This is the place to find information and ask questions about gardening as exercise and health issues related to gardening, such as:

  • Back care
  • Calories burned
  • Sun burn
  • Tetanus
  • Care around potting mix

and more...


(See also the Eating discussion)

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We can learn to like the taste of healthier food

We're born preferring sweet tastes, as some sour or bitter substances are poisonous or inedible but very few sweet tasting things are.  This helped our species survive, but with easy access to sweet foods and less physical effort required to get them, it is making sick.

We can learn to like the taste of less sugary, fatty, salty foods by continuing to eat them.

This week is World Breast Feeding Week

Does your culture encourage breast feeding women to eat special foods?  In Fiji breast feeding women are fed pawpaw and mango (yum!), while in Kiribati, the women are fed fresh coconut tree sap – a drink not available here. 

In NZ, women are encouraged to drink plenty of water while feeding their baby and to make sure you eat healthy meals with a variety of fruit and vegetables regularly – don’t just graze.  If you don’t eat well your milk supply may dry up.  The Ministry of Health has a pamphlet on Eating for Healthy Breastfeeding – if you want a copy, contact me.

Did you know that babies taste the flavours of their culture even while they are in their mother’s tummies?  The flavours also come through in their mother’s milk. The taste and fat content varies even over a day to meet the child’s needs – for example the milk of the evening feed is naturally richer, helping the baby get through the night.  Children who have been breast fed may become less-picky about what they eat due to the variety of flavours they’ve been exposed to early on.  So if you are able to breast feed, do so – breast milk is best!

If your children do become picky (fussy) eaters, try some of the tips here, like the one-bite-rule.

Photo: Anna Langova

Trying to reduce how much salt you eat?

If your health professional has told you to reduce the amount of salt you eat, but you are worried about the flavour, don't be:  we can learn to like new tastes

For example, one study of adults found that eating soup that had less salt than usual became liked after eating it just 4 times! 

We all need some salt to stay healthy.  The World Health Organization recommends a daily salt intake of between 3g to 6g (6g is about one teaspoon of salt). New Zealanders consume an average of 9g of salt a day.  Much of this is 'hidden' in products like bread.  It is ofen called 'sodium' on food packaging.

If you are using salt at home, the Ministry of Health recommends using iodised salt.  (This means it contains iodine, which helps to prevent an illness called goiter.)

If your English is good and you want to learn more about salt and our taste preferences, see John Prescott, Taste Matters:Why we like the foods we do, London, Reaktion Books, 2012, p.54 - Hamilton City Libraries holds a copy. 

Daffodil Day + developing your English language skills

English Language Partners recommend theESL News New Zealand web site where there are short stories mostly about New Zealand. 

"Learners can also listen to these stories being read aloud as they follow the text - it’s very helpful for pronunciation."

The current story is about Daffodil Day: daffodil flowers are sold to raise money to support people with cancer and to educate people.   The story also has information about melanoma - a cancer caused by sun damage, the reason we often tell you to wear a hat in the garden or at our outdoor workshops!


Nutrition Dictionary

If you see a nutrition term you don't understand, try looking it up on the free Nutrition Dictionary on the Sanitarium web site: 

Do you have a nutrition question?

The Ministry Of Health has several booklets on nutrition for different age groups which are free: contact me if you would like them sent to you. 

At least three NZ companies invite you to ask questions of their qualified nutritionists – and the service is free!

Sanitarium, best known for making marmite and breakfast cereals, also has recipes and Health and Wellbeing Information. You may also like to subscribe to their Good Food News which is a free quarterly email magazine. It includes tasty recipes, nutrition and health information. They have a free Recipe of the Week email service, that you can subscribe to.

Healtheries sells vitamin supplements, herb teas, etc.  They have answers to some common questions on their site.  If you don't find what you need, you can ask questions of their nutritionists and naturopaths through their web site or call them toll free on 0800 848 254 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.  They also have some healthy recipes on their site.

The Healthy Food Guide also welcomes questions, though they only answer some. 

Death by relaxation...

study has found that worldwide, five million people die every year due to inactivity alone, which is exactly the same number deaths attributed  to (blamed on) tobacco use!  

Inactivity doesn't just mean sitting or lying about, it also includes working at a computer.

Makes me want to jump up and get out into the garden (and even more so since the sun is shining at the moment)!

Out in the NZ Sun

Here in NZ we get most of our Vitamin D through sunshine.  However,  NZ has very high UV (ultra violet light) levels compared with most of the world, which has been linked with us having one of the highest rates of skin cancer (sometimes called melanoma) in the world.

So between September and April, avoid being in the sun between 10 am - 4 pm each day: get your 'dose' of sunshine outside of these ours.  People with pale skin only need a minute or two of sunshine a day to get enough Vitamin D, while people with darker skin need more.  If you cover up most of your body for cultural reasons, you may need to get your Vitamin D levels checked - talk to your health professional.  

