Wednesday, December 30, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: The Birds and the Bees

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

                                                                       --Albert Einstein

When I saw this quote, I was reading an article about Honeybee Whisperers, the beekeepers in Slovenia.  Bees pollinate crops. Our food supply is dependent on honeybees.  Bee populations are declining.  Protecting the environment so honeybees can thrive seems like a given. 

Birds are like the canary in the coal mine.  When birds change their migration patterns due to rising temperature, drought, fires, floods, and other natural disasters, it is a warning.  When birds die because they cannot adapt to climate change, how long will it be before humans follow?

The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 forced humanity to pause.  Air quality improved as businesses shut down, cars were not driven, factories didn’t roar, and people stayed home.  However, daily pictures of long lines of cars waiting at food distribution centers on the evening news implies a society out of control.  Stories abound about how schools have pivoted to send home meals so children will not go hungry. Grocery shelves stripped bare, a food system on the brink of collapse.  

Food instability, food insecurity, and food deserts are detrimental to the health of children. Processed foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat are consumed by too many, too often.  Most Americans eat far too little dietary fiber – found only in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains – and it is no wonder that obesity and diabetes rates are so high.  

As 2021 approaches, we need local and regional solutions to how we grow and distribute foods.  I am a long-time supporter and advocate of local farmers markets, always seeking the farmers who grow organically.  I love being able to purchase food grown 5 miles from where I live and harvested 18 hours before I bought and cooked it.  Did you know that about 30% of the nutritional value of produce disappears in the first three days after harvest?  Transporting food across the country and around the world is not a smart way to get food on our table anymore.  It is also prohibitively expensive in terms of energy consumption as well. We must think "local" in terms of food.  

Our nation’s food supply is in a crisis.  COVID-19 has been a tough lesson highlighting  that our health is also a crisis, as those with obesity and diabetes are at high risk for infection and severe illness and death. The childhood obesity epidemic is a largely a symptom of a dysfunctional food system.  One big lesson from COVID-19 is that we need good food to maintain our immune system.  The Standard American Diet is killing us.  

We say good-bye to 2020, with a global pandemic and racial injustices still very much part of our lives.  Can the next year bring new perspectives in our relationship to good food, farmers, and our humanity to each other and to nature?  Can 2021 be the year of kindness that we so crave and need?  

Can we learn from our relationships with birds and bees?  I believe we can.  Our relationship with our own health, our environment, and our planet hangs in the balance.  Together, we can - and must - protect the health and lives of America's children.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Christmas Cookies for Santa

"Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk every afternoon about three o'clock and then lay down on our blankets for a nap."

                                                                           --Barbara Jordan

Schools are closed for the winter holiday and children are home with their families making cookies for Santa.  Here is a favorite recipe filled with healthy spices like ginger and cinnamon. 

Growing Healthy Kids:  Our Recipe Collection

Vegan Gingersnaps


  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3-1/4 cups flour (I like to use 1/2 flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar, for rolling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat softened vegan butter and brown sugar together until creamy.  Add molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth. 

Add half of flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix on low until combined.  Add remaining flour. 

Fill small bowl with the sugar.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough for large cookies (or 1 tablespoon for small cookies), roll into a ball, then roll each ball in the sugar until coated.

Place balls on baking sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes (14-15 minutes for crispier cookies) until they begin to crack on top. 

Let cool for 15 minutes.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Roasted Root Vegetables

"I love root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, and turnips."

                                                                                        --Julia Child 

Some of my favorite vegetables are root vegetables that grow underground.  Some of the edible parts also grow above ground, as in the case of beets.  Beets are so good for you and beet greens are powerhouses of nutrition.  I have seen shoppers at local farmers markets buy bunches of beets and ask the farmer to discard the greens.  Whenever I see that happen, I happily offer to take the greens to saute in a bit of olive oil and fresh garlic.  

