Tag Archives: family

3 Great Reasons to Eat As a Family (Healthy Recipes Too!)

Shared mealtime is not just a traditional family ritual, but is also beneficial for many mental and physical aspects of health. According to research from Rutgers University, an average American family spends about 40% of their budget on eating out. Here are three great reasons to make family mealtime a priority:

Decreased probability of weight problems later in life. Children in families who frequently share meals tend to have a lower body mass index than those who did not share meals—this is according to research from Rutgers that reviewed a multitude of studies measuring the frequency and atmosphere of shared meals compared to children’s risk of weight gain. Family meals are associated with increased consumption of fruit and vegetables while also associated with less consumption of fried foods, soft drinks, and other less healthy food options. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics states that a child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods, and 12% less likely to be overweight by sharing mealtimes.

Increased emotional well-being. The American Dietetic Association finds that family meals give structure to a child’s day and increase a child’s sense of security. In addition, they promote communication and family cohesion and make a positive impact on a child’s literary development and emotional well-being. A study by the University of Minnesota found that the frequency of family meals is actually a protective factor that may curtail high-risk behaviors among youth by easing everyday stress.

Greater academic achievement. Sharing family meals leads to improved vocabulary and reading skills in children, improved test scores, and decreased probability in taking drugs. The conversations had during family meal time improves a child’s vocabulary and conversational skills. As a result, test scores are improved in these children as well. According to a study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, teens who eat dinner with their family at most twice a week were four times more likely to smoke cigarettes than those who participated in family meals more frequently.

And eating together can and should be fun! Try these ideas as a family that your kids may love:


Two-Ingredient Pancakes with Creamy Berry Topping
Blend together 1 egg and 1 banana. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, or even ground flaxseed into the mix for extra flavor and nutrition. Cook in cooking spray on a pan until golden brown. For topping, mix 0% Greek yogurt with mashed blueberries and raspberries or powdered peanut butter.


Egg Muffins
In a muffin tin, crack an egg into each spot. Add mix-ins like diced tomatoes, onions, spinach, mushrooms, fresh herbs, goat cheese! These can be refrigerated for breakfast the next day.


Zucchini Noodles with Chicken or Tofu Kebabs
Use a spiralizer or veggie peeler to make “noodles” from a zucchini and boil for a few minutes. Top with tomato sauce and grilled kebabs made with tofu or chicken cubes, cubed bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon.


Yogurt Parfaits
Have your kids layer these up! They will have fun adding their choice of healthy mix-ins.

6 oz 0% Fage Greek yogurt or fat-free Siggi’s
1/2 cup blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, bananas, etc.
1 T ground flaxseed
1 T slivered almonds or pistachios
Cinnamon, to taste

Peanut Butter Banana Rolls
1 whole wheat or brown rice tortilla topped with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 1 sliced banana. Roll up and cut into sushi-roll pieces.

Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup skim, coconut or almond milk + 1/3 cup chia seeds, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 cup berries. Let sit overnight! Optional add ins: Cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, nuts, coconut. Get creative and have fun with this!

Research suggests that children who take part in family meals eat healthier foods, have less delinquency, greater academic achievement, and improved mental well-being. However, the benefits vary based on the frequency of family meal times. The most positive health benefits for children can be seen from three or more days of shared family meals per week.

This research also states that the quality of family interactions is even more important than just the shared time together. For example, families who ate together while watching TV did not have the same improved dietary intakes as families who ate together at home and conversed.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Maria A. Bella, MS, RD, CDN is a 70 lb. weight loss success story who runs, lifts, and eats great food. She is a clinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Maria completed her Masters in Clinical Nutrition at New York University and her Dietetic Residency at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Family Ties: Tips for a Stress-Reduced Holiday Season

smiling family with camera at homeWhile holidays are typically a time of joy and celebration, they can also be a source of stress and anxiety. Sometimes expectations about what should happen around the holidays collide with the reality of what actually happens, and this can lead to disappointment, anger, and sadness. Fortunately, there are ways to make the holidays more enjoyable!

