WDHB and WRPHO target families' eating habits

Dietitian Pushpa Wati shows a client how to cook a cheap and nutritious meal.
Dietitian Pushpa Wati shows a client how to cook a cheap and nutritious meal.
12 November 2012
In a joint effort to give Whanganui district children the best possible start in life, young mothers and women of all ages are receiving cooking lessons and sound nutritional advice from recently appointed dietitian Pushpa Wati.
Mrs Wati works closely with GPs, community nurses and many others in the health sector who share her view about the need for families to eat well.
In the past four months, Mrs Wati has presented nutrition workshops to many different groups, including Whanganui workplaces, which she says understand the value of encouraging their staff to eat healthily.
“By helping the adults in our community to eat well, we are going to improve the way in which many of our children eat,” Mrs Wati says. “If children are deprived of basic nutrients they fail to thrive which has long-term detrimental effects on their growth and ability to learn as they grow older.
“It is widely recognised that the Whanganui district has a significant number of struggling families who for many reasons eat poorly. Their diet might include a lot of fast food and junk food which sadly is often cheaper that fresh fruit and vegetables.
“What I’m doing is teaching young mothers how they can prepare healthy and affordable meals for their children and families. It begins with us looking at food labels for sugar, fat and salt content and how these three items can cause long-term health conditions.”
Mrs Wati says she uses shock tactics such as unpleasant photos to get the message through. They might include people with diabetes, what blocked arteries look like and photos of obese adults and children.
“Deep down most people I work with know the importance of eating well but quite a few have never been taught basic cooking skills or what to buy, to prepare a healthy meal at home.
“They find the array of different products overwhelming and have difficulty understanding the difference between a healthy cereal and one laced with sugar and salt or how cheap cuts of meat can be cooked and turned into a tasty meal.”
Plunket is one of the latest organisations to invite Mrs Wati to meet with a group of young mothers to discuss food safety. As word spreads that she’s available to speak to groups and individuals, a steady stream of invitations are coming in. Parents worried about their children’s rapid weight gain are being referred to Mrs Wati by GPs and community nurses.
At the other end of the scale, retirement villages are also inviting Mrs Wati to speak to their residents and staff illustrating just how important nutrition is to all age groups. Anyone who wishes to invite Mrs Wati to speak to their group can call her on 06 348 0109.