Skip to main content


By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

For most of us, friendship is important. Research has shown how social isolation can lead to poor health. Spending time with friends, a spouse or significant other, or a group of friends is linked to good health. In fact, the concept of quantity in social interactions has been studied closely. In a huge study published in January of 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill confirmed that beginning in adolescence, more social interactions predicted less hypertension (high blood pressure), less inflammation, lower rates of obesity, and other signs of bad health as people aged. This study had 15,000 subjects, ranging in age from adolescents to the elderly. 

This does not prove that social interactions cause changes in health. Interestingly, when the researchers looked at the quality of the social interactions, it was found that quality does predict health outcomes more accurately than the quantitative measure. The level of support from family members, friends, and significant others is important. In many respects, it is probably better for your health to have a few really good friends than a large number of Facebook or more superficial friends or acquaintances.  

When you have good relationships with family and friends, your health can be positively affected. However, when you have strained relationships with family or friends, there can be adverse effects on your health. So, from health point of view, strive for positive, supportive relationships with friends, family, and significant others. Ending a difficult relationship, as hard as that can be, might keep you from developing high blood pressure or putting on weight. Simply stated, it might be wise to say good-bye to a demanding or high maintenance friendship or relationship. Paraphrasing a popular song, look for friends who are there for you “in good times, in bad times. That’s what friends are for.”

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Kids Need to Move More

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

Getting and keeping kids moving is important due to the many benefits physical activity provides such as helping to prevent chronic disease, heart disease, and diabetes. Engaging in physical activity also promotes flexibility, better sleep, stress management, and weight management. Additionally, children’s school performance may be enhanced.

In December of 2016, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance released the 2016 U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. This report found that American children are not doing very well when it comes to engaging in physical activity. Only 21.6 % of children ages 6-19 years meet U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines. In addition, approximately 63% of children exceed the Sedentary Behavior Guidelines.

Below are links to some resources that will help you promote physical activity and encourage the children in your lives to move more.

Full report on Physical Activity for Children and Youth:

U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth

“Raising Healthy Children: Family Fitness”

“Spring Forward with Fun, Healthy Physical Activities for the Whole Family”

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

Your Child’s Protein Needs: How much is enough?

Rachel Lippmann-Turner, MS, RD

It is meal-time and you do your best to provide your child with healthy foods from all food groups.  Your little one signals that he is done eating, and is ready to move on to the next activity.  You notice that all the food is gobbled up except the chicken.  Your mind wanders back to previous meals, thinking you notice a pattern.  You ask yourself, “Is he getting enough protein?”

Protein provides the building blocks for growth and development.  It is responsible for making enzymes and hormones which regulate many of the body’s functions.  Animal sources include meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt).  Non-animal or plant-based sources include soy and soy products, nuts and seeds, legumes (chick peas, lentils and beans) and grains like quinoa and oats.  The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend the following protein intake:

                          1-3 years old: 13 grams of protein per day

                          4-8 years old: 13-19 grams of protein per day

                          9-13 years old: 19-34 grams of protein per day

                          14-18 years old (female): up to 46 grams of protein per day

                          14-18 years old (male): up to 52 grams of protein per day

Keep in mind that there are about 7 grams of protein in once ounce of meat.  An easy way to estimate this is to visualize the size of a deck of cards. This size is equivalent to about 3 ounces of meat.  An egg contains about 1 ounce of protein. You can also read food labels for the protein amount.  Be sure to look at the serving size to ensure adequate calculation.  Visit for more information on serving sizes of protein and all the food groups.  This may help to put your mind at ease, knowing that you are meeting your child’s daily nutritional needs for protein. 

For more information on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines click on the link below:

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and the Nutrition Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program’s Parent Toddler Nutrition Program. She can be reached at


Serving Size versus Portion Size…..Is There a Difference?

By Kim Mendel, RD CDN

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different and should be treated as such. Learning the difference between these terms can help us to eat more healthfully, as many of us struggle with weight management and diabetes.

Portion size is the amount of food we decide to eat as a snack or a meal. The portion we choose to eat can be less than or more than the actual serving size.

