Chopped runner-up believes nutrition really can heal
Heidi Greening looked up as her daughter came down the stairs and knew they would be rushing to the allergist. Emma’s beautiful little face was puffed up like a balloon! She’d been sick with allergies since infancy, and by age eight, she took multiple allergy medications, used a nebulizer, and was frequently prescribed antibiotics for infections.
With her background as a chef and certified nutritionist, Heidi had looked to Emma’s diet for possible solutions and had switched her to a vegetarian diet. But as they were to find out, Emma was allergic to soy products—hence the swollen face. An easy remedy—no more soy. But the other allergy problems persisted, and while Emma’s three doctors were wonderful, they could not get to the root of the problem.
“It was at this point that I truly started researching dietary and nutrition changes and using herbs medicinally,” Heidi says. She switched the family to raw milk, and they did not eat “anything that was prepackaged,” says Heidi. “Even as a chef and someone who loves to cook, with young kids the idea of nothing from a box or can was overwhelming!” But within a month, Emma’s health improved. Within a year, Emma was free of all her meds, and Heidi was on an ever-expanding exploration of nurturing health through nutrition.
Heidi had always found cooking enjoyable. She shared time in the kitchen with her mother, her aunt, and especially her grandmother. “One of the first things I learned how to cook,” she says, “was my family’s enchilada recipe. Once I was old enough to start rolling the enchiladas, I knew I had really come up in the world!”
Shortly after marrying, she studied traditional French cooking at the Art Institute in Santa Monica, where she also earned her nutritional certification. This solid foundation in the culinary arts and nutrition, followed up by her experiences working to restore Emma’s health, underscored Heidi’s belief that nutrition could help heal. Gradually, she made more and more changes in her own family’s nutrition. Now, she says, “Things like refined sugar, white flour, and processed or fast foods play a very small role in our lives.”
And daily nutrition is a family affair. Heidi says, “All of my children, even the baby, help in the kitchen. We have a lot of fun. And the two oldest can cook entirely by themselves.” The family also has their own garden.
As if her life weren’t busy enough, as she cares for her large family, homeschools her kids, and expects a fifth child in October, Heidi is taking an intensive course on herbs. “It wasn’t a stretch for me,” she says. “Herbs are amazing gifts from God!”
About a year ago, Heidi began sharing her knowledge with others by teaching classes on subjects such as knife skills, healthy snacking, and making smoothies, and friends have requested she add such courses as yogurt and cheese-making, herbal teas and tinctures, and herbal identification.
Her journey into nutrition has taken Heidi unexpected places, even to New York, where she was runner up on the Mother’s Day episode of Chopped on May 8, 2013. Although she didn’t win, she says, “I loved every minute of it!”
“Basically,” Heidi says, “I want to share my passion and love for nutrition with my community.” In the future, she hopes to write some books. “If I can help one person feel better or show one mom that she can feed her family unprocessed foods without spending hours in the kitchen, then I will feel successful!”