Healthy Kai (food)

Improving access to healthy kai (food) is an important area of work for the Cancer Society, to reduce the second leading cause of preventable cancer (after tobacco), in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Currently one in three children and two in three adults are overweight and less than one in two get enough fruit and vegetables for health.  

Eating healthy kai and being a healthy weight are important ways to prevent cancer. Healthy kai and a healthy weight can protect against at least 12 different cancers including the mouth, voice box, throat, oesophagus (food pipe), pancreas, liver, bowel, gall bladder, kidney, ovaries, endometrium (lining of the womb), and breast cancer (after menopause).


To protect against cancer we recommend:

  1. Be a healthy weight.
  2. Be physically active.
  3. Eat a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and beans (lentils and legumes).
  4. Limit ‘fast foods’ and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars
  5. Limit red and processed meat.
  6. Limit sugar sweetened beverages.
  7. Avoid or limit alcohol.
  8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention.
  9. Breast feed if you can.
  10. After cancer diagnosis follow these recommendations if you can. 

For eating guidelines to protect against cancer see NZ Eating and Activity Guidelines and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Most of us try to eat well but it is not always easy. We live in neighbourhoods promoting cheap tasty processed kai such as fast food, sugary drinks and ultra-processed snack food. These unhealthy foods are often more widely promoted and easier to buy in poorer suburbs. Lack of money makes it hard for one in five families to buy healthy kai. These things contribute to the high rates of diet-related cancer experienced more by Māori. For more information on our food environment see:

How healthy are our NZ food environments?, here and

Evidence snapshot of unhealthy food advertising, here.


What we do:

Making healthy kai cheaper, more convenient and an easy option would help protect whānau against diet-related cancer. The Cancer Society works with communities and organisations to encourage government to implement higher food industry standards to make it easier to eat well. This includes the following.

Our work aligns with current research and experts such as the Health Coalition Aotearoa. See our policy priorities here.


What you can do:

For more information and support:

Healthy kai for your whānau

Cancer Society, Nutrition and Cancer Information Sheet
Cancer Research UK and  
Cancer Council, Australia

Healthy food environments where we live, work and play

Cancer Society, Diet and Cancer Infographic (being developed 2020)
Cancer Society, Diet and Cancer Position Statement (updated 2020)
World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), 2018: Recommendations and Public Health and Policy Implications.