Replacing fruit with fruit juice is not recommendable, because juicing results in the loss of essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Moreover, as it usually takes three to four pieces of fruit to make one cup of juice, the juice will contain more sugars and energy than one serving of fresh juice does. Also, the squeezing of fruit releases sugar from the flesh; the sugar will be attached to the surface of the teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Young children have small stomachs. That’s why they don’t eat a lot for a meal. Their appetite varies in proportion to their activity level in a day. In most circumstances, they stop eating once they are full up.
If young children show an unusual lack of interest in food, very often it’s because they are feeling unwell to the point that their appetite is affected. Once they have recovered, their appetite will resume normal. Other reasons for lack of appetite are: being too full up, or resisting new food. Perhaps the time of the meal is not appropriate (e.g. when young children have just left the bed, or when they are playing, or when they are too tired); parents should check. Young children should take meals punctually, eat small portions but have several meals (e.g. three meals with one to two tea breaks) a day. The meals should be 4 - 6 hours apart, and the snack should be at least 1.5 - 2 hours away from a main meal. Avoid high-fat, high-sugar snacks and sweetened drinks for fear of spoiling young children’s appetite.
Fruit and vegetables are two separate categories, each having their own properties and their special nutritional values. Both categories are important for a balanced diet. If young children dislike one or two vegetables, the parents can replace them with others of a different colour, shape, taste, etc. It is advisable to start with vegetables of a sharper colour, a sweeter taste and a crisper texture (such as tomatoes or sweet peppers) to appeal to their kids’ appetite. Also, young children can be encouraged to join their parents in cooking and even in choosing the food materials. This way, they will become more interested in vegetables and will thus be more willing to embrace the vast variety of species and tastes of them.
The Department of Health recommends an intake of at least one serving of fruit per day for children. That having been said, fruit contains fructose, overconsumption of which may increase the intake of energy and sugar and lead to obesity despite its low energy value; it may also spoil the appetite for proper meals.
If you kids refuse to eat meat, find out the reason behind first of all. Maybe they are too lazy to chew, or they find the food too unpalatable, or they don’t like the coarse texture of meat. You may try cutting the meat into finer pieces, and cook longer to make the meat more tender for the kids to chew and swallow. Also, you can cook meat together with different colours of vegetables for extra colours and flavours, which may make the dish more appetising for kids.
Also, you should accept the fact that the young children are bound to dislike one or two food items. As long as they do not refuse a whole category of food, it is acceptable. For example, if your kids refuse to eat a certain meat, such as pork, beef or lamb, you can replace it with other meats, or other protein-rich foods such as fish, eggs, beans or bean products to ensure adequate intake of nutrients, especially protein, for young children.
There are many reasons why children develop picky eating. These include: unpleasant eating experience, imitating care-givers’ eating behaviours, misconception about food and nutrition, dental problems, etc. To find out the reasons behind, parents should maintain communication with teachers or other family members and then work out a solution. Picky eating should not be regarded as disobedience.
Most food items commonly used as reward, such as soft drinks, candies, chocolates and potato chips, are high in fat and sugar. These foods, used as rewards, discourage healthy eating and prevent children from forming good dietary habits, affecting their health in the long run. Using food as reward may:
encourage children to eat high-fat/-sugar foods and hinder the development of good eating habits; it may increase the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases;
encourage children to eat even without feeling hungry, contrary to the healthy habit of “eat when hungry and stop when full”;
encourage children to associate emotions with certain food items; for example, when they experience a positive or negative mood, they may turn to certain foods either for heightened joy or for comfort.
To reward a child’s good behaviour without using food, you can consider the following ways:
saying something approving to children, or commending them openly, e.g. “well done!”, “it’s a good attempt”, or “XXX has done a good job; you kids should learn from him/her”, etc.;
giving children small gifts like stickers, stamps, stationery, etc. as reward;
giving children the privilege of being the first participant in their favourite games; and
giving children extra time for gross motor activity.
