How to encourage your kids to eat healthy while sticking to the weekly shopping budget

We all know that eating healthy food is important for our children's health. Countless studies over the years have proven time and time again that nutritious food is crucial for keeping our kids well, both physically and mentally.

However, research published by the University of Otago in 2021 found that Kiwi kids consume five unhealthy snacks per day.

What makes it especially tough for many whānau in Aotearoa is how unhealthy foods tend to be less expensive, so families with lower incomes feel forced to buy cheaper options so they can pay for other things.

It's been a tough year with many nasty bugs spreading through New Zealand on top of the waning COVID-19 pandemic, all adding up to busy hospitals and GP waiting rooms.

Now more than ever, it's important we get our kids eating healthy food and get them interested in it - all while making sure eating healthy is kept affordable.


So how can parents do that?

To help, AA Life Insurance has partnered with Jenny Hale - a senior family coach and presenter at Parenting Place - sharing advice for dealing with common parenting conundrums.

"Healthy food fuels children well and gives them sustained energy. It also prevents a host of adverse health conditions," Hale told Newshub.

"When children get to hear how great their bodies feel after a good meal, it helps them link eating nutritiously with feeling strong and healthy."

Getting children to understand the link between healthy food and their own health is crucial, but it's not something that can be achieved quickly.

"Consider the possibility of having many small conversations over the years about food, remembering not to give food a good or bad status. Talk about what the food helps their bodies to do," said Hale.

"See the big picture - they don't yet know the why - and slowly step by step you can help them appreciate how their body feels and how it is growing, how it fights infections and all the wonderful things our bodies can do.

"Keep in mind too, that children learn by watching what the big people do. If we value eating healthily, you increase the likelihood of them following suit."

Every parent will be familiar with the utter exhaustion they can be pushed to after a hard day when they're faced with a child who simply refuses to eat their veggies.

"You don't need to create any suspicion around vegetables by making them unique. I think simply enjoying eating sends a great message to children and vegetables are just part of what your body requires," Hale said.

She also offered three special tricks for getting stubborn kids into eating their veges:

  • Get your little ones involved in growing vegetables and helping prepare them.

  • Serve the vegetables in a form your child enjoys the most, which is often raw and cut up small. I'd also serve as snacks but if you are putting chips out - put the vegetable sticks out first!

  • It's okay to disguise a few vegetables by grating them into other food.

 There may be times when a child is screaming relentlessly for their favourite snack which can wear an adult down. Once those little ones get a taste of some of that sweet, sweet sugary rubbish it can be hard to deny them.

Parents can get anxious about their child not eating at all when they're refusing the healthy stuff and that can lead them to reaching for the easier, unhealthy option instead - but Hale has a simple solution for that.

"Sometimes just not having that unhealthy snack available helps because if everyone knows it is there it's going to be hard to resist."

Swapping out food you normally get at the supermarket for healthier options doesn't have to be too drastic, either. Hale advises small changes like less meat, switching white bread for wholemeal and cocoa pops for porridge.

Of course, amid the cost of living crisis families have to keep their supermarket shop spends manageable.

That's where planning and a bit of cunning comes in handy.

"Shop for food when it is on special, buy in season and remember that some foods like carrot sticks, cut up apples, hummus and frozen vegetables are great to have regularly," said Hale.

"A tight budget isn't always fun but even that is an opportunity to show children how to be resourceful and shop within a budget.

"Food is to be celebrated and the meal table is a great place to all congregate for meals.  When the atmosphere is positive and free from tension, food can be enjoyed."

We go to great lengths to protect our tamariki. Protecting their financial future is something that’s often less front of mind, but equally important to consider. If you’re interested to look at how life insurance could help protect your family’s financial future should anything happen to you, you can find out more by visiting