Wednesday, April 29, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Talking about Diabetes

"Think about it.  Heart disease and diabetes, which account for more deaths in the U.S. and worldwide than everything else combined, are completely preventable by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. Without drugs or surgery." 
                                                                  --Dean Ornish, MD

Fresh vegetables from the New Albany, Indiana Farmers Market

I was recently talking with a staff member at an agency about teaching classes for adults with diabetes.  Out of the blue he said, “I’d love to come to your classes because I have diabetes.”  

People who have diabetes are starving for education.  What they get from their doctors are prescriptions for medicines and an appointment to return in 3 months.  

When I worked for a Medicare health insurance company and was asked by the medical director to redesign its wellness program, I accepted the challenge with the goal of educating older adults about how to control diabetes and prevent complications.  What happened was that people who attended the workshops taught by my staff and I started needing less medicine.  Some people were able to stop all their diabetes medications.  Their lab numbers improved.  They started feeling better.  They had more energy and less brain fog.  Many people lost weight.  People learned how to ask for their test results and became empowered to ask questions about their A1c, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride results with their medical team.  From the perspective of population health, we made measurable improvements in the health of the population we served. 

Can we talk?  Diabetes is not only controllable, it is reversible for many people.  It is also preventable.  With the childhood epidemic in this country, we have thousands of children at risk for developing diabetes. 

Since retooling that Medicare health insurance company's wellness program, I have continued to learn how powerful dietary interventions can be in changing the course of diabetes as well as heart disease.  The consumption of highly processed sugars, sodas, meat, and dairy products like milk and cheese is damaging our health and also our children’s health.  Saturated fats found in meat, milk, and cheese clog the cells, blocking the absorption of sugars in the blood stream to the cells where they are needed for energy.  

Research has clearly proven that plant-based eating can reverse diabetes.  Physicians such as Dean Ornish, MD, Neal Barnard, MD, and Michael Greger, MD work tirelessly to educate their patients and other medical professionals about the power of whole food plant-based eating.  Eating primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can put you - and your children - on the path to a new life. 

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


“Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”    --Ansel Adams

What Is Earth? | NASA

“Think about how you live and make ethical choices.  How do you treat people?  How do you treat animals?  Do you bother to pick up litter?  Although just you picking up a piece of litter won’t make a difference, the cumulative effect is huge.  The whole of that is the resilience of nature.  I have seen it happening everywhere.”  
   --Jane Goodall, Primatologist

“Wean off beef and other meats and reduce it dramatically to no more than one hamburger a week.  Use non-processed foods.  Preparing food for yourself is healthier and dramatically more energy-efficient; freezing and microwaving takes an enormous amount of energy.”  
   --Denis Hayes, longtime environmental activist and coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970

“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.”  
   --Dr. Thomas Fuller

“What’s the point of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on.”  
   --Henry David Thoreau

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  
   --Margaret Mead, American anthropologist

April 22, 2020 is Earth Day.  Every day should be Earth Day.  A vital part of the mission of  the Growing Healthy Kids organization is to teach kids about respect for farmers, for the work it takes to grow foods organically, for not wasting food, for reducing our footprint where we live, for taking care of our water, land, and air so that there will be a healthy planet for our children.  

Do what you can.  We are, after all, Growing Healthy Kids.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


"I love you like a fat kid loves cake."  
                                       --Scott Adams, creator of comic strip "Dilbert"

Kids attending recent Growing Healthy Kids' workshops

Sugar, salt, and fat are highly addictive.  Fast food is intentionally engineered to use sugar, salt, and fat to get you addicted to foods like a McDonald’s Big Mac or Fish Filet, a Chic-fil-A sandwich, and the fries, sodas, and milkshakes paired together in combo meals so you get the ”big 3” in one meal and have to keep coming back for more. 

Cheese, a concentrated source of animal fat and salt, is highly addictive to people.  It contains growth hormones given to cows to increase milk production that can have negative health consequences in humans.   Cheese causes an opiod-like effect on the brain.  Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of The Cheese Trap, calls cheese “dairy crack” because it is so additive. 

The issue with eating addictive foods like sugar, salt, fat, and cheese is that the pleasure center of the brain is triggered by these foods, the same as an addiction to cocaine.  The release of dopamine in the brain makes you want more pleasure from the addictive foods. 

Food addiction plays a key role in obesity.  I recently watched an interview on the Rich Roll Podcast with Chef AJ, a woman in her 50s who said she was overweight at the age of 5 and obese most of her life.  She struggled with food addictions to sugar, salt, and fat until she finally learned how addictive these processed foods can be.  She ate cookies, crackers, pies, and cakes but no fruits or vegetables. She accidently learned about the direct relationship between her addiction to sugar, salt, and fat and her obesity.  With help, she emerged victorious from a lifetime battle so she is now in control over what she eats and is finally at a healthy weight.   

