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  • Denise Scott

The Mediterranean Diet for Children

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

The Mediterranean Diet (MD) has consistently ranked as one of the healthiest, most sustainable diets, beneficial for heart health, and disease prevention. This diet is mostly plant-based but does include seafood, lean meats and some dairy.

Components of the Mediterranean Diet

There are nine components - the first four are from plants.

1. Vegetables (daily)

2. Legumes (three times a week)

3. Fruits and Nuts (fruit daily; nuts three times a week)

4. Cereals and Whole Grains (daily, at least half should be whole grains)

5. Seafood (twice a week)

6. Oils and Fats (an unsaturated to a saturated ratio of 1.6:1)

7. Dairy (daily and primarily in the form of yogurt and hard cheeses)

8. Meats – includes poultry and lean cuts of grass-fed beef and lamb (no more than one serving of red meat a week)

The 9th category is alcohol but not discussed since this post pertains to children!

The MD decreases meat and saturated fat and limits refined grains, refined oils, processed meats, red meat, saturated fats, added sugar, and highly processed foods. The diet components provide fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

The MD diet is beneficial to all ages. The earlier a child is introduced to this eating pattern, the more they benefit. Studies have shown that those who adhere to this diet are much less likely to develop obesity.

This diet also decreases the risk of many chronic diseases such as

  • cardiovascular disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • metabolic syndrome

  • certain cancers.

The high fiber content of this diet helps

  • reduce insulin resistance

  • provide stable blood sugar levels

  • inhibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine

  • positively affect the gut microbiota.

Foods Included in the Mediterranean Diet

There are certain restrictions for young children when following the Mediterranean diet as outlined below:

  • Children should not consume nuts until age 4, but nut butter is okay to introduce after 6 months.

  • For infants (under one year), food should be very soft or mashed and not of a chewy or hard/crunchy texture for infants or toddlers, so no raw vegetables.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no milk until one year.

  • No shellfish before a year.

This type of eating provides all the nutrients needed for the body and emphasizes mostly plant-derived foods at each meal – vegetables, fruits, and grains. There are numerous reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet and add more plants to our diet. This eating pattern is well-researched for disease prevention and health preservation.

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