normal blood pressure is considered as less than 120/80.  Based on this new classification, 103 million American adults, or almost half of adults (46%), now have high blood pressure.

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Risk factors for high blood pressure (hypertension) include:
  • Consuming too much sodium 
    • People with hypertension, all African-Americans, and anyone age 50 and older should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Unhealthy diet
    • Consider that some animal foods, such as chicken, are injected with sodium to increase their weight before they are sold.
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Stress
  • Race 
    • African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often, according to, than any other group in the U.S. 
  • Age 
    • There is a direct correlation between older age and high blood pressure.  Blood vessels lose elasticity the older we get. 
  • Family history 
    • If your parents have high blood pressure, you have an increased chance of developing high blood pressure.

The last time you took your child to the pediatrician, did they check your child’s blood pressure?  Did they ask how often your children eat foods high in sodium? Did they ask if your kids get an hour of exercise a day?  According to Dr. Fuhrman, "doctors need to make it crystal clear to their patients that food is the cause of, and should be the primary treatment for, heart disease."  

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Consider these facts:

  • McDonald’s quarter pounder with bacon and cheese contains 1,440 mg of sodium.  
  • McDonald’s bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit contains 1,300 mg of sodium. 
  • A large order of French fries from McDonald’s contains 290 mg of sodium.
  • Burger King's double whopper with cheese has 1,440 mg of sodium.
  • A Big Fish sandwich from Burger King has 1,180 mg of sodium. 
  • A Wendy's Baconator has 1,810 mg of sodium.  
  • One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium.
Sodium is hidden in processed and fast foods, to the detriment of our children's blood pressure and heart health.  The next time your kids ask to stop at McDonald's or another fast food restaurant, check the sodium content and other nutrition facts at the company website.

Feeding kids a steady diet of fast food and highly processed foods only pushes them towards an earlier diagnosis of high blood pressure and a lifetime of addiction to Big Pharma.   

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Our children deserve better.  Knowing there is a direct correlation between sodium intake and high blood pressure, I hope you will choose foods low in added sodium for your kids.  The more sodium you consume, the higher your blood pressure.  Got it?

Eat real food.  Fruits.  Vegetables.  Whole grains.  Legumes.

Please pass the organic apples.  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


“Sugar is celebratory.  Sugar is something we used to enjoy.  Now it basically has coated our tongues.  It’s turned into a diet staple, and it’s killing us.”  
                                                              --Robert Lustig, MD

Nancy Heinrich's typical lunch

The other day I passed by a coworker, alone in her office.  She was sitting down to eat lunch, opening up a large McDonald’s bag filled with highly processed foods.  Every one of the foods she was about to eat was engineered to be addictive with added sugars, salt, and/or fat.

It worked.  She is morbidly obese.  She is also the mother of a young toddler.  The adult can make her own choices.  Her child cannot. 

organic watermelon radish 

Food companies like McDonald’s consciously and intentionally create foods to be addictive.  It is how they keep you coming back for more. It is why McDonald’s and other fast food companies are highly profitable companies.  Who can resist the salty, savory taste of a big Mac or a sausage and egg biscuit sandwich? When you are hungry and on the road, why not just pull in to the golden arches (I call them the golden arches of solid, saturated fat and inflammatory disease) and pick up a couple of sandwiches to eat while driving to your next destination?  After all, McDonald’s are in 120 countries around the world, serving 68 million people every day.  They have made it easy and cheap for us to eat highly processed foods.  The problem is eating those foods make us sick. Just ask Morgan Spurlock, star of the 2004 documentary, Super Size Me.  


What I really wanted to say when I walked past my coworker’s office was, “Please don’t eat that.  Put down that bag of processed, addictive food.  I would love to share my beautiful organic salad with you.  Do you realize that you are morbidly obese and eating foods from McDonald’s will only keep you fat?”

another typical lunch for Nancy Heinrich

November is American Diabetes Month.  A key risk factor for diabetes is obesity.  Eating highly processed, engineered foods is a path to diseases like obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.   Many people with whom I speak know they are addicted to processed foods and want help breaking the addiction so they don’t have a heart attack or stroke.  

Changing the way you eat starts with knowing your “Why”:  

Why do you want to change what you eat? 
Why do you want to no longer be carrying around 50 or 100 extra pounds? 
Why do you want to sleep better? 
Why do you want your clothes to fit better?  
Why do you not want to be the next person in your family to develop diabetes?
Why do you not want to have a stroke?  
Why do you care about your own health?  
Why do you want to be able to breathe better?
Why do you want to feel better?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you care about your own health and the quality of your one life on this planet? 

Eat real food.  Please pass the organic watermelon radishes.    

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Choosing Plant-Based Foods

"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." 
                                                        --Paul McCartney

A friend with diabetes recently reached out to me for help.  She said she needed to lose about 50 pounds.  We met in her home, outside on the pool deck while the sun set in paradise.  She told me she wanted to lose about 5 pounds a week and go on a 1300 calorie diet. 

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I gently suggested that 5 pounds a week weight loss was unrealistic (a 2-4 pound weight loss/week is the recommended amount for people who want to lose weight and keep it off) and introduced the idea that if she chose plant-based foods and decreased or eliminated her consumption of foods from animals, she would not need to count calories. 

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Changing one's attitudes about dieting can be threatening.  It can also be the beginning of a very healthy life, free of the shackles that come with dieting.  One thing I know for sure: when you adopt a whole-food plant-based way of eating, your body gets what it needs AND you lose weight. 

Dieting and counting calories are outdated ways to get to a healthy weight.  The evidence is overwhelming that eating primarily plant-based foods can get you on the path to a healthy weight in as little as 2 weeks, but also can reverse type 2 diabetes, gout, arthritis, gastro-intestinal reflux disease, and many other diseases. 

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This country is facing catastrophic expenditures for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  We should instead be spending money on improving education about and access to healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  Preventing diseases is paramount.  The evidence is clear that processed foods and foods from animals are making us sick and killing us. 

Take a disease like diabetes, a preventable disease in most cases.  The cost of diabetes can bankrupt our country, if we stand by and do nothing.  With obesity as a major risk factor for diabetes, we must create simple solutions to obesity that are affordable and achievable. 

All kids deserve access to healthy foods.  When they do, they become captains of their own health – and their lives. 

Please pass the sunflower microgreens. 

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