The Mediterranean diet has long been a hallmark of good eating habits, with its prioritization of plant-based foods. However, new research suggests that it’s falling out of favor — specifically among certain Europeans.
It is crucial to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables in children while reducing their intake of sweets and particularly sugary soft drinks.
According to data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, one in five boys in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain are now obese. Comparatively, less than 10 percent of kids from Northern European countries, such as Norway and Ireland, were obese.
As it turns out, the Mediterranean diet is no longer in favor with most of Southern Europe, according to the WHO researchers. Kristie Lancaster, associate professor of nutrition at New York University, told MarketWatch that the latest data is significant because it marks the expansion of what she called “the American diet.”
This is to say that American fast food establishments, such as McDonald’s, can be easily found around the world. For this reason, more people in regions such as southern Europe, are seeing their diets altered by the availability of saltier, less healthy options.
“It is crucial to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables in children while reducing their intake of sweets and particularly sugary soft drinks,” said João Breda, head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Moscow, Russian Federation. “It also very important to increase the awareness of parents and families on the problem of childhood obesity, given that our data show that many mothers do not recognize their children as overweight or obese.”
The Mediterranean diet consists of primarily consuming fruits, vegetables, legumes, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish and, although it typically includes low-fat or skim dairy products, experts say there is no reason why children cannot thrive on the plan as long as they consume whole milk until the age of two, professor of nutrition and pediatrics Rachel Johnson told CNN.
In adults, the Mediterranean diet is thought to improve brain, heart and bone health. For children, the diet can do a world of good as well, potentially reducing the risk of obesity, asthma and allergies.
Although there are numerous studies citing the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, it’s worth noting that you should always consult your doctor before making dietary changes. He or she can give you insight into how you can improve your overall well-being in a safe manner.