Wednesday, June 24, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Food Inequities and Childhood Obesity

"Without farmers, there is no food."  
                                                                                           --Lailah Gifty Akita

Tofu "egg" salad with sunflower sprouts

Garden salad with sunflower sprouts and pumpkin seeds

Growing up healthy is not always a choice.  For kids who depend on the free and reduced school meal program for 2 of their 3 daily meals, there is no choice.  For kids who live in food deserts with no convenient access to grocery stores and fresh fruits and vegetables, there is no choice.  For kids who are homeless and dependent on institutionalized food prepared by county jails for distribution to homeless centers, there is no choice. 

We have a long way to go to ensure that all kids have access to healthy foods.  We don’t have food equity.  Here's what we do have:
  • We have a generation of kids growing up on processed foods and sugary drinks.  
  • We have a generation of kids growing up obese because most of their calories come from processed and refined carbohydrates with no nutritional value and fat calories from milk, chicken, meat, and cheese subsidized by U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
  • We have a generation of kids exposed to unhealthy food dyes in processed foods such as breakfast cereals that contribute to lack of focus and attention deficits.
  • We have a generation of kids developing type 2 diabetes because of all the empty calories in sugar-filled sodas, breakfast cereals, and cookies, saturated fats from animal products, and other junk they are being fed.  

Kids who are overweight or obese are more likely to grow up to be obese or overweight as adults.  Kids who are victims of food inequities are more likely to be those at higher risk for chronic, preventable diseases such as diabetes.    

How do you create food equity?   Corporations make decisions about where to place new grocery stores.  Communities can create strong business incentives and food policy decisions so that opening a store in a highly populated food desert is a good business decision.  Families can make decisions about where to live and what food to buy.  Neighborhoods can plant neighborhood gardens so the young people can help with the physical work of watering and pulling weeds and the older residents can receive some of the bounty.  In exchange they can teach the kids how to prepare foods using vegetables fresh from the garden.  Individuals can learn to grow food.  Start with a tomato plant or peppers.  Every small change helps.  

The unsettling events of 2020 have taught Americans that there is a silver lining in slowing down the pace of our lives and starting victory gardens or learning how to make bread.  Where I live there is a lot of shade so a traditional vegetable garden would not be successful. However, what I do grow very successfully is sprouts.  Lentil sprouts, one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, take just 3 days to grow.  I use them in salads, sandwiches, and tacos.  Sunflower sprouts are one of my favorites because they are so crunchy and delicious.  Nothing bets an avocado, tomato, and sunflower sprout sandwich on whole grain bread!  And don't get me started on the nutritional value of broccoli sprouts!  

To reverse childhood obesity, we must address the systemic inequities in our food system in this country.  I can get in my car and drive to the grocery store whenever I want. What if I didn’t have a car? There is no public transportation close to where I live.  Would I have to move to live close to a bus line?  Could I move within walking distance of a grocery store?   Could I work an extra job and save money to buy a car and insurance?  Where are the local farmers markets located?  Can you get to them on a bus line or do you need a car?  In Vero Beach, Florida, home of Growing Healthy Kids, the farmers market is located on the barrier island which is white and affluent.  I drive to the Saturday market because I like to buy from local farmers.  When we take kids to the farmers market for our workshops, most of them are going for the first time because it is miles away from where they live. 

Every day we make decisions that affect what we eat.  Reversing childhood obesity is not easy.  We can eat to feed disease or to be healthy.  Access to real food is the barrier for many families, whether it is lack of dependable transportation, living in a food desert or food apartheid, or working a minimum wage job and trying to live on less than a living wage.   

We must do better.  Together, we can improve the health – and lives – of America’s children. 

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Growing Kids Up Healthy

"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, M.D.

Vegetables from the New Albany, IN Farmers Market

The other day I was talking with someone who is preparing for bariatric surgery because of morbid obesity and diabetes. He shared that he has an addiction to fast food which he blames for some of his health troubles.  Unfortunately, gastric bypass surgery does not reverse addictions to the high fat, salt, and sugar found in processed foods like at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King.  Once someone understands that fast food companies intentionally engineer foods to be addictive using added sugars, salts, and fats, it makes it easier to stop buying and eating them.   

This conversation with my friend reminded me that learning good eating habits starts early in life.  Developing a healthy relationship with food is very important, just as important as learning about what real foods are and where they come from.    

Summertime is a great time to teach your kids about real food and to create a lifetime of healthy habits give your kids the tools to remain at a healthy weight for the rest of their lives. Here are 3 suggestions for parents:
  1. Take your kids shopping at the local farmers market to meet local farmers and talk about the food they grow.  
  2. Teach your kids how to cook and how to prepare delicious, healthy recipes.  (Tip: Pick up a copy of my book Nourish and Flourish:  Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes from 
  3. Show them the nutrition facts labels on different breakfast cereals and look for those with less ingredients, less grams of sugar, and more grams of dietary fiber. 

