Tips for Families
The Mediterranean Diet is all about delicious foods, flavors, textures and colors, with something for everyone – even finicky eaters! Keep these tips in mind as you shop for your family.
- Plan meals in advance. Make a shopping list and buy most of what you need in one trip to the store per week. Build up your pantry to keep Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil, canned tomatoes, whole grains, pasta, and tuna on hand. Buy additional fresh produce and seafood a few times a week.
- Be prepared when hunger strikes. When kids need an after-school snack, offer up small bowls of Mediterranean dips like hummus, tzatziki, baba ghannouj, and spicy muhammara. Pair the dips with an ever changing variety of fresh vegetables, or offer whole grain pita bread for dipping.
- Follow the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid and encourage your kids to eat vegetables every day. Add veggies to the foods your kids already like. If pancakes are popular, add some grated carrots, or shredded zucchini to the batter. Toss frozen peas and corn with pasta or mac and cheese. Or, add diced sautéed onions, peppers and feta to scrambled eggs.
- The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid recommends eating several pieces of fruit each day. Make fruit a part of your family’s daily diet. Dice up apples and strawberries or toss a few blueberries into the morning meal. If your child is looking for a savory snack, offer up black or green olives as nutritious option. Stock up on clementines, grapes, pears, and melon for after school munching. Encourage kids to eat fresh fruit rather than drinking fruit juice for a better source of fiber, which is often lacking in their diets.
- Mediterranean vegetables are very versatile, so experiment with different cooking methods. Kids often prefer a raw or roasted carrot to a steamed one. Eggplant that is sliced, brushed with olive oil and lightly browned on both sides under the broiler may have more appeal than when it is sautéed – and soft. Try serving potatos as healthy, oven-baked fries rather than mashed with butter and cream.
- The Mediterranean Diet recommends eating fish twice a week. If you haven’t been a fish-eating family, serve small helpings of mild-flavored mahi-mahi, cod, or tilapia and experiment with flavorful Mediterranean marinades using oregano, garlic, lemon juice and basil.
- If hamburgers are popular fare in your household, bring home several varieties of veggie burgers and ask your family to choose their favorite. Mediterranean wraps with spicy hummus or pitas stuffed with tabbouli and falafel may be big winners in your household - you just have to give them a try.
- Make your own trail mix. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid recommends eating small amounts of nuts in order to benefit from their healthy proteins, fats, and fiber. In a large bowl, combine peanuts, chopped walnuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries or blueberries, and whole grain cereal. Package it in “snack-size” zip-lock bags to have on hand for car trips and lunch boxes.
- To get the family involved in preparing meals, take them around the world without leaving the kitchen - schedule theme nights such as “A Night in Tuscany” and make a hearty soup with beans and farro. Experiment with the different flavors of each region and get your kids excited about trying new dishes. AND let your kids help prepare the meals. If your children don’t learn basic kitchen skills they’ll regret it later in life and won’t have a legacy to pass along to their children.