Healthy Eating for Young People - HE1230

October 2021
This resource relates to the following topics:

Food information for young people. Includes healthy eating, food groups, healthy snacks, options for vegetarians, exercise, drinking plenty of fluids, and lower-fat takeaways.

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October 2021
October 2021
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To grow and be healthy, you need to be active, eat the right foods and get enough sleep.

Your guide to healthy eating

Life as a young person can be fast, furious and fun. To grow and be healthy, you need to be active and eat the right foods. This brochure shows how to choose healthy foods, drinks and snacks. It also says how you can be active in everyday life, and how much sleep you need.

Make healthy food choices

Look after yourself. Your health is important, and it’s affected by what you eat.

  • Help with preparing the family meals. You could even have one night a week when you cook for the whole family.
  • As often as you can, eat meals with your family and whānau.
  • Lead by example – encourage your family and whānau and friends to make healthy food choices.
  • Eat three meals every day, plus two or three healthy snacks during the day if you are hungry. 
  • Always take time to eat a healthy breakfast – so you have energy to start the day.

Eat many different foods

Eat a variety of foods from these four food groups every day:

  • vegetables and fruit
  • breads and cereals
  • milk and milk products
  • lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes*, nuts and seeds.

* Legumes include cooked dried beans, peas and lentils.

Always take time to eat a healthy breakfast – so you have energy to start the day.

Vegetables and fruit

  • Provide carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, fibre and are low in fat.
  • Eat them with most meals.
  • Great snack food.

How much do I need?

  • At least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day.
  • Eat many different coloured vegetables and fruit: tomato or strawberry; broccoli or kiwifruit; carrot or mandarin; eggplant or plum; potato or pear.

What is one serving?

  • 1⁄2 cup cooked vegetables, eg, broccoli, peas, corn, spinach, pūhā (75 g)
  • a medium potato or similar sized piece of kūmara (75 g)
  • 1 cup salad (60 g)
  • 1 apple, pear, banana or orange
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (150 g)
  • 2 small apricots or plums (150 g)

Dried fruit and fruit juice are not recommended because they contain a lot of sugar.

Drain the juice from canned fruit before eating.

Breads and cereals

  • They also include rice and pasta.
  • They provide carbohydrate, which can be an important source of energy and fibre, and some vitamins and minerals (especially wholegrain breads and cereals).
  • A great source of energy for growth, sport and fitness.

How much do I need?

At least 7 servings every day – if you’re very active, you may need more.

What is one serving?

  • 1⁄4 cup muesli (30 g)
  • 1⁄2 cup porridge
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked pasta or rice
  • 1⁄2 bread roll or large wrap
  • 1 slice of bread, pita pocket or tortilla
  • 2 breakfast wheat biscuits

Milk and milk products

  • They include milk, cheese and yoghurt.
  • They provide energy, protein, fat and most vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
  • You need high-calcium foods to build strong bones.
  • Choose low-fat milk (yellow or green top) for extra calcium.
  • Try milk, cheese and yoghurt as snacks.

How much do I need?

At least 3 servings every day.

What is one serving?

  • 1 cup of low-fat milk (250 ml)
  • 1 pottle of low-fat milk yoghurt
  • 2 slices of cheese (40 g) or 1⁄2 cup of grated cheese

Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes*, nuts and seeds

  • All contain protein, which your body needs to grow.
  • Also contain fat and many different vitamins and minerals – especially iron, which is important for your blood and brain.
  • Your body easily uses the iron from meat, chicken and seafood. To help use the iron from legumes, eat fresh, vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruit at the same time, including kūmara, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges and kiwifruit.
  • Limit processed meats, such as luncheon, salami, bacon and ham as they are usually high in saturated fat** and/or salt.

* Legumes include cooked dried beans, peas and lentils.

** Saturated fats are found in animal fat, palm and coconut oil.

How much do I need?

At least 2 servings every day.

What is one serving?

  • 1⁄3 cup of nuts or seeds (30 g)
  • 1⁄2 cup of mince or casserole (195 g)
  • 3⁄4 cup of tofu (170 g)
  • 1 cup baked beans
  • 12 medium steak (65 g)
  • 1 large piece of fish (100 g)
  • 1 medium pāua or kina (100–120 g)
  • 2 slices cooked meat (65 g), eg roast lamb, or pork
  • 2 eggs


Vegetarians need food with lots of iron such as wholegrain cereals, legumes, dried fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. To help your body absorb the iron in these foods, eat fresh, vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruit with them.

