Western Crete, a small town in Greece, is considered to be the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, and is having a huge dilemma with the younger children in a place where individuals were brought up eating “fresh produce and fish” instead of from places such as “chocolate shops, pizza places, ice cream parlors…and fast-food joints.” Instead of eating healthy like the Greeks have in the past, they have succumbed to their fear of a more westernized civilization of junk food and poor eating habits. It is very critical for the younger generation to know the importance of having good eating habits while maintaining a healthy living style. Dr. Michalis Stagourakis noticed that in Kasteli, Greece there has been a huge transformation in the way the people in the Mediterranean region are eating; specifically “a changing diet [producing] an epidemic of obesity and related maladies.”
Sadly in Europe, nowadays the Mediterranean diet is hard to find in the places where it once originated from; instead it’s easier to find the healthier cooking at “restaurants of London and New York.” Of course you can always go to the supermarket to get the foods that you need to create a healthy Mediterranean dish, and there are even cheap frozen Mediterranean dinners for those that are fairly busy. Take a look at my previous blogs to get more information on foods on the go and previous recipes from Chef Maria Liberati. It is quite ironic how the Mediterranean diet that we know to be “associated with longer life spans and lower rates of heart disease and cancer” is being transitioned to a younger generation of about two-thirds of overweight children. Someone commented that it’s quite scary that individuals, from where this healthy diet originated from, used to live until they were around 100 and now “you see kids whose longevity is less than their parents.”
Out of concern, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations decided to focus on this growing problem and help educated people on what used to be the ever so popular Mediterranean Diet. Due to overall unhealthiness of the children in this area that they focused on in Greece, the Greek government decided to educate them. They were lectured on nutrition and taught lessons that included the food pyramid, specifically focusing on the Mediterranean diet. Interesting statistics to know is that in Greece “three-quarters of the adult population is overweight or obese” and in the United States “66 percent of adults older than 20 were overweight in 2004, and 31.9 percent of children 2 through 19 were overweight in 2006.” Greece and the United States differ in the way that they eat in general but surprisingly in Greece the growing number of children getting “fat” is quite shocking. Interestingly enough, the older generation is more shocked at younger generation due to the fact that “Greece had for so long been a poor nation where hunger was a recurrent problem” and another striking fact to note is that in the United States “obesity is more pronounced in adults than in children” while, like we have discussed previously, in the Mediterranean region weight problems is more prevalent in the younger generation. Obviously living in a village in Greece is quite different than growing up in a city like Los Angeles or New York. If we combine the methods from the Greeks and use that in our younger generation in the United States, we will be educating and perhaps preparing our children for a healthier future. Why not help prevent our children from having coronary heart disease when they are much older, or perhaps from having cancer. If we start with the younger generation it will be beneficial to us all in the long run.