The places where we live and spend our time play a huge role in what we eat and drink, and how healthy these options are.
This is especially important when it comes to children. A healthy diet is key to supporting good health, wellbeing and learning. What's more, the food habits we develop as children tend to stay with us for life, so starting off on the right foot is really important.
But you can only eat well if the options available, advertised and sold to you are healthy.
How our food environments affect our health
In Tāmaki Makaurau we are being pushed into unhealthy eating from our unhealthy food environment. The options most available, affordable and promoted to us are not the ones we need to live well.
High-calorie and nutrient-poor options dominate our city’s food environments. In our shops, on our high streets, and even sometimes at schools or kindy, the food available does not always support a balanced, nutritious diet.
‘Junk food marketing’ worsens the problem by continually hammering us with appealing but unhealthy food and drink. Through appealing advertisements, sponsorships, and online platforms, this marketing shapes our preferences, cravings, and consumption patterns – especially amongst children.
The evidence on our food environments
- Children in Aotearoa have double the amount of exposure to unhealthy food marketing than healthy food marketing.
- On average our children see and hear 27 ads for unhealthy foods and beverages a day.
- Lower income communities are disproportionately impacted by unhealthy food environments. Of the top 15 suburbs for junk food sales (2018), 14 are in areas of higher-than-average economic deprivation.
- Around one in eight children (aged 2–14 years) in Aotearoa are considered obese (12.7%), and the problem is getting worse.
How our food environments need to change
- Communities need to have a greater say over what food outlets can operate in their neighbourhood. This will give communities the power to reject fast food outlets, and prevent them from dominating their high streets.
- We need to reduce the amount of unhealthy food and beverage marketing we are exposed to. This is especially important around schools and other areas children may be exposed to excessive unhealthy food advertisements.
- We can help our early learning services, Kōhanga Reo, Language Nests, schools and kura to provide healthier, more balanced food options. Learning environments can find out more from the Healthy Active Learning
Taking action in your community
By creating more positive food environments we can help encourage healthier food habits. Simple changes can make a difference, whether that’s at home, at community events, at your school, church or marae.
A balanced healthy diet will include lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while cutting out fizzy drinks and more calorie dense nutrient-poor options.
Ideas could include:
- Making water the main drink for children,
- Including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Choosing foods that are wholegrain or wholemeal – healthier options include wholegrain rice, noodles, bread, wraps etc
- Prioritising minimally processed foods, such as fresh, washed, aged, dried, frozen, canned or pasteurized options
- Limiting the amount of snacks, deep fried foods, confectionery and ice-cream
For more inspiration download our healthy food and drink guidelines.