Wednesday, June 9, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Summer Salsa

"When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen..."

                                                                                     --A.A. Milne (1882-1956)

This time of the year, tomatoes are beginning to ripen on vines all over the US. One of my favorite heirloom varieties is the Purple Cherokee tomato (see picture above).  

Recently, I shared my favorite guacamole recipe in Wellness Wednesdays.  In our workshops teaching kids about healthy eating and cooking, an ideal companion recipe to guacamole is a basic salsa recipe.  When the summer flavors of fresh tomatoes and cilantro get to dance together, it can be magic.  The joy of taking every day ingredients and creating a delicious dish that kids love to devour is worth any effort.  Learning how to make salsa is a wonderful introduction to the world of great ingredients and amazing flavors for kids. 

Below is the recipe that has introduced hundreds of kids to healthy cooking and eating. 

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS: Our Recipe Collection

Summer Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • ½ jalapeno, seeds removed and finely diced (optional) (can substitute green pepper)
  • Dash of pink Himalayan sea salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Serve with chips and guacamole.

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Love Your Brain Month

"You get the health benefits of coffee up through about the first 24 ounces.  It's the biggest source of antioxidants for Americans, and we think it helps prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well."

                                                                                        --Mehmet Oz, MD

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Association.  When I work with a group of kids, I often ask if they have any family members with Alzheimer’s or memory issues.  There are always a few hands in the air. It breaks my heart when children know they have a family member affected by Alzheimer’s. When I ask kids who has a family members with diabetes, more hands go up. 

Teaching kids about what real food is and what to do with it is critical to improving health literacy aimed at preventing and reversing diabetes and childhood obesity.  Because Alzheimer’s, similar to diabetes, can take decades to develop before symptoms appear, we as families and communities need to learn about healthy eating, especially plant-based eating, as a way to prevent and reverse diabetes and possibly Alzheimer’s. 

Our brains are one of the most amazing machines in the world.  Preventing diseases, however, is where the U.S. “health” care system does a really poor job. Research shows we need to include foods high in antioxidants, such as coffee and dark chocolate.  Eat green leafy vegetables like kale, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, and dark blue and red foods like blueberries and pomegranate juice, and drinking a cup or two of coffee a day, may be the type of food we need to eat more of to protect one of our most valuable resources – our brain. 

Let’s learn to nourish our brains – and those of our children - for good health now and in 30 or 50 years!

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Summer Snacks

"A healthy diet can help prevent cancer, since up to 60% of cancer cases are diet-related."

                                                                                                    --PCRM.org 

All kids need to learn how to prepare some basic recipes.  Call it survival.  Call it introducing kids to a lifelong love affair with real food.  When kids get to play in the kitchen, they need space to play without judgment.  

One of the best ways to start your kids on a lifetime of healthy eating adventures is to teach them how to make guacamole.  At many of our workshops for kids, it is the adult volunteers who often have the most fun when they learn how to make guacamole for the first time after years of eating it. I have loved Hass avocados (see picture above) ever since I was a kid in California. I remember bringing avocados back to St. Louis from California on my flights when avocados were first introduced to California. Making guacamole involves a lot of fun: you get to mash the avocado, mince the garlic, squeeze the lime, season with cumin, and taste with your favorite chips!

Here’s my favorite guacamole recipe.  Change it up to suit you and your family.

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

GUACAMOLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Hot sauce - to taste
  • Fresh cilantro and/or dried cumin
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

In medium bowl, mash avocado to desired consistency.  Add garlic, lime juice, hot sauce, fresh cilantro, cumin, and sea salt.  If I have a really ripe tomato, sometimes I finely dice half of it and stir it in.  If I have a fresh jalapeno on hand, I deseed it and finely dice half of it to add for a pop of flavor. 

Avocados contain the good kind of fat, called unsaturated. They add great flavor to salads, grain bowls, toast, sandwiches, and tacos.  Enjoy!    

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Embracing Local Foods

"The USDA is not our ally here.  We have to take matters into our own hands, not only by advocating for a better diet for everyone - and that's the hard part - but by improving our own.  And that happens to be quite easy.  Less meat, less junk, more plants."

