Skip to main content

What to do about # 2? Tips & Tricks for when your toddler is constipated

By Cristina F. Toscano

Toddlers consuming table foods should be passing stool at least every other day. If they are going 3 or more days without going #2, or are having trouble and straining for 10 minutes each time they pass a bowel movement, they may be constipated. It is a fairly common issue among toddlers, and in many cases it can be prevented or treated at home.

There are many possible causes for constipation, and some include drinking too much milk (the current recommendation for children ages 2-3 is 2 cups of dairy per day), not consuming enough fiber, not drinking enough water (if their urine is yellow, they should be drinking water more often), not getting enough exercise, and even potty training. Certain medical conditions may cause constipation as well, so if your toddler is bleeding, in extreme pain, or if you are concerned, it is a good idea to seek medical care. If not, here are 4 tips that you can try at home in order to help your toddler go #2:


Encourage your little one to drink more often. Limit dairy to 2 cups every 24 hours, and offer them water all day long. It should be accessible in a cup that they can easily reach. Make water more interesting by infusing it with fresh fruit!


The current recommendation is for half of your toddler’s plate to be fruits and veggies. Another quarter of the plate should be grains, with at least half of them whole grains. Whole grains include whole wheat pasta and bread, oatmeal and even brown rice. By this logic, at least three-quarters of the plate will include high-fiber foods. Limit excess added sugar and deep fried foods, as these can slow down transit time. Add some plant-based proteins to the menu as well. Beans can be a great source of both protein and fiber!


Active play can literally help move things along! This can be as simple as a trip to the playground, playing ball, hopping like a bunny, or dancing around to some music. The guideline is for toddlers to get at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity (adult-led) and at least 60 minutes of unstructured (active, free play) movement per day!


Create a relaxing atmosphere at the same time(s) each day. If the constipation is potty training related, give them a quiet space on a potty that they are not afraid of. For example, if your little one is scared of public restrooms with loud automatic flushers, let them know that you have brought a small potty that they can use instead.

For more information, please visit:

Cristina is a 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

Skipping Meals with Diabetes

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

Since we were children, we were told that skipping meals was not good for you. For those who have busy schedules, skipping meals is very common. Usually, it’s not a big deal if you occasionally skip a meal if you don’t have diabetes. Skipping meals is definitely not recommended when you have diabetes.

Skipping a meal can affect your body’s balance. With diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, your body is already in a state of imbalance. Skipping a meal can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Both states are highly undesirable and can be dangerous.

Not only does skipping meals affect your blood sugar, it also tends to lead to increase caloric intake at your next meal. As shown in a study conducted by Cornell University, patients who skipped meals were less likely to make healthier choices during their next meal. It makes sense since those who skip meals then consume larger meals later on due to extreme hunger. They tend to overcompensate for a lack of caloric intake during the previous meal.

In addition, this extreme hunger leads to choosing carbohydrates which satisfy the “hungry cells” of the body. The carbohydrate food group has the most impact on blood sugar. This continuous over consumption of carbohydrates, due to hunger, leads to short term hyperglycemia and long term damage to the body.

Studies have shown that skipping meals may not only affect caloric intake for the next meal, but also may increase blood glucose levels even during the next mealtime.

When you don’t feel hungry, it is important to check your blood glucose. It is recommended to have three well balanced meals which follow the My Plate guidelines. Awareness of carbohydrate consumption is extremely important for those diagnosed with diabetes. If you have any questions regarding your blood sugar or carbohydrate intake, contact your physician or dietitian.

Ruchi Shah 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


Tips for Parents to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

  • Focus on Healthy Eating
    • Leave unhealthy choices such as chips, soda, juice, and cookies at the grocery store. Focus on keeping fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and water in the house.
    • Involve children in grocery shopping and cooking. When children are involved in the process of choosing and preparing meals, they are more likely to try the healthy and new foods they helped select.
    • Encourage children to eat slowly. Before providing the child with a second helping, have them wait for about 15 minutes for the body to register if they are full. If they are hungry after the 15 minutes, provide a smaller helping and focus mostly on non-starchy vegetables.
    • Make snacks as nutritious as possible, but never deprive your child of the occasional bag of chips or cookies at birthday parties or social gatherings.
    • Encourage children to drink more water, and choose water over sugar sweetened beverages.
    • Avoid highly processed foods due to added sugar and high sodium.
  • Avoid Negative Feelings Towards Food
    • Avoid scolding or lecturing during meals to avoid unpleasant experiences during mealtimes and negative feelings toward food. Children will begin to associate meals with stress.
    • Try not to use food to reward children. When children are rewarded with a specific food, they find that food to be more desirable.
  • Make Lifestyle Changes Together as a Family
    • Eat meals together as a family as often as possible.
    • Set achievable family goals.
    • Pay attention to portion sizes.
    • Read nutrition labels.
    • Decrease screen time.
    • Participate in physical activity together as a family.