If you are outside during 10 am - 4 pm, we encourage you to be sun smart: cover up with clothing, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.  Don't forget to cover your ears, hands and feet! 

hat helps to protect your face from the sun.  Wearing a big hat on a windy day can be challenging.  Caps are quite popular here, but they can be quite hot in summer and don't protect your neck, ears or often even your chin. 

There are some amazing hats around the world which do a much better job! The hats in the photo give much better protection (so long as you are not bald!)  The ladies have also covered up, but in NZ they would also need sunscreen (sometimes called sunblock) on their lower legs, feet and hands.

The ladies in the photo are from Hong Kong - it is from an old postcard.  I don't know if these hats are still made.  What kind of hats are worn outside in your culture?  If they work well in NZ conditions, why not put a photo up?  


November is White Ribbon Month: if you see people wearing a white ribbon it means that they have promised to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence towards women.

In NZ it is illegal (against the law) to hit, or threaten to hit, another person, man or woman: this is called assault.  But NZ Law defines domestic violence as more than physical abuse; it includes sexual or psychological abuse. Psychological or emotional abuse includes threats, intimidation, harassment or damage to property.  Sadly 58% of all crime reported in NZ is related to family violence (sometimes called domestic abuse).

Research has shown that gardening and being out in nature helps to calm us down and think more clearly.  In the Huron language, “the verb we might translate as ‘to calm down’ meant ‘to make the mind like a field for planting.’” (Mark Abley, Spoken Here: Travels among threatened languages, Random House, 2003 p. 150).  One of our WIC gardeners said that when his wife is ‘pulling his ear’ (a great Tongan phrase for nagging!), he likes to escape into the garden to work.  

When we are feeling angry, it is easy to say or do something we'll later regret. Managing our anger is a skill we can learn. Two of the steps for preventing abuse/violence are taking some time out as soon as we start feeling angry or start having negative thoughts, and get some exercise. Physical activity, particularly when done in a natural environment like a garden or forest, releases chemicals in your brain that can make us feel calmer and happier. The chemicals also improve our ability to make good decisions.

There is an overview of some common anger managment techniques here.

There are counsellors, social workers and anger management courses who can help us learn more skills to prevent violence, many are willing to work with your whole family.  There is more information on the Are you OK web site.

There are a number of local agencies who can give you advice and support around violence issues, such as K'aute Pasifika Services ph 834-1482 or HAIP, the Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project, ph 0800no2abuse or 834-3148.    

Summer Food Safety Reminders 

At this time of year, please remember to wash hands and Clean Cook Chill.  About 200,000 New Zealanders every year suffer from a food borne illness: at least 40% are due to food handling, preparation or storage within the home. Enjoy the holiday period rather than spending it on the toilet!!!


Here are a few tips:
Follow the 20+20 hand washing rule
 wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water
 dry hands for 20 seconds with clean dry towel or paper towel
Always wash hands:
 before handling food
 after handling raw meat and poultry
 after going to the toilet or changing nappies
 after handling pets
 after gardening
 Defrost frozen foods in the fridge before cooking not on the bench
 reheat leftovers till steaming hot and not more than once
 make sure meat gets cooked thoroughly
 place cooked items on a clean plate not already sued for raw meat
 Keep food very hot or very cold
 Use a chilli bin and chilly pads to keep foods cold.

For more information:

(Source www.

Legionella and Potting mix

There has been an increase number of cases of Legionnaires' disease in Canterbury recently, with all but one case associated with the use of potting mix or compost. Eleven of the 12 cases were admitted to hospital and one man has died. Waikato also has several cases of Legionella annually of which a proportion are generally associated with the use of potting mix. In 2012, 8 cases of Legionnaires disease have been notified in Waikato, of these 6  were identified as possibly being associated with potting mix.

Legionnaires' disease is a pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, commonly found in water and soils, including potting mix and compost.

Follow these five steps to reduce your risk of illness when handling potting mix or compost:

  1. Wear gloves and a disposable firm fitting face mask
  2. Open potting mix bags carefully using scissors, rather than ripping them, and open the bag away from your face.
  3. Do your potting in a well ventilated area outside.
  4. Dampen down the potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water to stop the bacteria from becoming airborne.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling potting mix or compost and doing any gardening.

For more information on safe gardening:

(Source: Canterbury Public Health website and information sheet)



Totokoa ikeikenakin te kamkamka ke kanan te aroka
Teboki baim n taai nako imwin am mwakuri ma te kamkamka ke kanan te aroka



‘Aua le manavaina le ‘ea o palapala e fa’aaogaina ile toto ina o laau

Fufulu mama ou lima, pea uma ona e fa’aaogaina ia palapala



Kataki, oua e manava kihe (potting mix) kelekele.

Fanofano ma’u pe  ho nima’, ‘i he osi ho’o fakaaonga’i ‘ae kelekele (potting mix) pe (compost).



Kakua ni cegu se ceguva na loma ni i tei.

Savata na ligamu ena veigauna kece e oti kina na nomu teitei, se ena veigauna kece ko tara oti kina nai tei.



Por favour, Que no le entre ire el compost o maceta.

Lavarse las manos siempre, despues usar de los compost o maceta.



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