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The best way to deal with cyberbullying is by reporting it or talking about it.

What is cyberbullying?

Online bullying – or cyberbullying – is using technology like shared texts, emails, online posts, images, messages or videos to embarrass, threaten or harm someone. It can range from spreading rumours to encouraging violence. Unlike physical bullies, cyberbullies often choose to hide their identity. They can also bully from a distance and reach lots of people with just a few taps on a keypad, which can be very stressful for their targets.
Like all bullying, it’s not OK. No one has to put up with it and it can be stopped.

What can I do if I’m being cyberbullied at school?

It’s important to remember that – despite using technology – cyberbullying still depends on real people to spread and respond to it, so people are the key to shutting it down.  If you’re being cyberbullied, there are some practical things you (or your caregivers ) can do to stop it:

  • Tell someone what is happening and that you are upset by it – don’t suffer alone.
  • Check out your school’s policy on cyberbullying and see what they can do.
  • If you’d rather not talk to friends, family or school you can always contact  Netsafe , Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline for confidential support and advice on what to do or how to cope.
  • Change your phone number, block or unfriend bullies, and alter your online profile or privacy details so they’re more secure; most providers offer help with settings.
  • Collect evidence of the bullying: keep messages, take screen shots or photos, record dates and urls, or print emails.
  • Consider taking a short break from some or all social media; you have the right to be online, but sometimes a rest can help calm both emotional and media storms.
  • Report what’s happened to your internet or mobile provider – they may be able take down or block certain numbers and sites that break their code of conduct.
  • If what’s happening is really serious or scary, consider telling the Police.

What can I do to protect myself online?

  • Choose carefully with whom you share your mobile and online details and any messages or posts: one US study found 17% of all so-called “private” emails/texts were shared – often with more than one person.
  • Set your privacy settings to protect what can be shared on social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat; organisations like Netsafe and Sticks ‘n Stones also have great advice on how to do this and how to report things like bullying.
  • Never give anyone else your passwords/logins.
  • Don’t retaliate or respond to internet bullies and trolls – they might use it against you or as an excuse to continue; they’ll lose interest if they aren’t getting a response.
  • Never join in cyberbullying – what goes around often comes around.


Women and Children’s Health Network, 4 May 2017. “Cyberbullying – Bullying From a Distance”.  Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=288&id=2704  2 November 2017.
Netsafe, 2 October 2015. “How to Use Privacy Settings on Social Networks”. Retrieved from: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/privacy-settings-on-social-networks/ 2 November 2017.
Netsafe, 23 December 2016. “Online Bullying Help for Young People”. Retrieved from: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/reporting-young-people/ 2 November 2017.
Sticks ‘n Stones, n.d. “Dealing  with Bullying”. http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/youth/dealing-with-bullying/ 1 November 2017.

Useful  links

Facebook https://www.netsafe.org.nz/adjusting-your-privacy-settings-on-facebook/

Kidsline http://www.kidsline.org.nz/Home_312.aspx

Netsafe https://www.netsafe.org.nz/aboutnetsafe/  

Office of the eSafety[HO8]  Commisioner https://www.esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying-complaints/social-media-services-safety-centres

Snapchat https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/a/privacy-settings

Sticks ‘n Stones http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/our-project/

Twitter https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169886

What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/

Youthline https://www.youthline.co.nz/contact-us/

Upstander versus Bystander , Life Education Factsheet.

Empathy is the ability to understand how another is feeling and even share in that feeling.

Why is it important to have empathy?

Empathy is the key to making and keeping connections with people. It’s about linking two or more minds by recognising and respecting others’ feelings and attitudes. It’s likely to increase helping behaviours like sharing, comforting or showing concern. It can stop us from embarrassing ourselves – or others. Think how a three-legged race goes much better when you and your partner can sense and communicate how to move and which way to turn.

What does it look, sound or feel like when someone has empathy?

Someone showing empathy might be said to “put themselves in another person’s shoes”, “be in tune with them”, or “get inside their skin”. Empathy can take many forms. Sometimes we just feel it; sometimes we act on it. Here are some examples[H1] :

A toddler tries to comfort someone who is crying by offering them a favourite toy.

