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  • Denise Scott

The Mediterranean Diet for Children

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 primarily plant-based but does include seafood, lean meats, and some dairy.

The Mediterranean Diet components depicted as a sailboat on the sea. The food categories are listed from top to bottom in increasing order of consumption, starting with meats and sweets (least amount) to whole grains, beans, and nuts (most servings).

Listed are the nine food categories and what you eat on the MD. I will later review the restrictions for children. The first four components are from plants.

1.        Vegetables (daily)

2.        Legumes and Beans (3 times a week)

3.        Fruit and Nuts (fruit daily, nuts 3 times a week; no whole nuts under four)

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 (primarily from yogurt and hard cheeses) (daily)

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 - not included since this post pertains to children)!

Use this list to stock your pantry and fridge with: 

whole grains (brown rice, barley, farro, quinoa, etc.) and whole wheat pasta

legumes and beans - canned or dry

nuts and seeds

fruit and veggies

healthy oils such as extra virgin olive and avocado.

The MD focuses on decreasing meat and saturated fat consumption by limiting refined grains and oils, processed meats, red meat, saturated fats, added sugar, and highly processed foods. This diet provides fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Picture of a stethoscope and healthy dietary components - oil, fruit, veggies, grains, legumes and nuts -

plant-derived foods on the Mediterranean Diet.

The MD diet is beneficial for all ages. The earlier a child is introduced to this eating pattern, the more benefit they gain. Studies show that those who adhere to this diet are much less likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes. This diet can also decrease the risk of many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain cancers.

The high fiber content of this diet can

  • reduce insulin resistance,

  • provide stable blood sugar levels,

  • inhibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine, and

  • positively affect the gut microbiome.

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

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

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

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving milk until one year. 

  • Shellfish should not be introduced before a year of age.

This type of eating provides all the nutrients needed for the body, emphasizing plant-derived foods at each meal – vegetables, fruits, and grains. There are abundant reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet and add more plants to our meals. This eating pattern is well-researched for disease prevention and health preservation. Get your child on the right track to future health with whole, natural foods.

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