Locally grown veggies in Denmark
Most of what we eat should come from these 4 food groups:  
  • fruits 
  • vegetables
  • legumes (beans and lentils)
  • whole grains 

Make this summer fun.  Don't forget to include the lessons about growing kids up healthy.  

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Cake for a Low Country Girl

 lemons | Health Topics |
"The pharmaceutical 
industry effectively controls what doctors are told."

  --Neal Barnard, MD, founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 

I like cake.  But more on that later. 

Every teenager needs to learn 10 basic recipes to get them started on the path towards healthy cooking, healthy eating, and a life of great health outcomes.  When we are born, we don’t automatically learn to taste and buy ingredients that are good for us.  We don’t learn to avoid ingredients that make may make us sick.  We don’t automatically learn how to read food labels and avoid ingredients that can cause cancer, high blood pressure, focus issues, and obesity.  

Developing our health literacy is something food manufacturers and fast food companies like McDonald's don’t want to see happen.  If you know what you are buying, then you won’t buy their products.  Educating patients about how to prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer takes more of a doctor’s time than writing a prescription for pills.  They write the prescription instead of talking with you about how eating cruciferous vegetables every day helps prevent cancer.  Please pass the broccoli.  

What makes the Growing Healthy Kids Project so rewarding is that kids are given tools and resources to make good choices about foods to eat and the opportunity to practice cooking skills in a nonjudgmental environment.  Here are a few examples of what kids learn: 
  • ·        the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon
  • ·        how to cut an onion and mince garlic
  • ·        how to look for dangerous food dyes used as ingredients, especially in foods marketed to kids
  • ·        how to make guacamole
  • ·        season a soup with organic spices like oregano and basil instead of salt
  • ·       having opportunities to taste new foods and flavors

Back to cake.  When people ask me about basic recipes for kids, I always recommend a dessert as one of the 10 recipes.  I want to share of my favorites, a delicious recipe that is great for summertime, it tastes great, and is great for making with your kids and grandkids (shredding, zesting, and juicing is involved).  Especially those grandkids who live in the Low Country.   This recipe is for my good friend, Linda, and her granddaughter, Hazel, in the Low Country!   

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Lemon Zucchini Cake

NOTE:  This recipe makes TWO loaves (one for you and one for a neighbor!).  Using applesauce instead of oil makes this heart healthy. 

·          3 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer to use ½ flour and ½ almond flour)
·          1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
·          1 teaspoon baking soda
·          1 teaspoon baking powder
·          1-1/2 cups sugar
·          Zest of 2 large lemons
·          3 large eggs (1 prefer to use 3 flax eggs: mix 3 Tablespoons ground flax  with 9 Tablespoons water and let sit 5 minutes before adding)
·          1 cup applesauce
·          1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
·          1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·          2 cups grated zucchini (squeeze out excess water)

For the lemon glaze:
·          2 cups powdered sugar
·          2-3  Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.  Set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
3.    In a medium bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Add eggs (or flax eggs), applesauce, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined (the batter will be thick). Stir in zucchini and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans.
4.    Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5.    Place loaves on cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans. Let cool completely on rack.
6.    While cake is cooling, make lemon glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth and there are no lumps. Drizzle glaze over the cakes.

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2020


“In both children and adults, the more hydrated they were, the less likely they were to be obese.”
                           --from How Not to Diet by Michael Greger, M.D.

Engineers are plugging holes in drinking water treatment | Science ...

The oceans are full of it.  Rivers run wild because of it.  It fills lakes to provide summertime fun for kids. Up to 60% of an adult human body contains it. 

Water.  A clear non-caloric liquid so precious and vital to our existence yet we take it for granted.  H20.  Two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen.  Most of us fail to prioritize its role in what we consume every day.  Most people don’t consume nearly enough to keep their bodies - and brains - hydrated.  

The primary beverage children and adults should drink every day is water. Not sodas. Not milk from cows. Not fruit juice. Not coffee. Just plain water.

In his 2019 book How Not to Diet, Dr. Michael Greger recommends drinking 2 cups of cool or cold unflavored water to preload before a meal, a habit that can promote weight loss.

What are your kids drinking?  Soda?  Juice?  What our bodies need most is water and not drinking enough water plays a role in weight gain and obesity. 

How much water do you need?  According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, adult men need to consume about 15.5 cups a day and women need about 11.5 cups a day.  Most of that should be just water. Coffee, milk, and juice can count towards your daily total because they are mostly water.  If you exercise and sweat a lot, you probably need more than these amounts.

Your brain and body will thank you when you make cool water your daily go-to hydration.  Real simple.

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