Energy drinks should not be consumed by anyone under 18 and children should exercise for at least an hour a day, according to new Government recommendations.

There has also been a renewed push to reduce fat, salt and sugar in the diets of children and young people to keep them healthy.

The Ministry of Health yesterday released its new Food and Nutrition Guidelines for people aged between 2 and 18, who represent a quarter of New Zealand's population.

The update, the first since 1998, is tougher than its predecessor, which said the caffeine and sugar-filled energy drinks were all right every once in a while.


The Ministry of Health's chief adviser on child and youth health, Dr Pat Tuohy, said energy drinks used to be sold in smaller quantities.

"But now they're being sold in bigger and bigger volumes - up to 600ml - and that makes it easier to exceed an adverse effect level with a single bottle or can. We're advising young people to avoid them, we think they're harmful to their health."

Dr Tuohy said the ministry wanted to continue the push for healthy, balanced eating.

"I know it must sound like we've been harping on about that for years, but we know that high numbers of children and young people are obese and overweight. And we're also seeing from a number of studies that a quarter of New Zealand in that 5-to-9 age group have chippies and other high-fat and salt foods at least five times a week," Dr Tuohy said.

The new guidelines say high-fat, sugar or salt foods should be for occasional use only.

Children and young people should do at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity each day while reducing their time in front of a screen, outside of school, to two hours a day. Dancing, sport, jobs, play and just getting around are suggested as ways to exercise.

* No energy drinks for those under 18.
* No tea or coffee for those under 13.
* Young people older than 13 can have up to two cups a day.
* High fat, sugar or salt foods should be for occasional use only.
* Eat enough for activity, growth and to maintain a healthy body size.
* Drink plenty of water during the day. Include reduced or low-fat milk.
* Eat meals with family or whanau as often as possible.
* Encourage children and young people to be involved in shopping, growing and cooking family meals.


Getting kids to eat their vegetables and brown bread can be a struggle, but a Tokoroa mother of four has a trick that works - renaming it.

"My kids hate my Maori Bread, but they absolutely love my Special Bread," Gina Peiffer said.

Mrs Peiffer (pictured) also has a penchant for black olives and when she was at the supermarket with her son Danny, she called them "Mum's special lollies", which he learned to love himself.

Danny, 14, Mrs Peiffer's youngest, is the last of her children still living at home. But just over a year ago, her 9-year-old moko, Phoenix, came to live with her.

All he knew was "white bread, white bread and more white bread", washed down with fizzy drinks while he watched TV, Mrs Peiffer said.

Phoenix arrived at her home with no appetite for healthy food.

"In my house, he had to learn a different way to eat - he didn't even know what vegetables are. I'd peel potatoes and he'd sit there asking me if it was meat."

Mrs Peiffer encouraged her children to be involved with the shopping, and from 12 years old they had to cook once a week.

"It can be a bit hard getting kids to eat their meat and veg," she said, "but if you do it right from the start, it's much easier."