A pre-schooler sees a picture of her mother laughing or smiling and says “Mum is happy”.

We squish over to make room on a bench so someone doesn’t feel left out.

We feel happy when our friend wins a prize.

We understand how upset someone who is being bullied  might feel, so we don’t join in.

We don’t say loudly “Look – that lady is SO FAT” if we see a very large person on the street.

We know why our little sister is both nervous and excited about starting school.

We don’t make a loud noise when we know someone is tired or upset.

We understand why someone did something bad … or had to do it in a certain way.

A counsellor senses when a client’s ready to talk about a hard topic, and when they’re not.

We understand the feelings of a person in a song, book or film – even if we don’t like them.

Someone says “I know how you feel … I understand your frustration…” and really means it.

We smile or wave at someone … even if we don’t know them.

It’s easier –but not essential – to empathise if you’ve had a similar experience. Reading, different social contacts, or just taking time to think and talk about others helps us develop empathy. Empathetic people are often great negotiators, advisers, and listeners who show tact, compassion, kindness, consideration and good manners.

Can you think of some other examples of showing or feeling empathy?
In which jobs or situations might having empathy be particularly important


California Department of Education, 26 September 2016. “Foundation: Empathy”. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09socemofdemp.asp 8 November 2017.

The Brain from Top to Bottom, Mc Gill University, nd. “Sharing Other People’s Pain”. Retrieved from: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_03/d_03_s/d_03_s_dou/d_03_s_dou.html  8 November 2017.

Is there a difference between empathy and sympathy?

They’re pretty similar and not all dictionaries or psychologists agree on how to define them. Sympathy most commonly means showing sadness or pity for someone because we know something bad has happened to them (like feeling sorry for flood victims) and/or wanting  to help them. It’s the tiny difference between being ‘with’ them in their feelings (pathos) as opposed to ‘in’ them.. In everday speech the difference is small and often lost. What’s important is that they’re both great emotions for us to use with people.

Can you think of some jobs or situations where empathy might be particularly important?

A good friend brings out the best in you and is there for you, whatever happens.

What does a good friend look like?

Friends can come in many forms: they can be young or old, or might even be an animal like a pet. A good human friend:

lways brings out the best in you

enerally keeps your secrets, unless they affect your safety
O  ften shares your interests
O  ften shares your feelings, and always understands you
D  efends you and sticks up for you – even when others don’t

F   orgives you if you make mistakes or do something silly that hurts them
R   egularly shares with you: toys, thoughts, fun, limelight … everything
I    ncludes you in whatever they’re doing
E   ncourages you and isn’t jealous of you
N  ever lets you down
D  oesn’t try to control you, but tells you when you’re doing something stupid

They may not do all these things all the time; but they’ll do many of them most of the time.

Being friends and having friends

We can be a friend to others as well as having friends ourselves. People often say:
The best way to have a friend, is to be one.
We can also be a good friend to ourselves  by taking time to look after our body and mind.

What about when friends fight or move on?

Friendships can change over time, like any relationship. And friends can argue and make up.
Everyone feels left out by their friends – even their besties – from time to time. Sometimes it’s because we’ve done something silly of hurtful to them, perhaps without even realising it. Sometimes it’s because our friends are people just like us and make mistakes – just like we do. Sometimes we just don’t “click” anymore because one or other of us has changed.

If we’ve upset our friends we need to say sorry to them. If they try to make up for something that they’ve done to upset us we should accept their apology and move on.

 “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah Winfrey


Women and Children’s Health Network, 13 October 2016. “Friendship”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=1636 5 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 15 February 2016. “Shyness – Are you[HO4]  Shy”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=1636 5 December 2017.

Useful links

“How can I make friends ?”, “Loving Ourselves: Self-love and Self-Compassion”,  Life Education factsheets.

“I’ll be There for You”: by The Rembrandts. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-9pLZQ4vu0 6 December 2017.

“Friends will be Friends”: by Queen. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAQ4sJZ5IsU 11 December.

