Tom OhlingOhling encourages people to bring a sense of playfulness to every endeavor.

Food for thought: Chef suggests eating with friends and family to boost health

By Dick Mason, Observer Staff Writer

Mealtime is not the time to play solitaire.

The reason is as fundamental as the five basic food groups—people who eat in the company of friends and family absorb more nutritional elements from their food.

Greenwood Elementary School students learned this Tuesday during presentations by Tom Ohling, a professional chef from Portland.

Ohling said that scientists are finding that people better utilize the nutritional content of their food if they eat in a low stress environment. Thus individuals dining in a comfortable social setting benefit more from their meal.

Ohling cited a study at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., that followed students from grade school through high school.

Researchers found that 60 percent of the students who ate four or more meals with their family a week achieved higher SAT test scores in high school, Ohling said.

Ohling also stressed the importance of eating a balanced diet that is rich in grains and fruits and vegetables. He said one should eat 6 to 11 servings of grains a day and five servings of fruits and vegetables.

The grains recommendation is not as hard to meet as it might appear. Ohling explained that many foods fall into the grain category. They include all bread products, rices and noodles. Ohling recommends that people eat grains at every meal.

Grains promote health because of their vitamins and fiber.

“It does not take much brains to eat grains, but it helps build brains,” Ohling told students.

He noted that grains are a catalyst for the digestive system and that people who have diets rich in grains have lower incidences of stomach and colon cancer.

Ohling also urges people to eat a good breakfast each day. He explained that a person's mind does not work at full capacity until he or she has had their first meal of the day.

“We're going to make it harder on ourselves if we don't eat breakfast,” Ohling said.

He added that “If you are going to skip a meal breakfast is not the one to skip.”

Ohling concluded his presentations by having children cut oranges into birds meant to remind them of what they learned. The chef has become adept at cutting food into creative forms.

This is ironic since Ohling’s mother kept him from playing with his food when he was a child.

“I got back at my mom by becoming a chef,” he said. “Chef's get paid to play with their food.”

Ohling encourages people to bring a sense of playfulness to every endeavor.

“If you have fun, the work will be easier and you will do it better,” the chef said.

Ohling enjoys his career in food service because he appreciates that meals offer more than nutrition. They also have social value because they provide families an opportunity to express their love and compassion for one another.

“At meal time we are a family,” Ohling said.

He said that as a cook he gets the opportunity to set the platform for this experience. Ohling is presentations were sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education and the La Grande School District's food service program.

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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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