Healthy Eating by Lifestages

In our quest to eat healthy, it is important to consider that we need different foods at certain times of our lives – for example, a pre-schooler who is rapidly growing and very active compared to an elderly person will have vastly different food requirements.

The information on the following pages outline the food and drinks our body’s require during each of the main stages of life. The information is based on the New Zealand Ministry of Health Eating and Activity Guidelines and includes handy tips for helping you achieve healthy, balanced eating at any age.

Infants and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers are growing and developing rapidly during the first few years of life. A child’s brain is 80% of its adult size by the time he or she is just two years old. Good nutrition is paramount. There are no right or wrong answers though and each baby is different. Offer your baby a wide variety of foods but don’t worry if they dislike or reject some – that’s only natural. It often takes several attempts before new foods are enjoyed.


Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development, and a time when many habits and behaviours are set.  A healthy lifestyle, including healthy eating, in childhood will help to ensure a healthy future. Here are some simple guidelines for healthy growth and development.


The teenage years cover a whole range of people from age 11 – 19, who are growing at different rates and times, involved in various levels of activity and who are of different heights and weights. This affects the types and amounts of nutrients you will need for a healthy body. Your lifestyle might be changing as well – a different school, different family circumstances, leaving home, starting work or tertiary education, which can affect the foods you eat.


Good health means we can live to the full and reduce our risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as we grow older. What we eat throughout life is important in achieving good health – here are some simple guidelines to help you.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Good nutrition is especially important for women when they are thinking about getting pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnancy is a time when your nutritional needs are greater, in order to nourish both yourself and your growing baby. Good nutrition now will benefit your children throughout their lives.

Older Adults

Nutrition and physical activity continue to be important as we grow older. A healthy combination of good food and exercise can delay or even reverse many of the problems associated with ageing, helping older New Zealanders to continue living independently and enjoy a good quality of life.

Last modified: June 21, 2022