Tackling Obesity in Eczema Children with Nutritionist Rania Batayneh

A 3-part Nutrition series discussing childhood obesity with celebrity nutritionist Rania Batayneh
A 3-part Nutrition series discussing childhood obesity with celebrity nutritionist Rania Batayneh

This is a timely series that focuses on obesity in children, not only because of the rising rates of childhood obesity and its adverse effects, but also due to studies associating obesity with asthma symptoms and eczema in children. In this series, I’m privileged to have nutritionist Rania Batayneh to help with key eating strategies (suitable for a child with eczema).

More on Rania Batayneh – Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH, also known as America’s Eating Strategist™, is regarded as an expert in the field of Nutrition and Wellness. She is the author of The One One One Diet (Rodale, 2013) and has been a practicing nutritionist since 2001. She is a certified Wellness Coach through the American College of Sports Medicine. Rania has been featured in many TV, radio, print and online media, including MSNBC, NBC Bay Area and has also been the Health and Wellness Contributor for a CBS affiliate in Portland, Oregon on KOIN Studio 6.

Marcie Mom: Thank you Rania, I’m so pleased to have you help in this series. I’m passionate about helping eczema families, and for those who have eczema children who are obese, they may have concerns over the type of foods to eat. Let’s tackle obesity, and along the way, offer some alternatives to children with eczema. Let’s get started!

Wait, what’s Obesity? Isn’t a little plump ok?

According to CDC’s data, the number of children from 6 to 11 year old in the US who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2010. In 2010, more than 30% of children and adolescents were either overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for the particular height while obese is defined as having excess body fat.

Parents in certain cultures may wrongly think that children ought to be chubby, but data collected showed obesity in children can carry on to adolescence and adulthoodChildren who are obese are also at risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, bone and skin problems.

MarcieMom: I’m looking at CDC’s page on BMI for children and parents should know that BMI for kids though calculated the same as for adults, don’t have a healthy weight range to follow. Instead the BMI should be compared versus growth chart that takes into account the child’s age and sex.

Rania, can you share with us how you would assess if a child is beyond his/her acceptable weight and for parents who wish to monitor this themselves, should they be looking at local growth chart (vs CDC) or is there a even simpler way for parents to monitor?

Rania: A child’s weight is largely dependent on his age and gender, and even taking into account those factor, it’s still variable. Because the calculation for BMI takes into account height, BMI-for-age percentiles are often regarded as the most precise way to measure obesity in children. Based off of this measurement, children who are below the 5th percentile are classified as underweight; between the 5th and 85th percentile is regarded as a healthy weight; between the 85th and 95th percentile is classified as overweight; and equal to or greater than the 95th percentile is classified as obese.

Eating Strategically

For children, including those with eczema, fruits and vegetables, omega 3 and probiotics are beneficial (see Dr Sears series here). In a study of more than 500,000 children over 50 countries, three or more weekly servings of fruit reduced the severity of asthma, hay fever and eczema symptoms in 11 percent among teens and 14 percent among children. Moreover, essential fatty acids in Omega 3 are also good for the heart, brain, hair and skin (read this post on Rania’s blog).

MarcieMom: To maintain a healthy weight, one part of the equation is not to consume more calories than we need or use (for living and exercise). On WebMD’s website, an active child of 2-3 year old can consume 1000 to 1400 calories, while a 4-8 year old girl consumes 1,400 to 1,800 calories (boys 1,600 to 2,000 calories).

Rania, few questions –

1. You are America’s Eating StrategistTM! Do share with us what eating strategically looks like for a child?

Rania: Eating strategically for a child is actually very similar to eating strategically as an adult. Regardless of a person’s age, he should aim to eat as nutrient-rich a diet as possible; this would include plenty of (and a variety of) fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy. Certain nutrients are especially important for children, like calcium (which supports bone health and nerve, muscle, and heart function), iron, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C. While treats are okay in moderation, aim to limit calories from saturated fats, trans fats and added sugars; these foods can often displace healthier nutrient-rich foods.

2. I’m looking at the calories guideline (above) by CDC. Would this differ for a girl in US who is Caucasian versus a girl in Singapore who is Chinese?

Rania: A child’s recommended calorie intake is consistent across all cultures and ethnicity.

3. For a child who is obese and need to cut down on calories, how many calories are safe to be reduced without compromising the health of a growing child?

Rania: The number of calories a child can safely reduce in his diet is dependent on the child’s age, current weight, activity level, and gender, so there’s no specific, all-encompassing number. For younger children, sometimes allowing the child to grow into his weight–as opposed to losing weight–may be preferred. Talk with your child’s health provider to determine a safe weight loss or weight maintenance goal.

Thanks Rania, we’ve covered some basics on obesity and overweight, and getting an idea of BMI and calories. Next week, we delve a little more into nutrition for obese eczema children, and food allergy. Thanks, everyone watch your weight especially during this festive season!

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