Healthy Tips

Replacing fruit with fruit juice is not appropriate because juicing results in the loss of essential nutrients, e.g. vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Moreover, it usually takes three to four pieces of fruit to make one glass of fruit juice, which contains more sugar and energy than one serving of fresh fruit. Juicing also releases sugar from the flesh. There will be a higher risk of tooth decay if the sugar attaches itself to the surface of teeth.

Young children have small stomach capacity. That’s why they don’t eat a lot in a meal. Their appetite varies in proportion to their activity level during the day. In most circumstances, they stop eating once they are full.

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 return to normal. Other reasons for lack of appetite are feeling too full or feeling reluctant to try out new food. Parents should pay attention to whether the meal time is appropriate and avoid giving meals to young children shortly after they wake up or when they are playing or feeling too tired. Young children should have regular meal time and small frequent meals, e.g. three main meals with one to two snack sessions a day. The main meals should be 4 - 6 hours apart, and snack sessions should be at least 1.5 - 2 hours apart from main meals. Avoid high-fat, high-sugar snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks to prevent spoiling young children’s appetite for a main meal.

Fruit and vegetables are two separate categories, each having unique characteristics and nutritional properties. They are equally important for a balanced diet. If young children dislike one or two types of vegetables, you can replace them with other vegetables of a different colour, shape, taste, etc. To stir up children’ interest and appetite, it is advisable to start with vegetables of a sharper colour, a sweeter taste and a crisper texture (e.g. tomatoes, sweet peppers). Also, you can encourage children to help prepare meals and choose food ingredients. In this way, they will be more interested in vegetables and more receptive to different foods and tastes.

The Department of Health recommends an intake of at least one serving of fruit per day for young children. While fruit is low in energy, it also contains fructose, overconsumption of which will result in excessive intake of energy and sugar, lead to obesity and spoil the appetite for main meals. One serving of fruit is approximately equivalent to 2 pieces of kiwi fruits, 1 piece of orange or apple, half piece of banana, etc.

If your kids refuse to eat meat, you should first find out the reason behind. They might be too lazy to chew, find the taste of meat unpalatable or dislike the coarse texture of meat. You may try cutting the meat into finer pieces or cook longer to make the meat more tender, so that your kids will find it easier to chew and swallow. To add extra colours and flavours to the dish, you can cook meat together with vegetables of different colours, which can give children better appetite.

Also, you should accept the fact that the young kids are bound to dislike one or two food items. This is acceptable as long as they do not have a dislike for all foods in a whole food group. For example, if your kids refuse to eat a certain type of meat (e.g. pork, beef or lamb), you can replace it with other meats or other protein-rich foods (e.g. fish, eggs, dry beans and its products) to ensure that your kids have an adequate intake of nutrients, especially protein.

There are many reasons why children develop picky eating, including unpleasant eating experience, imitation of care-givers’ eating behaviour, misconception about food and nutrition, and dental problems. To find out the reasons behind, parents should communicate more with teachers and family members to work out a solution. Picky eating should not be mistaken for misbehaviour or disobedience.

As long as children do not have a dislike for all foods in a whole food group and this does not affect their growth and bodily functions, it is acceptable for them to be picky eaters at times. Parents can replace children’s disliked foods with other foods in the same food group. For example, if children dislike broccoli, you can replace it with other vegetables such as choy sum and tomatoes. Parents should provide a wide variety of foods and encourage children to try them out in the following ways:

  • Change the cooking method.
  • Keep providing the disliked food in small amounts to create more opportunities for children to get familiar with the food. Praise them as a sign of encouragement if they are willing to try out the food.
  • Act as role models and eat together with children.
  • Create a relaxing and harmonious dining environment and atmosphere.
  • Cook with children using their disliked food to change their impression of the food.

Most foods commonly used as rewards (e.g. soft drinks, sweets, chocolate, potato chips) are high in fat, sodium or sugar. Using food as a reward goes against the principles of healthy eating and prevents children from developing good eating habits, thereby affecting their health in the long run. Using food as a reward will also:

  • encourage children to eat high-fat, high-sodium or high-sugar foods, thereby affecting their future eating habits and increasing the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
  • indirectly encourage children to eat even without feeling hungry, which contradicts the healthy eating habit of “eating when hungry and stopping when full”.
  • encourage children to associate emotions with foods, e.g. when they are in a positive or negative mood, they may turn to snacks either for heightened joy or for comfort.

Parents and teachers can consider the following alternatives to food rewards:

  • Offering words of approval to children in front of the class or commending them openly, e.g. “Well done!”, “Good attempt!” or “Ming has done a good job; you should learn from him!”.
  • Giving children gifts (e.g. stickers, stamps, stationery) as rewards.
  • Giving children the priority to participate in their favourite games.
  • Giving children extra time for gross motor activity.

It is certainly not appropriate to eat and play at the same time. Not only does it distract young children at the dining table, but it also makes them eat too much without being aware of it. This leads to a higher risk of overweight and obesity. What young children need is a comfortable and quiet environment without distraction so that they can concentrate on eating. Parents should also teach children to stop eating when they feel full and not to force themselves to empty their plates.

No single food can solve the problem of picky eating. Behavioural modification is the solution to the root of the problem. Over-reliance on these milk formula products will curb children’s opportunities to try other foods and impede their development of good eating habits. Moreover, this may lead to excessive energy intake and increase the risk of obesity. Parents should consult a dietitian or paediatrician if they believe the problem of picky eating is affecting children’s growth or bodily functions.

There can be many reasons why young children eat too slowly. For example, they may find the food unpalatable, too hard or too dry, the food piece size too big or the meal portion size too large, or they are already full. To address the issue, parents should first find out the reason.

To increase children’s appetite, you can prepare meals to their liking and use more vegetables and fruit to make the dish healthier. If the food is too hard, too dry or too big for young children to bite or swallow, it can be cut into smaller pieces or cooked longer until tender. When having a main meal, give young children the right portion size of food. Stop giving them snacks or drinks at least 1.5 hours before a main meal to avoid spoiling their appetite.

Chat with your children during the meal time if appropriate. This helps create a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. When young children behave well during a meal, parents can praise them as a sign of encouragement. When young children say they feel full, do not force them to eat.

Also, parents should create a quiet environment with relaxing ambiance for young children to enjoy their meal with no distraction. It is thus advisable to put toys away and switch off the TV and other electronic screen products (e.g. computers, computer games, e-books or -magazines and tablets) beforehand.

No. Both 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 describe 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.

The Department of Health recommends young children to avoid eating processed meat as it is high in fat or sodium content. For more information on processed meat, please visit http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/42034.html.

Although all vegetable oils are cholesterol-free, some of them (e.g. coconut oil, palm oil) are not recommended for frequent consumption because they contain a high level of saturated fat, overconsumption of which will raise blood cholesterol level and affect cardiovascular health. Canola oil, 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 amount of oil used for cooking should not exceed 6 teaspoons per day and 2 teaspoons for each meal.

The main difference between full-fat milk and low-fat or skimmed milk lies in their fat content; the content of other nutrients (e.g. calcium, protein) is similar. Young children aged two or above are able to get adequate nutrients from solid foods. They do not need to rely on dairy products as staple food. In order to reduce the saturated fat intake and maintain cardiovascular health, it is advisable for young children aged two or above to drink low-fat milk, while children aged five or above should choose skimmed milk.

Most sports drinks available on the market contain mainly water and sugar. If young children replenish fluids by drinking sports drinks instead of water, they may develop a sweet tooth, which hinders the development of good eating habits. Therefore, water is the best and most convenient choice. Young children should regularly replenish fluid loss during the day or activities (including during a meal).

