How did you get this idea to open a center for kids?
I started out at New York Hospital -Cornell in Queens and Manhattan. I did all my critical training there. I always had an affinity for maternity and pediatrics. Then I went out to private practice and did family counseling. I had my own children, and became even more inspired! I veered off and became a youth fitness trainer. I rented space at a doctor's office, which had a gym area. As I got busy and started to grow, I wanted to get a center.
Tell us about the philosophy of One Potato, Two Tomato.
This is a healthy lifestyle education center. Some people tend to shy away because they think it's a 'fat camp.' We help fight childhood obesity, but it's not our only focus. We focus on rearing kids to eat healthy, on prevention. I have plenty of skinny kids who just want to learn how to take care of themselves. We try to have this clinical concept, but make it friendly so that kids don't feel like they're coming to a hospital or a doctor's office. We want it to feel like a children's fitness school.
Why not just go to a nutritionist?
The thing that makes it unique is, we are a health care team that's dedicated to providing health care services and clinical services. We are all credentialed. We have a kids' gym. The difference is that we treat them as children. I don't lecture the kids. Pediatrics is a specialty. We deal with growth charts. Children develop calorie, protein and macronutrient needs at every single age. So someone who deals with adults all the time and then counsels a kid.... the skills are not there.
What kind of problems do you see besides weight management?
I have babies that come in for palate training, for moms who didn't catch that window for introducing texture properly, and the kids are spitting everything out. If parents don't get a good grasp right way, then chicken nuggets and French fries could be their child's first finger foods. They don't know how to give them fruits, or how to mix it, or wonder if they should hide things in it.
How do you counsel parents on introducing healthier food to children who love junk food?
There are certain foods that kids are going to love from the get-go that are salty, fatty, and sweet. If you start out with processed foods, their palate is going to like that. The child's palate is like an artist's canvas. So when you think of how you're going to paint that palate, you think of colors-you want to give the healthiest things. You want to start out with wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables.
How do you manage to raise a family while operating the business? Did you ever face any food issues at home that inspired your work?
No, not at all. My kids are such great eaters. I believe that that is because of me; I was fun and I gave them good foods. The kids come here after school. They participate in the classes and eat dinner here and do their homework. I have no food battles.
What kind of challenges or hurdles did you face when opening your own business?
The hardest thing, from a business standpoint, is people's perception of the concept. We're not a fat camp. We're not like that at all. It's a new business with a new concept. Once they're here, they're like, 'Why isn't everybody here?'