Healthy eating for children | Health Navigator New Zealand (2023)

Tips for parents, family/whānau and caregivers on the kinds of food and how much of each children need to eat to be healthy.

Teaching kids to eat healthily

Both children and adults need to be active and eat healthily to live well. Just like adults, children can sometimes be fussy about new flavours and textures, and at times may eat too much of the wrong kinds of food.

You can help your child develop healthy eating habits by providing them with lots of healthy foods and letting them choose what they would like to eat and how much they want to eat.

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Make each meal enjoyable

Use meals as a time for family/whānau to hang out and chat about their day.

  • Eat together as a family (if you can).
  • Make sure you switch off any devices, including mobile phones.
  • Choose meal times well suited to your children – this might mean eating a bit earlier than you usually do.

Try to:

  • give your child 3 healthy meals a day – don't forget breakfast!
  • give your child a wide range of healthy food options
  • encourage your children to taste and eat new foods
  • do your food shopping with your children and help them to select healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables.
  • make cooking and food preparation exciting – include your children from a young age and involve them more and more as they grow up.
  • providehealthy snacks (low in salt, fat and sugar) during the day and in-between meals
  • remember that it takes 8-15 times trying something new before it becomes familiar so keep trying new foods all the time.

Try to avoid:

  • having takeaways – preferably not more than once a week
  • bribing your child with treats or rewards or forcing them to eat when they don't want to
  • encouraging constant eating – try to develop a routine andkeep to specific meal and snack times.

(Greater Good Science Center, US, 2020)

Providing a variety of foods

Like adults, children need to consume a range of foods to be healthy and grow well. There are 4 main food groups which provide a variety of fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals. To be healthy,children need all of these.

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Choose a variety of foods from the 4 following groups every day:

  • vegetables and fruit
  • breads and cereals
  • milk and milk products
  • lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes (ie,cooked dried beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds.

Read more aboutfood groupsand providing variety for children.

Choosing the right serving size

Make sure your children’s meal sizes are smaller than yours (your child doesn't need to eat as much as you).Encourage your child to eat slowly, so that their stomach has time to tell them when it's full of food. When they are full, let them stop eating – they don't need to finish everything on their plate!

Recommendedserving sizesare a guide only. Theymay be too big for your child to eat in a single meal, especially if they are younger. If so, try dividing one serving into several smaller amounts for your child to eat throughout the day.

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Read more aboutserving sizes.

Limiting foods high in sugar, fat or salt

Like adults, children need to eat healthily most of the time. It’s OK to have foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt rarely (not more than once per week), but never every day. Eatinga lot of these foods can lead to health issues like obesity (becoming overweight), high blood pressure, heart disease and/or diabetes.

A few examples of foods high in salt, fat, or sugar are sweets/lollies, meat pies, muesli bars, potato chips, chocolate, cookies or sweet biscuits, takeaways and fizzy drinks.

Aim for healthier takeaway meals

Many takeaways containa lot of fat, salt and/or sugar. Only have these as a rare treat, and never as a daily option. Some takeaways with slightly less fat may include:

  • kebabs or wraps
  • pizza with lots of vegetables and a bit less cheese
  • pasta including tomato-based sauce (rather than cheesy sauce)
  • sushi
  • thick wedges or chips rather than thin chips
  • rice/noodle takeaways with plenty of vegetables – (not fried)
  • baked potatoes served with a side of salad, meat, and beans.

For more information see ourhealthy eating and drinkingsection.

Snacks and little meals

Children need to eat consistently throughout the day tofulfiltheir energy needs so they can grow well.Offer 3 meals and 2–3 snacks each day.

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  • Avoid giving snacks within 1 hour of a main meal, or your child may not have an appetite for their food.
  • View snacks as a miniature meal that provides protein, energy,vitamins and minerals.
  • Select healthy snacks that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fats.
  • You may need to change the size and/or texture of certain foods to make them safe for young children – to prevent choking (see below).

Read about healthy snack ideas for children.