Most cakes and biscuits are prepackaged foods that generally have higher contents of trans fat, saturated fat, sodium or sugar than fresh foods. Hence, they should not be considered as healthy snacks and are not recommended for daily consumption. Long-term consumption of snacks high in fat, sodium or sugar can lead to an increased risk of obesity and other chronic diseases. Wholemeal bread, pita bread, bread rolls, raisin bread and sweet corns are some of the better grain-based snack choices.

To choose healthier biscuits, avoid those with fillings (e.g. cream biscuits, wafers) and those that are high in fat (e.g. cookies). Read the nutrition label on the food package to compare nutritional content among similar products and choose the ones that contain less fat, sodium and sugar. If a product fulfils the following criteria (per 100g of food), it is a healthier choice:

  • total fat: 3g or below;
  • sugar: 5g or below; and
  • sodium: 120mg or below

Plain biscuits (e.g. Marie biscuit, animal cracker, soda cracker) are relatively healthier options, but they should only be consumed occasionally, with one serving size consisting of 2-3 pieces.

For cakes, plain sponge cakes are a better choice, but they have a high content of sugar; 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. reducing the amount of butter, replacing butter with canola oil or using raisins or fruit pulp instead of sugar.

In fact, there are many healthy snack choices. Examples include fresh fruit, bread rolls, raisin bread, wholemeal bread, hard boiled eggs, low-fat milk and calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk. Remember to keep snacks in small portions to avoid spoiling children’s appetite for main meals.

Many people believe that “long-boiled” pork bone soup is rich in calcium, and that frequent consumption of this soup promotes bone development in children. In fact, prolonged boiling does not help bones release calcium into the soup. Instead, large amounts of fats (especially saturated fat) are dissolved into the soup. This likely results in excessive intake of saturated fat and adversely affects health in the long run. Therefore, the consumption of such soups should be restricted. To look for substitutes for “long-boiled” pork bone soup, try clear soups made with vegetables (including gourds), dry beans and a small amount of fish or lean meat.

In general, “organic food” refers to foods that have been produced or planted without using chemicals or pesticides or undergoing genetic modification. In terms of nutritional values, organic foods are similar to their non-organic counterparts, but are more expensive and available in fewer choices. Organic produce has a shorter shelf life than non-organic produce as pesticides are not used in the former. It is advisable to consume organic produce when it is still fresh. Besides, some processed organic foods are marinated with a lot of fat/oil, salt or sugar during the manufacturing process, thereby having adverse effects on health.

In fact, organic food is not the key to healthy eating. What is the most important is to have a balanced diet, choose a wide variety of foods every day and avoid picky eating.

Compared with the same amount of salt, chicken powder does contain less sodium. However, we usually use a greater amount of chicken powder than salt during the cooking process. As a result, we end up adding more sodium to the cooked dishes. Having a high sodium (salt) intake in the long term will increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. As recommended by the Chinese Dietary Reference Intakes (2013), the daily sodium intake for children aged 4 to 6 should be less than 1200 mg (i.e. the sodium content of about ½ teaspoon of salt or 1 tablespoon of soy sauce).

Instead of using chicken powder and salt, you can find many other better and healthier ways to boost the flavour of cooked dishes, such as adding natural spices, herbs or fruit and vegetables (e.g. spring onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, lemon, orange, mushroom). For the sake of children’s health, it is important to help them retain their taste sensitivity towards salt by teaching them to choose light-flavoured foods and stay away from salty foods.

Foods high in fat, sodium and sugar (e.g. ice cream, cakes, sweets, French fries) are at the top of the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”, so their consumption should be kept minimal. To help young children develop good eating habits, parents should prevent them from associating their emotions with these foods; otherwise, they will turn to unhealthy foods for emotional comfort in future.

However, most kindergartens and child care centres organise birthday parties for pupils on a monthly or bimonthly basis, at which foods such as cream cakes, sausages and fried fish fingers are served. As a result, young children will associate these foods with happy emotions, thinking that eating cream cakes or sausages makes them happy. In the long term, this will give young children a desire to eat merely for pleasure, leading to unhealthy eating habits and wrong eating attitudes. For these reasons, small amounts of healthy snacks should be provided in festivals and celebrations. In addition, young children should be allowed to explore and come across various kinds of food, and given guidance from the viewpoint of health and nutrition.