“Friends Forever”: from Bear in the Big Blue House. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xlYecJEH_k 7 December 2017

“You’ve got a Friend in Me”: cover from Toy Story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIYOJ_hSs0o Retrieved from: 7 December 2017.

Change is a part of our lives. Changes often make our lives happier and better – but sometimes they don’t. It helps to have strategies and support to deal with these times.

What are talking about?

Losses and changes can go together (like when we change schools we may lose some friends but we’ll make new ones). Sometimes they’re big, sometimes small. We usually deal easily with small losses (like losing a pen, or not passing a test); and also with changes that are small (switching teams), expected (growing up), or happy (a new family member).

What might it feel like?

Big changes or losses can make us feel a lot of different emotions. We might feel:

Angry               Sad                  Scared             Frustrated       Relieved          Shocked

Lonely              Tired                Sorry                Nervous           Confused         Distracted      

Sick                  Ashamed         Guilty               Responsible     Excited            Disbelieving

How can I deal with what I’m feeling?

Look for the good or the growth. Try to see the change as opening the door on a host of opportunities and adventures: like seeing a different part of the country or world, making a fresh start, the chance to make new friends, or the chance to try something new.

Talking. Sometimes we can feel guilty or responsible for something (like when parents split up) that isn’t our fault or responsibility. Talking to someone can help us realise that. If we’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, it helps to talk or ask questions about what’s happening.

Sharing feelings. This is another way to deal with feelings like confusion, fear, worry, and anger. If someone empathises with us, it can help us realise that we’re not alone in facing this situation. It can also help put things in perspective if we’re over-reacting.

Draw on our deep pool of resilience . Loss and change (perhaps after an accident) can dent our confidence and self-esteem. We need to remember that we are all strong and can overcome set-backs if we hang in there… Nothing lasts forever, including feeling this way.

Time for self-love. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset for a while after a big loss or change – especially if someone dies. Think of it like recovering from a big injury: we’ll be sensitive, need some quiet time to heal, and should practise some self-love to get us through.

Find a healthy distraction. It might be exercise, music, dance, reading … cooking. Some time out helps our minds and bodies stay strong enough to deal with whatever happens.

Messages and memories. Moving away doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch with friends or family via calls, visits, games or online chat. Photos can also help us remember people and places. And sharing memories of someone who’s died can be comforting at times.

Hard times

Some changes or losses can be particularly hard to deal with:

  • Moving away from our school, home or country
  • Our home being destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake
  • Having something precious stolen from us
  • Big changes in health, perhaps from an accident or sickness
  • Lifestyle changes, perhaps after a someone loses a job or moves out
  • When a pet, friend or family member dies and we feel grief (sadness) over their loss

There is no shame or weakness in asking for time, help or support to get through them.

There is always someone or something that can help us get through. Find them.


Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 11 September 2017. “Changing Schools”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&id=1654&np=286 20 December 2017.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 17 July 2017. “Coping with Change – Loss and Grief”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1649 18 December 2017.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 18 September 2017. “When Parents Split Up”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1660 19 December 2017.

Useful links

“What is Resilience?”, “Grief, Loss and Change”, “What is a Growth Mindset?”, “Loving Ourselves”, “What is Empathy?”and “How can I Make Friends?” [HO7] Life Education factsheets.

Kidsline http://www.kidsline.org.nz/Home_312.aspx

Skylight[HO8] .org. Retrieved from: https://skylight.org.nz/

What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/

It’s about being a part of a group … not apart from a group.

What do we mean by belonging?

When we belong to a group, we feel we have a place in it or a right to be part of it.
Groups can be of any size and makeup. Often they are made of people who share a common passion or interest – for example a group of friends, a band, or a sports team. They can also be made of people who share something else in common – for example being from the same community, religion, or country; or having special needs.

What do we mean by including and excluding?

To belong to a group we have to feel included in it by its other members: we must feel that they welcome us into it, or at least agree with us being part of it. Sometimes we have to make an effort to be included in a group (like practising our music for band, or learning a new language); sometimes we are automatically included (like being born blind or a Kiwi).
If we don’t feel included in a group, we can feel excluded from it.