Vegetarian kids

Healthy vegetarian diets must includea variety of vegetables and fruit, cereals, breads, legumes, eggs, milk products, seeds and nuts. If your childdoesn't consume cow’s milk, provide a soy milkwith vitamin B12 and added calcium instead. If you're worried about your child's diet, consult a nutritionist or dietitian.

Read more aboutvegetarianism and veganism.

Fussy eaters

Fussy eating is normal in young children andquite common– however, usually, your child will eat if they're hungry. You might have to offer your child a new food 8 to 15 times, or even more before they will try eating it.

Let your child choose the amount of food they eat – make mealtimes exciting and relaxing rather than stressful or rushed. Consult your GP if you are concerned about your child’s fussy eating or they are failing to thrive.

For more information see our fussy eating section.

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Choking in youngsters

It’s pretty easy for young kids to choke on their food/kai, since they're still learning how to chew, grind and swallow food correctly.

To limit choking risk:

  • Always have young children sit down during eating or drinking and have an adult supervising.
  • Provide foods that are suited to your child's chewing or grinding abilities.
  • Sometimes it can help to change the texture of your child's food – to help with chewing and grinding – cook, grate, mash, chop or boil it.
  • Remove any tricky/dangerous parts of the food – slice off the apple skin or chopoutany tough fibres.
  • Don't give small or hard foods, like whole nuts and big seeds, to any child under 5 years old.

Intolerances and allergies

Food allergies and/or intolerances affect about 4–8% of children, however,a lot of children will outgrow these in time.

If you're ever unsure – consult your:

  • GP, practice nurse, public health nurse.
  • Nearest District Health Board and request a dietitian or Public Health Service.
  • Registered nutritionist or dietitian (see the Yellow Pages).
  • Māori/Pacifica health workers and/or marae-based health services.

For more information see our allergies section.

Food labels

Food labels contain lots of information, some of this can help with your healthy food decisions. Read more abouthow to read food labels.

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Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy children and young people (aged 2–18 years) – a background paperNZ Ministry of Health, 2015

Learn more

My family food – meal ideas that are tasty, fast, easy and low-costHealth Promotion Agency, NZ
Preventing choking in young childrenMinistry of Health, NZ
Nutrition for young children (1 year and over)Ministry of Health, NZ
Kai Maori – traditional and ‘semi-traditional’ Māori foodsToi Tangata, NZ
Pacific Heartbeat Programme - list of useful resources to help keep you healthyHeart Foundation of NZ
Tips on how to get 5+ a day everyday 5+ a day
Eating safely when you have food allergies bookletThe Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ
Heart Foundation of NZ


Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy children and young people (aged 2–18 years) – a background paper partially revised Dec12 Ministry of Health, NZ


What is the New Zealand diet? ›

The DASH diet emphasises plenty of vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products, and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. It provides a person with a healthy eating pattern that is consistent with the Ministry of Health's Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults.

Do New Zealanders eat healthy? ›

They show about half of New Zealand adults, and 44% of children, are eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables daily. They found the women were more likely to have a healthier diet than men.

What is a typical New Zealand breakfast? ›

A typical New Zealand breakfast is simple. Kiwis start off with cereal and toast accompanied by a cup of coffee, tea, freshly made orange juice, or local milk. Unlike Americans, cooked breakfast is not very common except during the weekends.

What is the most popular fast food in New Zealand? ›

Butter chicken with a side of garlic naan has been named the most popular takeout dish for Kiwis in 2022. Data from online food delivery platform Menulog released Wednesday showed the most popular cuisine for consumers overall was burgers, followed by Indian and pizza.

What are the 4 rules of healthy eating? ›

Build Healthy Eating Habits
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables (3 or more servings a day).
  • Eat a variety of fruits (2 or more servings a day).
  • Eat whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals (3 to 6 servings a day). ...
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and eat low-fat dairy products.