“Sugar free” drinks available on the market are drinks that contain no more than 0.5g of sugar per 100ml serving. Although drinks labelled as “sugar free” have low sugar content, parents should note that drinks containing caffeine and sweeteners are not suitable for young children. Children are less capable of breaking down caffeine and may suffer from hand tremors and sleep disturbance due to excessive intake. Drinks containing caffeine include lemon tea, green tea, black tea, milk tea, coffee and energy drinks with added caffeine. Drinks containing artificial sweeteners (e.g. diet soft drinks) are generally lower in nutritional value and show a high sweetness potency, which may cause young children to develop a sweet tooth.

Water is the best drink for young children, whereas low-fat milk and calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk are healthy drink choices too. Frequent consumption of drinks with added sugar may lead to obesity, hence increasing the risk of chronic diseases, e.g. diabetes and stroke.

Iron is an essential mineral in our body and a major 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 weaken body immunity.

In order to prevent iron deficiency anaemia, you can refer to the healthy eating principles as described in the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” and consume iron-rich foods in moderation. Iron-rich food can come from two sources, namely animals and plants. It is easier for the human body to absorb iron from animal-based foods. Foods that are rich in iron include:

  • Animal-based foods: meats (e.g. beef, lamb, pork), seafood (e.g. shrimp, oyster, clam), eggs, etc.
  • Plant-based foods: dry beans and soy products (e.g. kidney bean, soybean, bean curd sheet), seeds and nuts (e.g. pumpkin seed, sesame, almond), iron-fortified breakfast cereals, etc.

Eating these foods together with vitamin C-rich foods (e.g. orange and kiwi fruit) helps your body absorb iron.

The healthy eating principles emphasise choosing a variety of foods, so it is not advisable for young children to frequently consume just one type of food. If a young child eats one egg every day, it is less likely for him/her to eat other foods in “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives" (e.g. poultry, beef, pork, dry beans, soy products, fish, seafood).

Young children need different nutrients for healthy growth. Since nutritional values vary among different food types, it is impossible to obtain all the nutrients the body needs from a single food. Young children aged 2 to 6 are recommended to have 1.5 to 3 servings of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives” every day. Eggs can be consumed in moderation and are under the category of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives”. One serving of meat is equivalent to one egg (including egg yolk) or cooked meat in the size of a table tennis ball.

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.

Young children are usually active, but their stomach is small. It is impossible for them to eat too much in a meal. Even when attending a class, children will have energy and fluid loss, so it is easy for them to feel hungry. In this case, you can give them some carbohydrate-based and “3 low 1 high” (i.e. low-fat, low-sodium (salt), low-sugar and high dietary fibre) healthy snacks. However, remember not to serve them snacks more than once between two main meals; otherwise, frequent eating will increase the risk of tooth decay. Snacks should be provided in small serving size at least 1.5 - 2 hours apart from a main meal, so as to avoid spoiling the appetite for the next meal.

If young children still feel hungry after dinner, maybe it is because they had a larger volume of physical activity in the afternoon and burned more energy than usual. The regular portion of the dinner is not enough for them to fill stomach. In this case, you can give them extra grains and vegetables to replenish the energy lost. However, it is not advisable to offer extra meat, fish or egg and alternatives as these foods are higher in fat and energy, overconsumption of which may increase the risk of obesity. In addition, as it takes a rather high level of consumption of meat, egg, etc. to achieve satiety, providing such foods may make it difficult for young children to learn the good eating habit of “stopping when full”.

Having a balanced diet is the key to promoting good physical development and muscle growth. Although protein-rich foods (e.g. meat, fish, egg) provide the essential nutrients for cell and muscle growth and maintain normal bodily functions, they contain a higher amount of fat and energy which increases the risk of obesity. Overconsumption of these foods is not advisable. As recommended by the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”, the daily high-protein food intake is 1.5-2 servings for N to K1 children, and 2-3 servings for K2 to K3 children.