Americans have always taken great pride in having freedom of choice.  We need to realize that our freedom to enjoy good health has been taken away by food manufacturers who have taken advantage of us to addict us to sugar, salt, and fat for their own financial profit.  And now our children are obese - almost 1 in 5 kids.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected 13.7 million children and adolescents. 

We have to stop buying and feeding kids foods loaded in sugar, salt, and fat.  We can break the cycle of food addiction.  In our workshops for Growing Healthy Kids, we show kids how to prepare real foods and they get so excited by how good real food tastes.  We teach parents that you can prepare real food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) for a whole lot less money than eating meat, cheese, and milk.   

Knowledge is power.  What foods will you buy for your kids?   
With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Ready to Reverse Diabetes?

"Overall, our population is in the worst shape it's ever been.  Children are in terrible shape.  We have absolutely unprecedented numbers of overweight and obese children - one in three now.  A generation ago, it was something like one in ten."  
                                                               --Neal Barnard, MD  

Kids at a recent Growing Healthy Kids' workshop meet local farmers
like Steve from Pepper Trail Farm.  
Diabetes kills.  For many people with type 2 diabetes, it is reversible.  It is also preventable.   

Did you know…

  • 34.2 million Americans (10.5% of the population) have diabetes.
  • People with diabetes are also more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk for heart disease (including high blood pressure, elevated LDL, and high triglycerides).
  • Of the 34.2 million Americans with diabetes, 26.9 million people have been diagnosed.  The rest are undiagnosed.
  • 88 million adults aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult US population).
  • Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity.  Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. 

If you or someone you love has diabetes or prediabetes, then you need to know Neal Barnard, MD.  Dr. Barnard is the founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ( and the author of many books including Dr. Neal Barnard’s Cookbook for Reversing Diabetes, The Cheese Trap (another "must read" book that will change your life), and his brand new book, Your Body in Balance.  He is one of this country’s strongest advocates for plant-based eating because of its proven power to improve health outcomes and reverse diseases such as diabetes. 

Vegetables, plus fruits, legumes, and grains, are central to plant-based eating.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, recently shared that he has prediabetes.  I wonder if his revelation will be a wake-up call to some of the 88 million adults with prediabetes in America.  Prediabetes is the shot over the bow that, if you don’t change your course, you are heading for the cliffs.  Prediabetes is like a giant "WAKE UP AND DO SOMETHING!!!" sign, an opportunity to intentionally take action to gain control over one’s blood sugar and through a huge wrench into what would otherwise be a downward spiral towards diabetes.  

Ready for action but not sure where to start? Go to and scroll down to “21 day kickstart”.  Tap into the genius of Dr. Barnard and start on your path to reverse diabetes. 

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Tacos for Breakfast

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"  "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh.  "What do you say, Piglet?"  "I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.  Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  "It's the same thing," he said. 
                                                                          --A.A. Milne

Pinto Bean Tacos with Sautéed Veggies - The Kids Cook Monday

Tacos are the perfect food.  They are easy to prepare.  They make a fun breakfast (or lunch or dinner). Kids love to make them and eat them.  You can eat them with your hands.  Fill them with beans or lentils, your favorite vegan cheese, fresh tomatoes, diced avocados, crisp romaine lettuce, homemade pico de gallo or taco sauce and you have a food fiesta.    

Beans and lentils belong to the Legume food group, one of the four basic food groups (legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) for plant-based eating.   Legumes are nutritionally dense and one of the best sources of dietary fiber, found only in food from plants.  One-half cup of cooked green lentils (the garden variety kind of lentil, usually  costs less than $1.50 for a bag) has about 9 grams of dietary fiber, which is about 1/3 of our daily fiber needs for good health.  

Having enough dietary fiber and drinking enough water are two of the best predictors of bowel health.  There is nothing worse than a child with no access to dietary fiber who eats mainly processed foods, meat, and dairy, has a bowel movement only once a week and stomach aches every day.  

The Healthiest Lentil |

Lentils are easy to cook.  Put ½ cup of lentils in a small pot with about 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Drain excess water. 

Include lentils or beans in your daily meal planning for an easy way to get the dietary fiber that we need, help prevent overeating, and keep blood sugars levels under control. Dan Buettner documented in The Blue Zones that beans and lentils are eaten by the longest-living people around the world.

Here is my favorite recipe for easy, delicious, and healthy breakfast tacos.

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Breakfast Tacos

1.     Take leftover lentils out of the fridge.
2.     Heat up 2 corn tortillas.*
3.     Fill tortillas with a spoon of lentils, cubed avocado, fresh cilantro, and vegan cheese*.
4.     Add taco sauce, a squeeze of fresh lime, roll up, and enjoy.
5.     Repeat.

*My favorite corn tortillas are from Trader Joe’s.  If you are not lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s store near you, then choose a brand without preservatives or make your own tortillas.  My favorite vegan cheese is Daiya cheddar. 

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