What are the 8 tips of healthy eating? ›

8 tips for healthy eating
  1. Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates. ...
  2. Eat lots of fruit and veg. ...
  3. Eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish. ...
  4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar. ...
  5. Eat less salt: no more than 6g a day for adults. ...
  6. Get active and be a healthy weight. ...
  7. Do not get thirsty. ...
  8. Do not skip breakfast.

What are 4 ways to promote healthy eating? ›

Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
  • Eat breakfast every day. ...
  • Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family. ...
  • Buy and serve more fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned). ...
  • Buy fewer soft drinks and high fat/high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies, and candy.
Jul 16, 2018

What are the 7 steps to eating healthy? ›

7 steps to a heart-healthy diet
  1. Learn to barter (and plan ahead). ...
  2. Recognize portion distortion. ...
  3. Reduce your sodium (salt) intake. ...
  4. Choose more fruits and vegetables. ...
  5. Limit unhealthy fats. ...
  6. Select whole grains. ...
  7. Treat yourself regularly to avoid deprivation.
Feb 27, 2019

What is healthy eating for kids? ›

Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Fruits. Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruits. Look for canned fruit that says it's light or packed in its own juice.

What are the nutritional issues facing New Zealanders today? ›

Aotearoa/New Zealand has the third highest rate of overweight and obesity for adults and children within OECD countries. Dietary risk factors, which include overweight/obesity and unhealthy diets, are by far the biggest contributor of health loss in Aotearoa/New Zealand (17.5%).

Why is NZ food so good? ›

New Zealand's higher summer UV levels help produce higher levels of natural antioxidants in the skin, flesh, and seeds of fruit. Fresh, quality food that tastes good and is high in nutritional value promotes wellbeing, both for consumers in New Zealand and the rest of the world.

What is New Zealand Favourite food? ›

Best enjoyed while sitting on a New Zealand beach on a balmy summer evening, Fish and Chips is a bonafide Kiwi favourite. Freshly caught snapper, terakihi and hoki are the most common types of fish used, which is then battered and deep-fried. Scallops and squid rings are also often included.

How do they say hello in New Zealand? ›

Māori Greetings

The Māori phrase, “Kia ora”, is the informal greeting for 'Hello'. It can also mean 'Thank you' or be said as a form of acknowledgement.

What is New Zealands national dish? ›

13 – Fish and Chips

Although New Zealand's national dish is a British inheritance, many would argue it has been perfected down under.

What is the main dish in New Zealand? ›

The options are endless and it's clear to see why the humble Kiwi pie is consistently voted as New Zealand's favourite comfort food. So, if you want to see where a hot, yummy, snack is a national dish… we know a place.

Is there a Chick Fil A in New Zealand? ›

chick-fil-a Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.

What do they call McDonald's in New Zealand? ›

McDonald's Restaurants (New Zealand) Limited (also using the trading name "Macca's") is the New Zealand subsidiary of the international fast food restaurant chain McDonald's. Its first location opened in 1976.

What foods can you only get in NZ? ›

So what is unique about the food there that you must try? Read on for some of the best eats and only-in-New-Zealand experiences!
New Zealand Foods You Can't Find Anywhere Else in the World
  • Seafood. ...
  • Hāngi. ...
  • Hokey Pokey Ice Cream. ...
  • Kiwiburger. ...
  • Lamb. ...
  • Manuka Honey. ...
  • Feijoa. ...
  • Pāua.
Mar 29, 2020

What are the 6 principles of healthy eating? ›

The diet-planning principles of adequacy, balance, calorie (energy) control, nutrient density, moderation, and variety are important concepts in choosing a healthful diet.

What are 3 key guidelines for eating right? ›

Key Recommendations

Increase vegetable and fruit intake. Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas. Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.

What is the number 1 healthy food? ›

Spinach is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, it is packed with energy whilst low in calories. It is also a great source of Vitamins A, K, and essential folate.