                                                                                             --Mark Bittman


I just finished reading Mark Bittman's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal.  Published this year, the book is a must read if you care about where your food comes from and how it is grown.  It is also recommended for all those working to creating local food policies that support local farmers and a sustainable food chain.  It makes me proud of how my grandfather rotated his crops, growing clover and alfalfa as cover crops to replenish the soil on his Indiana farm.

Having survived more than a year of living through a once-in-a-century pandemic, we have become acutely conscious of how fragile our food system is and how unhealthy most of the food grown in the U.S. is.  Mr. Bittman wrote that 75% of the world eats what is considered “peasant food” while most of the food grown in the U.S. is used to create ethanol for fuel and to feed animals destined for the inhumane CAFO (confined animal feeding operations). When the U.S. shifted to monocrop farming and the use of Round-up Ready corn and soybean seeds, the incidence of diseases such as cancer and autism made a rapid rise.  Glyphosate, the cancer-causing active ingredient in Round-Up, is now in most of the U.S. drinking water supply.

In the past year, Louisville chef Edward Lee responded to the pandemic and transformed his love of good food and feeding others to create supports for restaurant workers (Restaurant Workers Relief Program), people living in food deserts (McAtee Training and Community Kitchen), local farmers, and a better farm to fork supply chain.

I choose to vote for locally grown, seasonal organic foods every weekend when I visit the local farmers market wherever I am.  Writers like Mark Bittman raise awareness that we better start caring about how our food is grown in the U.S. by supporting local farmers and rethinking our food supply. Chefs like Edward Lee provide hope that we can do it. After all, food is love.   

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: May is Mental Health Month

"When we prioritize our well-being, our creativity, decision making, productivity, and our health all go up across the board."

                                                                                                   --Arianna Huffington 


Working with students with disabilities, I am conscious of how the once-in-century COVID-19 pandemic created layers of stress often invisible to others. Depression and anxiety have increased in students isolated at home for virtual school, staring into a computer for hours, struggling to maintain attention, not getting exercise outside, without contact with friends. Teachers may go weeks without seeing students who are learning at home and keep the computer camera off, limiting teachers' ability to observe subtle changes in behavior, appearance or affect.  Some kids overeat during stressful times, especially now when parents may be working outside of the home, leaving kids alone for hours. 

May is Mental Health Month.  Mental Health America offers a list of 10 tools that can help parents and their children. Your child may not say anything to you, but their behavior, such as withdrawal, silence, lack of sleep, or bad dreams, may indicate a need for help.  When kids' mental health is suffering, it is up to us to act.  

Here are Mental Health America's Top 10 tools:

  1. Connect with others
  2. Stay positive
  3. Get physically active
  4. Help others
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Create joy and satisfaction
  7. Eat well
  8. Take care of your spirit
  9. Deal better with hard times
  10. Get professional help if you need help

Use these tips to ensure that you and your children are as healthy as possible, in body, mind, and spirit.  We all need Growing Healthy Kids

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Building Healthy Pantries

"If [over the] age of 10, the question isn't whether or not to eat healthy to prevent heart disease, it's whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you already have." 

                                                                                          --Michael Greger, MD

I love helping families “health up” their kitchen pantries to make it easier for them to go plant-based.  Here are 5 "must haves" to keep on hand in your food pantry so putting meals together will be a snap!

  1. Lentils (such as green, red, black, French)
  2. Beans (dried and canned, such as garbanzos, black, pinto, cannellini and more)
  3. Rice (jasmine or basmati brown, black, red, wild)
  4. Vegetable broth (unless you always have homemade stock on hand)
  5. Canned San Marzano tomatoes (for making tomato soup, chili, and pasta sauce)

Why you want these in your food pantry:

