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Well Child Week – good nutrition essential

4 May 2004
Media Release

Well Child Week – good nutrition essential building block
for the future

Choosing healthy foods for family eating and keeping physically active will set our children on the path to good health for life says the New Zealand Dietetic Association. From the number of calls dietitians are fielding from parents and caregivers throughout New Zealand, it is clear many parents would like more practical guidance when choosing the kinds of foods we should eat, and deciding what foods to limit to avoid childhood obesity.

NZDA Executive Officer Carole Gibb says, “The traditional dietary advice found in such pamphlets as the Eating for Healthy Children aged 2 – 12 produced by the Ministry of Health is recommended as a sound basis for food and beverage choices. Childhood eating is about offering the types of foods needed for energy, health and growing, and most importantly, establishing good food habits to set the right pattern for life.”

The Ministry of Health’s pamphlet Eating for Healthy Children aged 2 - 12 is found at

Important guidelines for children are:

>> Eat many different foods
Every day eat a variety of foods chosen from the four food groups:
- vegetables and fruit
- breads and cereals
- lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs and dried beans, peas and lentils
- milk and milk products

>> Eat enough for activity and growth
Help children develop good eating behaviours that mean they match the right kinds and amounts of foods to their energy needs:
- let children serve themselves and decide on meal size
- eat as a family when possible
- encourage children to try new foods
- keep presenting foods such as vegetables even if the child doesn’t initially like them
- keep bread, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, rice, pasta and noodles as the “energy” foods in your child’s diet.

>> Eat small but regular meals
Provide a number of small meals or snacks rather than three large meals particularly for young children and preschoolers as they have small stomachs and need to eat often.

>> Have treat foods now and then
For snacks, keep to foods that are low in fat, salt and sugar. Suggested snacks are sandwiches, vegetable sticks, mousetraps (baked bread with marmite and a bit of grated cheese), fresh fruit, plain breakfast cereal, low fat milk drinks and yoghurt. Leave the packet snack foods such as muesli bars, potato chips, sweets and savoury snacks for special treats – not for everyday eating.

>> Have plenty to drink
Provide plenty of water to drink, and keep sugary drinks to occasional use only.
Milk is also recommended for children as it is highly nutritious. Serve milk after or between meals.

>> Take part in regular physical activity
Ensure your child is physically active for at least 30 – 60 minutes every day. Physical activity includes any movement such as playing, riding a bike, walking, dancing, organised games and sport, kapahaka and kilikiti, and helping with household chores.

The 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey has provided New Zealanders with much needed information on the eating habits and physical health of our children aged 5-14, and confirms the importance of increasing physical activity on a daily basis, and decreasing the intake of energy dense foods such as sweet drinks and hot chips if we are to reduce the level of childhood obesity in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Dietetic Association also supports further government funded national nutrition research to look at the eating behaviours of children under the age of six. Currently there is a lack of national comparative information about the food intake of preschoolers, and their exercise patterns. It is clear that healthy eating patterns established at a very young age will stay with the child as they grow. These will help ensure children are less at risk from obesity and other lifestyle diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes and heart disease later in life.


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