Childhood headaches or frequent constipation? They can sometimes be symptoms of poor nutrition choices. Here’s five tips to get your child’s diet on track.

Adults in children’s lives play a large role in a child’s nutrition and developing eating habits. “Kids are going to model what their parents do. If their parents are eating a lot of fast food and drinking a lot of soda, their kids are going to develop those habits,” said Michael Lasser, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital. “It is really important families sit down and eat together. Not only to see how the child’s day was, but if parents are eating healthy food, that is what the kids are going to eat.” Check out the below slideshow for more tips to help your children make wise food and drink choices.


  • The Water Connection: Children need to drink more water. "Kids do not drink enough water throughout the day and will come home from school with headaches because they didn't have breakfast or drink enough water and are dehydrated," said Dr. Lasser. [© Yarkovoy |]
  • Don't Forget the Big 'D': "Another issue I see is low Vitamin D levels in kids," said Dr. Lasser. And it's not only from lack of milk. "Another way to get Vitamin D is being outside, and kids are not spending enough time outside," he said. [© Gbh007 |]
  • Meal Skipping: Dr. Lasser also explains that it's okay if kids, particularly younger ones, skip a meal now and then simply because they aren't hungry. Some parents are worried and give non-nutritious foods to their children just to get them to eat. [© Marcel De Grijs |]
  • dietary counseling
  • After School Snacks: Nutritious snacks are essential for children ages six to 12 and make a great after school treat. Children in this age group have a steady but slow rate of growth and typically eat four to five times a day (snacks included). Fortunately, they're often willing to eat a wider range of food than younger ones. Use this to their advantage! Plenty of healthy snacks can help prevent frequent constipation in children, another common issue Dr. Lasser sees at his office. [© Robyn Mackenzie |]
  • The percent of children ages six to 11 in the U.S. who were obese increased from seven percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. The percent of those 12 to 19 who were obese increased from five to 18 percent over the same period. Poor dietary choices are often to blame. "Kids are drinking too many sweet things such as sodas and juices with empty calories and eating too much fast food," Dr.Lasser said. Keep that in mind next time you serve up a snack and your children will benefit from your wise choices. [© Skypixel |]

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Women often think that when they become pregnant, they must eat for two, and end up consuming too many calories. Typically, a pregnancy weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is recommended for a normal weight woman, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women are encouraged to enter pregnancy at a healthy weight. Also, if you are significantly overweight, you should gain less during your pregnancy. Following are six keys toward making your pregnancy more healthful and nutritious.


  • nutrition and early pregnancy
    According to Teresa Love, a registered dietitian on staff at Howard County General Hospital, “To maintain a healthy pregnancy, expecting mothers should only be adding 150 calories a day and 2-3 oz. of additional protein (meat, cheese or eggs) in the first trimester. [© Michaeljung |]
  • calorie intake in pregnancy
    Second/Third Trimester Weight Gain: In the second and third trimesters, an additional 300 to 400 calories should be added to your daily intake. [© Almoond |]
  • Cook meat thoroughly
    Pregnancy Dos: wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly; fully cook meats and poultry; cook eggs until egg yolks and whites are firm; avoid unpasteurized foods. [© Razmarinka |]
  • Avoid fried foods in pregnancy
    Pregnancy Don’ts: eat seafood high in mercury (swordfish, tilefish, shark, king mackerel); eat raw, undercooked seafood; consume alcohol, caffeine or smoke; eat fried foods, especially early in pregnancy. “A recent study showed an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes when expectant mothers consume a high fat diet,” said Love. [© Lrj19920725 |]
  • Folic Acid and Pregnancy
    Folic Acid: birth defects of the brain and spinal cord can be reduced by taking folic acid. Because folic acid is most beneficial during the first month after conception, and many women do not know they are pregnant during this time, women are encouraged to take folic acid before conception as well as during pregnancy. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. [© Zwolafasola |]
  • pregnancy and small plate food
    Nausea is common in pregnancy. Often called morning sickness, this nausea can be caused by a variety of factors, including your diet. Love recommends eating small meals several times a day to help lessen symptoms. [© Szefei |]

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1970s family portrait

1970s family portrait

Commit to give up smoking for at least one day: the Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

This year, for the Great American Smokeout, I share a childhood story that may hit home for smokers who are also parents.

I grew up in Howard County in the early 70s and 80s, with two wonderful parents who did everything for me. I don’t know where I would be without them. More people smoked back then, and both of my parents did, too.

The county public schools in the 70s were showing scary pictures of black lungs to young school children in an effort to convince us that smoking was not a good habit to start. It did make me think twice about smoking, but it also made me worry about my parents’ health. So I came home from school and proposed a deal with them that I would quit sucking my thumb (yes, I still did that through the second or third grade and they’d been trying to get me to quit) if they would quit smoking. Around that same time, my Uncle Joe died of cancer. He was a smoker, too. After his funeral, they both decided it was time to quit smoking.

No surprise, I ended up working in health care as an adult, writing about healthy behaviors, prevention and risk factors. It’s fascinating to me how many illnesses can be prevented with the advice your parents always gave you: eat right, exercise, get good rest—and of course don’t smoke. We all know what we should and shouldn’t do, but actually doing it is sometimes difficult.

Tragically, my father died at age 63, the year after he retired. I still miss him every day. He had a heart defect and I truly believe that he lived as long as he did because he quit smoking in his early 40s, as smoking would have put more stress on his heart. My mother is in her early eighties now, and in overall good health despite a strong family history of heart disease and stroke (plus help from some great doctors and the caring team at our hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program!).