What are the top 20 most nutritious foods? ›

The 20 Most Nutrient Dense Foods You Can Eat
  1. Spinach. All dark leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses and incredibly low in calories - roughly 10 to 20 calories per cup! ...
  2. Blueberries. ...
  3. Broccoli. ...
  4. Bok Choy. ...
  5. Brussels Sprouts. ...
  6. Pumpkin. ...
  7. Oysters. ...
  8. Salmon.
May 28, 2021

What is the healthiest food diet in the world? ›

Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and Flexitarian Diets Remain the Best Diets of 2023. All three diets are highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits.

What should I eat to lose weight NZ? ›

Eating well
  • plenty of vegetables and fruit.
  • grain foods, mostly whole grain and those naturally high in fibre.
  • some milk and milk products, mostly low and reduced fat.
  • some legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood, eggs, poultry and/or red meat with the fat removed.

What is the Garden of Eden diet? ›

This first diet consisted of large amounts of leafy vegetables, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), and fruit, some tropical, but all purchased in local grocery stores. Theoretically, all these foods could be eaten raw but the majority of vegetables were eaten cooked.

What snack is New Zealand known for? ›

New Zealand is big on hokey pokey flavored treats (and on ice cream — it's a super common dessert). Hokey pokey ice cream is essentially vanilla ice cream filled with honeycomb toffee bits. Appearance: Looks just how you'd expect — white ice cream with little yellowish bits of chewy goodness mixed in.

What's New Zealand's famous dish? ›

Pavlova. Ownership disputes aside, the pavlova has got to be New Zealand's best renowned dish. It's a prominent component of various Christmas feasts, dinner parties and summer barbecues.

What is New Zealand best known for? ›

A small island nation home to around 4.5 million people located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is famous for its national rugby team, its indigenous Maori culture and its picturesque landscape.

What is the healthiest breakfast? ›

The 12 Best Foods to Eat in the Morning
  1. Eggs. Eggs make a simple, nutritious breakfast choice. ...
  2. Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a great option if you're looking for a quick breakfast. ...
  3. Coffee. Aside from water, coffee is the world's most popular beverage. ...
  4. Oatmeal. ...
  5. Chia seeds. ...
  6. Berries. ...
  7. Cottage cheese. ...
  8. Whole wheat toast.
Oct 25, 2021

What is the unhealthiest country in the world? ›

The U.S. is the unhealthiest country globally because of its high obesity rate and the heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses that go along with it. America has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world—and it's not just adults who are getting heavier and heavier: childhood obesity is also a problem.

What should I eat to lose my belly fat? ›

  • Eat plenty of soluble fiber. ...
  • Avoid foods that contain trans fats. ...
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. ...
  • Eat a high protein diet. ...
  • Reduce your stress levels. ...
  • Don't eat a lot of sugary foods. ...
  • Do aerobic exercise (cardio) ...
  • Cut back on carbs — especially refined carbs.

What foods help you lose weight and belly fat? ›

7 Foods that Burn Belly Fat
  • Beans. “Becoming a bean lover can help you lose weight and whittle your middle,” registered dietitian Cynthia Sass told Today. ...
  • Swap your beef for salmon. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Red bell peppers. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Edamame. ...
  • Diluted vinegar.

What food should I stop eating to lose belly fat? ›

A high intake of refined carbs is associated with excessive belly fat. Consider reducing your carb intake or replacing refined carbs in your diet with healthy carb sources, such as whole grains, legumes, or vegetables.

What was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden? ›

Because the Hebrew Bible describes the forbidden fruit only as peri, the term for general fruit, no one knows. It could be a fruit that doesn't exist anymore. Historians have speculated it may have been any one of these fruits: pomegranate, mango, fig, grape, etrog or citron, carob, pear, quince or mushroom.

What religion is the Garden of Eden? ›

The Garden of Eden is recognized in the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Some other religions and cultures have a creation story containing a similar concept to the biblical Garden of Eden, ascribing various locations to the place of first habitation.

What was Adam and Eve's original diet? ›

The garden he refers to, of course, is the Garden of Eden. Indeed, the Hallelujah Diet answers the question: "What would Adam and Eve eat?" The program consists almost entirely of raw fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts.


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