Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I love November because it is National Diabetes Education Month.  For our Growing Healthy Kids movement, it is another opportunity to lead by example to empower children and educate parents.  That’s why this month we are going bananas teaching healthy cooking classes and talking about diabetes with adults throughout the Treasure Coast of Florida and the U.S.

Did you know
…diabetes is preventable?
…the “good” kind of carbohydrate that doesn’t raise your blood sugar is called dietary fiber?
…sugar has no nutritional value yet it is added to lots of foods and drinks because it is cheap?

Protecting our health means caring about our health.  Protecting our children’s health means learning how to read food labels and buying real foods, not highly processed foods filled with added sugars, fats, salt, and food dyes.  Remember last week’s Wellness Wednesdays article I shared with you about the woman with diabetes who had no idea what an A1c test was?  Doctors are treating diabetes but are not teaching about diabetes.  This bothers me because of all the people I have worked with who are taking medications for diabetes but who have never been educated about what to do if their blood sugar remains elevated or if their blood sugar falls way below normal.  If someone’s blood sugar remains uncontrolled, don’t just throw another medicine at the patient, educate the patient how to gain control.  The fact is that avoiding extreme highs and low is the goal if you have diabetes.  As I like to say to my adult students engaged in improving their health literacy, “you want to keep your blood sugar steady and even, like a flat-as-a-pancake kind of beach morning at Jaycee Park Beach.”

Did you know
…uncontrolled diabetes may very well be linked to Alzheimer's disease?
…children who eat diets filled with processed sugar may not only develop early onset diabetes but also early onset Alzheimer's?
…children diagnosed with diabetes as teenagers can be expected to live 15-17 years LESS than someone without diabetes?

Let’s get going with some leadership on how to not just control diabetes but how to prevent it and reverse it.  Parents can lead by example.  Dare to care.  Read food labels.  Cook with your children.  Eat dinner together as a family.  Invest in a copy of Nourish and Flourish: Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes for the price of one lunch AND support our health ministry to reverse childhood obesity and prevent obesity-related diseases like diabetes.  Buy a couple of extra copies of the book for your local library or church.  It’s real easy, just click here.  You can also invite Growing Healthy Kids to come to your community with weekend wellness workshops filled with healthy cooking classes and pantry makeovers; all you have to do is dare to care and dare to lead.  Just send us an email at to schedule a weekend wellness workshop at your organization, business, school, or community center. 

With your leadership, we CAN reverse the childhood obesity epidemic and ensure that our children have long lives to look forward to! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY: National Diabetes Education Month

It is November.  It is also National Diabetes Education Month.  Every year, we are reminded to have conversations about diabetes with our families, perhaps also with our doctors.  There are opportunities all around us to learn more about how we can protect our health by taking action. 

Let me share a conversation I had tonight...As part of a new partnership, Growing Healthy Kids was recently asked to create a four week nutrition class for mothers living in north Fort Pierce, Florida.  A small church with a big heart, St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church was founded in the 1920s by Bahamian immigrants.  A major church renovation was just completed and we were invited to use the church's new kitchen to bring health literacy into the community.  One of the women in the class told me at last week's class she was taking insulin and pills for diabetes, yet when I spoke about the most important lab test for people who have diabetes (the A1c), she had no idea what I was talking about.  That was my first sign that her doctor is treating her but not teaching her. 

Tonight’s nutrition class featured lentils (because they are such a great source for dietary fiber, the good kind of carbohydrate).  While we were talking about the recipe we were about to prepare together, I talked about some of the problems that come with diabetes, like heart attacks, strokes, and nerve damage to the feet.  Immediately, this same woman said, “That’s what’s bothering me now!  My feet are starting to burn all the time.”  Over and over again, she asked questions, great questions.  The more we talked, the more aware I became that she has had diabetes for years, yet she still knows so little about what she can control, such as the foods she eats. 

I am looking forward to seeing this woman next week at our next Wellness Wednesday adventure at the little church with the big heart nestled just north of Avenue D in Fort Pierce.  For me, bringing education about diabetes and empowering mothers and grandmothers about how we make choices every day about our own health and the health of our family, is why wellness matters.  The best way you can support our health ministry work in Fort Pierce and other medically underserved communities is to click here and purchase several copies of Nourish and Flourish: Kid-Tested Tips and Recipes to Prevent Diabetes for your own family and church.  