Why is belonging important?

When we belong to a group, we feel accepted, respected and supported by it. It can form part of our identity (who we feel we are). Not only can this make us feel good about ourselves, but it usually makes us want to join in its activities. When we belong to a group we know that there are others like us on whom we can rely in good times or bad, so it can make us more resilien .

If someone feels excluded from a group they want to be a part of they might feel sad, rejected or angry. If they can’t find another group to join, they might feel lonely and vulnerable. It can also be hard for people to value, understand – or even care – about groups to which they don’t belong. 

We may belong to some types of groups all our lives.

There are also lots of groups to which we may belong for a while only.

Can you think of some examples of each type?

How can we belong to groups or include people in them?

There’s a lot we can do to include people in groups or belong to them ourselves:

Belonging Including
Accept invitations to play and invite people to join us in return; join in group activities in school and outside it Invite people to play with us at school and at home – especially if they’re new in town  
Join sports, games, music or community groups Welcome people into our play, sports, music or community groups
Offer to help others and show that we appreciate their help and friendship; contribute to groups Share things with others – toys, sports’ gear, our time, our friendship
Try to understand or fit in with the customs of another group, community, culture or country; maybe explain yours to them Ask someone to tell us about their different ability, lifestyle, culture or country; avoid judging people before you get to know them
Keep an open mind, be ready to take on new ideas and experiences and give everyone a “fair go” Keep an open mind, be ready to take on new ideas and experiences and give everyone “a fair go”


One-eighty.org., n.d. “Belonging – Why is it so Important for Children to Feel like they ‘Belong’ around Other People?” Retrieved from: http://one-eighty.org.uk/belonging-blog/ 4 December 2017.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Republic of Ireland, n.d. “Identity and Belonging”. Retrieved from: http://www.ncca.biz/Aistear/pdfs/PrinciplesThemes_ENG/ID&Belonging_ENG.pdf 5 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 4 May 2017. “Feeling Lonely”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1800 4 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 14 November 2016. “Prejudice – Not Giving a ‘Fair Go’”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335 &np=287&id=2348 4 December 2017.

Useful links

Life Ed factsheets “What is Empathy?”[HO5] , and “What is Resilience?”

Read but not cited:

Bilmes J, (2012), ‘Beyond behaviour management’, 1st Ed, St Paul, Minn, Redleaf Press.
Teach Preschool, 28 July 2014. “Every Child Needs to Feel Like They Belong”: author Deborah Stewart. Retrieved from: https://teachpreschool.org/2014/07/28/every-child-needs-to-feel-like-they-belong/ 4 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network  “Social Skills” http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=2905

Loving ourselves: self-love and self-compassion

Self-love (sometimes called “self-compassion”) is the belief that you are a valuable and worthy person who deserves to be treated with love and kindness.

Why is it important to love ourselves?

When we love ourselves, we feel good about who and what we are. It’s not being selfish. It’s about allowing ourselves the same love, kindness, compassion and support that we’d show our friends or family; and not judging ourselves too harshly.
It’s important because it helps us to be stronger and happier people:

  • We know that we can be kind to ourselves and ask for help when we need it
  • We know that we can accept the love and kindness others offer us
  • We feel more positive, and less anxious or worried, about life
  • We bounce back from stress and set-backs more easily
  • We find it easy to give love to others because we have a big store of it inside us.

How can we practise self-love?

There are many things we can do to practise self-love and help it develop:

  • Treat ourselves kindly and don’t judge ourselves too harshly
  • Tell ourselves something really good and positive about ourselves each day
  • Respect ourselves for who we are and what we are; if other people think differently, that’s OK too but we’re not going to let it worry us or get us down.
  • Make a list of all our achievements and happy things when we’re feeling really good: remind ourselves of these when we’re feeling down
  • Admit we’re human: everyone makes mistakes and can learn from them
  • Love our bodies by making sure they get healthy amounts of good food and exercise
  • Learn to sometimes say “No”: we can’t always please everyone all the time
  • Be comfortable asking for help if we feel we can’t deal with a situation on our own: we deserve the same support that we would offer others if they were struggling.
  • Have fun, find something to love in what we do each day, and enjoy being ourselves!

