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Fresh, Frozen and Canned OH MY!

By Christina Di Lieto

Celebrate the start of a new season by cooking new recipes found on the internet. Full of enthusiasm, you rush to the local grocery store to buy the ingredients. Many times recipes don’t mention whether fruit and vegetable ingredients should be fresh, frozen, or canned, and suddenly your head starts to spin. Don’t panic! I have developed the ultimate guide for purchasing produce.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have not been processed and packaged. They offer a desirable texture and flavor without excess additives. Although fresh fruits and vegetables do not sustain a long shelf life, purchasing small amounts frequently can help limit waste. When buying produce, it is also important to keep in mind which items are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be easier to find, more flavorful, and usually less expensive!

Frozen fruits and vegetables are another great way to reach the goal of eating 5 or more servings a day. Most produce is processed within hours of harvesting to ensure lasting flavor and minimal nutrient loss. This is a great solution if you find your fresh produce spoiling before getting a chance to use it. The freezer aisle can provide consumers with fruits and veggies that require little preparation and greater availability during all seasons at an affordable price. Although there are many benefits to frozen items, it is crucial to read the Nutrition Facts labels. Excess sodium and calories can sneak into vegetables that are packaged in sauces and seasonings. Food labels are a great source of information for recipes as well.

Lastly, there are canned fruits and vegetables. When buying them, it is very important to read the label to determine how the food item is packaged. The best descriptions to look for are those that read “packed in its own juices”, “packed in fruit juice”, “unsweetened”, or “no added sugar”. Items packed in juices contain less added sugar and calories than canned items packed in syrup. Another big ingredient to watch out for when reading canned food labels is salt. Look to purchase cans that read “reduced sodium” and “no added salt”. Canned items usually have a long shelf life which is beneficial to consumers but at the cost of an increased amount of salt. To reduce the amount of sodium in canned items, fruits and vegetables can be rinsed and drained.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, half of our plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. They are are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Since produce is a large part of our diet, there should be no obligation to buy one form of fruits and vegetables over the other. The options of fresh, frozen, and canned items allow for more variety and convenience at all times of the year!

For more information visit:

Christina Di Lieto is a Dietetic Intern with C.W. Post LIU with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program

Recreational Marijuana Use and Teen Development

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

There has been much talk and some legislation about legalizing marijuana in several states. A neighboring country, Canada, has recently legalized its use. In considering this proposal for New York, we need to understand that drug’s effect on the brain, especially the teenage brain. 

The adolescent brain continues to develop and mature until about age 25. The executive function areas of the brain, involved in planning, organizing, decision-making, and learning develop much later than other areas of the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, studies have shown that when marijuana is consumed, THC and other components enter the bloodstream, reach parts of the brain, and attach to cannabinoid receptors. This causes problems in memory, learning, coordination, judgment, and reaction time. It can also cause hallucinations and paranoia. Use of marijuana can cause difficulties in academics, athletic performance, and impaired driving ability. Unfortunately, marijuana use has greatly increased in those states that have legalized it.

Parents need to be vigilant about educating their teens as to the side effects of marijuana, whether or not recreational use ever becomes legal. After recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado in 2013, youth use increased tremendously. Just as the sale of tobacco products is prohibited for teens, if marijuana is legalized, the NYS Medical Society recommends that the sale of it should not be legal for people under the age of 25. The NYS Medical Society also recommends prohibiting the sale of any flavored type of marijuana (which tends to attract teens). 

Medical research of marijuana needs to be promoted, and the health risks for our young people who use it need to be explained and widely available to parents.

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

Toddlers and Grazing

By Dinah Torres Castro

I get many questions about picky eaters from parents of toddlers. I hear their frustration and I notice that many of them think that the solution is grazing. Grazing is basically eating throughout the day, between designated meal and snack times. I get it…parents are tired of battling with their children over meals. Since they can’t get their toddlers to eat at mealtimes, they think “I might as well let them eat any time—at least they are getting something in their tummies!” Well…research tells us that a major cause of overeating in adults is eating too often. Just look at some of the reasons adults eat too often—boredom, loneliness, frustration, happiness, or just because they saw a plate of doughnuts at the office! Grazing is setting up your child for this. By allowing your child to graze, you are blurring signals like hunger and appetite (that drive us to eat) and fullness and satisfaction (that help us know when we’re done). Recognizing and responding to hunger and fullness require that we actually experience them. If your children graze all day, they will rarely feel hunger. And because they are nibbling on bits of this or that, they never feel full or satisfied. Grazing can interfere with the way their bodies learn to regulate food intake.

Instead of letting kids graze, plan regular meal and snack times. Having a set routine for meals, especially during the work week, helps your child recognize his body’s signs of hunger. Toddlers (children under 3) need to eat as often as every 2 hours. Older kids usually do fine eating every 3-4 hours. Decide what time works best for your family and stick to it. Being consistent is one of the best things you can do for your child. If your child consistently has breakfast at 7 am, a morning snack at 10 am, lunch at 12:30 pm, an afternoon snack at 3 pm, dinner at 6 pm and a bedtime snack at 7:30 pm; then that is the time his tummy will send him the signals that he is hungry.

