Wednesday, September 30, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Fall Foods Are Good for the Soul

"I love comfort food - it's the basis of everything."

                                                                                  --Katie Lee

Fall foods are some of my favorite comfort foods. 

When leaves change colors and the temperature signals sweater weather has arrived, I know the bounty of fall foods is ahead.  There is something special about visiting farmers markets in search of locally grown winter squash like butternut and acorn from organic farmers.  Heirloom tomatoes, onions, and garlic fill the dining table as soup recipes start manifesting in my weekly menus.  Fresh herbs add layers of flavor to every dinner.

The comfort of fall foods is reassuring as we say good-bye to summer and think about the gifts of winter.  Favorite family recipes and the smells of cinnamon, acorn squash, and pumpkin create memories to get us through the winter. 

Take extra good care of yourself and your family.  Here are a few suggestions to make this fall a great fall:

  • Make your favorite comfort foods. 
  • Visit your local farmers markets and buy squash to grill, for soups, and to stuff with wild or brown rice and quinoa.  
  • Invest in some really good organic smoked paprika.  Use it with grilled vegetables.  Saute pumpkin seeds and smoked paprika in olive oil to finish your soups. 
  • Make an extra pumpkin pie for a neighbor.  
  • Share a pint of your homemade soup with a coworker.  
  • Make homemade croutons from a good sour dough bread. 
  • Walk in the fall leaves and celebrate the changing of the seasons.  

Enjoy being alive!

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


"Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group."

                                                                               --Michael Greger, MD 

One of my favorite spices in the world is organic smoked paprika.  If you have been to a Growing Healthy Kids workshop, then you have probably experienced the amazing flavor and taste of organic smoked paprika. People are always amazed to learn how different it is from regular paprika. 

Here is one of my favorite soup topper tips: sautĂ© a tablespoon of olive oil with 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon organic smoked paprika, and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt for a couple of minutes on medium heat.  Serve on tomato, tomato-butternut squash, or split pea soup. 

Herbs and seasonings are an essential part of any plant-based pantry.  Choose organic whenever possible because when you invest in the best quality ingredients possible, your foods will be so much better in taste and quality.  Here are 10 herbs and spices that are always in my pantry:

  1. Basil
  2. Oregano
  3. Thyme
  4. Garlic powder
  5. Turmeric
  6. Ginger
  7. Black pepper
  8. Cumin
  9. Smoked paprika
  10. Coriander

Enjoy spectacular spices. Grow herbs with your kids whenever possible so you can use them fresh.  As you cook with fresh and dried herbs, your kitchen will smell amazing  and your health will be the beneficiary! 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Destructive Stress and Diabetes

 "Chronic illness is a family affair."

                                          --Richard Cohen, from Chasing Hope

Preventing diabetes among kids who are already overweight and obese is key to the mission of Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.  Some kids at unhealthy weights live in food deserts, lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and are dependent on SNAP benefits at home and the USDA's free and reduced meal program at school.  These kids are often bullied by other kids (and sometimes by adults who should know better), ostracized, and isolated.  The psychological effects of childhood obesity are well documented, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Stressors on the health of a child can have unhealthy consequences on the health of a child.   

Stress narrows the blood vessels and raises the blood pressure.  Someone with diabetes is at 2-4 times higher risk for a heart attack or stroke than someone without diabetes. Having high LDL cholesterol means the blood vessels are narrowed because the saturated fat found in foods from animals (think cheese, beef, chicken, ice-cream and full-fat milk) sticks to the inside of the vessels. 

Managing stress is important to everyone’s overall health, but especially important for anyone with diabetes or prediabetes.  In addition to “everyday” stress like the school class change bells, attending “virtual” school at home, loud noises, unexpected events like someone’s illness or death, being bullied, or being sedentary, everyone is also juggling year of “COVID” stress, a summer of racial injustices and uncertainty, and a presidential election of great consequence to the health of our country and the health of democracy.

Stress can kill you.  If it doesn’t kill you, it will age you.  If it doesn’t age you, it will remind you that living a balanced life matters a lot so turn off the source of the stress.

I walk as my antidote for stress.   Sometimes I will throw in a little walk/run to get my heart rate up a bit.  We need those walks to remind us to stop and smell the roses every day. Exercise, time outside in nature, and eating real foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) all play a role in managing stress.  What are you and your kids doing to manage stress? 

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Rethinking Our Food Supply

 “The coronavirus disrupted the American food supply and it changed the way I shop, cook, and eat.”

        --Ruth Reichl, from her article “The Changing American Table”

If I had a magic wand…the world would embrace whole plant-based eating for the sake of the planet’s health and people’s health.

Imagine a world where there are no meat processing plants because people have switched to plant-based eating for good and animals are no longer slaughtered for human consumption.  Picture rivers and lakes near factory farms no longer being polluted by animal wastes.  Think about how much healthier communities will be when people no longer have animal factory farms polluting their neighborhoods.  

In 2020 meat processing plants, where animals are systematically cut apart and packaged as food and where workers are subjected to inhumane conditions, have become COVID-19 vectors for widespread disease transmission.  For the first time, many people saw the dark underworld of what it is like to work at a packing plant as one plant after another had widespread infections among workers.  Keeping working conditions a secret appears to be a priority of these companies where animals are factory farmed to supply people’s insatiable desire for beef, chicken, and pork. In April 2020, Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing these plants to remain open. 

On June 27, 2020, published a story called, “Why meat processing plants have become COVID-19 hotbeds”.  According to authors Anna Stewart, Ivana Kottasová, and Aleesha Khaliq: 

A number of scientists have suggested that the cold, humid environment inside the plants could help the virus spread. “These animal cadavers have to be sprayed with water all the time, so you have aerosols, and it’s cold…it is something that definitely deserves very thorough investigation,” [Dr. Thomas] Kamradt said.

Next time you order a quarter pounder burger, consider this little known fact: according to, it takes about 460 gallons of water to make a ¼ pound hamburger.  For every pound of beef, that’s about 1,840 gallons of water.  The average swimming pool takes 18,000-20,000 gallons of water to fill or the same amount of water needed for about 10 pounds of beef. 

As a longtime student of the benefits of plant-based eating such as reversing heart disease and diabetes, I believe the disruptions to America’s food supply due to COVID-19 are speeding up the realization that we must rethink our food supply.  There is a direct correlation between consumption of foods from animals and heart disease, obesity, and most cancers.  Using fossil fuels to move foods from one side of the country to another so that we can have access to fruits and vegetables year round makes no sense in light of the climate crisis emergency we have created by these practices we can no longer afford.  The picture below is a package of blackberries grown in California and sold in Indiana. 

Blackberries grown in California and sold in Indiana
It’s time to rethink our food supply.  

  • Eat real food. Avoid processed foods and foods from animals. 
  • Make most of what you eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  
  • Support local farmers.  
  • Learn how your food is grown and how far it traveled to get to you.  The longer it takes to harvest food and get it to your table, the less nutritional value it has.  
  • Factory farming of animals needs to stop.  When you shift to plant-based eating, the supply chain will shift to meet the new demands.  We are already beginning to see it with the increased demand for plant milks.   

Moving to whole plant-based eating is one of the powerful things we can do - for our own health and for the health of our home, Planet Earth.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.