When a young child shows a tendency towards obesity, you do not worry too much. It is not necessary to put the young child on diet or use fad diets to help him/her lose weight. As young children gradually grow and develop, all you have to do is encourage them to exercise and drop the unhealthy eating habits. In doing so, their weight will gradually return to the normal level.

To help young children gradually develop a healthy lifestyle, parents may provide the right portion of food with balanced nutrition in accordance with the healthy eating principles and give them sufficient time for gross motor activities. Please note that excessive dieting or inappropriate weight loss methods during young children’s growth period may adversely affect their physical and psychological development.

Lactose intolerance is a condition where the body lacks an enzyme called lactase. This makes it difficult for the body to break down lactose in cow’s milk and causes symptoms of discomfort, e.g. abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Such symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the degree of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not the same as food allergy and should be managed differently. When preparing meals for those who are lactose intolerant, avoid foods with high lactose content, e.g. cow’s milk. As dairy products are rich in calcium, it is advisable to choose high-calcium food items as substitutes, e.g. firm tofu, low-lactose milk or calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk.

In general, snacks refer to processed foods or drinks that have high fat, high sodium and high sugar content but few essential nutrients. Because of their appealing tastes and colours, snacks are popular among young children and are even included as part of a main meal. To prevent young children from neglecting their main meals, parents can restrict their intake of snacks. However, such restriction should not be too harsh in order to avoid undesirable outcomes. Some studies show that if the snack restriction is too strict, young children tend to overeat snacks when they are given the opportunity. Parents may consider the following suggestions:

  • Set a good example for young children.
  • Plan ahead, reduce the frequency and portion of snacks provided; e.g. provide snacks in snack sessions only two to three times a week. This helps reinforce the message to young children that snacks can only be consumed sparingly.
  • Do no use snacks as a reward; otherwise, young children may associate eating snacks with behaving well. Also, one should not calm children in a tantrum by giving them snacks.
  • Arrange a snack session between two main meals and provide healthy food choices, e.g. fruit, bread, unsweetened or low-sugar bean curd dessert, low-fat milk (original flavour) or low-fat plain yoghurt, to prevent young children from eating unhealthy snacks due to feeling hungry.
  • Avoid keeping too many snacks at home.

Most young children have a sweet tooth, so it is easy to understand why the bland taste of water puts them off. Starting from today, you can give children a small quantity of water several times throughout the day, so that they will gradually get used to drinking water regularly. Besides, they can get their daily water intake from foods such as vegetables, fruit, milk and soup, which can also quench their thirst. In any case, give water to children at recess time or after activities. With more opportunities to drink water, children can gradually turn it into a habit.

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 Physical Activity Guide For Children Aged 2 to 6, 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.

Children aged two below 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.

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.

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 Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide (2017), 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.

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.

Cooperation between families and schools is the key to success in developing children’s active lifestyles. Therefore, both parties play pivotal and coordinated roles in promoting physical activities among children. Parents should take initiative to communicate and cooperate with schools:

  • Learn about the physical activity arrangements made by your children’s schools. If possible, join their activities
  • Share your views about building a healthy campus with your children’s school. Participate in the home-school working group for setting up healthy campus policies
  • Participate more in the physical activities organised by your children’s school or the community (e.g. hobby groups, outdoor activities and workshops) so as to learn about the related knowledge and application skills
  • Join more in parents-children activities like exercise classes, play groups and hiking
  • Guide your children to set goals for physical activities and make use of the “My Physical Activity Diary” to develop sporting habits
  • When your children’s physical conditions change, inform the schools so that appropriate arrangements can be made

Dietary fat can be divided into three types:

  • Unsaturated fats are the healthier type of fat. They decrease levels of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol in our bloodstream. Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and corn oil are sources of unsaturated fats.
  • Saturated fats are the unhealthier type of fat. They increase levels of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol in our bloodstream. Sources of saturated fats include lard, butter and coconut oil.
  • Trans fats also fall in the category of unhealthier fat. Not only do they increase the level of bad cholesterol in our bloodstream, but they also lower the level of good cholesterol, thereby causing adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Trans fats are found in a variety of foods, e.g. hydrogenated vegetable oil (margarine), cakes made with shortening, egg rolls, pastries, crackers and French fries.

