The Maltese Diet

by Manuel Attard M.Sc RD Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist

Although Mediterranean, the food habits of the Maltese are closer to a British Anglo-Saxon one (Tessier & Gerber, 2005). The Maltese diet can be described by a high consumption of cereals, mainly pasta and traditional Maltese bread, dairy products, eggs and sugar (especially from soft-drinks). Meat consumption is dominated by red meat with a high proportion of processed meats including corned beef and luncheon meat; fish consumption is low compared to meat (Mizzi, 1995).

A national survey carried out in 2003 has found that fresh milk is the type of milk most commonly consumed (46.06%); Maltese bread (white) is the most common kind of cereal consumed, with a mean of 2.2 slices per person per day; the type of fat used most often for food preparation at home is not olive oil (38.87%) but rather other vegetable oil (52.55%); 47% answered that they add salt to meals during cooking ‘almost always’ and 23.73% ‘almost always’ add salt to meals at the table (Department of Health Information, 2003). In a study comparing two generations (mothers and daughters), it was found that cheese consumption increased significantly in recent years (+49%), with cheddar being the most common cheese consumed (Tessier & Gerber, 2005).

The below figure, taken from the First National Health Interview Survey (2003), provides a good idea of what the Maltese typically consume:

Nutritional Status and Prevalence of Chronic Diseases in Malta

An unbalanced diet, together with a sedentary lifestyle, is believed to be the cause of the increasing incidence of non-communicable disease in the Maltese population. The leading causes of mortality in Malta are ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, which together comprised 37% of mortality causes in 2002 (World Health Organization, 2006). Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases are high: 22.1% of Maltese are hypertensive (Ministry for Social Policy, 2008), 8.88% have high cholesterol levels and 7.10% are diabetic (Department of Health Information, 2003). Recently it has been found that Malta has the highest rates of childhood obesity (10-16 year olds) in the world (25.4% pre-obese and 7.9% obese) (Janssen et al., 2005), that the Maltese have the highest average BMI (26.6) in Europe, and that among Europeans, Maltese were the least inclined to go for a ten minute walk (European Commission, 2008). Interestingly, the same study found that Maltese were also the likeliest to believe that they eat “very good” for their health (44%); with a further 43% believing that they eat “good”.

This is an excerpt taken from my research entitled: Assessment of the Nutritional Knowledge of Maltese Adults (Manuel Attard – 2010)

References quoted:

Department of Health Information. (2003). The First National Health Interview Survey (Summary Statistics). Valletta: Department of Health Information.

European Commision. (2008, May 27). Eurobarometer 246. Retrieved June 20, 2010, from

Janssen, I., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Boyce, W. F., Vereecken, C., Mulvihill, C., Roberts, C., et al. (2005). Comparison of overweight and obesity prevalence in school-aged youth from 34 countries and their relationships with physical activity and dietary patterns. Obesity Reviews , 6, 123-132.

Ministry for Social Policy. (2008). European Health Interview Survey 2008 Summary Statistics. Valletta: Department of Health Information and Research.

Mizzi, L. (1995). Food and Nutrition Policy in Malta. Food Policy , 20 (6), 475-486.

Tessier, S., & Gerber, M. (2005). Factors determining the nutrition transition in two Mediterranean islands: Sardinia and Malta. Public Health Nutrition , 8 (8), 1286-1292.

World Health Organization. (2006). Mortality Country Fact Sheet (Malta). Retrieved June 25, 2010, from World Health Statistics 2006: