A Rotorua childcare centre has done the seemingly impossible - they've turned pre-schoolers off junk food.
Kidz World on Rutland Street has introduced an award system to encourage children to bring healthy food in their lunchbox and it's a huge success.
Teacher Kim Anderson said the "Healthy Lunchbox Award" began in June and had been so successful children were now educating their parents about the benefits of healthy food.
"We sit down at lunchtime and compare lunchboxes. The children all want to win the Healthy Lunchbox Award so they monitor what their parents pack for them. Some even take responsibility for packing their own lunchboxes with food they know is healthy and take the junk food out. No more lollies," she said.
Mrs Anderson said the difference before and after the award was introduced was great to see.
"Before the award children were bringing along lots of processed junk food in packets. Some didn't have sandwiches, some brought in chippies, biscuits, lollies and even coke," she said.
"Now children are bringing along little containers filled with healthy food like seeds, fruits, carrot sticks, sandwiches and yoghurt."
Mrs Anderson said it was great to see the children getting excited about how different foods helped them grow.
"The children say things like 'this will make me see better or this will make my bones stronger'," she said.
Mrs Anderson said parents attitudes had also changed.
"I don't think the parents were too excited when we first introduced the Healthy Lunchbox Award but the children were so enthusiastic the parents became really supportive too," she said.
Teacher Sarai Marshall said she was delighted to see the change from parents.
"It's the easy option to fill a child's lunchbox with processed foods, but it's not the healthiest," she said.
"Some of the worst things we see are those lunch packs filled with biscuits, chippies, a muesli bar, a packet of lollies and a drink. They have no goodness in them. Even some of the muesli bars which looked healthy, weren't. Parents should check the nutritional details and make sure food isn't more than 10 per cent sugar," she said.
Miss Marshall said the process hasn't just been about what kids can't have though - it's all been about balance.
"We follow the Ministry of Health guidelines and teach children about the food pyramid.
"We have a little phrase we teach the kids, 'It's ok to have sometimes foods - sometimes'," she said.
The most popular lunchbox foods at the centre were mandarins, bananas, sandwiches and yoghurt.
Healthy Lunchbox Tips:
- Involve your children in lunchbox decisions and preparation and be a role model prepare your own healthy lunch at the same time
- Cut large fruit and vegetables [seasonal] into smaller pieces
- Vary the shape of sandwiches: triangles or use a cookie cutter
- Experiment with different breads, for example wraps, pita, fruit bread
- Water and milk are the only drinks recommended for children
- Freeze a drink bottle for the lunchbox to keep food cold and safe
- Keep it interesting. Left overs are great - or try sushi, corn thins, tuna or potato salad etc.
Make sure snacks come from the four food groups.
- Heart Foundation of NZ