How can we help others to love themselves?

Self-love is similar to, but not the same as self-esteem[HO1] . Encouraging our friends, family and classmates to feel good about themselves will develop both their self-love and self-esteem.  We can also persuade them not to beat themselves up or blame themselves at those times when things don’t go so well.


Huffington Post, 15 February 2017. “Self-love Must Come First: How to Love Yourself”: author Joyce Marter. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-marter-/selflove-must-come-first-_b_9237282.html 4 December 2017.
Psychology Today, 29 June 2017, “* Powerful Steps to Self-love”: author Melanie Greenberg. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201706/8-powerful-steps-self-love 4 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 14 November 2016. “Being Happy”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=2243 4 December 2017.

If anything bad happens online, we need to report it or talk about it.

What are we talking about?

Most of the time the messages, posts, tweets and images we send and receive on our phones, tablets and other devices let us share fun stuff. But sometimes bad things can happen online: like cyberbullying, identity fraud, or inappropriate communication.

Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology like shared texts, emails, online posts, images, messages or videos to embarrass, threaten or harm another. It can range from spreading rumours to encouraging violence (see our separate sheet [HO3] on cyberbullying).
Identity fraud is when someone pretends to be us by using our login/password details – maybe to post nasty messages, perhaps to spend our money. It generally happens without our permission or knowledge.
Inappropriate communication is anything from someone sending violent or sexual messages or posts that upset us to blackmail and stalking (= unwanted attention). It could be a suggestion that we meet up and do something with them in real life, perhaps something that doesn’t feel right or safe.

What can we do if we’ve been sent something nasty on a mobile or online?

If we’ve received a nasty call, been sent an upsetting message or image, or seen one on another person’s device, there are some practical things we (or our caregivers[HO4] ) can do:

  • Tell someone, preferably an adult, what’s happening, that we’re upset by it, or think it’s not right. If we’d rather not talk to friends, family or school we can contact[HO5]  Netsafe , Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline for confidential support and advice.
  • Text back the sender/caller and tell them to stop; or turn off our phone.
  • Change our phone number, mute, block or unfriend people we are worried about, and alter our online profile or privacy details so they’re more secure; most providers offer online help with these settings.
  • If it’s cyberbullying, see our factsheet on What can I do if I’m being bullied online[HO6] ?
  • Gather evidence of the activity: save messages, take screen shots or photos, record dates and urls, or print emails.
  • Maybe take a short break from some or all social media; we all have the right to be online, but sometimes “disappearing” for a bit is the safest and wisest thing to do.
  • Report what’s happened to our internet or mobile provider – they may be able take down or block certain numbers, users or sites that break their code of conduct.
  • If what’s happening is really serious or scary, consider telling the Police.

What can we do to protect ourselves online?

  • Choose carefully with whom we share our mobile, personal and online details and any messages or posts: one US study found 17% of all so-called “private” emails/texts were shared – often with more than one person.
  • Set our privacy[HO7]  settings to protect what can be shared on social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat; organisations like Netsafe and Sticks ‘n Stones also have great advice on how to do this and how to report things like bullying.
  • Never share our passwords or logins.
  • Never join in cyberbullying or trolling – what goes around often comes around.
  • [HO8]  the age limits on websites and games ­ – they are there for a good reason.
  • Think before posting an image of ourselves; be cautious if someone asks us for one.
  • Never agree to meet anyone we’ve “met” online anywhere alone in real life, unless we know exactly who they are and that we’ll be safe with them. The same goes for giving them our contact details (address, phone etc.), however much they ask.


Women and Children’s Health[HO9]  Network, 16 October 2017. “Mobile Phones are Great … Aren’t They?”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=288&id=2701 15 November 2017.
Netsafe, 29 October 2017. “Help with Online Harassment, Bullying and Abuse”. Retrieved from: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/hdc/ 15 November 2017.
Sticks ‘n Stones, n.d. “Dealing[HO10]  with Bullying”. http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/youth/dealing-with-bullying/ 1 November 2017.