In case you would like to try the delicious recipe that had everyone's attention (including the children's) at tonight's nutrition class, here is the newest recipe from the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen:

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

PLACE in a medium pan with 3 cups water, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to simmer:
  • ·         1 cup lentils

COOK for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain off excess water.
WHILE lentils cook, sauté over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes:
·         2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • ·         1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • ·         1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ·         2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • ·         Freshly ground pepper
  • ·         Sea salt
HEAT on a griddle (1 minute each side):
  • ·         Corn tortillas
SERVE tortillas with a spoon of lentils and top with sautéed vegetables, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.    
Makes 4 servings.

  •           Lentils are packed with dietary fiber (the good kind of carbohydrate).
  •      Double this recipe and store the extra lentils and vegetables in reusable containers and use for delicious, healthy lunches for your kids to take to school and for you to have at work.  Mix with cooked brown rice or quinoa for added nutritional value.
  •       Nutrition facts:  ¼ cup lentils (uncooked) have about 11 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of protein, 320 mg potassium and 80 calories.

  In gratitude,
  Nancy Heinrich
  Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

  P.S. To learn more about National Diabetes Education Month, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Lessons from a Box of Pop Tarts

Pop Tarts have always been a part of the Growing Healthy Kids project.  “HOLD IT”, you say.  "Isn’t Growing Healthy Kids all about teaching kids about healthy foods?"  Yes, we are.  Now that I have your attention, let's get straight to the lesson. 

The first lesson I ever received from a box of pop tarts was like a lightning bolt hit me.  It happened the very first time I met with the managers of the local Boys and Girls Club.  I put a box of pop tarts on the table to use as a visual for everything that we teach kids what NOT to eat.  However, before I started my presentation, one manager said, “That’s what we give to the kids every day for their snack.”  I almost fell out of my chair with the manager’s revelation. Turns out the local school district donated them to the Boys and Girls Club!  The thing is, he didn’t think anything was wrong with kids eating pop tarts!  That was more than five years ago.  I have never forgotten the lesson I learned that day:  Educating adults is critical. 

Fast forward to this month.  I designed a new program for children served by Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program.  Again, the visual focal point for the class was a box of pop tarts.  The children and the adult mentors all walked away at the end of the class wondering just how many other foods they have been mindlessly eating that could be causing more harm than good. 

Here are six simple lessons we can all learn from a box of pop tarts:

1.  Count the number of ingredients.  The more ingredients there are, the greater the chance there are hidden sugars and other bad ingredients. 

2.  Read the ingredients out loud.  How many ingredients do you not know how to pronounce?    If there is even one ingredient that you are unsure of how to pronounce, chances are it is a chemical or a highly processed ingredient that is not good for you.

3.  Look for sugar.  How many grams of sugar per serving are on the nutrition facts panel?  How many different names for sugar are listed as ingredients?  The other night I gave the children a list of fifty names for sugar to look for on the box of pop tarts.  They found way more than one or two!  The more sugar kids eat, the greater the chance they are eating empty calories that can cause health issues such as obesity, attention deficit disorder, and diabetes.  

4.  Look for what I call the “evil empire sugar”:  high fructose corn syrup.  This highly processed sugar is one of the worst ingredients we can eat.  Teach your kids to be nutrition detectives and to look carefully at the ingredients so they do not eat any foods containing this “evil empire sugar”. 

5.  Look for food dyes.  See if there are any ingredients that include “blue”, “red”, “yellow”, etc. on the food label.  Consumption of food dyes are  known to cause increased risk of cancer, hyperactivity, aggressive behaviors, thyroid disorders, asthma, insomnia, allergies, and more. 

6.  Identify where the item is physically located in the store.  Take pop tarts, for example.  Why is it that when I go into the cereal aisle in any major grocery store, pop tarts are always at the front of the aisle and there are many rows and shelves of them?  How much is being paid to the grocery store for front row placement?  Did you ever wonder why the steel cut oats don’t get the same respect?  It’s all about the profits.  When you use cheap, highly processed, shelf stable (we’re talking years) ingredients, you can spent more on advertising and you can make more profits.  The pop tarts are also in the middle of the store, where processed foods are found. Start your shopping trip on the walls on the store first, stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy, and seafood.

Our children’s health should not be for sale to the highest bidder.  Yet it is.  You can do something about it.  Look for cereals that are on the top row.  These will be the ones with only a couple of ingredients and less sugar.  They are not, however, at your children’s eye level.  Companies pay stores to get their products placed so that kids will have easy access to them.  So talk with your children before you go shopping the next time.  Make it a game to find a cereal with less than five ingredients, no color dyes and no high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.