  1. LENTILS:  These are a nutritional POWERHOUSE!  Full of dietary fiber, extremely versatile, and so inexpensive you won’t look back at the meat counter again.  When you cook lentils for a dinner recipe, cook a little extra to enjoy the next day or two (such as breakfast lentil tacos).  Most lentils cook in 20 minutes.  So easy!  Some of the lentils are used in very different ways from other lentils.  Take red lentils, for example. Soak 1 cup red lentils with 2 cups water for 4 hours.  Add your favorite spices. Pour into blender and blend until smooth, like the consistency of pancake batter. Heat a fry pan to medium high.  Add a dash of olive oil.  Pour about ½ cup of batter.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until golden brown, and flip.  When cooked on both sides, serve lentil flatbread immediately with soup or salad. 
  2. BEANS:  I like to keep dried and canned beans on hand at all times. One-two daily servings of legumes (beans, lentils, and peas) is the goal.  Like lentils, beans are a huge source of dietary fiber.  Most Americans are sadly lacking in their daily fiber, a major contributor to colon cancer and diabetes. Cooking dried beans is SO EASY.  Once you do it once, you will always do it.  One of my weekly food prep tasks is to cook a batch of dried beans (Easiest method for me:  Soak beans in water overnight.  The next morning, drain water, place beans in crock pot, cover with water plus 2” over beans.  Cover and cook on low about 5-6 hours.  Season and enjoy!
  3. RICE:  Like beans and lentils, there are many varieties of rice. The key is to stock whole grain rice.  AVOID WHITE RICE - no fiber or B-vitamins!  When the outer coating is removed, it cooks faster but the rice is stripped of its dietary fiber and B-vitamins. There are so many wonderful whole grain rice varieties.  The first time I tried black ("forbidden") rice, I was overjoyed at the flavor and texture; when I first tried wild rice, served by my mother when I grew up in Sacramento, California, a well-known rice-growing region, I looked for menus to include this wonderful ingredient. 
  4. VEGETABLE BROTH:  I always keep a box of low-sodium vegetable broth in my food pantry.  I also love to make my own vegetable broth (every batch is different, depending on the inventory of vegetable scraps in my freezer) but that doesn't happen every week.  When I have a bag of vegetable peelings (potato peels, onion skins, broccoli stems, carrot tops, mushroom stems, etc.), then I make vegetable broth because it is great to use for cooking rice and soups.
  5. CANNED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES:  What can I say.  These are simply the best and worth the extra buck.  Endless uses for really good tomatoes.  Always buy the best quality you can afford!     

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Three Tips for Going Plant-Based

 

"We help people to begin truly healthful diets, and it is absolutely wonderful to see, not only their success, but also their delight at their ability to break old habits and feel really healthy for a change."

                                                                                    --Neal Barnard, MD


The last issue of Wellness Wednesdays was about moving to plant-based eating.  Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has this suggestion if you are one of those people who does not know where to start: start with the foods you already eat from around the world. 

Here are my 3 tips to start your journey:

  1. Do you like Italian?  Make spaghetti without the meatballs.  Use cashew parm (see my recipe below) instead of parmesan made from animals. 
  2. Do you like Mexican?  Make lentil tacos instead of meat tacos.  Lentils are one of my go-to foods.  Full of dietary fiber, lentils fill you up, preventing overeating.  They are also extremely cheap. Dried lentils (green, red, black, and French) all have a special place in my kitchen pantry.  Lentil and avocado tacos are one of my favorite breakfasts.
  3. Do you like Asian cuisine?  Make tofu spring rolls instead of shrimp spring rolls. 

These ideas are easy to do, very kid-friendly, and budget friendly.  Winner, winner, winner!!!

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

CASHEW PARM

INGREDIENTS:

·        2/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews

·         ¼ cup nutritional yeast

·        1/2 teaspoon sea salt

·        1 teaspoon garlic salt

·        ½ teaspoon thyme (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1.   Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until the mixture is a fine crumb.

2.   Store in jar in fridge for up to 3 weeks.

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Making the Move to Plant-Based Eating

"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."'

                                                                                       --Paul McCartney


Growing lettuce and arugula is a whole lot easier than raising a cow for slaughter.  One of the lessons from the past year’s once-in-a-century pandemic is that America's meat-centric food system is not sustainable for our planet and for humans. 

