by Katherine Rich, Chief Executive, NZ Food & Grocery Council

The Government’s package of initiatives to tackle obesity in children was welcomed by most people when it was unveiled in October. It was a pragmatic approach to a complex problem and recognised that families, individuals, industry, government, and public health officials must all do their bit to help solve it.

Industry has been doing a lot by reformulating products, offering smaller portions, supporting education and physical activity programmes in schools and communities, and voluntarily restricting advertising and sales aimed at children. And that work will be progressed.

It’s in the area of education on good nutrition where I believe the biggest difference can be made – helping people make informed choices around the food they eat and their lifestyle, because ultimately only they hold the spoon.
One of the main planks of the Government’s initiatives was an education package which is due to be launched soon, and FGC looks forward to seeing what they come up with and being part of it.

It was while I was considering what form that package could take that I realised there was more that FGC could be doing to share information on healthy lifestyles. Our member companies were doing lots but FGC itself hadn’t updated its healthy lifestyle information for some time.
So we approached respected dietitian and Registered Nutritionist Nikki Hart to put together some videos on a range of relevant food and health topics. We gave her full editorial control that was vital for her expert independence. The result is four short videos, on energy balance, snacks and treats, smart shopping for healthier foods, and eating to live healthier for longer.

You may have seen the first of them. It was released the week before Christmas and was appropriately entitled ‘Energy Balance – the Complexity of Obesity’. The second, ‘Snacks vs Treats’, was released recently.

In ‘Energy Balance’, Nikki talks about how creating an energy gap is the key to preventing weight gain, and how small changes in our food intake or activity – for example, opting to take the stairs or consuming smaller portions – can create a gap that can have a big effect over time as it shifts our body towards burning body fat for energy, rather than storing excess energy as fat.

In ‘Snacks vs Treats’, she talks about how balancing snacks and treats is a challenge for many people but that the secret is in identifying them. She says all foods and beverages can fit into a person’s overall pattern of intake but only if intake is balanced within individual needs. The focus should be on moderation and portion size of foods, in combination with physical activity. The good news for sweet-tooths is that even less-healthy snacks such as lollies, chips, and sugar-sweetened beverages can be part of an overall diet – but only so long as they are consumed in moderation.

The bottom line: “Smaller snacking is smarter snacking.”

These videos are intended to offer positive and achievable solutions at a time when people are confused by often contradictory information. A lot of food or nutrition information can seem too complicated or based on theory rather than practice, and we want to make sound and practical information available to help people make better-informed food choices.

What I enjoy about Nikki Hart’s advice is that it’s straight-forward, engaging, motivating and based on sound science and expertise. I really do hope these videos can play a part in helping to build food awareness.
You can check out the videos on the NZ Food and Grocery Council’s channel on YouTube. The third, on Smart Shopping, will be launched in coming weeks.