I can’t take credit for having great parents or for making them quit smoking—they did it all on their own. But sometimes we forget that daily behaviors can make a big difference in ensuring a long and healthy life. I think most people would agree that they’d like to be there for their children as they become adults. I may be a grown up, but I still need my mom, and it goes without saying that I’m glad she’s still here.

Incidentally, before my mother retired, she helped run the smoking cessation program at her workplace. Today, there are many good programs and methods out there for quitting if you really want to do it. Maybe your kids can be your motivation, or maybe it will come from somewhere else.

On Thursday, Nov. 20, at least consider quitting for one day and try to keep it going. Visit the Howard County General Hospital lobby during the Great American Smokeout for information and literature to help you quit.

The hospital also offers a Smoke Free Lungs class, and you can find information on free smoke free programs for Howard County residents here.

Susan Case is the director of Marketing and Communications at Howard County General Hospital.


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calendar_2014smSaturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class at the Central Branch for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Well & Wise event. Families; 30 – 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Time for a Spa-liday. Need to relax before the holidays? Paint your nails, learn relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music, and make spa treats such as coconut oil hand scrub, bath fizzies, and glycerin soap scrubbies at the Savage Branch. Recipes and ingredients provided. Ages 8-13. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Monday, November 10, 10:00-12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Savage Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, November 4, 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. Turkey Twist and Shout. Sing and shake your turkey tail to tasty tunes at the Elkridge Branch! Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. No registration required.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m. A World of Kindness. CCome to the East Columbia Branch and celebrate random acts of kindness. Share books, songs, and make a craft. Choose Civility event. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Great American Smokeout in the Howard County General Hospital lobby: includes information and literature to help you stop smoking. Free event.

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calendar_2014smMonday, November 3, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch and 11/5 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.

Monday, November 3, 2:00-6:00 p.m. HiTech Symposium. Join us at the Savage Branch for a dynamic event for students, parents, and educators, featuring STEM industry leaders and showcasing classes and various projects built by HCLS’ HiTech students (including a hovercraft, catapult, weather balloon, and music in our new sound booth). Learn how middle and high school students can participate in this STEM education initiative that teaches cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math via project-based classes. HiTech is funded in part through a federal grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.Sponsors include Friends of Howard County Library, Frank and Yolanda Bruno, and M&T Bank. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Monday, November 3, 3:30-5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Glenwood Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Shell Shock: A Study in Medical History from Florence Nightingale to World War I.
Philip Mackowiak, M.D., comes to the Central Branch to discuss the impact of war trauma on Florence Nightingale and the combatants in World War I as he explores shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a professor of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Guided Meditation. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection at the Miller Branch. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

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halloween_pumpkin_apple_webThe truth of the matter is, “healthy Halloween treat” is an oxymoron. The words just don’t go together.

When kids go out trick-or-treating in their witch and goblin costumes, they are not hoping to come home with a bag full of apples or mini-tubes of toothpaste. (Remember the neighborhood dentist who gave away little toothbrushes emblazoned with his name?) The apples get tossed in the refrigerator for someone else to eat. The pennies and nickels will be used to buy more candy.

What kids want (and don’t we all?) are chocolate bars—full size and lots of them. The goal is to hit as many houses as possible, bring home bags of goodies and then gorge on candy until passing out from a sugar high. Of course, none of this is healthy, but it’s a lot of fun. And no matter what, kids are going to have chocolate on Halloween.

However, knowing what we do today about sugar and childhood obesity and diabetes, is there a way we can take some of the sugar out of Halloween without taking out all of the fun?

Some healthy Halloween treat giveaways might be mini boxes of healthier drinks—100 percent juice, low-sugar drinks or flavored low-fat milk. Little bags of peanuts or low-salt veggie chips are another idea. Pre-packaged popcorn balls with Halloween wraps provide a lot of fiber with much less sugar than a candy bar. Kids also like mini boxes of raisins or cheese crackers. Trail mix fortified with chocolate chips or M&Ms is both healthy and a little sweet.

Another idea is to start with a party at home and fill them up on some healthy food before they go foraging for candy. There are lots of spooky and fun, but healthy, treat ideas for parties or even to be offered to eat at the door.

Carrot fingers
Cut the flat edge off (on an angle) the top of baby carrots to make nail base. Use cream cheese for glue and stick on an almond slice for nails. Serve with hummus or your favorite dip.

Pretzel broom sticks
Glue (cream cheese again) thin strips of cheese onto the end of pretzel sticks and wrap the top of the slices with the green ends of cooked scallions.

Apple teeth
Take apple slices and cut a notch out of the back side to make the mouth and then stick in almond slivers for teeth. (Dip the apples in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.)

Cheesy creatures
Use cookie cutters in the shape of cats, witches, ghosts, etc. to cut out spooky shapes from slices of square cheese (sliced thick).

Decorated apples
Put popsicle or craft sticks in the stem end of small apples. Dip halfway in melted white chocolate bits (you can make it orange with a little red and yellow food coloring) then decorate with chocolate chips or Halloween sprinkles.

Pizza mummies
Roll out pizza dough and cut mini pizzas with cookie cutter. Add favorite toppings (tomato sauce, sausage, green peppers) and then use thin strips of mozzarella cheese to make mummy wrap with black olive slices for eyes.

Search the internet for healthy Halloween treats and you’ll find an abundance of photos and recipes to make Halloween a little bit healthier and a lot of fun.

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