Serving size is stated on the nutrition fact label on food packages. It is determined by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The FDA sets what is called a RACC (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed). These standards were gathered from consumer surveys of people’s eating behavior from the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s in order to create what we know today as serving sizes. They are currently under review in order to adapt to today’s population. Americans have been consuming larger amounts of food throughout the decades. We should be consuming smaller portion sizes to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

Here are some tips to think about when reading a food label: Is there more than one serving per package? How many calories? How much and what types of fat? How much sodium? With multiple servings per package, you will need to multiply the amount you have eaten by the number of servings in the package. For example, a label on a box of crackers says there are 18 crackers per serving and there are 5 servings per package. If you consume the entire package, you are consuming 5 times the amount of calories, fat and sodium. If you reduce your portion size and decide to consume 8-10 crackers, then you are clearly consuming less than the serving size and therefore considerably fewer calories, and less fat and sodium!

The next time you eat chips or cookies, and you eat the entire bag, remember…you decided on the portion size, but you ate the entire number of servings!

Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Talking to kids about sex – why it’s important

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

If you have young children, you may not think it’s time to teach them about sex, but by age three children have already received many messages about sexuality. When you are expecting your baby, “Is it a boy or a girl?” is one of the first questions asked. Then we tend to dress our infant in pink or blue and buy trucks or dolls, depending on the gender. Our children identify with the parent of the same gender and often imitate the behaviors of that parent. As children grow older, they have access to outside influences such as the media and peers. As a parent, you should commit to having ongoing talks about sex, and this conversation should start early on.

Sexual development, which is part of human development, begins at birth. Sexual development includes physical changes that occur as children grow, as well as the knowledge they gain, the beliefs they form, and the behaviors they show. Children’s sexual development is influenced by their age, what they’ve been exposed to, and what they are taught.

It is essential that children have guidance in this area. Research shows that a lack of proper education and guidance can lead to high risk behaviors such as early sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted infections. Currently:

  • The U.S. has the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy among developed countries.
  • Only one-third of adolescents engaging in intercourse use any form of birth control.
  • One million teenagers become pregnant each year, and 1 in 10 adolescent girls becomes pregnant before age 20.
  • The highest rate of increase in sexually transmitted infections is among adolescents.
  • An estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually abused during childhood. Ten  percent of all victims are less than 6 years of age. More than 70% of these cases involve persons known by the child, such as a step-parent, babysitter, or other family member.

Early and open communication about sexuality with your child:

  • Develops a dialogue of trust
  • Allows you to share family values
  • Provides your child with accurate information
  • Helps your child build effective decision making skills
  • Counteracts negative and exploitative sexual messages in the media

When parents provide children with information about sex and sexuality that is both accurate and age-appropriate, they take a huge step towards making sure their children grow up safe, healthy, and comfortable with their bodies.


Sexuality and Your Child ages 3-7 (University of Missouri-Columbia Extension)

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

Heart Health

By Amy O’Shea

February is National Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America, accounting for one in four deaths each year. The CDC also reports the shocking news that about half of the American population has at least one of three major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Other risk factors include obesity or being overweight, diabetes, physical inactivity, poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption. It is possible to prevent many of the risks associated with heart disease through diet and physical activity. Here are some heart-healthy tips to keep your heart beating strong:

  • Eat whole grains. These complex carbohydrates are packed with nutrients and fiber. Fiber has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Limit added sugars and refined starches.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
  • Eat less saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Replace solid fats like butter with healthy oils (e.g. canola or olive oil) that are predominantly unsaturated. Choose leaner proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs. Choose lower-fat dairy products. Limit your consumption of fast foods.
  • Consume omega-3 fats. Omega-3’s have an anti-inflammatory effect and may lower cholesterol levels. They can be found in the following foods: fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel), avocado, walnuts, flax seeds, and omega-3 eggs.
  • Eat less salt and high sodium foods. Try salt free seasonings and herbs to add flavor to meals. Limit your intake of very salty foods such as fast foods and processed/ pre-packaged foods.
  • Make time for exercise. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, or a combination of both.
  • Stop smoking.

