Healthy eating is about making healthy food choices from a variety of foods every day.
By eating a wide range of foods, we can get all the energy, vitamins and minerals we need to live well, have more energy and maintain a healthy weight. To stay healthy as you grow and age, it’s important to eat well.
What we eat and drink has a big impact on our general health and wellbeing, our immune system and our risk of getting major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Healthy eating can be quite complex – so sit down at the clinic with Doctor Mike Evans as he provides some great healthy eating tips and advice in this video.
(Michael Evans and Reframe Health Films Inc, 2015)
Choose a variety of healthy foods every day from the following 4 food groups:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Breads and cereals
- Milk and milk products
- Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.
1. Vegetables and fruit
Vegetables and fruit are packed with goodness. They provide carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat.
You should aim to eat a range of different coloured vegetables and fruit, such as:
- red – capsicum, tomato, strawberry etc
- green – broccoli, beans, silverbeet, puha, peas, kiwifruit etc
- orange – carrot, mandarin, orange, pumpkin, golden kumara etc
- white – cauliflower, potato, pear, taro etc
- purple – eggplant, plum, red cabbage etc.
Depending on what age and stage you are at in your life, you will need different amounts of veggies and fruit each day. Read more about recommended serving sizes of vegetables and fruit for children and young people and older people.
Image credit: Canva
2. Breads and cereals
Breads, cereals and grains are a staple in many Kiwi diets. They include rice, pasta, breakfast cereals and other grain products. For younger people they are a good source of energy for busy lives, for growth, sport and fitness.
For heart health, choose wholegrain and high fibre varieties. Wholegrain varieties also help prevent constipation.
Depending on what age and stage you are at in your life, you will need different amounts of grain foods each day. Read more about recommended serving sizes for children and young people and older people.
3. Milk and milk products
Milk is one of our staple foods in Aotearoa New Zealand. Drink it straight, add it to cereal, mix it into a smoothie, or use it for baking.
Milk products like milk, cheese and yoghurt provide energy, protein, vitamins and minerals including calcium. High-calcium foods help build strong bones. Choose low-fat milk and milk products for fewer calories and varieties with added calcium to support bone growth and density – particularly important for younger people who are growing and older people with poor bone density or osteoporosis.
If you are underweight or need extra energy, choose whole-milk products.
4. Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes seeds and nuts
This wide range of foods provides protein (which your body needs to grow), vitamins and minerals to your diet. Red meat, chicken and fish contain iron in a form that your body can easily absorb.
Oily fish is a good source of omega 3, which might reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Oily fish include tuna, kahawai, trevally, kingfish, warehou, dory, salmon, sardines, eel, squid, mussels and oysters.
Legumes, nuts and seeds are one of the most under-rated and healthy, affordable foods around. They can be eaten instead of meat or mixed into a dish and less meat used. You can buy legumes dried or pre-cooked in a can for convenience.
Although fats are not a recommended food group as such, we all need some fat in our diet. It's a macronutrient needed for energy, building healthy cells, helping us to absorb some vitamins and antioxidants, and as a source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
We can get enough fat from healthy food sources (eg, fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil) without needing to add extra fat from less healthy sources (eg, fried chips, fatty meat, cakes and pastries).
Vegetarians and vegans
A well-planned diet that avoids meat or other animal products can be healthy, but you need to make sure that your diet is meeting all your nutritional needs.
Read more about being vegetarian or vegan.
Other healthy eating basics
- Choose and prepare foods low in fat, salt and sugar.
- Cut back on processed foods like takeaways, sugary drinks and instant packaged meals or snacks. Processed foods include:
- processed meats like sausage, luncheon, bacon and ham
- drinks – flavoured milk, fizzy drinks etc.
- packet foods – instant noodles, soups, meals, sauce mixes, cake mixes etc.
- most frozen foods (excluding frozen vegetables, berries, unprocessed meat, chicken or fish).
- Choose healthy snacks and take them with you if you are going to be out and about.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, every day. Cut back on fruit juice, soft drinks and energy drinks.
- Drink only moderate amounts of tea and coffee, particularly during pregnancy.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink or don’t drink at all.
Healthy Heart visual food guide (PDF) Heart Foundation, NZ
Eating for healthy older people/Te kai tōtika e ora ai te hunga kaumatua HealthEd, NZ
Healthy eating for young People HealthEd, NZ
Eating and activity guidelines for New Zealand adults Ministry of Health, NZ
Heart-healthy eating Heart Foundation, NZ
Healthy recipes library Health Navigator NZ
Find a dietitian by location or area of interest Dietitians NZ
Eating for healthy older people/Te kai tōtika e ora ai te hunga kaumatua HealthEd, NZ, 2021
Healthy eating for young people HealthEd, NZ, 2021
Eating and activity guidelines for New Zealand adults Ministry of Health, NZ, 2021
Information for healthcare professionals
The Certificate in Pacific Nutrition (nine-day training course) Heart Foundation – (For people working with pacific communities as a health worker, leader or advisor)
Healthy eating by Dr Teresa Cleary (video) The Goodfellow Unit, NZ, 2018
Auckland DHB nutrition Healthpoint, NZ. This page has the latest Auckland dietitians private practice and primary care directory and you can sign in to access the referral criteria for Auckland DHB dietitians.