Drs. Oz and Roizen: Good things happen when families eat together

04/08/2013 2:50 PM

08/08/2014 10:16 AM

Are you a “chow and chat" or a “grab and gulp" family? It makes a difference: Your household eating style influences the physical and emotional health of each family member. While 60 percent to 70 percent of folks, including teens, say they sit down together most nights, the majority of people admit they eat with the TV on (always or sometimes), and 5 percent confess to texting or e-mailing at the table. And many family meals last 20 minutes or less — not enough time to digest all the good things that can come from eating together:

1. Teens who regularly eat dinner at home with their parents are less likely to be depressed or to smoke tobacco and marijuana, and studies show they’re generally more helpful.

2. Kids don’t pack on extra pounds if they have regular family dinners — probably because there are healthier nutritional choices available (even if they don’t love veggies yet), and they’re less stressed.

3. During shared dinners, parents can teach everything from manners to cultural traditions (including food choices). That’s important for improved nutrition and family unity.

4. If you eat together, maybe you can also get in the habit of cooking together. It’s a great way to expand kids’ food tastes (they like to eat what they cook).

So tonight, evaluate your family meal: If it’s “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," “Babette’s Feast" or “My Dinner with Andre" (we don’t think you have to talk that much!), it could be time to rescript.

Exercise can benefit stroke survivors

When the legendary golfer and golf course designer Robert Trent Jones woke up in the hospital after suffering a stroke, he asked what was happening. "You had a stroke," one of his sons said. To which Jones replied, "Do I have to count it?’’

Walking the 7,000-plus yards of a golf course was an almost-daily part of his life (he lived to be 93), and he was living proof of what recent studies confirm: Walking is a great (although not certain) way to postpone heart and artery troubles. And once you have a heart attack or stroke, walking can be a safe and effective way to regain your strength and protect yourself from future cardio problems.

Stroke survivors who put in 30 minutes of walking (with or without a cane) three times a week boost their quality of life. Their endurance is 20 percent greater than folks who don’t walk regularly. Walking is inexpensive, improves respiration and circulation, controls blood pressure and helps keep weight and lousy LDL cholesterol in check; all important for restoring your health.

So, if you or a loved one has had a stroke, check out our progressive walking program (step by step at RealAge.com). It starts out slowly and aims for an increase in distance and endurance every six weeks. If you are up for it, during the first six weeks, try to build up to a total of 3,000 steps per day divided between two walking sessions — as long as your doctor says it’s OK to play through.

Don’t walk this way

In one episode of “The Honeymooners," Ralph (Jackie Gleason) is trying to figure out how to stop Norton (Art Carney) from nightly sleepwalking. It makes for great 1950s TV humor. But today, we understand more about the affliction — and guess what? It’s really not a laughing matter. Sleepwalking is often a signal of deeper troubles, like depression and anxiety. In some cases, a late-night snooze ’n’ stroll even ends violently. One study found that 58 percent of sleepwalkers lash out while in the trance, and 17 percent inflict enough harm that either their bed partner or the sleepwalker ends up in the emergency room.

Sleepwalking inflicts damage to the body during waking hours, too. That’s because it prevents you from going into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a state of heightened brain activity and muscle immobility that is essential for information processing, memory formation and tension regulation. REM deprivation triggers chronic fatigue, weight gain and a wide range of health issues, from headaches to heart disease.

If you live with someone who sleepwalks, note the timing of late-night strolls. When you see a pattern, set your alarm 15 minutes before your bedmate’s expected exit and jostle him or her into a semi-awake state. This will change the sleep cycle and hopefully prevent sleepwalking. Stress-reduction techniques — including exercise (10,000 steps a day is a good goal), meditation and psychotherapy — also may help. And many people get good results from going to a sleep clinic (this is particularly important if you live alone). Happy trails and sweet dreams.

When Mommy’s a junk food junkie

Almost 40 years ago, the song “Junk Food Junkie" told it like it is: “When that clock strikes midnight/And I’m all by myself/ … I pull out some Fritos corn chips, Dr Pepper and an ol’ Moon Pie/Then I sit back in glorious expectation/Of a genuine junk-food high." Decades later, North Americans still are addicted to high-fat, sugar-loaded treats— and we’re passing the craving from generation to generation. Pregnant moms who eat junk food give birth to kids with a built-in tolerance to these unhealthy, processed foods. That makes the little ones crave more and more fat and sugar to get the feel-good sensation these foods trigger. The result: kids who are overweight, pre-diabetic and depressed.

What do you do if you and your children are junk food junkies? Try our three steps to family freedom from junk food follies.

1. Face it. Admit you have a problem and decide together that you want to solve it. Without resolve and mutual support, you’ll all have a much harder time getting unhealthful food out of your diet.

2. Give up one indulgence a week: Do you regularly go for an un-happy meal? Cut it out: Eat home-cooked lean protein (salmon and trout), 100 percent whole grains and veggies in its place. Are you apt to buy yourself a candy bar on the weekends? Opt for a piece of fruit instead.

3. Increase your physical activity: Walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day will stimulate your feel-good brain chemicals and help make up for junk food’s addictive buzz that you’re giving up.

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