Amy O’Shea is a Dietetic Intern with Long Island University, C.W. Post and Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program


By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

This is an exciting and frantic time of year for high school seniors. Many are laboring to complete college applications, and then are anxiously waiting for college acceptances. Others are graduating with high school diplomas and are eager, and also petrified, to enter the work world. This is certainly a pivotal moment in teenagers’ lives, when they are ready to leave the proverbial “nest” and strike out on their own, wherever that might be. In planning for the future after high school, many are advised to find their Passion (with a capital P) and pursue it. For the lucky few who have a clear vision of that passion and how they will work towards that goal, life is not that complex. Most teens don’t know what that passion is.

Between the years of 2002 to 2009, a series of studies were conducted at the Stanford Center on Adolescence. More than 1,200 teens were surveyed. The findings are very interesting. Only about 20% of young people between the ages of 12 to 26 had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish in life. After graduating from college, and within only a few years, only 27% of young people worked in a field related to their college major. How does a young adult find that passion?

Most of us don’t have a single passion, a singular motivator which guides us on a straight path through life. There is no one, or right, path to take. In fact, students today should expect to have at least three, and more likely five, different jobs or careers during their working lives. The way to finding that passion is to be curious and look for hands-on experiences. Students need to read, to build with technology. They need to help in their communities and learn to interact with all age groups. They need to join clubs and work in small groups on projects. They need to stand up for what they believe in, to communicate eye to eye, and be well informed. They need to learn the importance of time management, self-control, and taking responsibility. They need to look forward to each day, to be open, aware, and eager to take the next step. They don’t need to plan an entire life. Passion, or motivation, comes from being involved in a variety of experiences, and then analyzing and seeing what “fits” for the time being. Building a future requires a strong academic foundation, bolstered by participating in extracurricular activities, trying out roles, and strengthening personal skills and strengths. Teens don’t need to wait for Passion to strike; they just have to be mindful of what they do each day, and pursue what is meaningful, interesting, and worthwhile.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Going to Bed

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich, MA

Everyone Benefits When Preschoolers Get to Bed on Time

Three and a half year old Emma hates to go to bed. Her parents adore her, but hate the bedtime battles. Even after Emma is peacefully asleep, her parents are still on edge, their plans to spend time enjoying each other’s company shattered.

Sound familiar? Many parents of preschoolers say they frequently feel resentful towards their children when every bedtime is a scene. When day is done, you can still seize a few precious hours of the evening by carefully planning and sticking to a bedtime routine for your children.

Your Needs Are Important, Too

Let’s be clear that two sets of needs are in play here: yours and your children’s. Get comfortable with the idea that the kids must go to bed because you need them to go to bed. After a long day of parenting, plus dealing with all your other responsibilities, you deserve some downtime. A few hours of “childless” time at the end of the day will allow you to connect with your spouse, hobbies, a good book, or even just clean a closet without interruptions. This time will allow you to recharge so that you have the energy and patience to joyfully continue the hard job of parenting the next day.

You will also be helping your children get the sleep they need. Eleven or twelve hours of sleep is not too much sleep for preschoolers. So, if your preschooler usually wakes up at 7 am, start bedtime routines by 7 pm.

Ease Kids into Sleep

Allow for 30 to 45 minutes of “sleep readiness.” A soothing routine of activities can help your child make the physical and emotional transition from a busy day to restful sleep. Every family has their own “take” on what routine best brings the day to a close, but reading a story or having a quiet bedside conversation usually works well. The key is to develop a predictable pattern of quiet activities, combined with a gentle but firm “good night.”

Consistency is very comforting to young children (ages 3 to 5). Announce that in five minutes it will be time to get ready for bed, let them finish what they are doing, and begin the routine. End it with a friendly “I love you and will see you in the morning.” If your child insists that she is not tired, don’t argue. Let her unwind as adults often do, with a good book.

Once in bed, children should be in for the night, except for quick trips to use the bathroom, or if they truly are sick, or have nightmares. Otherwise, wanderers should be brought back to bed immediately. Say little beyond “Family time is over, I love you, see you in the morning.” Your child benefits from good sleep, and you benefit by having time for yourself as a person, a partner, and a parent.