This is certainly not a good way of developing good eating habits. Games are too distracting for young children at the dining table. The distraction may lead to overeating and consequently an increased risk of overweight and obesity. What young children need is a comfortable and quiet environment without distraction for them to concentrate on eating. Once they are full up, allow them to stop eating and don’t force them to empty their plate.
There is no single food to solve the problem of “picky eating”. Behavioural modification is the solution to the root of the problem. Over-reliance on milk formula will curb children’s opportunities to try other foods and impede their development of good eating habits. Moreover, it may lead to excessive energy intake and increase the risk of obesity. Consult a dietitian or paediatrician promptly if the problem of picky eating is found to affect children’s growth or bodily functions.
If your children eat too slowly, there must be a reason behind. Maybe they don’t like the food they are eating, or the food is too hard to chew, or too dry, or too big in pieces, or too much, or the children are already full up. To improve the situation, you should find out the true reason first.
You can cook something that your kids really like, and put in more fruit and vegetables to make the dish more appetising. The point is: cook something delightful, appetising and healthy for young children. If the food is too hard, too dry or too big in pieces, young children may not be able to bite or swallow properly, and so they refuse to eat. In this case, try cutting the food into smaller pieces, or cooking longer until it is more tender. At a proper meal, give young children the right portion. And, to avoid spoiling their appetite, stop giving them snacks or drinks at least 1.5 hours before the meal. Also, you should maintain a serene and pleasant ambiance suitable for eating, so that young children can eat without being disturbed. It is thus advisable to put the toys away and switch off the TV.
No. Processed meat and tobacco smoking have been classified in the same category as causes of cancer, but this does NOT mean that they are equally dangerous. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifications describes the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk. About 34 000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat. These numbers contrast with about 1 million cancer deaths per year globally due to tobacco smoking.
Department of Health recommends young children to avoid eating processed meat as it is considered as high in fat and salt. To know more about the information about processed meat, please visit http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/42034.html.
Although all vegetable oils are cholesterol-free, some of them, such as coconut oil and palm oil, are not recommended, because they contain a high level of saturated fat, overconsumption of which will raise blood cholesterol level and affect cardiovascular health. Canola, peanut oil and corn oil, among others, are better choices. No matter which cooking oil you choose, it has more or less the same energy value as other forms of fat. Overconsumption of cooking oil can increase the risk of obesity. The recommended daily intake of cooking oil for young children is 6 teaspoons or below, and maximum 2 teaspoons for each meal.
Full-cream milk is different from low-fat/skimmed milk mostly by their fat content; other nutrients like calcium and protein remain the same. As young children aged two or above have no more need for dairy products as staple food and that they are able to get nutrients from solely solid foods, it is recommended that children aged two or above should drink low-fat milk and that children aged five or above should choose skimmed milk, for less intake of saturated fat and for better cardiovascular health.
Most sports drinks available in the market contain mainly water and sugar, and some even contain caffeine. If young children have sports drink instead of water on a daily basis, they may develop a sweet tooth, which hinders the formation of good eating habits. Caffeine may even affect the quality of sleep of children. Therefore, water is the best and most convenient choice. Children should drink fluids regularly (e.g. during a meal, during the day or in the midst of activities) to replenish fluid loss.
Most cakes and biscuits are prepackaged foods which in general have a higher content of trans fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar than fresh foods do. Hence, they should not be considered as healthy snacks and are not recommended for daily consumption. Long-term consumption of snacks high in salt, fat or sugar can lead to increased risk of obesity and other chronic diseases. Wholegrain bread, pita bread, bread roll, raisin bread and sweet corn are some of the better grain-based snack choices.
With regard to healthier biscuit options, choose those without fillings (e.g. cream biscuits or wafers) and avoid those that are well known for high fat (e.g. cookies). Read the food label on the package to compare nutritional content among similar products and choose the ones that contain less salt, fat and sugar. Refer to the following guidelines on how to make healthier choices:
total fat ≦ 20g
sugar ≦ 15g
sodium ≦ 600mg
For cakes, plain sponge cakes are a better choice, but it has a high content of sugar nevertheless; frequent consumption of such is thus not recommended. If you want to bake your own cake, use a reduced amount of fat and sugar, or replace some ingredients with healthier options (e.g. replacing butter with canola oil, and sugar with raisins or fruit pulp).
