Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Watering the Almond Trees: The Hidden Cost of Food

“California is basically all over your market basket,” says Penn State Professor James Dunn who studies how weather affects food prices.

Almond trees in California

Image result for picture of almond trees
Almonds ready for harvest

I love almonds.  Almonds, like other nuts, are a perfect source for the good fats (unsaturated fats) that most of our fats should be and our bodies need for good health.  A handful of almonds is frequently my afternoon snack because it is so darn easy to pack and carry with me.  Almond milk is always in our fridge at home.  Almond butter on gluten-free crackers is one of my favorite evening snacks. 

Almonds, and most other nuts, are grown in California.  In fact, California produces nearly half of the nuts, fruits, and vegetables grown in the United States.  Unless you have been living on Mars, you know that California is experiencing a drought of epic proportions.  Its agricultural products “consume 80% of the water tapped for humans in California.”

So a recent Sierra magazine article (September/October 2015 issue) caught my attention.  The article was about how much water goes into producing foods Americans love.   Did you know…it takes 97.2 gallons of water to produce one ounce of almonds (shelled)?  One ounce? 

Here’s how many gallons of water are needed to produce one ounce of foods:
  1. Beef:  106.28*
  2. Almonds:  97.2
  3. Chickpeas:  76.07
  4. Lentils:  71.28
  5. Pork:  41.25
  6. Rice:  16.26
  7. Asparagus:  20.32
  8. Artichokes: 5.92
  9. Peaches:  4.69
  10. Raspberries:  4.22
  11. Orange juice:  4.11
  12. Wine: 3.48
  13. Kale:  2.26
  14. Eggplant: 1.69
  15. Strawberries:  1.24
  16. Tomatoes:  0.95

As stewards of our natural resources, we must use water responsibly.  We owe it to our children to also teach them to conserve our water supplies.  By not wasting water we can help ensure that we have enough water for growing the foods that promote good health.  Can you imagine a world without fruits and vegetables?  A world without almonds?  When America’s farmers have to restrict their water use, our food supply may be on the line.  So next time you leave the water running while you brush your teeth or you run a load of dishes in half-full dishwasher, rethink your actions. 

Conserving our water use is a good thing.  A very good thing.  Your next bag of almonds may depend on it! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*Look for more on the topic of eating lower on the food chain in a future issue of Wellness Wednesdays.  Consider this: to produce a 6 ounce steak, more than 600 gallons of water are needed.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Part 3: "I have diabetes. Please help me."

“My son always talks about food, but since attending the Growing Healthy Kids’ program, he only talks about eating healthy foods now.”                        -- Parent of a 12 year old boy in a recent GHK program

Infographic image about Diiabetes

For the past two weeks, Wellness Wednesdays has been about diabetes.  Guess what! Due to the amount of social media response we've received, we’re doing it again!  This issue of Wellness Wednesdays will wrap up our September diabetes series by sharing resources from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) AND a delicious recipe created in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen!  

When someone tells me they can’t afford to eat healthy, my usual response is, “Give me an hour and I’ll show you how.”  What I REALLY want to say is, “You think eating healthy is expensive?  Try paying for diabetes.”

For the sake of our children, parents owe it to themselves to learn how to lose weight, eat healthy, and be more active.  Then teach your kids how to eat right and be more active.  Here’s the problem:  I see a lot of parents who take great care of themselves and then buy crap for their kids.  Don’t be like them.  I’m talking about the parents wearing the cool fitness or yoga clothes with their high-priced salon hair shopping with their children with a grocery cart filled with crap for the kids.  You know what I’m talking about:  cases of those high sodium ramen noodles, cases of sodas filled with high fructose corn syrup and 3 days’ worth of sugar, pizzas with 850 mg of sodium PER SLICE, and don’t forget the case of honeybuns! 