As evidence continues to mount about the health benefits of plant-based eating and the ability to reverse chronic diseases, the case against eating foods from animals worsens.  Not only is plant-based eating healthier for humans, it is so much healthier for our planet.  Cows require a lot of land.  Raising beef requires 20 times more land than the equivalent protein found in beans. Thirty percent of the Earth’s ice-free land is used as pasture for livestock, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Plant-based eating, with its focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is a joyful way of eating.  Ten years ago the film "Forks Over Knives" was released in May 2011 and a cascade of films about food, the environment, and health flowed.  People learned about the underside of the beef and chicken industries with their inherent cruelty to animals, the damage caused by eating animal products, especially when it comes from fast food restaurants (watch "Supersize Me") and the health benefits of eating plants, not animals.  Doctors like Michael Greger and Neal Barnard have proven that plant-based eating not only controls diabetes, but can reverse it for many people. 

Make the move to plant-based eating. Next time you make spaghetti, skip the meatballs. Learn how to make vegan parmesan (recipe in next week's Wellness Wednesdays article).  It's easy! 

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Childhood Obesity in America

"Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high."

                                                                                     --CDC.gov

Sugary drinks.  Sugar-filled breakfast cereals and snack bars.  White bread with no dietary fiber.  Fast food meals filled with fat, sugar, and salt.  Unrealistic portion sizes. “Empty calories” with no nutritional value. 

Yes, Virginia, you are what you eat.

Is it any wonder that we have a childhood obesity crisis in America?  According to Centers to Disease Control and Prevention, "For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in 2017-2018 the prevalence of obesity was 19.3% and affected about 14.4 million children and adolescents."

Choosing food to buy, cook, and eat is a big part of our lives.  As parents, we have a responsibility to raise healthy kids.  All kids deserve access to healthy foods but many don’t receive it.  It may be they live in a food desert. Perhaps they are being raised by grandparents on a fixed income.  A family’s income may qualify kids for the free and reduced meal program at school, where they receive 2 of 3 daily weekday meals.  Hours spent with videogames are hours not spent outside getting exercise and fresh air.  

Educating parents about that all breakfast cereals are not equal is a step to health literacy.  Teaching parents to recognize the dozens of hidden sugars in prepared foods, especially those marketed to children, is a big step.  Learning that dietary fiber (found only in foods that grow from the earth like fruits and vegetables) is what fills us up and prevents us from overeating is a lesson to master.

Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (lentils, beans, and peas) as your primary food groups.  Buy kid-friendly cooking tools and let your kids help you prepare family meals and school lunches. Create fun themes for dinner such as "Mango Mondays" and “Tempeh Taco Tuesdays” and invite your kids to make colorful posters celebrating meals made with featured ingredients. 

Childhood obesity rates are a dangerous sign that we can - and must - do better to ensure that all kids have access to healthy foods.  

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Planting Time

 




This time of year, if you live in the Midwest, the temperatures start rising and you know spring is here. New crops of flowering trees explode in brilliant color every week.  The big box stores are stocked up on packets of vegetable and flower seeds and garden stores are crazy busy.  This is a great time to fill a couple of pots with dirt and plant a tomato or pepper seed or seedling with your kids.  Put the pots outside with at least 5-6 hours of sunshine, water when dry, and watch things grow. 

Teaching kids about what real food is starts with teaching them how food grows.  Start a small kitchen garden, or a pizza garden (tomatoes, basil, peppers) or a salad garden (greens, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.).  Make it fun!  Keep a visual diary where your kids draw a picture once a week (or take a picture with your phone) of their plants.  

Embrace the joy of growing something simple with your kids.  Then see where the passion for growing your own food takes you. 

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Preventing Diabetes in Adults

"To keep the body in good health is a duty...otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." 

                                                                                                          --Buddha

Did you know the health ministry of Growing Healthy Kids works with a lot of adults? Having informed and educated parents is absolutely essential for raising conscious, healthy kids. Sometimes when a child attends one of our programs and we have no interaction with the parent or grandparent, we get concerned about whether the child will be given an opportunity to incorporate even one small change towards healthier eating. Preventing diabetes in kids starts with preventing diabetes in adults. 

For kids to have access to real food (not highly processed food), the adults who have the money and make the food purchasing decisions for the family are the ones we need to talk with about preventing diabetes.  We are what we eat.  

