Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Plant-Based Eating is What the Doctor Ordered

"Most deaths in the United States are preventable, and they are related to what we eat."
        --Michael Greger, MD from the introduction to How Not to Die

Teaching kids about the power of plant-based eating
at a recent Growing Healthy Kids workshop

One of my public health heroes and author of one of my favorite cookbooks is Michael Greger, MD, author of How Not to Die and the How Not to Die Cookbook. In his introduction to How Not to Die, Dr. Greger begins with his inspiration for his life's work.  When his grandmother, Frances Greger, was 65 years old she had had several bypass operations and was wheelchair bound.  She heard about what Nathan Pritikin was doing to reverse heart disease with a plant-based diet and traveled from Miami to Santa Barbara to work with him. Within 3 weeks she was walking 10 miles a day and out of her wheelchair.

The power of plant-based eating to reverse heart disease is what inspired Dr. Greger and it inspires me to create solutions for the kids in this country who are overweight and obese and at risk for obesity-related diseases like diabetes. Diabetes is not supposed to be diagnosed in 15 year olds.  Childhood obesity causes breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma and other problems likes fatty liver disease and gallstones that have profound physical and psychological effects on teenagers. 

Every day is an opportunity to begin anew, as spring reminds us every year.  Plan family meals around the 4 foods groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (lentils and beans).  Try new foods and new plant-based recipes.  The farmers markets will be opening soon across the country.  Buy local and buy organic whenever possible. One of my favorite things to do is to go to the Saturday Farmers Market, buy from the local farmers, and then plan my week’s meals around locally grown and organic products.  When you make it your habit, it becomes easy.  

Healthy, plant-based eating is just what the doctor, Dr. Greger that is, ordered! 

Be inspired!  Be inspired to prevent and reverse diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. 
With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


"If kids grow kale, they eat kale.  If kids grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.  But when none of this is presented to them, if they're not shown how food affects the mind and body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them."
                                                                                  --Ron Finley

Walking the fields at Shining Light Garden in Vero Beach, Florida
at a recent Growing Healthy Kid' workshop
My perfect definition of good food:  good for you, tastes good, nutrient dense, locally grown, and organic.  This matters when you are cooking with and/or for kids.  If food doesn’t taste good, the kids won’t eat it. Having good food also matters when you are cooking for older family members who may have lost their taste buds and whose limited food choices impact their overall health.

One of the best foods to eat is kale.  Why?  
  • Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods we have.
  • It is a cruciferous vegetable which is the group of vegetables with strong anti-cancer properties.  Some other cruciferous vegetables include: broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, collards, arugula, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and watercress. 
  • Kale is a very good source of lutein which is essential for eye health.  Luteins are carotenoids which are pigments that give some fruits and vegetables their color.  If you have glaucoma, eating kale every day can be very, very good for your eyes and your future vision. 
  • Looking to get to a healthier weight?  One cup of cooked kale has 36 calories. 

With all these great health benefits, what do you do with that beautiful organic kale in your refrigerator?  Here are two of my favorite suggestions so you can easily get several servings a day:  in the morning, include raw kale as an essential ingredient in  your blueberry shakes and in the evening, enjoy baked kale chips as an appetizer.  Below is my recipe for delicious kale chips. 

Kale chips "Before"
Kale chips "After"

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Favorite Recipes
  • 5-6 leaves organic curly kale (green or purple)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

  • Preheat oven to 290 degrees.  Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. 
  • Wash and dry kale.  Tear into 1-2 inch pieces and scatter evenly on baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle olive oil over kale.  Do not drench. 
  • Evenly sprinkle nutritional yeast, sea salt, and garlic salt over kale. 
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning chips halfway through baking time. 
  • When chips are crispy (not limp), remove from oven and serve immediately.  

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


"Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking.  It's about imagination, empowerment, and creativity."
                                                --Guy Fieri

Things I know: 
  • Kids love to play. 
  • Kids love to play with food. 
  • Kids love to build and create things.

Playing with food and building recipes in the kitchen can turn into a really cool family activity, especially when you combine it with weekly trips to your local farmers market to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. 

Kids at a recent Growing Healthy Kids workshop in Vero Beach, Florida.  

The following recipe is from our Growing Healthy Kids Recipe Collection.  It is great for making with your kids.  Here are three reasons why you and your kids should make it:  (1) it is easy to make, (2) the ingredients are inexpensive, and (3) it tastes unbelievably wonderful.  The ingredient you may not have on hand is smoked paprika but once you experience its delightful flavor and versatility you will never be without it.  

TIP for buying spices:  Always purchase organic herbs and spices because I believe you should purchase the best ingredients you can afford – your food will always taste better.   

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
 Hungarian-Style Potatoes Paprikash

  • ·        8 medium-large Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • ·        2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ·        1 large onion, sliced thin
  • ·        3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ·        2 medium green peppers, sliced into narrow strips
  • ·        4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
  • ·        1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ·        Salt and pepper, to taste


Cook or bake potatoes until about half done. 

When potatoes are cool enough to be handled, peel potatoes and dice into large pieces.

Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onion and saute over medium-low heat until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).  Add garlic and bell peppers and saute another 5 minutes.

Add potatoes, tomatoes, paprika, and ½ cup water.  Raise heat and cook until the liquid comes to a simmer.  Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes or until potatoes are done and liquid thickens into a sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Eat Out or Cook at Home?

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
                                                                 --Julia Child

If your goal is to develop high blood pressure, eating too much sodium is a sure path to get it.  Do you eat out often at fast food restaurants?  A McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese and bacon has 1,510 mg of sodium and 32 grams of fat.  A 4-piece order of chicken McNuggets contains 460 mg of sodium, 13 grams of fat, and 4 grams of sugar.  How many kids eat just 4 McNuggets?   A BBQ Bacon Whopper from Burger King has 1,540 mg and sodium and a heartstopping 51 grams of fat.  

To boost sales and profits, food manufacturers employ food scientists to create foods loaded with salt, sugar, and fat that are intentionally designed to be highly addictive.  Foods high in salt, sugar, and fat are a sure path to disease. 

The average American consumes 4,000-8,000 mg of sodium every day.  The recommendation for most Americans is to consume less than 1,500 mg a day. 

With the popularity of fast food eating choices and the extinction of home economics classes in high school, many people have stopped cooking.   I talk with people every day who tell me they don’t know how to cook.  People think they don’t have time to cook.  But yet people don’t hesitate to waste hours on mindless social media.

Picking vegetables at Shining Light Garden with Kevin O'Dare
at recent Growing Healthy Kids' workshop.  

Protecting the health of kids by ensuring they have access to real food is central to the mission of Growing Healthy Kids.  All kids deserve better than a future of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attacks because of highly processed fast foods acting like the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.  When I ask kids who wants to grow up and get diabetes or high blood pressure, no one raises their hand. 

In our Growing Healthy Kids’ workshops, we empower and inspire kids and parents to eat real food by teaching them how easy it is to prepare and cook real food.  We connect kids with farmers so they can learn what real food is and where it comes from.  We teach them that organic is best, when food is grown without anything that came from a laboratory.  Kids learn to flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, fat, and sugar.  When a kiddo learns how to make a healthy lentil or tomato soup in one of our workshops and comes back for seconds and thirds of a soup they made, I know we are making a difference. 

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and he can feed himself for the rest of his life.  Or as I like to say, teach a child how to order in a restaurant and she can eat one meal.  Introduce a child to local farmers and teach her how to cook 10 basic recipes and she can feed herself for the rest of her life.

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