Many people believe that “long-boiled” pork bone soup is rich in calcium, which promotes bone development in young children. In fact, the calcium in bones cannot be released during the cooking process. Instead, a large amount of fats (especially saturated fat) are dissolved into the soup, very likely resulting in excessive intake of saturated fat, and thus adverse health effects in the long run. Therefore, the consumption of such soups should be restricted. Instead, try clear soups made with vegetables (including gourds), beans and a small amount of fish or lean meat.
“Organic food” refers to the foods that have been produced without involving chemicals, pesticides and genetic modification. In terms of nutrition, organic foods are similar to their non-organic counterparts, but are relatively more expensive, and available in fewer choices.
When chicken powder is compared to the same amount of salt, chicken powder does contain less sodium. In practice, however, we usually use a greater amount of chicken powder than we use salt during cooking, and so we end up adding a significant amount of sodium to dishes. High sodium intake in the long run will increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. As recommended by the Chinese Nutrition Society, a daily intake of 650-900 mg of sodium (i.e. less than half a teaspoon of salt or 1 tablespoon of soy sauce) is adequate for children aged two to six.
Apart from using chicken powder or salt, there are many other better and healthier ways to boost flavour in dishes, such as adding fresh herbs or vegetables (e.g. spring onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, lemon, orange and mushroom). For the sake of young children’s health, it is important to retain their sensitivity towards salt by always giving them light-flavour foods and not salty foods.
Foods high in salt, fat and sugar, with the examples of ice-cream, cakes, candies and French fries, are placed at the top of the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” and so their consumption should be kept minimal. Instead, we should help children form good eating habits; to achieve this, parents should prevent their children from associating their emotions with foods; otherwise, they will turn to unhealthy foods for emotional comfort in future.
However, most pre-primary institutions organise birthday parties for pupils monthly or bimonthly, at which cream cakes, sausages and fried fish fingers are served. As a result, young children may associate these foods with happy emotions and form the idea that “cream cakes and sausages make me happy!”. Long-term reinforcement of incorrect beliefs like this will lead to unhealthy eating habits and wrong eating attitudes. For these reasons, the supply of healthy snacks should be maintained even on festive occasions; just a small portion for each pupil will do. Also, allow young children to explore and come into contact with various kinds of food, and provide them with guidance from the viewpoint of nutrition and health.
‘Sugars free’ drinks on the market refers to drinks containing no more than 0.5g of sugars per 100ml serving. Although drinks labelled as “sugars free” have low sugar content, parents should note that drinks that contain caffeine and sweeteners are not suitable for young children. Children are less capable of breaking down caffeine and they may suffer from hand tremor and sleep disturbance from excessive intake. Examples of drinks containing caffeine include lemon tea, green tea, black tea, milk tea, coffee and sports drinks with added caffeine. Drinks containing artificial sweeteners (e.g. diet soft drinks) are generally of lower nutritional value. Their high sweetness potency may promote sweet craving in young children.
Water is the best drink for young children, whereas low-fat milk and low-sugar soya milk are healthy drink choices too. Frequent consumption of drinks with added sugar may lead to obesity, hence the increase in the risk of chronic diseases such as heart diseases and diabetes.
Iron is a necessary mineral to our body. It is an essential element for making red blood cells. A lack of iron increases the risk of iron deficiency anaemia, which results in paleness, tiredness and difficulty in concentration on study, and may lead to lower body immunity.
In order to prevent iron deficiency anaemia, eat according to the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid principles and consume iron-rich foods in moderation. Iron-rich food can come from two sources, namely, animal and plant. The human body more easily absorbs iron from animal sources. Foods that are rich in iron include:
Animal-source: meats (e.g. beef, lamb, pork), seafood (e.g. shrimp, oyster, clam), and eggs, etc.
Plant-source: beans and soy products (e.g. kidney beans, soy beans, bean curd sheets), nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sesame, almonds), and breakfast cereals which have been fortified with iron, etc.