  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed May 26th, 2019.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle Children’s Health. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 26th, 2019.

Ruchi Shah 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


Happy New Year – 2020

Family Health and Telling the Truth

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Parents are encouraged to visit a pediatrician regularly with their children. In fact, once that first child is born, a regular pattern of doctor visits is dutifully followed for the good and welfare of the child. In addition to physical check-ups and inoculations, pediatric visits also offer the opportunity for parents to ask questions about their child’s health or behavior. Parents need to be honest in giving information the medical professional asks for in order to receive proper guidance for their child’s optimal growth and development. With their child’s welfare at stake, that honest information is vital. 

Are parents as honest and forthcoming with their own medical check-ups? A very interesting study published in the January, 2019 Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open found that up to 81% of adults lie to their doctors about how much they eat, as well as how often they exercise! You might ask why they do this, and the answer is that they do not want to be judged negatively by their doctors. 

Researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa analyzed data from two groups of patients. One group consisted of 2,011 individuals with a median age of 36, and the other group consisted of 2,499 individuals with a median age of 61. Both groups were asked if they ever avoided telling the truth during seven common doctor-patient interactions. These categories involved taking medication as prescribed, exercising, understanding doctor’s instructions, agreeing with a doctor’s recommendations, maintaining a healthy diet, taking a particular medication, and taking someone else’s medication.

The study found that approximately 81% of the younger group (median age of 36) were dishonest in answering at least one of the seven questions. With the older group (median age of 61) that figure was lower with 61% being dishonest. Both age groups were most dishonest about eating and exercising behaviors. Also, both groups were hesitant to disagree with their doctor’s recommendation and were also hesitant to tell their doctor when they didn’t understand instructions. Those individuals with the poorest health were more likely to be dishonest.

This dishonesty makes it more difficult for doctors to give accurate diagnoses. They might also prescribe higher than needed doses of medication, causing negative health effects.

The number one reason these adults were not honest was embarrassment. More than 50% of patients were too embarrassed by their habits, or too embarrassed by their inability to understand the doctor’s recommendations to be totally honest. They did not want to be judged negatively by their doctors. Most of us want our doctors to think highly of us.

For the sake of all family members, aim for honesty with your healthcare professionals. Doctors are trained to be non-judgmental and discreet. It might be difficult and embarrassing, but providing honest answers will ultimately lead to better health outcomes for children and parents alike.

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

Season’s Greetings!

Healthy Eating Tips During the Holidays

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

The holidays are coming, and with them come delicious cookies, large plates filled with food, overindulging, and the inability to say “no” to a second or third helping. The average American gains a couple of pounds during the holidays, and this weight gain leads to New Years’ resolutions to go to the gym more often. Here are some tips for staying on track during the holidays:

  • Don’t skip meals during the day to save calories for a bigger meal later on. When you do this, you end up over-eating to compensate for what you missed out on during the day.
  • Be sure to incorporate foods that are high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help keep you full, and high fiber foods are lower in calories.
  • Choose a smaller plate rather than a larger one. This is an easy way to prevent you from over-eating.
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetable based dishes. Starchy vegetables are peas, corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. If you take a second helping, again try to take non-starchy vegetables.
  • When it comes to dessert, use a smaller plate. If you want to try everything, take small portions of each. Moderation is key.
  • If you are going to a family or friend potluck gathering, bring a healthy, low calorie option.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and limit the amount of sugar sweetened beverages (such as hot chocolate, warm apple cider, etc.) to once a day.
  • Wherever you are, walk up and down the stairs instead of riding in the elevator.
  • Get the family to go on a walk after the meal, or participate in some sort of physical activity such as a family football game. Stay active!
  • Try everything that you want to try, but be aware of portion size. Again, moderation is key.