Useful[ links

Facebook https://www.netsafe.org.nz/adjusting-your-privacy-settings-on-facebook/
Kidsline http://www.kidsline.org.nz/Home_312.aspx
Netsafe https://www.netsafe.org.nz/aboutnetsafe/  
Office of the eSafety[  Commisioner https://www.esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying-complaints/social-media-services-safety-centres
Snapchat https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/a/privacy-settings
Sticks ‘n Stones http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/our-project/
Twitter https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169886
What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/
Youthline https://www.youthline.co.nz/contact-us/

We need a little bit of fat as part of a healthy diet but some fats are better for us than others. Fat is used for energy and helps our brain to work properly. It is found naturally in animal products such as lamb and butter but it is also added to many processed foods such as potato chips. Unsaturated fats are helpful to the body but we only need small amounts of them.  We mainly get these fats from plants and fish. Trans fats and saturated fats are the unhealthy fats which have been linked to heart disease.  If people have too much saturated or trans fat in their bodies it can build up and block their blood vessels, which causes heart trouble.

What are they?

Fats and oils belong to a larger group of substances called lipids. We call fats that are liquid at room temperature “oils”.  Fat is a source of energy and essential fatty acids.  Some foods have almost no fat whilst others have plenty of fat.

What’s the difference between the main types of fat?

Saturated fatty acids (SFAs)

Saturated fats are considered to be the unhealthy fats.  Eating too much of these has been shown to link to high cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.  Saturated fats are found in meat and other animal products and in many takeaway and processed foods.

Unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs)

Unsaturated fats are sometimes called the healthy fats and in small amounts they are helpful to the body.  There are two types of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA).  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are types of PUFA that we get mainly from plants or fish. They include two essential fatty acids (EFAs) that we can’t live without or make ourselves and must get from our food.

Trans fats (TFAs)

Trans fats are produced during some manufacturing processes and have been found to be more harmful than saturated fat to heart health. For this reason, trans fats should be avoided in the diet and replaced with mono or polyunsaturated fats where possible.  Natural TFAs are present (about 2% to 9% total fat) in beef, mutton and lamb and dairy foods.

Why do these differences matter?

If we have lots of SFAs in our bodies, the ones with melting points around our body temperature can start to build up and solidify (set), attract “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and block our blood vessels. This can cause heart trouble. Man-made TFAs cause similar problems and are now banned in some countries, like the USA. Fish and plants operating at lower temperatures that could risk SFA blockages tend to use fewer fats and/or more UFAs.

Why do we need fat?

Fats are a part of every cell in our body and the building blocks for many hormones, including steroids and sex hormones. We need them for our brains to work properly and when we are injured or have bacteria or poisons in our body tissue as fat helps to combat infections.  Eating fat guarantees a source of our two Essential Fatty Acids, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and helps us absorb some vitamins like Vitamin D.

Fat also provides energy. It releases over twice the energy of proteins and carbohydrates (37 kJ versus 17 kJ per gram) when burned, so is great for active bodies.  It is vital for maintaining healthy skin and hair.

Which foods contain which fats?

Saturated fats are common in animal foods like fatty meats and full fat dairy foods like butters, cheese, cream, yoghurts; and cocoa butter, palm oil, & coconut products.

Hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and man-made trans fats are found in processed foods like hard margarines, shortening, cakes, crisps, crackers, biscuits, processed meats like salami and corned beef; dairy foods, beef and lamb have natural trans fats.

Monounsaturated fats are in good amounts in many nuts and their oils (including cashews, macadamias and peanuts), avocado and its oils, and lean meat.

Polyunsaturated (including omega-3 and -6) fat sources include common vegetable oils (canola, corn, sunflower, soybean) nuts, seeds, fish and some margarines. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, seafood like mussels, flax oil and walnuts are good for omega-3s. Sunflower, soybean, corn, sesame and walnuts are good sources of omega-6s.

What information is there about fats on food packets?