Eating these foods with foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as orange and kiwi, helps your body absorb iron.
Young children in general have a sweet tooth, so it’s easy to understand why the bland water puts them off. From today, you can start with a small quantity of water; keep giving such to them time and again, so that they will gradually get used to it. Besides, they can get their daily intake of water from diet, e.g. vegetables, fruit, milk, soup, etc., which can also quench their thirst, and thus they may not feel thirsty all the time. In any case, give them water at recess time or after activities, so that they have ample opportunities to drink water and then gradually turn it into a habit.
To promote good physical development and enable the growing of “flesh”, balanced nutrition from diet is most important. Although foods like meat, fish and egg are rich in protein, which is the essential nutrient for cell/muscle growth and normal functioning of the body, they contain a higher amount of fat and energy, which is related to higher risk of obesity, hence overconsumption is not recommended. The recommended amount of intake per day of high-protein food for young children is 1.5 - 2 servings for children aged between two and four, and 2 - 3 servings for children aged between four and six.
Young children are usually active, but their stomach is small. It’s impossible for them to eat too much at each meal. As they experience energy and fluid loss at learning activities, they still feel hungry once in a while. In this case, you can give them some carbohydrate-based healthy snacks that are low in sugar, salt and oil. But remember not to serve them snacks more than once between two proper meals; otherwise, frequent eating will increase their risk of tooth decay. The serving of snacks should come in small portions, and it should be set at least 1.5 - 2 hours apart from a proper meal for fear of spoiling the appetite for the next meal.
If the hunger persists after dinner, maybe it’s because the children’s afternoon physical activity has burned too much energy to be recovered by the dinner. If the portion of dinner cannot meet such level of energy consumption, you can give them extra grains and vegetables. Meat, fish, ,egg and alternatives however, are not recommended as these food items are quite high in fat and energy, overconsumption of which may increase the risk of obesity. Also, as it takes a rather high level of consumption of meat, eggs, etc. to achieve satiety, it may be difficult for young children to learn the good eating habit of “stop when full” when eating these foods.
When you find that a child has the tendencies towards obesity, don’t worry too much. It is not necessary to put the child on diet or use fad diets to help him/her lose weight. As children grow and develop, all you have to do is encourage them to exercise and kick the unhealthy eating habits, and then their weight will gradually return to the normal level.
Parents may refer to relevant guidelines on what is the appropriate meal portion and what constitutes balanced nutrition. Parents should also allow children to have enough time for gross motor activities , so that they will gradually build up a healthy lifestyle. Please note that excessive dieting or inappropriate diet methods during growth period may adversely affect children’s physical and psychological development.
Lactose intolerance is a condition where the body lacks an enzyme called lactase, making it difficult to break down lactose in milk and causing symptoms of discomfort, such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Such symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the degree of lactose intolerance. Since lactose intolerance is not the same as food allergy, the management of such is different. When preparing meals for those who are lactose intolerant, avoid foods with high lactose content (such as milk and ice-cream). As milk is rich in calcium, so should be its substitutes, e.g. tofu, low-lactose milk or calcium-fortified low-sugar soymilk.
Some kids are prone to falling as their gross motor coordination, in particular eye-hand coordination, body balance and muscle power, is underdeveloped. Most kids who have such problems will perform awkwardly at basic motor skills, an example of such being the tendency to fall when performing basic body movements like walking and running among all. Hence, parents should pay attention to training their kids’ coordination, and muscle power of lower limbs. Don’t overlook these problems, or else you will miss the golden period to correct them.
Group games can promote the physical and psychological development of young children, enabling them to acquire more knowledge and skills, such as how to communicate and get along with others. Young children who prefer to be loners are usually introverts; they have fear for socialising, and it takes a lot of time for them to assimilate. Also, as each young child has different ability, their ability difference may become apparent when they play together, and thus those less agile may develop inferior complex and are reluctant to do group games and activities. Hence, parents of “loners” should find out whether the introversion owes itself to personal character or parental influence or circumstantial factors, and then identify a solution accordingly. For example, parents can join in the group games so that the kids may want to follow suit.
