‘Kid-Friendly Tips for Switching Your Family to a Mediterranean Diet”

Yahoo!  May 9, 2012


When my newborn daughter was diagnosed with a probable milk allergy her second day home from the hospital, the pediatrician told me to avoid all dairy products while breast-feeding her. She had a violent red rash all over her face, and “cradle cap” even in her eyebrows. The minute we removed the supplementary dairy formula from her diet and dairy from mine, the rash cleared up. Suddenly, dairy was a culprit in our kitchen.

How was I to cook for three kids under five years old without dairy? How were we all going to get our calcium? How was I going to make quick, easy and yummy kids’ meals without mac’n’cheese??

Switching to a Mediterranean style diet was the answer:

Olive oil used as the default cooking & sautéing medium rather than butter;
Tomato-based sauces for pastas rather than dairy ones;
Chicken and fish dishes, accented by the briny olives, capers and pungent garlic that my kids were already used to.
Citrus and broccoli offer plenty of calcium.
And who does not love fresh lemons and almonds?!

We learned to retrain our taste buds to like the cleaner, more aromatic and heart healthier diet of this region which emphasizes non-animal fats for cooking, and dishes based on, not just accented by, tons of vegetables, spices and savory accents..

Steamed artichokes have always been a fun, kid pleaser in my family; get your kids to help trim them; some people microwave them to cook more quickly than the 40 minutes stove-top time. Sandwiches on crusty whole grain bread, salami, accented by roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula paninis with a fresh green salad is also a great lunch. Salad dressings are comprised of extra virgin olive oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, chopped garlic and fresh or dried oregano, thyme and pepper. Spending a little extra to get better olive oils and balsamic vinegars is worth it. Consider how much you spend on one mediocre lunch out and spend that instead on a good balsamic vinegar which you will use for several months. My kids can’t get enough of my balsamic dressing, they soak up any extra at the bottom of the salad bowl with more lettuce! We have also drizzled homemade salad dressing over kale, roasted it at 425o F for eight minutes and watched the kids fight over that too. (#ProudMama moment for sure!)

For entertaining, “Greek Salad pasta” with penne, tomatoes, sliced calamata olives, dill, and crumbled feta cheese, tossed with a basic oil/vinegar salad dressing served warm or cold, is delicious. Kids also an all natural jarred tomato sauce blended with sun-dried and fresh tomatoes in the Cuisinart, then poured over chicken pieces and baked.

Hot polenta with either pesto sauce or bolognese sauce is an easy make-ahead dinner. Veggies and salads are served at every meal. For dessert, we enjoy dipping fresh strawberries in melted dark chocolate (dark chocoloate is considered a vitamin in my household).

Many people are needlessly worried about the calories and fat in olive oil, but I lost weight on the Mediterranean diet. Firstly, the amount of olive oil – a tablespoon or two, that you use for sautéing or a salad dressing is small. A little goes a long way.

Olives and extra virgin olive oils contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), the main reason the Mediterranean diet is so healthy for your heart. MUFAs also reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used instead of saturated animal fats such as butter, or the trans fats found in some margarines. “Extra-virgin” and “virgin” olive oils also contain high levels of antioxidants.

There is actually a weight loss diet based on MUFAs, the idea being your body burns this kind of fat more purely. Think of it as putting purer fuel in your tank. 1 Studies show increasing monounsaturated fat intake can also decrease risks of diabetes in kids.2

So by switching over to a Mediterranean diet, you are lowering your family’s “bad fat” intake, and lowering your chances of diabetes, breast cancer, and many other cancers.3 Once you get into the habit of reaching for the olive oil instead of butter, and seeing olives as candy, you’re good to go!


Manzella, Deborah, “A Diet Rich in MUFA’s Can Reduce Belly Fat,” About.com. http://diabetes.about.com/b/2008/01/13/mufa-rich-diet-can-reduce-belly-fat.htm
Donaghue, K, “Beneficial effects of increasing monounsaturated fat intake in adolescents with type 1 diabetes,” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.
Mark Wolk, Alicia, “A Prospective Study of Association of Monounsaturated Fat and Other Types of Fat With Risk of Breast Cancer,” Archives of Internal Medicine. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/158/1/41