Food guidelines updated for children and young people
The Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2–18 years) have been updated and strengthened to reflect changes in New Zealand society and eating patterns.
As well as enhancing existing information, the document includes considerations for Māori, Pacific and Asian population groups, and information on current meal patterns of New Zealand children and young people. Other topics include picky eating, caffeine and oral health.
The guidelines are designed to be a handbook for health practitioners who work with children and young people. They provide evidence-based recommendations about food, nutrition and physical activity for this age group.
Two nutrition resources for the public have also been updated to reflect these recommendations. They can be found in the Ministry’s health education resources Eating for Healthy Children aged 2–12 years (HE1302) and Healthy Eating for Young People (13–18 years) (HE1230), available at the HealthEd website.
Children and young people (aged 2–18 years) represent a quarter of our total population – that’s just over a million people. It is known that good nutrition and physical activity during childhood and adolescence are essential for normal growth and development and will contribute to good health and reduced levels of chronic disease and disability in adulthood.
The Ministry of Health Chief Advisor on Child and Youth Health, Dr Pat Tuohy said a concerning finding from recent research was that many children are eating treat foods most days.
‘These are empty calories which fill children up but don’t nourish them.
‘The guidelines provide advice about how to improve children’s nutrition and keep them healthy which includes keeping high fat, sugar or salt food for occasional use only,’ Dr Tuohy said.
The dietary requirements of children and young people are different to those of adults, and change as children and young people develop.
Key new or updated information in the 2012 background paper include:
- The New Zealand–World Health Organization Growth Charts (0–5 years) (Ministry of Health 2010).
- An update of the nutrient section to reflect the 2006 Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Nutrients which may either be over or under consumed by New Zealand children and young people are identified with recommendations for practical interventions.
- The inclusion of national data specific to children and young people aged 5–18 years on meal patterns; nutrient intakes and status; and physical activity patterns.
- Physical activity recommendations for children and young people, as well as approaches to reduce sedentary behaviour.
- Topical issues related to 2–18 year olds including energy drinks and energy shots, and body image and disordered eating.
- Influences on the diet of children and young people and practical suggestions to assist parents and caregivers to encourage healthy eating in the home.
- The causes and impacts of overweight and obesity on children and young people with links made to the Ministry’s Clinical Guidelines for Weight Management in New Zealand Children and Young People (December 2009).
A copy of the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2–18 years): A background paper is available now for download.