A Balanced Diet for Your Family

The days of following the standard USDA food pyramid for our children’s health may be over. While it has been updated in recent years, it shows that children in other parts of the world are much healthier than those in the United States. In our society of instant gratification, teaching our children how to eat in a healthy manner is essential. The Mediterranean Diet is a far better option when teaching your kids how to eat right than the outdated pyramid. What are the differences?

The USDA Pyramid:
– This pyramid lists daily servings
– Bread, cereal, rice and pasta: 6 to 11 servings per day note: there is no distinction between healthy whole-grain breads and pastas and processed, white breads and pastas
– Vegetable group: 3 to 5 servings per day
– Fruit group: 2 to 4 servings per day
– Milk, yogurt and cheese group: 2 to 3 servings per day
– Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts: 2 to 3 servings per day
– Fats, oils and sweets: use sparingly

The Mediterranean Pyramid:
– The pyramid lists servings in terms of monthly, weekly and daily
– Daily consumption: 6 glasses of water and wine in moderation, bread, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, whole grains, potatoes, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, vegetables, olive oil, cheese and yogurt
– Weekly consumption: fish, poultry, eggs, sweets
– Monthly consumption: meat
– Meat: Med Diet – a few times per month v. USDA – 2 to 3 servings per day
– Olive oil: Med Diet – daily v. USDA – sparingly- Poultry, Eggs and Fish:
Med Diet – A few time per week v. USDA – 2 to 3 servings per day

It has been shown that healthy oils are an integral part of the diet. Lipids can provide protection against stroke and heart disease as well as some types of cancer. Nuts, seeds and legumes are an integral part of the Med Diet and it emphasizes the use of natural foods rather than canned or frozen which are acceptable on the USDA pyramid.

In essence, the Mediterranean Diet focuses on whole, healthy foods. The American Diet relies on processed foods, red meat, refined carbohydrates and sugars. Overall, followers of the Mediterranean Diet will feel that they are more healthy and fit than those that rely solely on the USDA pyramid as a nutritional guideline.

What are the health benefits of the Med Diet?
– Lower incidence of allergies: children born to mothers who follow the Med Diet and children who follow the Med Diet when they are introduced to solid foods, have a lower incidence of food related allergies.
– Depression: children who follow the Mediterranean Diet are less likely to childhood depression.- Diabetes: the Med Diet reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
– Heart Disease: daily intake of olive oil and other such lipids reduces the risk of heart and coronary artery disease.
– Blood Pressure: followers of the Mediterranean Diet, including children, have lower blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides.
– Childhood obesity: children who follow the Mediterranean are at very little risk for developing childhood obesity.

Remember that children are imitators. The first step to ensuring that your child follows a healthy diet is to follow one yourself. The Mediterranean Diet is a healthy choice for the entire family and one that is very easy to stick to. By basing your diet on whole foods rather than those that are processed, you will lessen yours and your children’s risk for developing health issues now and later in the future.