In NZ a food label can only legally claim it’s “low-fat” if it contains less than 1.5 g total fat/100 mL liquid or 3 g total fat/100 g. Nutrition Information Panels (NIPS) in NZ must list total and saturated fat levels but do not have to give TFA, PUFA, MUFA, omega or EFA levels unless the manufacturer wants to or is making health or nutrition claims. Foods with less than 10 g fat/100 g (or 2 g/100 g for dairy) are usually considered low fat. If you check out Harold’s Food Analyser you’ll find that most fruit, breakfast cereals, grain foods, legumes and veggies meet these levels and some meats and dairy – but hardly any snacks.

What can we do?

Watching the level of SFAs and TFAs in our foods is a good start as these are the fats most likely to cause us harm. The Ministry of Health reckons that SFAs provide 14% to 15% percent of energy in the diets of NZ children and young people– more than the 10% recommended – but our TFA levels are below the 1% recommended levels, at around 0.6%.

To reduce how much fat – particularly SFAs and TFAs we eat – we can:

  • Use less fat and replace foods or oils rich in SFAs with ones rich in PUFAs and MUFAs.
  • Cut down on the amount of heavily processed foods we eat.
  • Try leaner meats or fish, and low fat or lower fat dairy options.
  • Think about how the total amount of energy in all the food we eat each day balances out against the energy we use – the excess is mostly stored in fatty tissue in our bodies.



Iron is a mineral. When we eat plants and animals we get it in two main forms: as non-haem and haem iron. Dairy foods, eggs and plants have non-haem iron only; good sources are nuts, legumes and dried fruits. Lean red meat, poultry, and fish are good sources of haem iron but also have non-haem. We sometimes add iron to foods like yeast spreads and breakfast cereals.

Human bodies can’t absorb (take in) non-haem iron nearly as well as haem iron. Some substances (like Vitamin C) can help us absorb non-haem iron, while others make it harder.

We need iron to help blood carry oxygen round our bodies and give us energy. It also helps make chemical messengers like hormones and the neurotransmitters in our nerves. We need a lot when we’re growing. If we don’t eat enough iron we can feel tired, get sick, and look pale.

What is it?

Iron is the fourth most common mineral element in the earth’s crust. It’s also in the bodies of plants and animals. In animal meats, just under half its iron is there as “haem iron” (in blood) and the rest as “non-haem iron” (found in plants). The iron in dairy, eggs, and edible plants is only there as non-haem iron. Sadly, our bodies can’t absorb non-haem iron from foods nearly as well as haem iron.

What foods do we get it from?

Lean red animal meats, liver, poultry and seafood are good sources of haem iron. There’s a good amount of non-haem iron in fortified breakfast cereals (to which iron has been added), many dried fruits, nuts, legumes and other veggies, and spreads like marmite/vegemite. People eating only the less absorbable non-haem iron need to make sure they get enough to meet their iron needs.

Can other substances affect how much iron we get?

Vitamin C helps us to absorb non-haem iron from food in our gut if it’s eaten at the same time: try a kiwifruit or some fresh orange juice with your cereal. Haem iron also helps with absorbing non-haem iron – suggesting there might be something to old idea of “meat and two veg”. A number of substances including tannins (which give us the bitter taste in tea and coffee), oxalates (found in spinach and chocolate) and phytates (found in some legumes and grains) interfere with non-haem absorption, so eating a varied diet will help to balance out their effects.

Why do we need it?

We need iron to help make haemoglobin and myoglobin – the proteins that help carry oxygen in our blood and to our muscles. Iron helps us to get energy from our food. We also use it to make certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) and hormones. And our immune system needs it. People who are active or growing fast like infants, children, teenagers and athletes – or losing blood like teenage girls and women of childbearing age – need more iron.

What happens if we have too much or too little?

Too little iron (deficiency) isn’t common in NZ. Adolescent girls are most at risk. Someone with a deficiency could feel tired, look pale, feel puffed, or get more infections. Anaemia (a lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin) has these symptoms. We’re unlikely to get too much iron unless we’re taking high doses of iron supplements or have a genetic condition (haemochromatosis) that causes it to build up. A bit too much might upset our stomach and make us feel sick, but too much over a long time could damage someone’s heart or liver.

