The new Weight Watchers survey of 1,000 people, studying Kiwis' eating attitudes and food knowledge, has been released as part of an initiative aimed at tackling obesity.
It found New Zealanders were largely sedentary, have lost touch with the importance of savoring mealtimes, and younger generations’ cooking skills were at risk.
Dr. Janet Weber, from Massey University's Food Nutrition and Human Health, said there was"definitely'' an obesity problem in New Zealand, as only one in three adults are at a normal or healthy weight.
She said young people go through a period of time where food is not a focus, and it could potentially lead to a problem.
"Some young people will use frozen vegetables a lot because it's convenient, and in terms of nutrition that is actually fine.”
Weber said the real issue starts when people start eating too much unhealthy processed foods.
"If they are having high fat, high sugar, high sodium with low micro-nutrients ... then that's not good."
"People are giving away the responsibility about food to the food industry, and people need to take it back.”
A lack of cooking skills may be behind people opting for ready-to-eat meals, but the cost of food and availability was also a factor, she said.
As for young peoples' ignorance of staple vegetables, Weber agreed people were becoming less food literate, but said although youths tended to eat fewer vegetables, it didn’t mean they wouldn’t add them to their plate when they reached their 30s.
"You can't see if it's a lifelong skill or if it's a temporary thing.’’
The survey also found on an average day, 42% of New Zealanders exercise, compared to 87% who watch TV.
Of those that say they are obese, 40% exercise less often than monthly, and 90% are likely to go back for seconds when eating.
New Zealanders do not pay full attention to eating dinner with 19% of Generation Z youths watching TV and 18% playing with their phones. Some 10% eat alone in their bedrooms.
The survey showed breakfast isn't a priority for some New Zealanders as 16% eat on the go or away from home and 22% eat breakfast after 9:00 am.
Nearly half of the Generation Z respondents -- 45% -- say young people do not know how to cook, and 20% say they are too busy doing other things.
Award-winning chef Pete Evans, who teamed up with Weight Watchers for its Plate of our Nation initiative, said he was concerned teens would grow up and never learn to cook, creating a domino effect.
He said the campaign was launched to create debate around Kiwis' eating habits and knowledge.
“We need to start at a grass roots level – find out what the barriers are to people making the right decisions about food and cooking,” he said.