Kids urged to eat ‘Mediterranean’

A program developed by quality food manufacturer Gaea to show children the benefits of healthier eating habits was given its first tryout at an Athens school recently. After a number of creative, enjoyable activities involving the different stages of making olive oil, the children then joined chefs Diane Kochilas and Stelios Parliaros in preparing – and then eating – a variety of dishes including olive spread and pizza made from high-quality ingredients. The program was developed by Gaea to allow children to experience the various stages of olive-oil production, from collecting the crop to cold-pressing the fruit for oil, and then learning to recognize the taste of different varieties, and preparing simple recipes under the guidance of Kochilas and Parliaros. «It was great, the kids were really interested. They were already fairly well informed (about eating properly) and they liked the idea of taking something they like, in this case a pizza, and making it in a healthy way with good ingredients – and Greek ingredients,» Kochilas told Kathimerini English Edition. Afterward, Georgios Boskos, lecturer at the Harokopeio University’s department of nutrition and dietetics, addressed them on the benefits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet in general. «We were not only impressed with the children’s enthusiasm for the activities, but with the questions such young (fourth-sixth grade) pupils put to Boskos,» said Aris Kefaloyiannis, CEO of Gaea. The first children to benefit from the program were from Ziridis, a private school in Spata, and Gaea is hoping to take the program to other schools as part of its promotion of high-quality products based on olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. According to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), obesity affects 23 percent of Greek children – on the island of Crete the percentage is as high as 39 percent – chiefly due to the transition from a traditional Mediterranean diet to foreign dietary models. But when presented with a better alternative, children get the message. «What I mainly learnt from this project was how important olive oil is in our life, as it gives us energy, and helps our heart and our skin function properly,» said fourth-grader Vassiliki-Valia Pilianidi. «We Greeks are very lucky to have oil.»