Eat healthy and be more active. Shop at the local farmers market and buy vegetables and fruits that are in season.  Plan your week’s menus around those foods.  Let the kids tear up the salad greens you just bought from the local farmer and make the salad dressing in a jar (to encourage recycling and reusing).  Create your own Wellness Wednesdays Salad Bowls.  Cook up a pot of quinoa, then layer up salad greens, shredded carrots, sliced celery, diced organic tomatoes and avocado.  Top with a ½ cup of cooked quinoa, add the vinaigrette dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part apple cider or red wine vinegar, a little local honey, and fresh black pepper) and dinner is served.   Simple, delicious, and healthy in under an hour! 

Lesson for preventing diabetes in adults:  lose weight, eat healthy, and be more active.  For your kids?  Eat healthy and be more active.  Got it?  Good!  Now, off to the kitchen to cook up some quinoa for Wellness Wednesdays Salad Bowls!

America needs Growing Healthy Kids, not kids with diabetes.  Be the change.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. 

For more information about preventing diabetes, go to CDC's website by clicking here.  For more healthy recipes to prevent diabetes, click on the link on the top right of this page and get a copy of Nourish and Flourish!  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Part 2: "I have diabetes. Please help me."

“Monitoring carbohydrate intake, whether by carbohydrate counting or experience-based estimation, remains critical in achieving glycemic control.”  
       -- from Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2015, American Diabetes Association

“What was your last A1C result?” 

Whenever someone asks me for help with their diabetes, their answer to this question tells me volumes about their relationship with their doctor and their health literacy about diabetes.   This is because the A1C is the most important blood test for someone diagnosed with diabetes.  Understanding its significance is, without a doubt, the key to gaining control. 

It ALWAYS bothers me when their answer is, “What’s that?”  It means their doctor has not taught them well. 

Class is now in session.  What is the A1C and what does it mean?  It is a blood test that measures one’s average daily blood sugars over the past 2-3 months.  Fasting is NOT required for this test.  Here’s the bottom line:  the higher the A1C, the higher the chance of complications from diabetes. The longer an A1C remains elevated, the greater the chance the damage may be irreversible. However, when the A1C remains stable at goal, as determined by 2 or more consecutive tests at or below the goal, it is the best test of how well controlled one’s diabetes is.  

What is the A1C goal for most people?  In non-pregnant adults, it is below 7%, according to American Diabetes Association.  In older adults, the goal may be less stringent (less than 8%).  Diabetes is diagnosed by a physician when the A1C is 6.5% or higher, so for this reason some doctors set goals for their patients lower than 7% because they want to help the patient get their blood sugar to levels as normal as possible. 

Why does all this matter?  In last week’s Wellness Wednesdays was data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that lays out the scope of the problem.  We have a very big problem with diabetes in this country and it is up to us, the adults, to do something about it for the sake of our children’s health. The diabetes epidemic is directly related to our obesity epidemic.  

What’s the solution?  Sugar.  Eating huge amounts of sugar has to stop.  Sugar, just like salt, is added to all kinds of foods and many people mindlessly consume foods and drinks that are toxic to their health.  When those people are parents, their choices affect their kids.  When someone has diabetes, one of the first things I talk with them about is what they drink.  Like my friend I told you about last week, her answer was that she drinks Cokes all day long!   She has made changes and you can, too.  She has now stopped drinking all sodas.  

Be mindful what you eat and drink.  Start training yourself to be a nutrition detective by looking at food labels for sugar and fiber content.  You may be very surprised by all the hidden sugars you find in what you normally eat and drink. Once you (and your kids) start cutting back on foods and drinks containing added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, your clothes will probably start fitting better.  Nice side effect of being a nutrition detective! 

So if you have diabetes (or prediabetes), what can you do starting today to improve your A1C? 
  1. Stop drinking sodas.  
  2. Drink water, not soda.   
  3. Eat real fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.  
  4. And please, talk with your doctor about your A1C goals.  

Do you have a question about what to eat?  Then please send me an email at and I'll pick one reader's question to feature in an upcoming issue of Wellness Wednesdays in October.  

Now, off to the kitchen for another piece of crustless spinach quiche!  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.