Maybe they find exercise too tough for them; that’s why they are not too keen on it. However, experienced teachers and parents may adjust their training to suit the actual body type of young children. No matter what body type young children belong to, exercise is always suitable and effective for them.
Exactly! Gymnastics involves exercise of all the joints and muscles on the body, and a lot of movements that require flexibility of the body. Not only can good flexibility and muscle power promote muscle and bone growth, they can also prevent sport injury, giving young children an edge in other kinds of sport as well. In fact, not only gymnastics has this effect; swimming, dancing, basketball playing and other sports can also train fine and gross motor skills, enhance cardiopulmonary functions, and also promote physical health and prevent various chronic diseases.
Muscle training is very important for young children. Without proper training of fine and gross motor skills combined, young children may suffer from malfunctions or below-par development, such as belated development of the ability to write with a pen or wring a towel. We should train young children’s muscles so that they are capable of developing various other abilities.
Parents often have the idea that a large exercise volume may dehydrate or exhaust young children. The truth is, young children are just like adults; once tired, they will stop. Frequent exercise can even burn energy and accelerate metabolism, to the effect of a well-proportioned body frame and healthy body and mind. Frequent exercise has no negative impact on the body or bodily growth.
An excessive amount of screen time activity not only deprives children of their participation in physical activity, but also interferes with their eating habits and discipline. Screen time, which is usually sedentary, undermines the motivation of young children to explore the environment and learn new things. Screen time also takes up their time otherwise to be spent on physical activity; a lack of physical activity in the long run may result in health problems, such as obesity. Apart from limiting their children’s screen time, parents should also keep them away from TV watching at mealtime as this may spoil their appetite and affect their ability to eat by themselves. Moreover, screen time involves the use of electronic media, which includes a lot of advertisements about unhealthy foods with excessive content of salt, fat, sugar and energy; viewing of these TV ads gives rise to unhealthy eating habits of young children. Furthermore, electronic media may sometimes contain coverage of sex, violence, incorrect messages, etc.; evidence shows that excessive viewing of such material on TV and playing video games of a violent nature by children is associated with aggressive behaviour, attention problems and below-par performance at school. Hence, it is vital for teachers and parents to restrict children’s screen time activity and introduce more physical activity to them.
The recommendation for adults covers only physical activity of a moderate to vigorous level of intensity; it excludes light intensity activities (e.g. slow walking). The 180-minute physical activity recommended for preschool children, however, includes light intensity activities (e.g. playing with toys, dressing up, packing school bags, etc.) on top of more vigorous ones (e.g. brisk walking, rope skipping, playing hide-and-seek, etc.). Also, preschool children tend to be physically active in an intermittent pattern, with short bouts of rest in between; thus, the recommended 180 minutes should be accumulated throughout the day. Some evidence shows that the physical activity level of children may decline progressively as they grow; it may even decline further as they start primary school because of the changes in schooling environment. Therefore, it is necessary to engage preschool children in an active lifestyle before they proceed to primary education.
Not necessarily so. A summary of the guidelines about the subject from various countries and regions suggests that the said 180 minutes can cover physical activity of any intensity. For preschool children, it is more important to accumulate an adequate amount of physical activity rather than focus a particular intensity. However, it is worth noting that activities of a higher intensity are more conducive to cardiopulmonary fitness and bone growth. Therefore, as they grow up, it is necessary to encourage them not only to maintain an active lifestyle, but also to participate more in physical activity of a higher intensity for extra health benefits.
Overweight or obese preschool children may have weaker exercise endurance and poorer agility due to the lack of physical activity. In this case, we can use a “step-by-step” approach. Teachers are advised to refer to this guide, in particular the “Physical Activity Pyramid for Preschool Children” (Part 1), for recommendations on the targeted amount of physical activity for preschool children; for example, they can set the duration of each bout of physical activity for children at 15 to 20 minutes. They are also advised to adapt the recommendations to the children’s needs. Besides, intermittent rests may be provided during exercise. Activities that are weight-bearing in nature, such as frame-climbing, running and rope-skipping, may be too strenuous for them; cycling, jogging or swimming are most suitable as alternatives. Once their physical fitness and body weight have improved, the amount of physical activity for them can be increased accordingly for more health benefits.