Here is a list of root vegetables for you and your kids to look for when you go to your local farmers market:

  1. Carrots
  2. Ginger
  3. Potatoes
  4. Beets
  5. Garlic
  6. Onions
  7. Sweet potatoes
  8. Fennel
  9. Celeriac (celery root)
  10. Turmeric
  11. Rutabagas
  12. Turnips
  13. Radishes

One of the local farmers at the New Albany Farmers Market in New Albany, Indiana grows garlic; cooking with fresh, locally grown garlic is pure joy.  When I roast root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yellow beets, and onions, I usually add a clove or two of fresh garlic.  Sometimes I roast veggies on parchment paper and other times I make foil packets of veggies.  Either way, this is a great way to prepare root vegetables enjoy on a bed of brown rice and quinoa cooked in vegetable broth.  A favorite dish of mine is fresh corn with minced ginger and coconut milk.  Something about ginger brings out the best of corn's amazing flavor. Ginger is also very good to slice into a cup of your favorite hot tea.  Ginger is very soothing and good for an upset stomach and digestion.  Turmeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories in the world.  

Enjoy root vegetables and incorporate them into your foods and meals.  You will be healthier when you do.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Autism and Gut Health

"Anything is possible!  If I can do it, so can you."
                                                       --Dani Bowman

An article in the November 2020 issue of Discovery magazine caught my attention.  The author wrote about a study of 18 kids with autism who were part of a study on fecal transplants and the transformational results of the kids in improving their gut health and communication skills. 

Gut health and brain health are interlinked.  Kids on the autism spectrum frequently have digestive and constipation issues.  When the intestines are inflamed, a child’s brain reacts in pain.  Autism is a mystery.  Researchers are making headway but not fast enough.

We know from the research of Zach Bush, MD and others, that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, may be a missing puzzle piece in the autism mystery. Glyphosate is a chemical compound that has infiltrated our nation’s water supply and food supply.  This herbicide was first registered in the U.S. in 1974.  It is an endocrine disruptor. 

Research and persistence are progressing to open up pathways to prevention, treatment, and answers.  Why are more males than females diagnosed with autism?  Why do many kids with autism improve on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet?  Is glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, the only culprit?  What is the relationship between glyphosate and leaky guy syndrome?  What is the relationship between the father’s age at time of conception and an autism diagnosis of a child?  What if the mother was ill during her pregnancy? 

In our mission to improve the health – and lives – of America’s children, we must continue to seek answers for families affected by autism.  Eat real food, organic whenever possible.  Shift to plant-based eating most or all of the time.  Choose fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchee.  Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, which cause inflammation.  

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: 5 Tips for Handling Stress and Anxiety in Kids


"It's not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it."
                                                           --Hans Selye

In a year dominated by a global pandemic, I have seen an increase in the number and frequency of webinars targeting professionals about the importance of self-care and personal wellness. 

But what about the children? 

The stress experienced by our children, especially those children who have ADHD, anxiety, and learning disorders, is hard to measure because kids don’t talk about their feelings.  When parents are glued to the news, what about the children?  How do children react to daily news about growing COVID-19 cases and deaths?  How do kids react to the often-sudden changes of school on, school off, school virtual, and learning from a computer screen on their kitchen table instead of in a classroom with a teacher and classmates? 

What we see is kids’ grades falling.  Kids are not sleeping.  Kids are withdrawn.  Kids are not having social interactions with other kids in the classroom and the playground. 

What will the long-term consequences be on the physical and mental health of children?   What are the short-term consequences?

We must be good stewards of children’s health.  We must be vigilant in ensuring we communicate with our children.  We must be aware of cues that kids may be experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. 

What can parents do if they think their child is experiencing stress and anxiety?  Here are 5 tips:

  1. Make healthy meals and snacks.  
  2. Don't buy junk food. Avoid food dyes, preservatives, sugars, and refined grains.   
  3. Have family dinners and ask your kids about their day.  
  4. Talk with your children every day and tell them you love them.
  5. Seek help from mental health professionals whenever you need help.

With love,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.