The World Health Organization recommends that unsaturated fats should make up the majority of the fat intake. When cooking for young children, it is advisable to choose healthier vegetable oils, e.g. olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil. Young children are recommended to have no more than 6 teaspoons of oil every day, i.e. less than 2 teaspoons of oil per main meal.

An excessive intake of sugar by young children will lead to a higher risk of tooth decay and obesity, the latter of which will increase the risk of chronic diseases, e.g. cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes. The World Health Organization recommends that young children’s sugar intake should not exceed 10% of their total energy intake per day. Take a 4-year-old boy who consumes 1300 kcal per day as an example. His sugar intake should be less than 32.5 g (about 6.5 teaspoons).

To reduce young children’s sugar intake in their diet, you can start with the following tips:

  • Choose water as the main beverage and cut back on the provision of high-sugar beverages (e.g. milkshakes, soft drinks, instant malted drinks).
  • Avoid adding extra sugar, condensed milk or evaporated milk to beverages.
  • Cut back on sugar-containing seasonings or sauces by using ingredients with natural sweetness (e.g. pumpkin, sweet corn, sweet potato) for cooking.
  • Choose fresh whole fruit as snacks. Drink less fruit juice and eat fewer desserts.
  • Read the nutrition label and ingredient list on the food package. Choose food products that are low-sugar or contain less sugar.

Nutrient composition varies among different types of sugar. Some examples are as follows:

White sugar
Derived from sugar cane, white sugar is highly refined and contains a very small amount of minerals.
Brown sugar
Brown sugar mainly consists of sucrose. Compared to white sugar, brown sugar contains more minerals, including potassium and magnesium.
Rock sugar
Rock sugar is a kind of crystallised refined sugar made from white sugar. It has a small amount of calcium and iron.
Honey
Compared to the above three types of sugar, honey has a lower energy value (3 kcal per gram) but more minerals. It also contains a small amount of vitamin C.

While there are some variations in nutritional values among different types of sugar, they have a similar energy value of around 4 kcal per gram. An excessive intake of sugar results in obesity, which in turn increases the risk of chronic diseases, e.g. cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes. We can also obtain the essential vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruit, without relying on sugar. Therefore, young children should not have an excessive intake of any type of sugar.

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.

Sports drinks are mainly for athletes engaging in endurance training. Their function is to replenish the energy, fluids and electrolytes (e.g. potassium, sodium) lost during exercise. The major ingredients of sports drinks are water, sugar and electrolytes.

Energy drinks, which are claimed to have energy-enhancing effects, are mainly for people frequently working overtime or students preparing for their upcoming examinations. The major ingredients of energy drinks are caffeine, vitamin B complex, taurine (a kind of amino acid), carbohydrates, etc. Some energy drinks are even added with sugar or electrolytes. Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks cannot be used for fluid replenishment since water is not a main ingredient in these beverages.

Energy drinks contain caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system. Compared with adults, young children metabolise caffeine more slowly. When young children consume too much caffeine, they may experience anxiety, insomnia and palpitations, etc. Therefore, energy drinks are not recommended for young children.

Lemon tea and milk tea are usually made with black tea, which contains caffeine. It is thus advisable not to offer these drinks to young children.

Young children are also recommended not to consume other caffeine drinks, including most teas (e.g. pu’er, tieguanyin, green, oolong and jasmine), coffee and cola.