Never feel guilty about the foods that you consume during the holiday season. This is the time of year to enjoy with your loved ones. The key is to consume the foods you want, but in moderation. Focus most meals on the healthy parts. These tips will allow you to indulge in a way that also keeps you on the track of healthy eating during the holidays!

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

Active Parenting Now

Parents call to register!

How to stay on track during the Holidays

By Jessica A. Schreck, RD, CDN, CDE

The holiday season brings with it lots of cheer. But the cold weather, combined with holiday party after holiday party, often leads to decreased exercise and poor eating habits. These factors cause the average American to gain weight during the winter months. Follow these tips in order to stay on track on the day of your holiday party:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast. Many people think that if they are going to eat a big meal later in the day, they should skip breakfast in order to consume fewer calories overall. This mentality can actually do more harm than good. Eating a balanced breakfast will help jump-start your metabolism, regulate your blood sugar, and minimize over-eating later in the day.
  • Bring a healthy appetizer with you. Whether it is a vegetable crudité plate or a salad, if you bring a nutritious appetizer to share, you know that there will be something healthy for you to enjoy.
  • Drink plenty of water. Keep a water bottle by your side throughout the day and sip regularly. Try to limit sweetened beverages and alcohol. If you decide to drink a glass of something other than water, sip slowly. Then, switch back to water.
  • Move together as a family. Whether it’s a long walk, a football game, or a game of musical chairs, plan a fun activity to do together that gets everybody moving. Exercising in the morning before your party can also be a fun way to start the day.
  • Practice mindful eating. Eat slowly and pay attention to the food you are eating. This will help you enjoy the flavor of the food, and will also make it easier for you to recognize when your body is full.
  • Bring home leftovers. Instead of overeating because you only get to eat certain foods once a year, eat until you are full and then bring home a small container of leftovers to enjoy the following day.
  • Take time to de-stress. Holiday stress can make it difficult to make healthy choices. Schedule a bit of time each day to do something that helps you unwind. Read a book, take a bath, or go for a walk.
  • And finally, ENJOY YOURSELF! If you can’t follow all of these tips, don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply do what you can, enjoy this special time with family and friends, and jump back on the saddle the next day!


For more information, please visit:

Jessica Schreck is a Registered Dietitian, Diabetes Educator and Family Health Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 342 or at

Physical Activity on a Busy Schedule

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

Physical activity is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It can have a great impact on your health, wellness, and even your stress level! Physical activity is recommended as part of your daily routine as well as being important at any age or stage in life.

Some of the benefits of physical activity include preventing chronic diseases, controlling weight, increasing muscle strength, reducing fat, promoting strong bones, relieving stress, improving sleep, and many more.1

If physical activity has so many benefits, why do most of us not add it to our daily routine? Sometimes life gets in the way and it is completely understandable. Work, children, household chores, and social events all take time away from physical activity.

Without physical activity, many problems can occur. Your blood pressure and cholesterol can increase. You are at risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 1

Physical activity is extremely important! If you’re busy, these tips can help you squeeze it into your daily routine.

  • For anyone with an hour of time to spare about 3 -4 times a week, join a gym. It’s a great place to find motivation and encouragement. Most gyms provide a free personal trainer session when you sign up, and you can learn some great tips.

For anyone with no time due to balancing work, children, household chores, and so much more, finding ways to exercise while doing any of these can really help.

  • If you sit at a desk all day, get up and walk around when you have a few minutes to spare. Stretch, walk in place, do some arm circles. Do something to get your body moving. Standing desks are a great option as well.
  • Take your children for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, or create a mini exercise class at home with them where you are the instructor and they are the students. Children love doing that! Also, play games outside with them like tag.
  • Get everyone in the house moving around together. This is a fun, family bonding experience.
  • When you are doing household chores such as cooking, cleaning, or organizing, put on some music and dance. It will help get you moving a little more and also elevate your mood.

Physical activity can be fun, and it is something families and friends are able to do together. It is essential to make physical activity an important part of your life!


  1. HHS Office, and Council on Sports. “Importance of Physical Activity.”, US Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Jan. 2017,

Ruchi Shah 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 »