According to the CDC, obesity affects 19.3% of American children and adolescents aged 2-19 and 13.4% of children aged 2-5.  These high and increasing numbers suggest alarming concerns about a growing childhood obesity epidemic.
Overweight and obesity in kids is associated with the early or late development of various chronic health conditions, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and others.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes like committing to a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help children improve their health, reverse obesity, and lower the risk of disease development.
With that in mind, Mediterranean diet is a suitable option for a healthy diet plan that kids can adhere to.
But is dieting safe for kids? Is the Mediterranean diet suitable for children? Are there any risks? This article gives answers to these questions and looks into the typical foods which are part of the Mediterranean diet.
Let’s get started!
Is dieting safe for kids?
Dieting, as adults know it, is not safe for children. As kids are still growing and their body is still developing, typical dieting may lead to malnutrition and impair the child’s healthy development.
With that in mind, here is a list of drastic (and unhealthy) diet changes that a child or adolescent (or their parent) can make :
- Excluding whole food groups
- Limiting macronutrients
- Cutting calories to a minimum
- Adhering to fad diets
- Skipping meals
- Using meal replacements and detox pills
- Taking supplements
Healthy diet for kids
According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy diet for kids should include the following highly nutritious foods  :
- Proteins (variety of seafood, fish poultry, lean meat, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy, eggs)
- Fruits (fresh, frozen, dried, or in a smoothie)
- Vegetables (fresh, frozen, and dried)
- Grains (opt for whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, oatmeal, unflavored popcorn, quinoa, whole grain bread and pasta)
- Dairy foods (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy or plant-based products)
Harvard Health Publishing suggests that a healthy child’s diet (similarly, to adult’s diet) should :
- Include foods rich in fiber and choose complex carbs instead of refined carbs and sugar
- Limit/avoid surgery drinks, sweets, processed, packaged, and junk food.
- Include healthy, unsaturated fats (olive oil, sesame oil, vegetable oils) instead of saturated and trans fats (animal fat, butter, shortening, coconut oil.)
Eating the right number of calories is also important to prevent and reverse obesity in children  :
- Age 0-3: about 100 kcal per kg
- Age 4-6 about 90 kcal per kg
- Age 7-11: about 70 kcal per kg
Is the Mediterranean diet good for kids?
The Mediterranean diet is suitable and safe for kids, as it complies with the guidelines for a healthy child’s diet.
This diet does not restrict calories, certain macros (carbs, fats, or proteins) and doesn’t forbid specific food groups. Instead, this eating plan allows kids to have diverse and nutritious meals which include all the macros and micronutrients they need to grow and develop. Besides, adhering to the Mediterranean diet can help kids build good relationship with food, without restriction, binge eating, and guilt.
Mediterranean diet food list
Here is a list of foods to eat on Mediterranean diet :
- All vegetables
- All fruits
- Whole-grain foods, including pasta, bread, brown rice
- Herbs and Spices
- Olive oil (as primary fat source)
- Fish and seafood (2 times weekly)
Foods to eat in moderation are:
- Limiting red meat to a few times a month
- Eating poultry, eggs, and dairy foods in small portions daily or a few times a week
Foods to limit:
- Processed and deli meat
- Processed/packaged/flavored foods
- Foods rich in saturated fats
- Foods rich in refined carbs and sugars
Mediterranean diet tips  :
Choose healthy unsaturated oils and omega-3 fatty acids over saturated fats. This means choosing extra virgin olive oil and unrefined vegetable oils (e.g., sesame, canola, walnut oil) over saturated fats (butter, margarine, shortening, beef fat, coconut oil).
Mediterranean diet health benefits
Adhering to the Mediterranean diet may lower the health risks associated with childhood obesity  :
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- Cholesterol balance
- Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Reduced risk of depression
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease prevention
- Cognitive support
- Reduced risk of insulin resistance