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Healthy eating programme for children

Michelle Mako

The first step towards achieving a healthy diet for tamariki (children) begins with bringing the whanau (family) to the dinner table, according to the new national healthy eating programme.

The programme, developed by the Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) with assistance from Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA), will spring into life this May with a high profile mass media campaign talking to parents and caregivers, with a focus on Maori and Pacific parents, about things they can do to improve the diets and eating practices of their tamariki.

“We know that being a parent is a daily challenge, so we wanted to start by talking with them about healthy eating in a way that recognises the barriers parents face, but still offers a practical and achievable starting point,” says Michelle Mako, Programme Manager.

The first phase of the programme promotes three simple steps towards achieving healthy diets for tamariki. The first step is to encourage parents to eat together regularly as a whanau, as their tamariki are more likely to eat better and make healthier choices. “The evidence suggests that eating a meal as a whanau around a table is good for tamariki as they are more likely to consume healthier kai (food), plus they will have more chances to improve their communication and understanding. So it’s a good message on many fronts,” says Michelle.

The second step is to encourage tamariki to get involved in the kitchen with meal preparation, so that they learn about the food they eat, and they’ll be more likely to try new foods if they’ve helped to prepare them.

The third tip in the series will start to look at specific foods, by promoting water or milk as the first choice, while reminding parents that tamariki don’t need sugary drinks.

The tips based approach has tested well with Maori audiences, who responded positively to the direct, simple and supportive information delivered in the advertisements.

The new programme aims to support those working in public health nutrition by providing a national platform to promote improved nutrition and eating behaviours among their communities. Information and resources will be available post-launch from the HSC.

For more information please contact Michelle Mako at Michelle@hsc.org.nz .