I also recommend that parents of picky eaters become familiar with Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility in Feeding”. According to her philosophy, a parent’s job is to decide what to feed their children, when to feed them, and where to feed them. A child’s job is to decide how much to eat and whether or not to eat what you have offered. I know what you’re thinking…That’s not what I was taught/ that’s not how I was raised! I have attached the link to this helpful resource below…check it out:

Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding:

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at

What parents need to know about selecting good quality parenting information

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

We live in the world of technology with information at our fingertips, literally! Click a web link or turn on the TV and you will see a report on the latest popular advice about raising children. Unfortunately, much of the information is conflicting, confusing, or misinformed.

With countless websites and books on parenting and child development, it’s no wonder parents have a difficult time figuring out what to believe. Dr. Karen DeBord with Virginia Cooperative Extension, and her colleagues Dr. Steve Duncan of Montana State University and Dr. Harriet Heath of Bryn Mawr College, offer these guidelines:

  • Look at the credentials of the writer or teacher: Is he or she presenting research-based information? Is it a known or respected source?
  • Has the research been verified?
  • Does the information or advice fit with your own values and instincts? Does it make sense to you?
  • Does it work in practice?
  • Does the source offer additional support, resources, or contact information?

“It is important for parents to trust their feelings,” DeBord says. “There’s an abundance of information, but we have found that child-rearing is done best when it uses what we know about how children develop.” DeBord advises parents to call their county Cooperative Extension office when they have questions about raising children.

Tim Jahn, formerly of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Family Health and Wellness Program in Suffolk County, offers The Seven Rs of Internet Information:

  1. Is it research-based? Is there scientific evidence or valid research data to support the information?
  2. Is it reputable? Does the website have a national reputation for providing accurate, up-to-date information?
  3. Is it reliable? Usually, websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov can be trusted to provide reliable information.
  4. Is it reasonable? Is the information fair, objective, thoughtful, and thorough?
  5. Is it relevant? Is the information current? Is the website kept up-to-date? Does the information relate to your present situation?
  6. Does it resonate? Does the information match your needs, expectations, values, and beliefs?
  7. Is it red-flag free? Does the website take an extreme position on issues? Are there political, religious, ideological, or commercial motives behind the website?

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County offers research-based parent education classes throughout Suffolk County. Visit our website at for information on upcoming programs as well as parent education resources. Below are links to some reputable websites that might be of interest.

Zero to Three –

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning –

National Association for the Education of Young Children for Families –

Better Brains for Babies –

Healthy Academy of Pediatrics –

Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation –

Parent Further/Search Institute –

ACT for Youth –

The Parenting Project: Healthy Children, Families and Communities-

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


Splish Splash – Learning in the Bath

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich, MA

Yes, soap is important. But bath-time for your preschooler is so rich with opportunities to play, and to experiment with math and science concepts as he or she explores the properties of water. It provides some relaxed time with a parent or caregiver, just laughing and talking. By the time you’ve pulled the plug, you may have forgotten that getting clean was the original purpose behind so much education and entertainment.

Water is fascinating to young children, and it feels so good. The way water flows through their fingers, swirls around their bodies, and freely moves as they scoot around the tub is both interesting and calming to preschoolers. Water always responds to touch, no matter if your child uses a gentle dipping finger or a big slapping push – it does “something”. It’s the ultimate open-ended play material: available, inexpensive, and easy to manipulate in many different and engaging ways. Wise preschool teachers have always valued the learning that takes place at the water table in their classrooms. Your bathtub at home provides your child with a comforting environment that fosters curiosity, imagination and experimentation.

Ideas for making the most of bath time: 

  • Provide safe and interesting “tools” for experimenting with water. You don’t have to buy expensive bath toys. Measuring cups, soup ladles, funnels, bulb basters, sponges, spray bottles, and almost any empty unbreakable container invite your child to use the tub water in interesting ways. Choose items that won’t rust and that are safe and clean. Change the items frequently to keep things interesting.
  • What sinks? What floats? These are intriguing questions for young scientists. Provide a variety of objects that demonstrate these properties: fishing bobbers, ping pong balls, plastic eggs, and corks are good floaters, and small, dense plastic toy figures and metal kitchen utensils like spoons sink quickly. Talk about how the air trapped inside an object keeps it afloat.
  • Pouring, filling and emptying water containers, and squeezing, stirring, scrubbing and squirting with the water tools are excellent ways to practice hand/eye coordination. These activities also develop small muscles in the hands (important for later writing) and help preschoolers to learn about many mathematical concepts: more/less, empty/full, shallow/deep, same/different.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions: How many objects can I put in this container before it sinks? Which boat will win the race? Can I move this object across the water by squirting it with water from this spray bottle? Why does my hand float when resting lightly on the water surface? This curiosity is the foundation of all learning.
  • Artistic expression is easy at bath-time. Just look at those creative hairstyles sculpted with shampoo foam – they defy gravity! Finger painting with foam on the tile wall is easy too. Pick up a roll of inexpensive tin foil at a dollar store and encourage your little designer to form boats and islands that will float, often providing a stage for dramatic play with lightweight plastic people or animals.
  • Don’t rush. Choose a time when your child can stay in the bath for as long as he or she remains interested in the experience. You’ll both be frustrated if you try to soap up and immediately pull the plug on the chance to play.

Water play is one of the most relaxing activities children can experience. Through pouring, pounding and swooshing the water, children release their emotions and tension eases away. There is no better way for a preschooler to wind down at the end of a busy day and make the transition to bedtime. Once in a while, provide a treat by warming pajamas and bath towels in the dryer to make getting out of the bath a cozy experience. In a few short years your children will be bathing or showering on their own, so don’t miss out on these enriching and soothing learning adventures—make the most of bath time while you can!

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

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

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