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Is the Mediterranean diet good for kids, too?

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Children could thrive on a Mediterranean diet, with some caveats, one expert says

Children who consume a Mediterranean diet may be 15% less likely to be overweight

CNN —  

Scientists have long touted the potential health benefits of a Mediterranean diet for adults, but can the diet offer benefits for little ones, too?

“There is no reason why a child could not thrive on a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of Vermont.

However, she added that there are caveats.

The easy-to-follow Mediterranean diet involves eating mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish.

Though the diet also includes skim or low-fat dairy products, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children consume whole milk until age 2, Johnson said.

Nuts are also included in the Mediterranean diet, but the academy considers whole nuts to be a high-risk food for choking and recommends caution for children under age 4, Johnson said. And, though the Mediterranean diet includes a modest amount of wine, alcohol is illegal to consume until age 21 in the United States.

With those caveats, however, how exactly might a Mediterranean diet benefit children’s health? And how can parents get their kids eating Mediterranean? Here are some of the latest findings and tips from experts.

How a Mediterranean diet can be kid-healthy

In adults, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to improved brain, heart and bone health; longer life; and a lower risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.

For children, some studies suggest that the diet might be associated with a reduced risk for obesity, asthma and allergies; there might also be an association between not eating the diet and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A Mediterranean-style diet was linked to a significant decrease in body mass index, fat mass and glucose levels in children with obesity in a small study in the journal BMC Pediatrics in 2014.

The study, which was conducted in Mexico, compared the health of 24 obese children who were assigned to eat a Mediterranean-style diet with 25 who were assigned to eat a standard diet over a 16-week period.

“These results further support the importance of introducing a Mediterranean-style diet to at-risk populations,” the researchers wrote.