If you don’t eat cheese, milk or eggs, you need to get protein from foods such as tofu and legumes. If you drink soy milk, choose one that has added calcium and vitamin B12.

(See the pamphlet Eating for Healthy Vegetarians – Code HE1519.)

Healthy snacks

Snacks help provide the extra energy you need for growth and physical activity. If you are going to be out and about, take snacks with you. Choose healthy snacks that are low in saturated fat, salt and sugar, such as:

  • bread, bread rolls, bagels, rēwena and pita breads or French sticks. Try some wholegrain varieties and have them with your favourite low-fat fillings
  • crackers, fruit buns, scones, fruit bread, pancakes, popcorn (try popping your own)
  • unsalted nuts and seeds
  • pasta and rice
  • breakfast cereals with low-fat milk/yoghurt
  • low-fat yoghurt, plain or flavoured low-fat milk
  • fresh fruit – whole, with yoghurt, blended in a home made smoothie or with a slice of cheese
  • vegetable sticks together with a dip or spread (hummus, cottage cheese or yoghurt-based dips)
  • reheated leftovers, for example, stews, soups and vegetables (such as potato, taro, pumpkin or kūmara).

Eating when you are out and about

Many takeaways are high in fat, sugar and salt and should be kept for special occasions, not every day. If you are out and need a snack or a meal, look for healthier options. Choose those with less fat, especially saturated fat, and more vegies such as:

  • kebabs and wraps
  • filled bread rolls
  • pizza with more vegetables than cheese
  • sushi
  • pasta with tomato-based sauces
  • thick chunky chips or wedges instead of french fries
  • rice- or noodle-based takeaways (not fried) with lots of vegetables
  • baked, stuffed potatoes.

Keep some fruit and a bottle of tap water in your bag in case you get hungry or thirsty.

Have plenty to drink

Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses every day. Drink even more during hot weather and when you are very active (especially before, during and after exercise).

Drink more of...

Water is best – it’s free and easy to get.

Low-fat milk is also a good drink; it’s rich in calcium and makes a good snack.

Drink less of…

Fruit drinks and juice are high in sugar. If you choose juice, dilute it with water (12 juice and 12 water) and have it with a meal rather than on its own. This may help to protect your teeth from the sugar.

Soft drinks are high in sugar and energy (calories) and can contain caffeine. They should be occasional drinks (less than once a week).

If you drink coffee or tea, limit them to one or two cups per day. Don’t drink tea or coffee with meals because they reduce the amount of iron and calcium you can absorb from the meal.

Energy drinks and energy shots are not recommended. They contain added vitamins and caffeine. They are usually also high in sugar. Most of the added vitamins are not needed.

Alcohol is not recommended. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink only a little, eat some food, don’t binge drink and do not drive.

Eating for growing and moving

Because you are still growing, you need more energy (calories), vitamins and minerals than ever before. What you eat will affect your performance – on and off the field.

Choose a range of foods from the four food groups. Have plenty of breads, cereals, vegetables and fruit, lower fat milk products (milk, yoghurt, some cheeses), lean meat or alternatives and lots of fluids (especially water). Sports drinks are unnecessary for most young people.

Sit less, move more, sleep well

Sit less

  • Break up sitting time
  • Spend no more than 2 hours each day (excluding school) at the computer, on a device, or watching TV.

Move more

  • Do at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day
  • Include activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least 3 days a week.
Moderate activities Vigorous activities

I’m breathing faster and my heart is beating a bit more.

I can still talk!

I’m breathing a lot harder and my heart is beating faster.

I can only say a few words without taking a breath.

Walking the dog

Biking on the flat

Playing at the park or pool


Kapa haka


Running games

Mountain biking

Uphill tramping

Fast lap swimming


Waka ama

Sleep well

  • Getting enough sleep at night is very important for your health:
    • 14–17 year olds need 8–10 hours a night

 For more information

Speak to your:

  • school nurse or public health nurse
  • health education or home economics teacher
  • doctor or practice nurse.

Visit these websites:

ISBN 978-0-478-41167-6 (print)
ISBN 978-0-478-41168-3 (online)