Tackling Obesity in Eczema Children with Nutritionist Rania Batayneh (Part 3)

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.

MarcieMom: We have covered with Rania the basics of weight management (in part 1) and alternative food sources for some common allergens last week. Rania, you have blogged about the likelihood of someone being obese if there is a friend or family who is, i.e. ‘contagious’. Do you have any example to share where you’ve helped the whole family (parents and child) to overcome obesity? What is usually the key motivation for these families who have successfully lost weight?

Rania: Yes, eating is a contagious behaviour not only between groups of friends but also within our own families. Clients come in and they see the effect they have on their families. They may be bringing donuts home or they like to snack on the couch. Of course, we like to share but sometimes this is not always caring!  Oftentimes, I will have a client come in who wants to lose weight and sometimes couples decide to get healthy together. They also realize that their diets/lifestyles affects their children’s food choices and preferences (frozen and fast food preferred to fresh/home cooked meals). When working with families it is important to get the children involved. Take them to the grocery store, get them involved in menu planning, and find ways to get them excited about being in the kitchen. You also want to keep in place some of their favourite meals but find a way to make them healthier and fun.

MarcieMom: From what I’ve read in magazines, advice on snacking or no snacking and eating before 7pm or not seem to be changing all the time. For children, what do you think is the right approach? Is there a difference if the child is obese?

Rania: The belief about the healthfulness of snacking is constantly changing–studies have found that people lose weight when they snack, and others have found that people gain weight when they snack. It seems as though there’s no hard and fast rule; instead, it’s an individual thing. Some kids may perform and feel better with snacks; others might do better with three square meals. It’s helpful to teach your child about mindful eating and to listen to his body–as opposed to external cues, like the amount his friend’s are eating–to determine when he’s had enough food. If he eats when he is hungry and stops when he’s full, your child should naturally fall into an eating pattern that’s ideal for him.

MarcieMom: You have shared some recipes on your blog such as Yummy Zucchini Chip Muffins, Spooky Pumpkin Chip Muffins, which dessert recipes would you recommend for eczema kids?

Rania: Because dessert’s main ingredients–sugar, saturated fats, and refined grains–are inflammatory, it’s best to limit desserts. Desserts that include anti-inflammatory foods, like the zucchini chip muffins, can help counteract the effects of those ingredients and add valuable nutrients at the same time. Look for desserts that include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and spices (like cinnamon), which can display less healthy ingredients and add flavor. If desserts with healthier ingredients are unavailable, it’s okay to indulge in less healthy desserts once in a while.

MarcieMom: A last question on the other part of the equation to lose weight – through exercise. What is your recommended type of exercise for children, and number of hours, taking into account that some children with severe eczema may not be able to go swimming or tolerate excessive sweating?

Rania: The CDC recommends that children get 60 or more minutes of aerobic exercise per day. Exercise doesn’t have to be planned; just running around on a playground during recess contributes to a child’s daily 60 minutes. Exercise can exacerbate symptoms of eczema, but even moderate exercise, like brisk walking, is beneficial to a child’s health. Team sports are another good option: in one study, it was found to decrease depression and emotional upset in patients with eczema.

Thanks Rania, we have learnt much from your sharing in this series! And for those who love desserts, it certainly pays to include healthy ingredients, something I’ve got to work on. Right now, I’m working on getting my sweet potato chips right!

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