Getting kids to eat veges the key to ending childhood obesity

The biggest epidemic to threaten New Zealand children this century is obesity. In New Zealand, one in nine children (aged 2-14 years) are identified as obese and we rank as the third most obese nation in the OECD. In addition, a further 21% of kids are considered to be overweight. They are figures that will have an impact on our children’s health, both now and into the future.

We are a nation of food lovers. Our seafood, meat and fruit are world-class and we love nothing more than to boast about our fresh and bountiful produce. But our eating habits are far from ideal. We covet our Friday night fish and chips, we pile up our plates at all-you-can-eat buffets, and we consume ice-cream like no other nation on the planet! Occasional treats are great, but we are consuming these “treats” all too often and forgetting what our bodies really need to be healthy. And our kids are watching us.

Grow, harvest and prepare

Getting kids to make brave food choices with fresh food they grow, harvest and prepare is part of the mission of the Empower food education programme. They are marking World Obesity Day on 11th of October with a great vegetarian pizza recipe that kids will love making and eating (recipe below).

The Empower programme, run by not-for-profit partners Garden to Table and Life Education Trust, equips Kiwi kids with practical, hands-on knowledge about nutrition and growing food. It was launched in March this year and already, schools all over the country have signed up.

Garden to Table Ambassador Niki Bezzant says one of the keys to solving the obesity crisis is education. “It’s a big part of the picture when it comes to helping the next generation live longer, healthier lives than us. Programmes like Empower, that help kids join the dots between growing, cooking and feeling good, are crucial.”

Food education programmes recommended by World Health Organization

In fact, food education programmes like Empower were recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2016 report on ending childhood obesity. The report said nutrition and health education must be included in school curriculums, and to make food preparation classes available to children, their parents and caregivers.

Life Education Trust Chief Executive John O’Connell said through classroom and practical hands-on learning, Empower is designed to equip and empower children with the knowledge of a balanced diet, meal planning, key nutrients and how to grow food.

“The WHO’s report on ending childhood obesity identified the importance of teaching children in schools about nutrition, and also food preparation. We support teachers to integrate NZ Curriculum-linked resources into their teaching – both inside and outside of the classroom. Schools don’t need huge vegetable gardens or commercial kitchens to get involved either,” he says.

Make eating vegetables a joy

One of the most effective ways to make a difference to our children’s health is to make eating fresh, nourishing food a joy, Garden to Table Executive Officer Linda Taylor says.

She invites children to make a pizza using Niki’s recipes (with a side of kale chips, perhaps!) and to post photos of their efforts on Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s easy and fun to include seasonal veges in your cooking, and letting children take the lead can be a great way to get them involved. We’re looking forward to seeing the creative ways children have prepared Niki’s pizza recipe, using lots of veges.”

Try this great vegetarian pizza recipe created by Garden to Table Ambassador, Niki Bezzant.

Niki's Vege Pizza

For a printable PDF or larger version, click the image.

Niki's Cauliflower base

For a printable PDF or larger version, click the image.

Find out more

To find out more about the Empower food education programme, visit their website,


  1. Jen_Wiig 27/10/2017 at 12:32 pm

    I ha e been incredibly blessed ro ha e all three of my boys love eating veges…my eldest who is 10 is a vegetarian… I thought it was a phase…that was 2.5yrs ago!! We have just planted our first ever vege seddlings in garden beds Dad built the boys over Fathers Day and the excitement and wnjoyment of wateribg and weeding the boys have is just so awesome…it looks like we will get to have a fresh summer salad at xmas too all from the proceeds of the boys veges 😀

  2. Bevik1971 27/10/2017 at 11:19 am

    Yes it can be touch getting kids to eat veges, however there are a lot of recipes where you can hide the good stuff and they don’t even know haha. My partner is stay at home Dad currently to our daughter and does all the cooking as I work fulltime. He makes everything from scratch and always puts in heaps of garlic, carrots, onion, broccoli etc etc in all her meals 🙂

  3. Jaqui 18/10/2017 at 10:28 am

    Those are crazy scary statistics! It is not ok and as parents it is absolutely our responsibility to educate, monitor and feed our kids well!

  4. SarahBlair 16/10/2017 at 11:36 am

    This is great! My fussy 3 year old loves pizza! He would probably eat this!!

  5. Angelgirl081 12/10/2017 at 5:20 pm

    Sounds yum. I’m fortunate that miss 4 loves her veggies and she also loves gardening. They have planted an edible garden at her home based carers and eat the yummy things it produces

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