Planning family meals around fresh vegetables and fruits is a great place to start a conversation.  On my recent visit to the New Albany Farmers Market, I bought a small bag of beautiful, organic spinach.  Spinach became the centerpiece of delicious vegan enchiladas made with corn tortillas and homemade green tomatillo sauce (tomatillos, garlic, onion, japaleĊˆo pepper, and fresh lime juice).  

We are what we eat. Eat real food.  Cut back on foods from animals.  The saturated fat found in foods from animal clogs up your cells and blood vessels and contributes to diabetes and heart disease.  Who needs that? Meals based on the four food groups of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes will make you a winner.  Start by planning daily meals with at least one green vegetable.  Have a small fresh salad for lunch today.  Enjoy a small walk every day.  Be a role model for your children.  Small changes, big results. 

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Preventing Diabetes in Kids

 

"I do not love to work out, but if I stick to exercising every day and put the right things in my mouth, then my diabetes just stays in check."

                                                                                                                     --Halle Berry


Taking kids to farms and working with them in our teaching kitchens gives me the chance to develop solutions to the diabetes epidemic occurring in America.  

All kids need access to real food, not just kids whose parents can stop by their neighborhood Publix, Kroger, or Safeway whenever they want to buy whatever they want to buy.  I think about all the kids who live in food deserts without easy access to a full-service grocery store. I think about kids who get 2 of their 3 meals courtesy of the free and reduced meal program and then go to an afterschool program where they have highly processed food snacks.  

Growing Healthy Kids connects kids with farmers in our quest to teach kids about healthy eating and foods that make them healthy so they don’t fill up on the foods that cause chronic diseases such as diabetes.  What kids need less of are all the chicken nuggets, the whole milk, the sodas, the white breads, not to mention all the sugar-filled breakfast cereals.

Talking with parents about the importance of health literacy and encouraging them to take their kids with them to their local farmers markets is key to raising awareness. We miss working with the children  - both at the farms and in the kitchens.  The joy that comes from empowering kids how to make good choices about food is powerful and life-changing.  

Preventing diabetes is directly tied to creating food policies that improve access to real foods for all kids, educating parents with knowledge, and empowering kids with skills.  We can prevent diabetes because we must. The health – and lives – of America’s children stand in the balance. 

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

 

 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Spring Strawberries

 

"Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are true super foods.  Naturally sweet and juicy, berries are low in sugar and high in nutrients - they are among the best foods you can eat."  

                                                                                                   --Joel Fuhrman, MD


When you live in Florida, where there is basically one season (summer), fresh strawberries from Plant City signal the beginning of spring.

Strawberries are a bright spot in the world of fruits.  They are cute, sweet, tasty, and fun to eat. They are highly versatile as an ingredient.  You can pick strawberries right off the plant and pop them into your mouth, add them to a green salad, make a strawberry banana smoothie, or slice them into a baked pie crust and top with whipped coconut cream for a fabulous, prize-winning dessert.   

Buying the best strawberries begins with choosing to buy organically grown berries. Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables highly contaminated by pesticides.  More than 90% of the strawberries sampled by the Environmental Working Group tested positive for 2 or more pesticides.  This is why it is recommended that you spend a little more to buy only organic strawberries.

Eat real food.  Buy organically grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible.  

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Kale and Other Cruciferous Adventures

 "What matters most is your overall way of eating and living."

                                                                                              --Dean Ornish, MD


Kale, cabbage (see above photo from a farmers market in Tennessee while on a road trip with good friend, Ella Chabot, on the left), and other cruciferous vegetables have the power to prevent cancer and diabetes. Below is a list of cruciferous vegetables.  Eating foods from the following list is a powerful step towards great health and disease prevention.

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choi
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli romanesco
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Daikon horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin); vitamins C, E, and K; folate; and minerals. They also are a good fiber source.  

In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables.”

Recently I bought some wasabi arugula (talk about pungent!) from one of southern Indiana’s organic farmers and shared it with several people.  Everyone was amazed at the wonderful flavor of this green when used in small amounts as a sandwich garnish.  Next time I am at the farmers market, I will buy more so I can pesto with it.  If you ever see red watercress at the farmers market, be sure and get some.  The red version of watercress has stronger anti-breast cancer properties than green watercress. Cheddar cauliflower (it is the color of cheddar cheese!) is delicious steamed or made into a puree topped with grilled portabello mushrooms.  

