Wednesday, February 26, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Comfort Foods and Mindful Meals

"Good manners: The sound you don't make when you're eating soup."
                                                              --Bennett Cerf

Winter is all about comfort foods and soup tops my list of favorite comfort foods.  Easy to prepare, affordable and accessible ingredients, and only one pot!  

In our Growing Healthy Kids workshops for children at risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, everyone learns how to prepare at least one soup recipe.  There is something spiritual about chopping and dicing vegetables, adding homemade vegetable broth, and letting soup simmer as the kitchen fills with wonderful, healing aromas.  Make a pot of soup, add a green salad and homemade cornbread and you have a feast every time. 

Be mindful of the time you spend sharing meals with your family.  Create mealtime traditions.  Make your family’s favorite comfort foods with your kids.  Set the table, add a vase of flowers or greenery from the yard.  Have the kids fill the water glasses.  Turn off all the cell phones and put them in another room.  When you sit down to eat dinner, share what happened in your day, talk about what you are grateful for, and help each other set goals for the next day.  

Several weeks ago I reposted a photo of one of my favorite butternut squash soups from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen.  A friend on the other side of the country saw the picture and asked me to share the recipe.  Enjoy!

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe collection

  • 1 tablespoon coconut or olive oi
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced·       
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  •  1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (I recommend Ceylon cinnamon)
  • 1 14-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 2-3 cups vegetable broth
  •  2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste (optional)


Heat large soup pot over medium hot.

Add oil, shallots, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently,

Add squash, salt, pepper, curry powder, and cinnamon.  Stir.  Cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add coconut milk, vegetable broth, maple syrup and chili garlic paste. 

Bring to a low boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until butternut squash is fork tender.

Use immersion blender and puree on high until creamy and smooth.

Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cook a few more minutes over medium heat. 

Serve with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and smoked paprika.

Growing Healthy Kids -- working to improve the health - and lives - of America's children, one child at a time.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Why Going Plant-Based is So Right

"We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last generation that can do something about it."  
                                                       --Jay Inslee

I have long advocated for plant-based eating because of its proven health benefits.  A plant-based way of eating is proven to reverse and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  

Now consider this:  a recent article in Sierra Magazine talked about the positive significance to improving the health of the planet when we shift from an animal-centric food culture to plant-based eating.

Photo credits:  Barbara DuPont

Raising animals as food for humans is destructive to our waterways, our land, our air, and our energy balance.  Fossil fuel energy is used to grow the grains which are fed to cows, pigs, and chickens which are then slaughtered and consumed by humans.   Think about this:  one dairy cow eats about 30 pounds of baled hay and 25 pounds of grain mix (corn, soybean meal, vitamins, and minerals) per day.  Eating a meat-based diet contributes to the leading causes of death and disease of Americans, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  The fact is that saturated fats, found only in foods that come from animal, are a major source of disease.  

Did you know that switching to a plant-based way of eating has a more positive impact on climate change than buying an electric car?

We are at a tipping point in the climate change crisis with precious little time to divert our course from one of massive planetary disaster.  America needs leaders who will  close all coal-fired power plants in the next 3 years.  We need to get back into the Paris Climate Agreement.  We need incentives for automobile manufacturers to phase out the manufacture of fossil-fueled automobiles by 2023 or sooner.  School districts and businesses need to switch off of fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy sources.  We can all plant more trees.  

Failure to act is unacceptable.  According to Dr. Renee Salas of Harvard University, "Climate change, and the air pollution from fossil fuels that are driving it, threaten a child's health start in their mother's womb and only accumulate from there."

Make the commitment.  Move towards a plant-based way of eating.  The life of our planet - and the health of our children - is at stake. 

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Becoming a Sugar Detective

"Sugar is celebratory.  Sugar is something that we used to enjoy.  Now, it basically has coated our tongues.  It's turned into a diet staple and it's killing us."  
                                                                       --Dr. Robert Lustig

Recently I was reviewing notes from our Growing Healthy Kids’ workshop in Vero Beach, Florida.  For the label reading demonstration with the kids, I purchased a box of popular cereal, as determined by shelf space and placement in relation to the eye level of an elementary age child.  This cereal was loaded with hidden ingredients, a common practice in foods marketed to kids.  It contained not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 different food dyes which are known to contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  

One cup of this cereal contains 32 grams of carbohydrates (with  less than l gram of dietary fiber), which equals 8 teaspoons of sugar.  When I asked one of the kids to measure out 8 teaspoons of sugar into a cup and then pass it around to see who would eat it, the kids were repelled by the thought of eating refined sugar.  However, when they have a bowl of cereal, such as the Captain Crunch Berry used in our demonstration, before school, they don’t think about the added sugars, food dyes, and chemical ingredients that they cannot pronounce.
Teaching the Becoming a Sugar Detective lesson as a lead-in and contrast to the lesson on making grilled vegetable sandwiches on some of out-of-this-world delicious whole grain bread imported from New York City by Chef Anthony Damiano of Counter Culture was intentional.  I wanted kids to remember the contrast between the choice of eating 8 teaspoons of pure added sugar or having a delicious grilled vegetable sandwich containing no added sugars.  Oh my, the flavors of the grilled sandwiches were pure heaven!  The taste of real food is so amazing!

Chef Anthony Damiano of Counter Culture, with kids at our recent Nutrition Scientist Training Program

The health of America’s children has become a commodity for sale to the for-profit sector.  Processed food manufacturers employ flavor scientists to make foods intentionally addictive.  Companies employ branding experts to design packages in bright colors that will catch the attention of kids, especially when placed at eye level in your favorite grocery store. 

Become a Sugar Detective.  Our children’s health stands in the balance. 

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Educating Parents about Real Food

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."  
                                                               --Benjamin Franklin

It is parents we must educate about what real food is:  fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  Parents make decisions about what foods to buy for their children.  They decide whether to cook at home, eat in a restaurant or drive through a fast food place where foods are high in calories, saturated fat, salt, and sugar.  Parents are the ones who can decide if their kids should go outside and play.   Parents can choose whether to buy sodas loaded with high fructose corn syrup and no nutritional value or serve water as the primary beverage.  Kids six years and older should be getting 60 minutes a day of physical activity. 

It is our communities we must educate about providing families access to real foods.  Where there are food deserts, we need to create solutions.  Food deserts, often found in low income neighborhoods, contribute to poor health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes.  Schools, afterschool programs, and preschools can choose to provide foods that will make kids healthy or fuel diseases. 

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic fueled by the convenience of cheap and highly processed foods.  Added sugars in foods marketed to kids such as sodas, energy drinks, and breakfast cereals plus USDA-subsidized dairy and meat products in public schools are poisoning our children's health. 

What will you choose for your kids?  Will you dare to care enough to be the parent your children need so they can access real food like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains instead of foods filled with sugar, salt, and saturated fat?

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