Life & Style | Health

‘Putting your obese child on diet is abuse’

Nutritionist says parents should not restrict macro-nutrients

  • By Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 07:00 May 23, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:
  • Juliot Vinolia Clinical Dietician and consultant nutritionist courtesy Juliot Vinolia
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A nutritionist believes that putting a child on a diet or forcing him or her on to a tread-mill in a gym to lose weight is as bad as child abuse.

It is unfair and unhealthy to drastically limit your child’s intake to lose weight. It would not only delay or impair the child’s growth and development, but it could lead to lowered self-esteem and depression and put a lot of mental stress on obese children, she warns.

“Child obesity should be handled only under the guidance of a medical professional,” says Juliot Vinolia, dietician at iCare Clinics, Oasis Centre.

Obesity among children is very common and a big challenge today, but the approach to weight loss among children should be different to that of an adult, she says. “For children, it’s about making behavioural changes, not so much about putting restrictions on the diet. Parents who are overweight themselves fear that their children may also be at risk and put them on a low-carb diet or whatever diet they are on, and restrict some foods, which is wrong,” says Vinolia.

“The whole focus should be whether a child is malnourished, and being malnourished does not mean deficiency, it could mean over-nourished or under-nourished, and only then the nutritional status should be corrected,” she says.

To check if the child is overweight you have to first identify if the height and weight are correct for the child’s age and then watch out if there is a deficiency in micro-nutrients-- the vitamins and minerals.

When a child is mistakenly put on food restrictions such as less of macro-nutrients--carbohydrates, proteins and fats--then there are dangers of the child losing out on major nutrients. “That is the approach to tackle adult obesity (restricting macro-nutrients) and is wrong (way to handle child obesity),” says Vinolia.

Children have a higher metabolism than adults. When their food intake is restricted, the deficiency of vitamins and minerals interfere with their metabolism leading to an early onset of diabetes, insulin resistance and other cardio vascular diseases. Childhood obesity is the major risk factor for early adulthood morbidity and mortality, says the dietician.

She believes that only when a person turns 18 can he or she go on a diet. “It is an adult who can understand the behavioural changes and can monitor one’s own diet,” she says.

Putting a child or a teenager, specially girls, on a diet could lead to eating disorders. “That is another big challenge today.”

With Internet access so easy, teens are surfing and finding out about diets such as Yo-Yo Diets and putting themselves at risk. “These lead to eating disorders such as Anorexia (Nervosa), which is starving yourself, or Bullimia (Nervosa), where the girl tends to overeat and vomit it out or take laxatives.”

The reasons why girls go to such extreme measures is due to teen depression and the need to look slim and svelte. Boys also tend to have eating disorders but not as much as girls, according to Vinolia.

Girls tend to develop more fat tissue after menarche (the first menstrual cycle), and due to the hormonal changes in the body the protein requirements will decrease. The growth rate of the girls after 12 years will also be faster than boys. “Over-nourishing girls at an younger age and not feeding them enough vegetables, will make them overweight,” says the dietician.

“How many fat cells you have in your infancy decides whether you will become overweight in the future,” she says.

Vinolia advises that parents should monitor their children’s growth using a Growth Chart. If the child is found to be weighing far more than 75 per cent of the children in his age group, it is necessary to correct the child’s weight for height through behavioural changes, moderate physical activity and counseling by a medical professional.

“It is to be noted that the child should never be told that he or she is fat and needs to lose weight. It is more about encouraging the child to go for healthy food choices and outdoor games,” she says.

The dietician also recommends that an overweight and obese child should do at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity like playing basketball, swimming and other outdoor games.

Fact Box

Recommended Daily Calorie Intake (Boys):

 

1) Age & Weight : 1 to 2 years (11.5 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity : 950 kcal/d (kilo calories or calories per day)

2) Age & Weight : 2 to 3 years ( !3.5 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity : 1125 kcal/d

3) Age & Weight : 3 to 4 years (15.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1250 kcal/d

 

4) Age & Weight : 4 to 5 years (17.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1350 kcal/d

 

5) Age & Weight : 5 to 6 years ( 19.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1475 kcal/d

 

6) Age & Weight : 6 to 7 years (21.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1575 kcal/d

7) Age & Weight : 7 to 8 years (24 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1700 kcal/d

8) Age & Weight : 8 to 9 years ( 26.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1825 kcal/d

9) Age & Weight : 9 to 10 years (29.7 kg

Moderate Physical Activity: 1975 kcal/d

10) Age & Weight : 10 to 11 years (33.3 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2150 kcal/d

 

11) Age & Weight : 11 to 12 years (37.5 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2350 kcal/d

12) Age & Weight :12 to 13 years (42.3 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2550 kcal/d

13) Age & Weight : 13 to 14 years (47.8 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2775 kcal/d

14) Age & Weight : 14 to 15 years (53.8kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 3000 kcal/d

15) Age & Weight : 15 to 16 years (59.5 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 3175 kcal/d

16) Age & Weight : 16 to 17 years (64.4 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 3325 kcal/d

17) Age & Weight : 17 to 18 years (67.8kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 3400 kcal/d

 

 

Recommended Daily Calorie Intake (Girls):

1) Age & Weight : 1 to 2 years (10.8kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 850 kcal/d

 

2) Age & Weight : 2 to 3 years (13 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1050 kcal/d

3) Age & Weight : 3 to 4 years (15.1 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1150 kcal/d

4) Age & Weight : 4 to 5 years (16.8 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1250 kcal/d

5) Age & Weight : 5 to 6 years (18.6 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1325 kcal/d

6) Age & Weight : 6 to 7 years (20.6 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1425 kcal/d

7) Age & Weight : 7 to 8 years (23.3 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity:1550 kcal/d

8) Age & Weight : 8 to 9 years (26.6kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1700 kcal/d

9) Age & Weight : 9 to 10 years (30.5kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 1850 kcal/d

10) Age & Weight : 10 to 11 years (34.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2000 kcal/d

11) Age & Weight : 11 to 12 years (39.2 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2150 kcal/d

12) Age & Weight : 12 to 13 years (43.8kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2275 kcal/d

13) Age & Weight : 13 to 14years (48.3 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2375 kcal/d

14) Age & Weight : 14 to 15 years (52.1 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2450 kcal/d

15) Age & Weight : 15 to 16 years ( 55kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2500 kcal/d

16) Age & Weight : 16 to 17 years (56.4 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2500 kcal/d

17) Age & Weight : 17 to 18 years (56.7 kg)

Moderate Physical Activity: 2500 kcal/d

 

School timings to blame for child obesity:

• 6 am to 7 am. It is too early to eat anything as the child is still sleepy and has not appetite.

• Break time at 10 am for 15 minutes is too short.

• Break time should be between 8 am to 8.30 am and breakfast should be manadatory.

• 3 pm lunch time is at an odd hour.

• Children should be monitored at lunch so that they have a proper meal.

• Don’t send pasta for a child’s meal. It will become cold and unappetising and most schools do not have microwave ovens.

• A child should have 3 large meals and 3 snacks, which includes an early morning snack

• Breakfast should be milk, eggs or fruit

• Lunch should be protein, carbs, vegetables and dairy

• Before bed time snack should be glass of milk and fruit. Milk is essential as bone mineral mass is being generated during sleep.

 

 

No Diets for kids:

 

 

• Vegan diet imposed on children can result in protein and iron deficiency.

• A vegan diet can be tailored to be balanced and made to meet requirements but may not be nutritionally adequate.

• Some parents are misguided on imposing diets like Atkins diet, Ketogenic diet, Fat Free diet, Low Carb diet, Blood Group diet, Paleo diet, Meal Replacement diet on their children to lose weight.

• Some parents also justify on restriction diet and believe in giving their children supplements to meet nutritional needs, which is wrong.

 

What to do and not do at home:

 

 

*Avoid stocking soft drinks and foods that could lead to weight gain and are of low nutritional value for the child.

 

*Make whole fruits, fruit juices and vegetables easily available for children to inculcate healthy snacking.

 

*It is not a big challenge to make children enjoy fruits and vegetables. It’s all about the texture and appearance and how they are served.

 

*The parents should also take responsibility in being role models to their children, following a healthy lifestyle and eating right.

 

*Children generally don’t need any supplements. Even picky eaters may be still getting their nutrients from an averagely balanced diet.

 

*Dietary supplements can never be an alternative or substitute for natural foods. Keep to a balanced diet incorporating variety from all the food groups.

*It is always safe to start supplements only under a physician’s guidance who might decide the need for it. Children who are given meal replacement drinks often than natural foods are more prone to develop GI (gastro-intestinal) tract intolerances, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), poor colonic health and bowel habits.

Comments (2)

  1. Added 13:38 May 23, 2013

    56 kg for and 18 year old girl? I was 172 cm at 18, that would have made me under weight.

    Nadine, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 12:29 May 23, 2013

    A rather poorly under-build statement, the degree of obesity is measured not through age but through the BMI-index(Body Mass Index) based on age, weight and height of the child, only stating age and weight gives a scientifically incorrect result. Parents can find the BMI tool on the internet and get a first glimpse of the actual heath of their child, to be confirmed and eventually treated by their GP. Children are indeed very sensitive to role -models, meaning parents (and dieticians!) should have a healthy weight to pass on a credible message to the children.

    Ice Princess, Dubai, Norway

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