Choose your vegetables with care. Buy cruciferous vegetables weekly and eat daily.  Play with your food!

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Wasting Food

 

"There is no substitute for the best.  Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients possible and to waste nothing."

                                                                      --James Beard, American chef 

Between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply in the United States is wasted.  Why are we wasting so much?

“Food loss occurs for many reasons, with some types of loss—such as spoilage—occurring at every stage of the production and supply chain. Between the farm gate and retail stages, food loss can arise from problems during drying, milling, transporting, or processing that expose food to damage by insects, rodents, birds, molds, and bacteria. At the retail level, equipment malfunction (such as faulty cold storage), over-ordering, and culling of blemished produce can result in food loss. Consumers also contribute to food loss when they buy or cook more than they need and choose to throw out the extras.” (Source:  usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs)

I have composted for most of my adult life.  When I prepare food at home, things like pineapple skins, banana peels, and fibrous stems of kale and collards go into a recycled plastic coffee can in preparation for my daily walk to the compost pile in the corner of the yard.  There are two basic rules for composting: (1) only fruit and vegetable scraps go into the compost pile and (2) NOTHING from an animal (such as cheese or meat) and NO OILS go into the compost pile.

Composting fruit and vegetable scraps to make biological rich soil has changed how I buy and prepare food.  When shopping, I now buy in smaller quantities.  When cooking, I prepare what is needed for an evening meal and maybe enough for a healthy time-saving lunch the next day. When using mushrooms, celery, onions, and carrots, I freeze the peelings and mushroom stems to make vegetable stock for soups.  When making muffins and cakes, I always use a spatula to get every spoon of batter into the baking pan. 

In our Growing Healthy Kids workshops, teaching kids about not wasting food always includes a lesson on the power of the spatula.  Kids are ALWAYS amazed at how much batter there is on the inside of a mixing bowl that would otherwise have been washed down the drain.  

There are opportunities to teach our children life lessons about preventing food waste with every food shopping trip and every meal prepared in the family kitchen.  Preventing food waste is a way to respect the work of American farmers.  

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Spring Salads

"So, if I'm cooking, I'll be steaming vegetables, making some nice salad, that kind of stuff."

                                                                                             --Paul McCartney

The lessons for kids, when you teach them how to make a simple spring salad, are endless.  Possible ingredients to use.  How to select a fruit to add the perfect burst of natural sugar with each bite.  The joy of a simple vinaigrette dressing. Best meal for having a salad. Which of your favorite bowls to use?  How to display the salad?  Will it be a chopped salad, a salad nicoise-type salad, a salad bowl, or a salad bar?   Which pair of salad tongs will you use? So many choices!

Recently I bought a head of organic green leaf lettuce for a dinner salad.  Once home and in the kitchen, I thinly sliced English cucumbers, avocado slices, and cut organic seedless red grapes in half.  I topped the salad with a freshly whisked EVOO, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper vinaigrette. Simple and easy.

So, how did my salad taste, you ask?  It was awesome!!! The first bite of salad, and every consecutive bite, was like biting into Spring, all fresh and crunchy.  There is nothing like it. A spring salad with just 3 or 4 ingredients in perfect proportions.  Gently toss ingredients and place into a beautiful bowl with your favorite salad tongs. Serve with some fresh Italian or French bread and you have a beautiful meal.  

Won’t you join me in celebrating this wonderful season and all the delicious fruits and vegetables being grown by our local farmers?  The joys of spring salads await you!

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Exploring Farmers Markets

"We have food deserts in our cities. We know the distance you live from a supplier of fresh produce is one of the predictors of your health.  And in the inner city, people don't have grocery stores.  So we have to figure out a way of getting supermarkets and farmers markets into the inner cities."

