Co-hosted by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lisa Oz, the Tropical Garden Gala at Chelsea Piers featured performances by Elle Varner, Erich Bergen, and Stepp Stewart as well as appearances by notable guests such as NFL athletes Buster Skrine, Steve Weatherford, and Damien Woody, Jersey Shore stars “Sammi Sweatheart” and Vinny Guadagnino, and wellness guru Candice Kumai.
The Gala raised money for Healthcorps, a non-profit founded by Dr. Oz that aims to provide teens with the tools they need to improve their physical and mental health. Combating epidemics that affect young people, like childhood obesity, Healthcorps plans to allocate these funds towards expanding its groundbreaking in-school health education programming. Dr. Oz, Lisa Oz, and their daughter, Daphne Oz, spoke about why Healthcorps is important to them and what health tips they have for young people.
Daphne Oz: “My class was the original inspiration for Healthcorps. Back in 2003, my dad came to give a talk to our senior graduating class around nutrition, and this was a very well educated community. Nobody knew anything about nutrition. He was getting phone calls from parents about how he’d said to their kids that white bread was having the effect on their blood sugar like eating a candy bar would, and they were like, “That’s crazy!” But no, that’s actually true. I think he and my mother realized in the course of that that kids deserve access to this basic nutritional information, and now Healthcorps has evolved to include exercise and fitness programs as well as meditation and stress coping mechanisms, which have proven to be even more important to the long term health of these young minds. We do it in a way where it’s kids educating kids. It’s Peace Corps made ready for health, in this wonderful way where the kids take old information, make it their own, and translate it really meaningfully to their families, their communities, people around them. They’re ready to change their behavior in a way that really yields big results, which is huge for us. My husband John and I founded the Junior Board last year, which gets young professionals involved, people who are really passionate about the future of these young kids, who want to see us harness and utilize this wonderful digital age that allows us to make progress even more substantial.”
Why is childhood obesity such a serious issue?
Daphne Oz: “We’ve seen this as an epidemic for over 20 years now. It’s one of those things where we will only make it a non-issue once we not only make health accessible to everyone, but also when we make the information accessible. Everyone has access to the internet at this point, so if you want to find one random fact, you can, but a lot of the times it’s the vehicle in which it comes to you that matters, if it’s a friend sharing an anecdote that actually means something to you, if it’s someone in your life that’s making changes that actually mean something to you. It makes it more likely that you’ll make meaningful changes for your own health.”
Daphne Oz: “I actually wrote my first book, The Dorm Room Diet, specifically to address this issue because when you’re in college and even younger than that, you probably don’t have a lot of cooking skills, you don’t have a lot of storage, and you definitely don’t have a lot of money to spend on food, so my whole attitude was “What can you utilize from the dining halls, and what are the smart choices you can be making there? It’s little things like making your salad dressing. It would be shocking to people to see that they were trying to make the right choices, and then they douse their salad in this heavy sugar, fat, or sodium laden salad dressing and undo all these good choices. Hard fruits I would always keep on hand, hard cheeses I would keep on hand, fiber rich crackers – I mean, a lot of legumes, dry goods, things like that don’t cost a lot of money, but they stretch and go a really long way. A lot of things that I focus on now are also how I can give people recipes where they can have the taste that they love or grew up with but stretch it both in dollar and nutrition. I make meatloaf, and I’ll do half pork so you get that rich, fatty, delicious pork flavor, but half turkey, so you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything. I’ll take pasta dishes and I’ll build them up with white beans; again, an inexpensive way to stretch it but also one where you get that total indulgent taste of eating a bowl of pasta with some real fiber and protein packed in so you’re not starving an hour later.”
Why did you decide to start Healthcorps, and what makes it important to you?
Dr. Oz: “Healthcorps is important to me because it’s a way we get young people, who are recent college graduates, to connect with high schoolers just a couple of years younger than them, close enough to be big brothers and sisters so they get the same music, the same culture, and they’ll listen to each other. I go in there at age 56 and no one listens to me. My kids won’t listen to me. It’s inexpensive to take those energetic young folks and train them, and once the teenagers have been educated by the coordinators, they go out and become activists in the community. This process makes it really inexpensive to get a high quality education, and all of it works because of motivation. The key motivation is to not just focus on food and exercise; focus on mental resilience because if you’re tough enough to get it here, you sure will outside of here.”
Dr. Oz: “Funny you should ask that. We’ve been talking to Montefiore. We talked to a board member on Thursday, and the Bronx has school based clinics that are run by nurses. Montefiore staffs them. Our hope is to put Healthcorps into more of those schools. We work in Manhattan in some school based clinics but have not been doing any of the Montefiore schools, so we want to do that.”
What are your favorite healthy snack ideas that appeal to kids?
Lisa Oz: “My favorite is nuts. You can travel with them, you don’t need to refrigerate them, you can roast them, put spices on them.”
Dr. Oz: “You know what kids love? Chocolate – real 70% cocoa chocolate – with the nuts. That is to die for. And the Bulletproof Coffe’s pretty good.”
Lisa Oz: “Well, you don’t want kids drinking bulletproof coffee. They would be wired.”
Photos by Reyna Wang