Be proactive, not reactive. Enter the holidays with a good idea of what to expect and a plan for how to deal with events and issues as they arise. Begin by reflecting on what has happened in the past at family gatherings—this will make it possible to plan ahead. Often, small alterations in both expectations and behavior make a big difference. Talk over your plans with your spouse/partner and other family members, and take time to think through what you would like to happen during the holidays.

There are two general choices of action to consider from one year to the next:

Stick with existing traditions, but alter parts of them where necessary. If you decide to stick with existing traditions, focus on changing your expectations and behavior in relation to old patterns. For example, if a family member has arrived late to a holiday meal for the past three years, expect that he will do so again and carry on with your plans anyway. If he arrives on time, you will be pleasantly surprised. If he arrives late, you will be less upset since you expected as much.

Create new traditions and/or rituals. Creating new traditions can be an enlivening process that respects what’s come before but generates new forms of celebration reflecting present and changing circumstances. Families that feel exhausted and overextended can scale back the traditions they’ve been straining to uphold. For example, a family may feel relieved to deviate from the dinner menu they’ve prepared year after year just because it was a tradition.

The most important thing you can do to reduce stress during the holiday season is to clearly delineate what matters most about the season. Furthermore, everyone does not have to agree on everything, because there are usually sufficient areas of agreement about what’s important. If compromise in essential areas is not possible, the disagreement may be a clue to important issues that require continued attention beyond the holidays. For example, interfaith couples may find holidays particularly stressful for many reasons. These issues—though unearthed by holiday stress—deserve extra (and perhaps professional) attention going forward.

Here are some tips for reducing holiday stress:

  • Be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Maintain reasonable expectations.
  • Be clear about what is really important to you.
  • Be flexible and willing to change. In addition to making your life easier it is a great example to set for your children.
  • Retain your sense of humor!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Andrew Roffman, LCSW, has over two decades of experience in helping families, couples, and individuals with emotional and behavioral problems. He is a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and also the director of the Child Study Center’s Family Studies Program, a training program in family and couples therapy. Mr. Roffman teaches family therapy and family systems theory to psychology interns, psychiatry residents, and NYU undergraduates.

Mr. Roffman is a Member of the National Association of Social Workers. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles for professional journals as well as a book chapter in Therapeutic Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents. Mr. Roffman received “Teacher of the Year” award in 2008 and 2011 for his work with trainees at the Child Study Center and is a regular contributing editor to The Journal for Systemic Therapies.


An Educational (and Delicious) Family Outing: The Farmers Market!

October is a wonderful month to visit the farmers market. Just when you think things are slowing down and harvests are coming to an end, Mother Nature starts showing off. With an array of apples, winter squashes, and pumpkins, it’s an excellent weekend activity with the family. Here are a few ways to make the farmers market both fun and educational for the entire family.

Photo: Jane Feldman

Photo: Jane Feldman

Sample and taste. The farmers market is a great place for kids to familiarize themselves with different kinds of fruits and vegetables—and even sample them! Most farmers are willing to share a taste if you ask. Encourage kids to pick things up and see how they feel. The farmers market is much more relaxed than the grocery store and touching the produce is not frowned upon. Vegetables become more interesting when you can pick them up and hold them. Is it heavy? Is the surface rough or smooth? Can you eat the whole thing or do you have to peel it? The learning opportunities are endless!

Variety is the spice of life. Use the farmers market to your advantage by getting one of everything! Can’t decide what kind of apples to buy? Get four or five different kinds and then have a taste testing party later on. Explore the difference between sweet and tart. Which one is the juiciest? Make up a ballot and have your kids vote for their favorite in each category. This can be done with a variety of items such as pears, peaches, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. When kids get to choose which one they like best, the yellow peach or the white peach for instance, it’s easier to get them to try new foods.

Try something new. Pick a new fruit or vegetable to try. Ask the farmer what it tastes like. How does it grow? Does it come from a tree or a plant, or the ground? How is it prepared? What other fruits or veggies go well with it? The farmer may even have recipe recommendations. Make it a game, an adventure, or an exploration! Only get one or just enough so that the whole family can have a sample. Then, back in the kitchen, you can cut and prepare it together. Kids are much more willing to try new things if they have helped to pick it out and prepare it. Discovering new food is fun!

