Kiwi kai

Years ago, before processed foods and fast foods became so prominent in our diets; type 2 diabetes and obesity were virtually unheard of in kids. If you’re looking for some great healthy options for the family, you may want to try some protein-packed, low-fat foods from a traditional Maori diet. Some of these foods include:

  • Kina (sea urchin)
  • Fish & eels
  • Kumara – the main source of carbohydrate and one of the healthiest vegies you can eat
  • Puha and other nutritious bush greens such as ferns
  • Karaka nuts – properly cooked and soaked to remove toxins
  • Kanga wai (fermented corn)
  • Karengo – a seaweed that’s high in protein, selenium, iodine and loads of other useful vitamins and minerals
  • Birds such as Titi (muttonbird)
  • Introduced pigs – Kune and Captain Cookers

Healthy Maori food

These foods are still around today. Many are easy to get your hands on, either in the wild or at your local market. You may even have spotted puha growing in your backyard or along a nearby road.

Many traditional Maori foods are free for the taking, gathering, growing or hunting. So, traditional fare is not only good for your kids but also easy on your wallet.

Get gardening

Before the presence of processed foods and fast foods such as KFC and McDonalds, New Zealanders were devoted to cultivating the delicious kumara – NZ’s very own super-food.

The mighty kumara is:

  • Packed with vitamins and minerals, including B6, calcium and iron
  • Virtually fat-free
  • Cholesterol free
  • Full of fibre – more than oatmeal

Kumara is very easy to grow and it can be stored and enjoyed all year round in a variety of yummy dishes.

Cooking kumara for babies and kids

If you’ve got a kete of kumara in your kitchen, you’ve always got a healthy, easy and low-cost meal at hand for your family.
Boiled and mashed kumara is a great “first food”. Babies generally love it as it’s sweet and easy to eat and digest. It’s also a good “base” to add other foods to such as fish and steamed greens, which are good for baby’s development.

And bigger kids can’t resist these quick and easy snacks and meals:

  • Kumara chips or wedges. Lightly oil a baking tin and place raw chip-sized slices in a single layer. Bake in a moderately hot oven, turning once, until golden brown and lightly crisp. You could also boil or microwave for a few minutes before baking to reduce cooking time.
  • Kumara nachos. Slice thinly and bake as above. Once cooked, top with grated cheese and return to the oven to the cheese melts. Top with mashed avocado & chopped spring onions, and serve.
  • Baked kumara with toppings. Place halved kumara in a baking tin and cook in a moderately hot oven. Once cooked, top with cheese, chopped cooked bacon, lean pork or other meat, diced spring onions, or any leftovers.

Take the kids foraging for puha

Treat it like a treasure hunt! Because puha is a treasure: rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants that promote good health and strong growth. It also enhances digestion and helps the body absorb important nutrients.

Puha grows wild throughout the country so keep your eyes open. But if you’re unsure if what you’ve found is puha, don’t eat it.

Here’s a hint: boiled puha goes great with wild pork, beef and muttonbird.

For more information, see our page on Maori parenting.