                                                                                              ---Michael Pollan





Spring is around the corner.  It has been a long, cold winter here in Indiana and I am ready to spend my days outside working in the flower gardens instead of working inside with the heat turned on, dressed in layers of fleece vests and jackets.  When spring is here, the farmers markets are near. Pictured above are kids and volunteers with our Growing Healthy Kids workshops where we take kids to the Vero Beach Farmers Market.  From my experience working with kids who live in food deserts, our Growing Healthy Kids' trips represent the first time these kids ever visited their local farmers market.  

Taking children to the local farmers market is a game changer for kids. If you were not raised on a farm to see how food is grown, the farmers market is the next best thing.  Meeting the farmers who grow the food is a great way to learn about how important it is to eat real food.  Learning how much work it takes to grow food makes one think about what we are eating and drinking.  Are we eating nutrient dense food so every bite contributes to our health? Are we treating our food with respect?  Do we respect the people who grow our food? 

Since Growing Healthy Kids began in 2009, we have taken lots of kids to local farmers markets.  The kids meet farmers, talk with them, buy organically grown vegetables for our cooking workshops, and taste what they have bought and prepared.  These are life lessons that kids don’t forget.  This spring, find out where your local farmers market is and take your kids shopping there.  Support your local farmers.  Teach your kids what real food is.  Be kind. 

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Black History Month

“So, by the time Gregory came to speak on our campus in 1986, he had been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. In his speech, he traced the path of a hamburger from a cow on a factory farm to the slaughterhouse to a hamburger to a clogged artery to a heart attack, and it completely rocked my world.

                                                       --Tracye McQuirter



This quote about comedian and human rights activist Dick Gregory (1932-2017), pictured above, caught my eye. As more and more Americans embrace veganism and plant-based eating, it is important to remember history. 

February is Black History Month and an occasion to celebrate black farmers and others who have contributed to our collective health.  One such person was George Washington Carver (1864-1943), scientist, botanist and inventor.  Invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute’s Agricultural Department, Mr. Carver researched new uses for peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and pecans.  He urged farmers to rotate crops (a practice my grandfather used on his 160 acre farm in Indiana) and to use organic fertilizers.  He knew the value of soil that was cared for to grow food rich in nutritional value and his research benefited farmers.   He also became a nutritional advisor to Matahma Gandhi.

People like Dick Gregory and George Washington Carver helped raise awareness about the connection between what we eat and our health. Nourishing our soil by not destroying it with chemicals is key to growing good foods.  We need access to healthy foods.  Celebrate Black History Month and those whose contributions add value to our health and the health of America's children.  

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Eating Real Food

"Exercise is beneficial and I highly recommend it.  But a lack of exercise is not the primary reason for weight problems and exercise can never take the place of a healthful diet."

--Neal Barnard, M.D., founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 

How much of the food you eat is considered to be nutrient dense?  The term “nutrient dense” indicates how much bang for the buck you get with what you eat and drink. 

Think about my favorite food groups: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Nutrient density is a given with these groups, with some foods falling heavier on the scale than others.  Take cauliflower, in the cruciferous vegetable family (i.e., cauliflower, broccoli or "little trees", collards, cabbage, and arugula).  It is a nutritional powerhouse, high in Vitamin C and K, high in dietary fiber (about 12 grams of fiber per head), high in potassium, with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. We should all enjoy a little cauliflower (or other cruciferous vegetables) every day. 

When I go grocery shopping, I sometimes peak into others’ grocery carts, especially when kids are tagging along.  I spy cereal boxes filled with added sugars, food dyes, and empty calories. I spy packages of meat and chicken (no dietary fiber in anything from an animal but full of saturated fat, the kind of fat that contributes to heart disease).  I spy highly processed foods such as Pop Tarts with a gazillion ingredients and no nutritional value.  Those “foods” are not nutrient dense and contribute to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Foods that are highly processed and loaded with added sugars, salt, and fat should be avoided or rarely consumed.  The other day my lunch was Mediterranean pasta salad with Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and yellow bell peppers, with a simple red wine-olive oil vinaigrette. So good and good for you!

What you eat can kill you or heal you.  Make every bite count.  Turn up your relationship with real food and make most of what you eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.  Leave processed foods in the store and enjoy real food and healthy meals with your children!

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect