How to adopt one of the healthiest diets to be enjoyed by kids?
The Mediterranean diet is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafoods, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil and plant oils. This diet is based off of the eating patterns in Mediterranean countries, like Italy, Israel, Greece, Egypt, and Morocco to just name a few! This diet is full of vitamins and minerals and definitely easy to follow. This eating pattern does not require any special ingredients! Any grocery store will have these foods necessary to follow this eating style without breaking the bank as well.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet healthy?
Healthy fats are the star of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil, avocados, fish, and nuts/seeds provide healthy fats that contain monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids to help promote heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and promoting healthy brain development.
Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains also promotes intake of vitamins and minerals. By following this eating pattern, meeting needs for vitamin and mineral intake is easy. This eating plan is full of vitamin C, E, A, potassium, vitamin D, and many more.
Another reason why this diet is so healthy is because it minimizes the intake of processed foods and also limits the amount of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. The Mediterranean diet is naturally low in saturated fat due to low intake of red meat and focusing on consuming plant oils. This eating style is also focused on consuming fresh and natural foods, not processed. This can help reduce the amount of added sugar and artificial ingredients consumed!
Can kids follow the Mediterranean diet?
Yes! This eating pattern is healthy for all ages. The healthy fats and abundance of vitamins and minerals present in this eating style promote healthy brain development, heart health, bone development, and can reduce risk of chronic disease. Following this eating style can also help instill healthy eating patterns in children from a young age.
This eating pattern is also great for kids due to limiting processed snacks and emphasis on whole-foods. Kids will intake less saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, which are nutrients that should be limited for all ages. The Mediterranean diet is extremely beneficial for overall health and well-being of both adults and children - it is one of the healthiest eating patterns in the entire world!
How can I get my kids to follow the Mediterranean diet?
Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables can be difficult if you have a picky eater. Slowly introduce new fruits and vegetables to your child, and present them with fruits and vegetables that you know that they already enjoy. Giving children exposure to new foods with ones they already enjoy can increase the likelihood of them trying new foods! Also serve as a role-model and show your children that you enjoy these same fruits and vegetables as well. Make a list of the fruits, vegetables, legumes, and proteins that your child enjoys! Experiment in the kitchen to find new and fun recipes.
Interested in following a Mediterranean diet? Here are some tips and tricks!
1. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Start by adding a fruit and vegetable to every meal. This can be easy! Add spinach and tomatoes to scrambled eggs, fruit and spinach to smoothies, or even sneaking some zucchini into oatmeal or desserts! Introduce a variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet and find ones that your family enjoys!
2. Switch to whole grains. Whenever possible, make the switch to whole grain brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and cereal. Whole grain foods are high in fiber to keep your digestive system healthy and are extremely high in B-vitamins, which are necessary for metabolism and energy production. Whole grains are also less processed!
3. Use healthy fats. Instead of using butter, swap for olive oil! Olive oil is lower in saturated fats and is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat! Olive oil can be used to sauté, roast, bake, and use as a salad dressing! Another source of healthy fats are avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish as well.
4. Eat more seafood. Try to incorporate seafood at least once a week. Consume salmon, shrimp, or tilapia! Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and tastes fantastic. Cook seafood by grilling, baking, or steaming, and avoid deep frying!
5. Reduce red meat. Consume lean meats like chicken, turkey, beans/legumes, soy, or fish instead of steaks and ground beef.
6. Consume low-fat dairy. Consume Greek yogurt and low-fat milk to get essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D!
7. Avoid adding salt. Avoid overconsumption of salt by using fresh herbs, spices, or a salt-free seasoning. Flavor can be added to any dish without using salt, and can still be completely delicious!
About the author: Courtney Depa is a dietetic intern at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is earning her Bachelor's degree in nutrition. Courtney is passionate about clinical nutrition and the promotion and prevention of chronic disease, and enjoys discussing easy and fun ways to incorporate healthy eating.