Play with your food.  The farmers market is the perfect place to teach kids how produce is sold and practice math skills too. Give each child an age appropriate amount, for example $2 for little ones for one or two pieces of fruit and perhaps $5 to $10 for older kids to get enough for the whole family. Let them read signs and figure out how much each item costs. Have them watch as the item is weighed and help them figure out if they can get more or need to put some back. These real life skills will take them far and help them understand the cost of food.

Everyone’s doing it.  On Friday, October 24, you can help set a world record at The Big Apple Crunch, a citywide event promoting healthier eating. The main event takes place at noon at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but you can participate at any of GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets or Youthmarkets, or even host your own event! Find out more at bigapplecrunch.org.

Bonus Tip! Go as early as possible. There will be less crowds and the farmers are fresh and ready to talk. Plus, even though there’s lots of food, going to the market at lunch time is not the best idea. The crowds are more dense and everyone is way too hungry before lunch to make it fun. By going early in the morning, everyone has just had breakfast, so you can nibble and enjoy samples, but not feel too rushed.

Get Outdoors this Fall! Fun Family Activities in and Around NYC

Fall is definitely my favorite season. Although I’m always a little sad to put my flip-flops away, there is something about the brisk air, beautiful leaves and trees, and new energy of the season that makes it seem ok that summer’s over. What I also love about fall is spending weekends with family—and the weather is perfect for running around outdoors and taking it all in before winter is here. If you’re looking for some great ways to spend your upcoming fall weekends, here are a few fun family activities from my own personal fall schedule.

Kids playing in an apple gardenApple picking. If you have lots of friends with kids like I do, I’m sure your Facebook newsfeed looks similar to mine—happy families posing together in apple orchards, as well as action shots of adorable toddlers dragging huge bags of apples behind them. I’m not usually the jump-on-the-bandwagon type, but my family is joining the craze next weekend, because apple picking is a pretty fun excuse to get out of the city. A few suggestions nearby: Harvest Moon, Masker Orchards, Wightman’s Farm, and Demarest Farms.

Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Zoo is one of my (and my toddler’s) favorite weekend activities. With tons of animals to visit (including a children’s petting zoo) and beautiful tree-lined paths to walk along for hours, it’s close to the city and can be reached by car, bus, or train. A great tip for city families: Check out the Family Premium Zoo pass—it’s a great deal if you plan on going a few times a year. It’s $189 for the year, which includes parking; admission for two adults, children up to age 18, and one guest; plus unlimited access to the area’s four zoos and one aquarium.

Woodbury Commons. Hands down the best outlets I’ve ever been to, Woodbury Commons has every store you can possibly imagine. You’ll find lots of great shopping for kids, as well as a great mix of high-end brands and every day staples for yourself. And since the season is changing (and little ones grow really quickly) there’s a good chance you’ll need to pick up some new things for the cooler weather. It’s also about an hour from the city, so it’s the perfect length of time for a good car nap there and another one on the way back.

Smorgasburg. If you live in Brooklyn, Smorgasburg may be as ordinary as going to your local grocery store, but I’ve never been—and I’m totally intrigued. Each weekend, “Brooklyn’s Flea Food Market” sets up shop on Saturday on the Williamsburg waterfront and on Sunday in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, with over 75 delicious vendors of the best food, drink, and more Brooklyn has to offer. I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the perfect place to eat, drink, and stroll around with my family on a beautiful fall afternoon. One thing to note: Sunday Smorgasburg will temporarily move to Pier 2 until October 5.

5summertimeplaygroundsnycParks and Playtime. There are great  playgrounds and parks in almost every NYC neighborhood, so you don’t necessarily have to leave the city to make the most of fall. One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is having so many outdoor places to play just a quick walk from my apartment. Head to Central Park for running, playing, and tossing around a ball; visit Washington Square Park for some time on the swings and a stroll; or try out Riverside Park for views of the Hudson while your kids climb on the playground jungle gyms. Don’t underestimate all of the fun fall activities right outside your door.

One quick tip: For just about all of the above activities, get an early start—as in, the minute these places open. You’ll avoid long lines, crowds of people, and impatient kiddies, and you’ll enjoy your time as a family much, much more. Take my word for it!