Carol Walsh is a long time advocate of nutrition education. She has been a friend of Nutrition Magician® programs for years and I can not thank her enough for her support of the entire community. Carol is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who provides medical nutrition therapy services at the Corvallis Clinic and Albany Family & Specialty Medicine.

Family meals create magic

By Carol Walsh, Corvallis Gazette Times 2007

Sometimes it seems like drudgery to be cooking dinner, especially if you’ve already had a long day. But instead of punting and leaving everyone to their own devices, boost your mood by appreciating your opportunity to create modern day magic — a family meal.

The value of eating together was emphasized recently at Wilson Elementary School in Corvallis by Tom Ohling, the Nutrition Magician. Ohling dazzled a K-5 audience with his entertaining and educational magic show during the school day. He then returned in the evening for a family night presentation that concluded on a fun note, with everyone carving a bird from an orange.

Ohling has had a long and impressive career as a culinary professional who cares about kids and families. He first combined his boyhood fascination with magic and his catering skills about 10 years ago when asked to develop a Team Nutrition training program for the Oregon Department of Education. After visiting schools all across the state, he added nutrition education presentations to his already long list of public speaking options.

Teaching the 3 R’s

According to the parents (and grandparents) who I visited with after the program, Ohling did a great job of getting his message across about the importance of what he calls the three R’s: the Right Food, the Right Time, and with the Right People. He pulled healthy foods magically out of a hat, providing shopping and cooking tips while encouraging parents to “take back control” of family food choices and to make an effort to eat together. “If you value your family and are looking for ways to nurture those relationships,” he told me later, “the answers can be found at mealtime.”

Like other forms of parental involvement, research shows a positive relationship between frequent family dinners and positive teen behavioral outcomes. For kids of all ages, eating with parents is an important factor for their nutrition and eating habits. Family meals and parental presence at meals is associated with a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Even when pizza is on the menu, parents can add simple side dishes (such as apple slices, baby carrots and a glass of milk) that provide a greater variety of nutrients.

Ohling also likes to emphasize the benefits of healthy eating on academic performance. He quickly shares references to research linking healthy meals with improved school attendance, attention span, discipline and test scores. “Even the best teacher can’t overcome the downside of a poor diet and lack of fitness,” he exclaimed, “and expecting them to do so isn’t fair.”

This magician is counting on his magic to open the eyes of kids to the enjoyment of healthy foods, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But what really motivates him is “the hope that parents and communities will value their children’s future enough to support the schools’ wellness efforts.”

Make your mealtime magic

Follow Ohling’s three steps to schedule family meals and make them enjoyable for everyone who pulls up a chair.

Plan It

• First assess how many you’re currently having and make a reasonable goal. Then look over the family calendar to choose the best dates for family meals so everyone can be there.

• Figure out which obstacles are getting in the way of more family meals. Ask for the family’s help and ideas on how these roadblocks can be removed. For instance, figure out a way to get groceries purchased for a family meal. Or if time to cook is the problem, try doing prep work on weekends or even completely preparing a dish ahead of time and putting it in the freezer. If cooking skills are lacking, try making meals at a business such as Dream Dinners.

Prepare It

• Once you have all your supplies on hand, you’re ready to prepare the meal. Have kids start on homework or chores, or even help you in the final steps, such as setting the table, tossing the salad, pouring a beverage, folding the napkins, being a “taster,” or just watching you work. Older kids may be able to pitch in even more, and if you have teens around, consider assigning them a night to cook, with you as the helper.

• If kids help out, set a good example by saying please and thanks for their help. Being upbeat and pleasant as you prepare the meal can rub off on your kids. If you’re grumbling about the task at hand, chances are they will, too. But if the atmosphere is light, you’re showing them how the family can work together and enjoy the fruits of its labor. Tell them, “Mmm, something smells delicious!”

Enjoy It

• Sit down yourself, even if you have lots more to do before the night is over and you’re the only adult at the table. It’s good for them and it’s good for you. Everyone may be starving, but teach your kids to wait till everyone is seated before digging in. Turn off the TV and create a moment of calm before the meal begins. This gives the cook a chance to shift gears. It also presents a chance to say grace, thank the cook, wish everyone a good meal, or to raise a glass of milk and toast each other. You’re setting a mood and teaching a little lesson in manners and patience. Even on nights when the food is fast, the talk is surface and everyone has someplace else they’d rather be, a regular and reliable meal does wonders for a family’s health.

Carol Walsh is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who provides medical nutrition therapy services at the Corvallis Clinic and Albany Family & Specialty Medicine.

(back to top of page)

    Ask which program will be perfect for your

  • Conference
  • Convention
  • Banquet
  • Fair
  • Festival
  • Special Event
  • Picnic
  • Party
  • Family Night
  • Assembly
  • In-Service
  • Fund Raiser
  • Round Table

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

(read more)

Honored for commitment to quality education

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

from The American Culinary Federation

(read more)

“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

(read more)

A part of your team

ACF Good Guy honor to Tom Ohling nutrition educator

The ACF Chef & The Child Foundation Good Guy Award

(read more)

Recognized in the community

Firestone 100 national honor to Tom Ohling for service to others

Firestone 100 National Community Service Recognition

(read more)

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

(read more)