Chef Tom Ohling shows children the upside of a good diet.
Thanks to the East Oregonian's Kathy Aney the entire community gets the message.

“Nutrition Magician®” Wows Students

By Kathy Aney, of the East Oregonian

Umatilla- Tom Ohling bills himself as the Nutrition Magician. The bearded Portland chef mesmerizes children with his mix of tasty humor and magic tricks.

Ohling was a man in constant motion Thursday at McNary Elementary School. Sporting an apron and darting around the gym, the culinary dynamo introduced the students to words like “protein” and “digestion.”

“But the word that sends chills up the spines of adults from coast-to-coast,” he said, reducing his voice to a whisper, “is diet.”

But, not to worry – everyone on this earth is on a diet, no matter what they eat.

“A diet is nothing more than what you eat,” Ohling said. “The thing is – do you want to manage your diet?”

The Portlander once worked full time as a chef before the United States Department of Agriculture contracted him to visit 500 schools in a four-year period.

His mission – to spark an early interest in nutrition. That sent him onto a whole different career path.

The trim health fanatic uses sleight of had to emblazon images in children’s brains. Reaching his hand into a previously empty tube, he pulled out the ingredients to a healthy breakfast: oatmeal, a pitcher of mild and a banana.

Ohling starts each day out with a slight variation of this breakfast, sprinkling nuts on top. He doesn’t dump on sugar or margarine, grimacing at the thought. But, almost any breakfast is better than no breakfast.

“Scientists now know you can’t get your brain started until you eat breakfast,” he said. “If you want to read your best, test your best, play your best or be your best, you have to eat your breakfast.”

He stressed the importance of eating at the family dinner table.

“Science is showing us that if you are laughing, talking and sharing with family or friends, you get more of the nutrition from the food,” Ohling said.

Sitting down and breaking bread together has a tangible effect on school performance.

He referred to a research study that showed kids who ate with their families four times or more each week, scored one letter grade higher on average.

He pushed milk like a pitchman.

“If you’re missing out on milk, you’re missing out on good bones,” he told the students. Periodically, he pulled a scarf out of his sleeve or made something disappear to make sure his young crowd’s attention didn’t wander.

He had them yell the words “healthy choices” at the top of their lungs.

He left them with food for thought:

“Your skin, your hair and every brain cell you have and will ever have in this life comes form what you eat.” Ohling said. “What you eat becomes your body.”

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Loved by audiences

“Thanks so much for being a speaker at conference. I learned more from your class than all of the rest. ”

— Wilma Hyde, OSFSA Conference

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Honored for commitment to quality education

American Culinary Federation President's Citation to Tom Ohling for education

from The American Culinary Federation

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“Your professionalism, high energy, preparedness and content knowledge made it easy for the group to relate their experiences to your information and motivate change.”

– Scott A. Milam Manager, Clark County District NW Natural

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A part of your team

ACF Good Guy honor to Tom Ohling nutrition educator

The ACF Chef & The Child Foundation Good Guy Award

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Recognized in the community

Firestone 100 national honor to Tom Ohling for service to others

Firestone 100 National Community Service Recognition

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Recognized for excellent childhood education

Chefs de Cuisine Society of Oregon honors Tom Ohling for childhood education programs

from Chefs de Cuisine Society of Oregon

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