Lack of physical activity may lead to the lack of stamina and agility in obese children. Subsequently, their ability to endure physical training and develop related skills may also be affected. More importantly, studies show that childhood obesity is likely to extend into adolescence and even adulthood. Therefore, when children are still in pre-primary institutions, teachers should help them cultivate an active lifestyle of regular physical activity. That’s how they can attain an optimal body weight and physical fitness.
Sweating is a normal bodily response during physical activity. As the duration and intensity of physical activity escalate, sweating also increases to regulate body temperature. Therefore, it is not necessary to stop children from exercising when they sweat. However, measures to prevent heatstroke should not be overlooked during the hot summer months. In hot weather, an indoor venue is preferable. When there’s the need for outdoor games, they should be scheduled for any time but noon. Teachers should also make sure that children drink plenty of water for rehydration so as to avoid heatstroke.
It is stated in the Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum (2006), issued by the Education Bureau, that “physical fitness and health” is one of the six key learning areas. This highlights the essential role of physical activity in the growth of preschool children. Indeed, physical activity has a positive impact on their learning performance, such as improved attention span, patience, obedience and learning ability in children. Teachers should inform parents, through various channels, of the health benefits of physical activity for preschool children. Teachers should also promote home-school cooperation to enable children to exercise regularly so that they can enjoy good fun and form a good habit.
Yes. Although playing with toys may not be an energetic activity, it is good motor training for small muscles. Games like jigsaw puzzles and building blocks can train fingers and wrists for better fine motor skills whereas the tossing, throwing and catching of small soft balls can promote eye-hand coordination and fulfil the needs of children’s physical development. Teachers should provide children with ample opportunities of gross and fine motor training for all-round physical development.
Apart from intellectual development, physical development is equally important, especially the development of the large and small muscles. To achieve this, we don’t need special equipment. The best “equipment” is a lot of exercise and games for kids to train their muscles. For example, parents can take their kids to a park or a playground to play on slides or monkey bars for gross motor training. Even though there’s the need for the development of large and small muscles to be coordinated, the small muscles of preschool children are not yet fully developed, and so we have to allow them more time for such development; as preliminary training of small muscles and eye-hand coordination, we can give them wooden blocks to play with. In fact, a lot of daily activities can help kids train their large and small muscles. As long as parents know to grab these opportunities, they can give kids such training anytime and anywhere.
Children aged below two are curious about their surroundings, and toddle around often. However, many parents think that activities, in particular ball games, jogging and other sports can cause injuries. Parents tend to protect their children by limiting of the area of their movement and imposing a lot of restrictions on them. This will compromise their opportunities to do physical activity. In fact, our brain is capable of registering the activities of muscles; once we have experienced a fall, the brain will record it and warn the body against recurrence of such. So, stop worrying, and encourage your young children to exercise often, for better cardiopulmonary endurance and improved bodily functions in general.
With all precautions done, it is safe for asthmatic children to do a suitable amount of physical activity, which can in fact improve heart and lung functions, increase physical fitness and boost immunity. In the long run, it has a positive effect on asthma control. Nevertheless, teachers should keep in touch with parents constantly to monitor the children’s health conditions; they should also find out whether the children are taking medication or using bronchodilators as instructed; if this is the case, then teachers should remind parents to oversee that the children always bring along their prescription medicine (including bronchodilators). Teachers should also closely observe their conditions and watch out for any symptom of asthma during physical activity. If they show any sign and symptom of an asthma attack, stop them and administer medication at once, and notify parents for further medical care if necessary. Besides, as cold or dry weather may trigger off asthma attack, asthmatic children should avoid exercising in such circumstances.
Absolutely not. The aim of physical activity is to develop children’s vital skills, improve their physical fitness and foster their psychological development. Physical activity as a form of punishment not only wounds their self-esteem and self-image, but also snuffs out their enthusiasm for physical activity. Children may even lose their interest and motivation in physical activity as they grow up.