Funky fact

About 0.005% of an 80-kg adult’s bodyweight is iron: that’s about 4 g­ or enough to make 3 or 4 nails. We store about half the iron in our bodies in our liver.

Levels of nutrients like vitamins can be changed by storing and processing fruit and veges. Many plants start to lose vitamin B and C once they’re picked: stored spinach can lose all its Vitamin C in a week. Freezing fresh fruit and veg can reduce how much Vitamin B and C they lose, and even increase Vitamin E levels. In other plants, storage increases levels of vitamins A or D.

Cooking fresh plants can also cut their Vitamin B and C levels by around 15% to 50%. Just how much depends on the plant and how it was cooked. Canned plant foods lose about 60% of their Vitamin B and C compared to fresh. But many canned vegetables concentrate minerals like calcium or sodium, and canned tomatoes may contain more Vitamin E.

Aim for a mix of very fresh, chilled, frozen and canned foods, cooked in many ways.

What happens to vitamins when we store fruit and vegetables?

Levels of water-soluble vitamins like B and C start to fall at different rates after we pick some plants: fresh spinach stored at 20 °C for a week loses 100% of its Vitamin C, but carrots only 27%; refrigeration at 4 °C slows down these losses (to 75% and 10%, respectively), as does flash freezing vegetables like peas right after harvesting. But other plants (like pumpkins and mushrooms) only develop higher levels of carotenes (coloured substances related to Vitamin A) or fat-soluble vitamins like A and D after they’ve been kept for a while.

How do frozen and refrigerated vegetables and fruits compare?

A 2015 study found certain stored frozen foods (like corn, green beans and blueberries) had higher Vitamin C levels than the same refrigerator-stored fresh food. There was no major loss of Vitamin C for frozen strawberries, carrots, spinach, peas or broccoli. For Vitamin B2 the results were similar except that frozen peas lost more than refrigerated ones. Beta-carotene (from which we make Vitamin A) levels were 50% lower in frozen peas, carrots and spinach than in refrigerated but no different for beans and broccoli. Vitamin E levels were up to 50% higher for frozen peas, beans, blueberries, spinach and corn.

What happens when we cook fruit and vegetables?

Most cooking techniques like boiling or baking  break down water soluble vitamins so they’re less helpful to us. Home cooking causes a 15% to 55% loss of Vitamin C depending on plant type and method. Microwaving, boiling and steaming generally cause least loss and frying the most, but it varies. Boiling carrots concentrates their beta-carotene but can damage  other nutrients. The nutrients that leak out of plant cells into cooking water aren’t totally wasted if you use this liquid in a sauce, stew or soup. But if you peel plants before cooking them, remember you’re also removing some of their nutrients: about 90% of the iron, 70% of the fibre, and 30% to 50% of the B and C vitamins in a potato are in its skin.

How do frozen and canned fruits and vegetables stack up?

Blanching (briefly putting food in boiling water or steam to stop the enzymes that break it down from working) before freezing or canning can damage sensitive vitamins like B and C. Vitamin C losses average around 50% for freezing and over 60% for canning. And because picked plants – even refrigerated ones – naturally lose Vitamin C, frozen produce can end up containing similar amounts of Vitamin C to fresh foods which have been stored for a while. Canned tomatoes often have more Vitamin E than fresh or frozen ones, but levels are similar for other vegetables. Canned veges often take up minerals (like calcium) from water during processing so may have more than fresh. But they often also have added sodium (brine) – and tinned fruits may come in sugary syrups. It’s good to check can labels and aim for low or no sodium and sugar products, and maybe drain or rinse what’s inside before eating it.

So what’s the best trade-off?

By the time we balance vitamin losses during storage against those from freezing or canning and cooking, most cooked fresh vegetables will contain similar levels of nutrients like Vitamin C and beta-carotene (from which we make Vitamin A) to cooked frozen or canned ones. Although fresh is good, it’s not always practical or economical: a variety of fresh, chilled, frozen and canned produce, prepared in a range of ways should provide most of the nutrients we need in a balanced diet.