By Saira Toppin
Tricia Williams of Food Matters NYC is a culinary nutritionist who has developed a new initiative called the Early Childhood Palate Development Program. This program is designed to metabolically program children on a cellular level to seek out healthy, whole foods. My youngest sibling is 13 and he still hates his vegetables. I wonder if it works on adolescent teens… I will have to see, because the program can start with children as young as six months. Through this program, Williams takes parents through the aisles of the market showcasing the benefits of locally grown, organic, and seasonal foods. She understands that exposing kids to fresh, organic foods will prevent obesity, disease and promote emotional, physical and intellectual health. Let’s pepper Williams with a few questions and better understand this program.
Women’s Mafia: What inspired you to cook?
Tricia Williams: I used to make pasta with my grandma. In my previous life I was a pastry and restaurant chef; now I’m a holistic chef and counselor. My current work with families was inspired by the birth of my first child.
WM: Was healthy eating and proper nutrition always a goal when cooking, or did you secretly put taste and customer satisfaction first, or was it the perfect combination?
TW: Sometimes it was about making food that wasn’t necessary healthy. Later in my career I combined my interest in healthy food with my work. Healthy food should just be perceived as food; often times healthy dishes are unapproachable to the average person, like a raw kale and carrot salad. Coming from a background and having the sensibilities of a traditional chef helped me bridge the gap to make healthy foods approachable, enjoyable, and delicious.
WM: I see your first child inspired the Early Childhood Palate Development Program. What then, did you specifically aim to achieve?
TW: Just to get kids off of unhealthy foods. I wanted to prevent the physical, emotional and behavioral issues kids with bad eating habits suffer. Just look at the childhood obesity rate! By the time a child reaches age 4 they have developed food patterns and issues. It’s much easier to train a child into maintaining healthy eating habits at an earlier age.
WM: If parents cannot afford your program, what would you say to them in order to help their children develop better eating habits?
TW: Always start with the thought, “Fresh is the best.” Stay away from processed and packaged foods. Keep yourself and your family as close to whole, natural foods as possible.
WM: How do you see this program prominently affecting NYC children?
TW: I work with kids all the time. I have a child whose favorite food is Edamame (soybeans). He will put down chocolate for the healthy choice; it almost becomes ritual. If we push this type of healthy snacking over junk food, it will last. With childhood problems like asthma on the rise, it’s best for parents to shift their mindsets. I’ve noticed many parents slowly transitioning, which is great!
WM: If the City approached you about possibly becoming a part of School Food-New York City Department of Education, would you concede and help this large system rewire its mainframe?
TW: I absolutely would!!
WM: Have you ever considered doing that?
TW: I have, but within the private school system. I am slowly working my way into the public school system. It varies with each school and Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) program.
WM: What about women?
TW: Recently my counseling and private chef services have been supporting women with fertility issues. It’s a unique experience to catch them at the right moment in their life. I also work with women throughout their pregnancies. As a culinary nutritionist I prepare health supportive meals. I get them on diets, such as Elimination Diets. This can remove dairy, sugar, soy, etc. I get them off of the bad stuff. It takes small steps. Less plastic, more glass. Changing small things in their environment impacts their fertility.
WM: What can the Women’s Mafia make happen for you?
TW: I would like to spread my message to a broader audience. I constantly hear that children are “picky eaters.” The choices from kids’ menus to packaged goods influence these choices. If children start the Early Childhood Palate Development Program at a young age they can become better eaters. It is about taking the right steps to get there. Think of the health problems we could prevent!
For More Information Visit www.FoodMattersNYC.com Get your children, yourself, and others on the smart track to eating right. With the issue of childhood obesity (and obesity in general) and the new sugar tax, signing up for the Palate Development Program may be a very good idea!