Nancy Olsen-Harbich is Program Director and a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 332 or at



By Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE

Years ago, my daughter and her neighborhood friend came home with severe cases of head lice. I read everything I could about lice, and did everything that was suggested. This included washing bed linens and clothes in hot water, drying clothes and linens in the dryer for at least 30 minutes, bagging all stuffed animals, and vacuuming constantly. I bought all kinds of over-the-counter treatments and combed through her hair with a metal comb, all to no avail. One day when my daughter got off the bus, she and her friend went over to their bikes and put on their bike helmets as they always did. Bingo! The bike helmets had lice in them! Once we threw the helmets away, the lice were no more!

Head lice are tiny, wingless parasitic insects that live among human hairs and feed on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Lice are a very common problem, especially for kids. They’re contagious, annoying, and sometimes tough to get rid of, as I found out. But while they’re frustrating to deal with, lice aren’t dangerous. They don’t spread disease, although their bites can make a child’s scalp itchy and irritated, and scratching the scalp can lead to infection. It’s best to treat head lice quickly because they can spread easily from person to person.

Although they’re very small, lice can be seen by the naked eye. Look for lice eggs which are called nits. These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp, where the temperature is perfect for keeping the nits warm until they hatch. Nits look like dandruff, only they can’t be removed by brushing or shaking them off.

Unless the infestation is heavy, it’s more common to see nits in a child’s hair than it is to see live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they’re laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear, and stays firmly attached to the hair shaft. This is when it’s easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp. Adult lice are no bigger than a sesame seed, and are grayish-white or tan. Nits are smaller and become adult lice about 1 to 2 weeks after they hatch. If head lice is not treated, this process repeats itself about every 3 weeks. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, and they can survive up to 2 days off the scalp.

Your doctor can recommend a medicated shampoo, cream rinse, or lotion to kill the lice. These may be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, depending on what treatments have already been tried. Medicated lice treatments usually kill the lice, but it may take a few days for the itching to stop. Lice bites cause itching and scratching, due to a reaction to the saliva of lice.

To remove lice and nits by hand, use a fine-tooth comb on your child’s wet, conditioned hair every 3 to 4 days for 3 weeks. Wetting the hair beforehand is recommended because it temporarily immobilizes the lice, and the conditioner makes it easier to move a comb through the hair. Try all these treatments and don’t forget to throw away the bicycle helmet!

Kathy Sinkin is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Little Gems of protein


By Kim Mendel, RD CDN

Are you looking for a fast, easy, inexpensive way to help control hunger, maintain a healthy weight, and control your blood sugar? Try sunflower seeds, a healthy protein source for a snack or with a meal.

These little seeds are a good source of plant-based protein, iron, calcium and potassium. They are low in saturated fat (the animal kind that can clog arteries), low in carbs, and can be found in low-salt or no-salt-added versions. They can be eaten alone, or added to foods such as salads, stews, oatmeal, cereals, smoothies, yogurt and even ice cream……the ideas are endless. They help to get you to that next meal, and keep you feeling fuller longer, due to the fat, fiber and protein in them. Feeling fuller longer can help you from over-eating at the next meal, or grabbing a high sugar, fat, or high calorie snack between meals.

Portion control is important with these little seeds, so use a measuring cup or a tablespoon measure when adding them to foods. Individual portion sizes can be placed in baggies or small containers so that you don’t overeat. The challenge is to try and avoid eating these delicious seeds straight from the package!

One-quarter cup of sunflower seeds (out of the shell) contains 186 calories and 6 grams of protein. These little gems can add to your day’s worth of calories quickly, so add them in small amounts to your foods for a source of plant based protein and healthy fat. In this way you avoid bulking up your foods and packing on those pounds. For those who may need to maintain or gain weight, sunflower seeds are nutrient-dense and can be added to your foods or eaten alone as a snack for healthy weight gain.

Look for roasted sunflower seeds that are unsalted as they have a rich and nuttier flavor (and you won’t miss the salt).


Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


keep looking »