President and Founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition and mother of three discusses how she inspires her family to eat healthy!
President and Founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition
Master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University
Nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and author of the Healthy Eats blog
Nutrition advisor for Sear’s FitStudio
Mother of three: Schoen (age 10), Ellena (age 7) and Micah (age 5)
Toby, I’m so glad my friend Melissa Halas-Liang introduced you to me. Wow, it looks like you have an exciting career in nutrition! You were chosen by FoodNetwork.com to write for their Healthy Eats blog. And your blog featured on TobyAmidorNutrition.com was voted as one of the Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011 by Healthline. Congratulations!
Most important, you have three kids, and I am really looking forward to hearing your advice on how we can all help our kids eat healthier. So first, tell us how you got started in nutrition.
When I started college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I took some nutrition courses and really liked them. It is kind of funny because my mom went back to school to study nutrition at that same time. So we both graduated with degrees in nutrition.
Anita: That is funny. Like mother, like daughter! Were you both applying for the same nutrition jobs?
Toby: My mom started working in a New York City hospital to help obese kids. I went on to get a Master’s degree in clinical dietetics and became an in-house clinical dietitian at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn. And I also taught at the culinary school in New York. Then I started getting a lot of requests from the media for interviews. I really liked working with the media. And then one thing led to another, and now it is such a whirlwind. I have received so many nutrition-related opportunities.
Anita: Yes, it sounds like you have built a really fun career for yourself. So tell us about your kids. What is your strategy to get your kids to eat healthy?
Toby: Well, I have three kids. My two daughters, Ellena and Micah, are ages 7 and 5. And my son, Schoen, is 10. My philosophy is that, as moms, we need to mold healthy eating habits with the child’s personality. One size doesn’t fit all. I don’t think you can force kids to eat healthy or eat foods they don’t like. For instance, my daughter doesn’t fancy chicken, and so I don’t force her to eat it. I just have a variety of options available at each meal. And I always have vegetables on the table. I don’t force them to eat the vegetables, but more and more, they are open to trying new vegetables or foods.
I think it really helps to have kids involved in the kitchen. That helps peak their interest in trying new foods. My daughters really like helping with the cooking and setting the table. We cook a lot of different types of foods and prepare them in different ways. My son is not really interested in helping us prepare meals, but he really likes to look through recipe books and pick out the recipes we prepare.
"One size doesn’t fit all. I don’t think you can force kids to eat healthy or eat foods they don’t like. I don’t force them to eat the vegetables, but more and more, they are open to trying new vegetables or foods. I also think it really helps to have kids involved in the kitchen. That helps peak their interest in trying new foods."
Anita: Have children look through recipes and choose a few to try is a great idea!
Toby: Yes, and I always weave talking about foods in our conversations at the grocery store or farmer’s market. My daughter recently had a project at school to celebrate the 100th day of school. She chose to make a collage of 100 foods. So we had a lot of fun talking about each food. I don’t necessarily just talk about the healthfulness of food, but I really like to focus on flavor and taste. So rather than “This is good for your eyes,” my kids are more interested in the fact that carrots are grown in the ground and this is how we peel it.
"My son is very picky. He will refuse to eat foods if they are not prepared exactly as he likes them."
Anita: So what are your struggles in getting your kids to eat healthy?
Toby: My son is very picky. He will refuse to eat foods if they are not prepared exactly as he likes them. I have to try several ways of preparing things to see how he will eat them, and then I have to make sure I precisely follow the recipes he likes. It is hard sometimes. I will share my smoothie recipe with you. It is approved by my son, so if he likes it, almost any child will!
"My son is starting to realize portion size and what is too much. He is starting to read labels and becoming more aware of nutrition. He is starting to talk about nutrition. And he is taking the initiative."
Anita: Great. Thanks for sharing your smoothie recipe. It looks wonderful. And I know exactly what you mean about your son. My daughter is very picky, too. She can distinguish between different brands of foods! So there is one brand of yogurt that she will eat, one brand of mustard, bread, cereal, almost everything. And she, too, has certain ways that she wants the foods prepared. And she won’t eat it if I deviate from her way. It drives me crazy sometimes. So what is success to you?
Toby: Success is that my son is starting to realize portion size and what is too much. He is starting to read labels and becoming more aware of nutrition. He is starting to talk about nutrition. And he is taking the initiative. It isn’t me forcing him. I think that is success. And also, success is using our meal time as our bonding time. We love to eat together and talk together as a family. That is something we really look forward to.
Anita: Thank you, Toby, for your great advice. Your kids are adorable!
During the warmer weather, I whip up smoothies for a quick and easy family breakfast. Making smoothies is easy, but keeping calories in check isn’t always that simple. Although smoothies are usually filled with fruit, milk, and yogurt, going overboard on portions can make calories skyrocket! It’s also important to choose the right ingredients:
Bananas: Once I find my bananas are browning, I peel and freeze them in a freezer-safe bag. My kids hate snacking on browning bananas and I get upset when I end up tossing them (so it’s a win-win situation at the end). Frozen bananas keep for at least 3 months in the freezer.
Frozen fruit: Stock your fridge with a few of your favorite varieties of frozen fruit. Be sure you buy the unsweetened varieties.
Fresh fruit: If you have fresh fruit on hand, use them in place of some of the frozen ones.
Greek yogurt: Nonfat Greek yogurt helps give smoothies a more creamy texture. It also contains more protein per ounce compared with traditional yogurt.
4 servings (about 6 fluid ounces each)
1 ½ medium bananas, peeled and frozen
½ cup frozen raspberries
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh whole strawberries
½ cup nonfat milk
¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1. Place ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.
Nutrition info per serving:
116 Calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol,
23 mg sodium, 27.4 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 3.4 g protein