Wednesday, June 27, 2018

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Avoiding Added Sugars

"The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison."  
                                                                    --Ann Wigmore

When was the last time you read a food label to look for hidden sugars?  Food manufacturers are counting on the fact that most people don't read food labels to see what is in the food you eat.

Image result for sugar "org"

Sugar is either natural sugar and added sugar.  Natural sugar is what you find in fruit (fresh, frozen, and canned).  Use caution with canned fruit, however, because it may be in a syrup containing added sugar.  Most or all of the sugar we eat and drink should be natural sugar.  Fruit contains dietary fiber which slows down the absorption of the sugar in the bloodstream.  Added sugars are not the same as natural sugar.  High fructose corn syrup, considered one of the worst added sugars, is highly processed with "empty" calories, no nutritional value, and no dietary fiber.   

Local blueberries
Teaching kids (and parents) how to identify added sugars in processed foods like breakfast cereals, frozen foods, and drinks can improve health literacy and health status. 

Here are 5 steps to start eliminating added sugars:

Step 1:  Locate the “Nutrition Facts” rectangle on the food package or drink bottle. 
Step 2:  Look below the rectangle for the “Ingredients” list.  
Step 3:  Is high fructose corn syrup a listed ingredient? 
Step 4:  Do you see any other ingredients that end in “-ose”?   
Step 5:  If you answered “yes” in step 3 and/or 4, avoid that food in the future or at least cut back on how much you consume.  Look for a similar food with less or no added sugar.

All ingredients that end in “-ose” are sugars.  Excessive consumption of added sugars can result in an unhealthy weight or contribute to development of diabetes or cancer. 

With gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." 
                                                                                                      --Benjamin Franklin

For the past 2 months, writing a weekly article for Wellness Wednesdays is something I have not been able to do. 

Image result for writers

I was talking with my kid about my writer’s block and you know what her comment was?  “Maybe you’ve written about everything, Mom.”  I have been asking myself if that is the case. 

The fact is I love to write.  I love the act of putting words together, checking and rechecking to ensure that each word has meaning.  I love creating powerful and thoughtful messages.  I love writing Wellness Wednesdays and researching inspirational quotes to use in every article.  I have come to the conclusion that I have not have written about everything. 

So why has it been so hard for me to write for the past 2 months?  I think part of it has to do with my concern for my mother.  She and I talk almost every evening on the phone, sometimes for an hour at a time.  Often we talk about food and how she does not have as much interest in cooking as she used to.  I worry about her, especially when she says, “My pants are looser now, Nancy.”  That is not a good sign when a woman who has always been at a healthy weight loses weight without trying.  We talk about how our taste buds change and food can lose its flavor.  We talk sometimes about using spices to flavor foods.  We talk about the importance of eating small meals throughout the day.  We talk about staying hydrated and drinking water. 

Soon, I will be flying to visit my mother and I will have the privilege of cooking for her.  My step-sister, Pam, will also be joining us from her home in Oregon.  Together, the 3 of us will scout for locally grown foods at the Farmers Market in New Albany, Indiana.  I will get to shop at Trader Joe's in Louisville (one of my favorite stores).  I am looking forward to creating new dishes using vegetables and fruits grown by farmers in southern Indiana.  During my visit I will create a summer eating plan for my mother, with the goal of adding several new ingredients and easy recipes to her repertoire. 

My mother with my nephews, Niels and Andreas, at her 90th birthday weekend, April 2018
I will be packing up organic spices, whole grains, and legumes to take along on my visit to my mother.  Now it is time to get back to writing Wellness Wednesdays.  Love to you all!

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


“Sugar is not dangerous because of its calories, or because it makes you fat.  Sugar is dangerous because it’s sugar.  It’s not nutrition.  When consumed in excess, it’s a toxin.  And it’s addictive.” 
                                                            ---Robert Lustig, MD

The other day, a friend was at the house. She had stopped by a convenient store on the way over to buy a drink.  She bought an Arizona Fruit Punch in a very colorful bottle (see picture below) and an even more colorful label.  The picture on the front of the bottle features pears, cherries, red and green grapes, apples, and strawberries.  A banner proclaims that it is Vitamin C fortified.   The 20 ounce bottle contains 25 grams of sugar PER SERVING and there are 2.5 servings in the bottle! Do the math:  multiply 25 times 2.5 = 72.5 grams of sugar in ONE BOTTLE.  The recommendation for sugar for tweens and teens is no more than 25 grams PER DAY.


According to the ingredient list on the Arizona Fruit Punch, the first ingredient is filtered water.  The second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.  If you are a regular reader of Wellness Wednesdays, then you know that high fructose corn syrup is what I call “the evil empire ingredient.”  This highly processed sugar has no nutritional value.  Drink enough of it and there is a high likelihood that it will cause fatty liver disease. Just ask Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist and author of The Hacking of the American Mind. 

Fatty liver disease affects 80 to 100 million Americans.  It is the most common form of chronic liver disease.  

Kids never used to be diagnosed with fatty liver disease.  High fructose corn syrup entered the food chain in the late 1960s.  Given the excessive amounts of sugar they are ingesting every day, from processed foods and sugar-loaded drinks, American kids are on the fast track for poor health outcomes. 

Drinks like Arizona Fruit Punch and sodas like Coke and Mountain Dew, contain several days’ worth of sugar. 

Our kids deserve better. 

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


“The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry.” 
                                                                    --Bill Gates

I have always been inspired by the priorities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Go to and the first thing you see at the top of the landing page is this statement:  “ALL LIVES HAVE EQUAL VALUE.”  

The above statement describes how I approach the work of the Growing Healthy Kids charitable organization.  As a faith-based organization seeking to bring improve the health and lives of America's children, these are three of our core beliefs:
  • All children deserve access to healthy food.  
  • All people with special needs deserve access to healthy food.  
  • All parents deserve access to education and resources about how best to raise their children in safe communities. 

Something many people don't know about me is that my experience includes teaching adults with special needs basic cooking skills.  When I had this job, we would travel to local farms to see the fields where vegetables were growing and meet the farmers.  We would pick up baskets of freshly picked greens, peppers, tomatoes, and whatever else was in season that week back to the kitchen and prepare outrageously fragrant meals together.  I don't know who had more fun - the adults in the class or me.  

Those adults who happen to have special needs taught me that if you are not able to use your voice to communicate, there are other ways to communicate that sharing a wonderful meal together matters to them.  You see it in their eyes, as they smell the flavors cooking together and they make eye contact with you.  You see it in their behaviors, when there is a lack of inappropriate outbursts or acts of agression.  You see it on their plates, when they eat every morsel and hold up their plates asking for more.   

Clockwise from top left:  French lentils, broccoli, rolled oats, and a peach.
The adults with special needs I used to serve no longer have the opportunity to create healthy dishes in their cooking classes using vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.  Sometimes the commitment to sustain a positive change is difficult.  Inspirational leadership is not easy, especially when you cannot see the forest for the trees.  Are those with special needs in your community given meals that an inmate at the county jail might be fed?  No one can thrive when they consume primarily processed foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar. Garbage in, garbage out.  

Serving those with special needs is no different than our health ministry serving children at risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases like diabetes.  Parents routinely drop off their children for our classes and tell us, “They don't like those vegetables.”  When given the opportunity for kids to learn how to cut, peel, chop, grate, and mix vegetables, it is always a surprise to parents to see their kids coming out with samples for their parents to enjoy.  Most kids will eagerly taste what they have prepared. 

Falling in love with good food is a very good thing.  It can only happen when ALL people have access to healthy food. 

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