New Zealanders are being encouraged to take steps towards healthier eating and drinking, following the release of two reports examining our dietary habits.
A healthy diet will increase your chances of living longer and reduce the chances of developing conditions that will diminish your quality of life, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, obesity, and high blood pressure. For children, it supports their growth and development into healthy adults.
It should include vegetables and fruit, grains, most of which are whole grains and high in fibre, some low-fat milk products, some legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, and red meat, with the fat removed. It is recommended you prepare food with unsaturated fats, use products that are low in salt and have little or no added sugar.
Manatū Hauora The Ministry of Health publishes the national Eating and Activity Guidelines which provide evidence-based health advice on healthy eating and being physically active, which can be found here.
To examine further how diet is contributing to New Zealanders’ health, the Ministry has published two reports into New Zealanders’ eating one covering adults and one covering children between 2 and 14-years-old.
The reports are based on information provided by New Zealanders as part of the New Zealand Health Survey in 2018/19 and 2019/20. They reflect eating habits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
They found age had a significant impact on diet, with younger children more likely to eat more vegetables and fruit and less fizzy drinks and confectionery than older children, and older adults more likely to reduce meat and takeaway consumption but increased biscuit and cake consumption.
This report does confirm what we have known for some time, that the eating habits of a significant portion of New Zealanders is putting them at risk of developing diseases and health conditions that will reduce their quality of life.
Unhealthy dietary habits were associated with socio-economic circumstances, with both adults and children living in higher levels of deprivation less likely to eat the recommended numbers of servings of vegetables and fruit and more likely to eat takeaways and drink fizzy drinks more often.
They also showed disparities between ethnicities. For example, slightly under half of all children met the recommended numbers of servings of vegetables and fruit, but only about a quarter of Asian and Pacific children met the recommendations.
These results were not unexpected and reflect long-standing and entrenched eating habits influenced by a range of factors, including the low cost, visibility, and accessibility of unhealthy food and drinks.
The report's findings will help inform future policy advice to the Government on supporting healthy eating habits, with a particular focus on supporting groups most at risk of long-term health conditions.
Steps being taken to support healthy eating and drinking:
- The Ministry of Education’s Ka Ora, Ka Ako - Healthy School Lunches programme is reducing food insecurity by providing access to lunch in school every day. The programme is currently delivered in 960 eligible schools with high levels of disadvantage and provides around one million lunches each week. The Ministry of Health is providing support to the Ministry of Education on the development of nutrition standards for the programme.
- The Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Ministry for Primary Industries, is looking at developing a national nutrition survey. That will provide a greater level of detail on what and how we are eating to better target future investment or support.
- Healthy Active Learning is a joint government initiative between the Ministries of Health and Education and Sport New Zealand to improve the wellbeing of tamariki through healthy eating and drinking and quality physical activity. It is a voluntary initiative, at no cost to schools, kura and early learning services. Part of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, Healthy Active Learning is supported by Government investment of $47.6m between 2020-2024.