In general, young children are able to get an adequate amount of nutrients to sustain growth and health if they eat a lot of grains/cereals, fruit and vegetables, and a suitable amount of meat, eggs, dry beans/soy products and dairy products as recommended by the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”. As such, they do not need dietary supplements.

Moreover, as most dietary supplements in the market are just synthetic products, overconsumption of them will cause liver and kidney overload on young children and other adverse effects on their body. In the long run, their health may suffer.

Calcium strengthens bones while dairy products are a major source of calcium. Although milk is a convenient source of calcium, it constitutes only part of a diversified and balanced diet for young children. Around two cups of milk (480 ml) a day is sufficient to meet the calcium needs of children aged 2 to 6. If a child drinks too much milk, his/her appetite for other nutritious foods will be displaced and his/her formation of healthy eating habits will be hindered. Generally speaking, children aged between 2 and 5 can drink low-fat milk while those aged 5 or above can drink the skimmed one.

Fish contains many essential nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids and protein. DHA is a kind of omega 3 fatty acid. It has a critical role in the development of retina and brain in human foetus and during the first two years of life. For children aged 2 or above, there is currently insufficient evidence to link increased intake of DHA with improved mental development or specific functional benefits (e.g. enhancing memory). Fatty fish such as salmon, sardine, jade perch, eel and yellow croaker are rich in DHA. Some fish that are available in the local markets, like golden thread, Pacific saury and pomfret, also contain a moderate level of DHA.

Children aged 2 to 6 are recommended to have 1.5 to 3 servings of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives” every day. One serving is equivalent to about 30 g of cooked meat (size of a table tennis ball). This is generally sufficient for young children to get enough protein to maintain normal body function and growth. Since methylmercury can adversely affect the nervous system, young children should consume a variety of fish in moderation and avoid consumption of large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, splendid alfonsino and orange roughy.

There are no individual food item or dietary supplements that can prevent COVID-19. One of the tips to stay healthy and enhance immunity is to maintain a balanced diet and eat according to the proportion indicated in the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” so as to attain a more balanced and comprehensive nutrition.

During the pandemic, the eating, exercise and living habits of young children are affected. Young children consume more snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks at home, leading to excessive energy, fat and sugar intake and weight gain. To maintain an optimal body weight, young children are advised to have a regular diet with more vegetables and less meat in main meals to obtain balanced nutrition and reduce the intake of snacks that are high in fat or sugar. However, young children should not on diet and lose weight as it will deter them from obtaining the necessary energy and nutrients they need and affect their growth.

Snacks are in general high in fat, sodium (salt) and sugar. Regular consumption of snacks will increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay. On the contrary, moderate consumption of healthy snacks supplements the nutrients required by young children. Parents are advised to provide a small portion of healthy snacks only once between main meals, e.g. half piece of medium-sized fruit, half a bowl of corn kernels, one small oatmeal bun, one glass of low-fat milk with original flavour or one glass of calcium-fortified low-sugar soymilk.

During the pandemic, young children avoid going out and spend more time at home, resulting in more sedentary activities. Indeed, sedentary activities and physical activities can be conducted at the same time, for example stand up or do stretching activities while watching TV and walk slowly at home while using the phone. Parents should also pay attention to the sitting posture of young children from time to time to ensure they maintain a proper posture.

Regular physical activity not only helps healthy body development of young children, but also reduce the risk of illness. Young children may have negative feelings especially during the pandemic when they avoid going out and stay at home all day. Regular physical activity helps young children to improve their psychological conditions and stay cheerful.

Indeed, there are many different kinds of physical activities. Young children can also engage in physical activity such as dancing, jumping and doing household chores even the living environment is cramped at home. Besides, parents can also engage in parent-child physical activities with young children. All the parent-child physical activities below are suitable to play at home. Please visit the website below for details: https://www.startsmart.gov.hk/en/others.aspx?MenuID=132

Takeaway dishes normally contain hidden fat, sodium (salt) or sugar, especially deep-fried food, fried noodles and rice as well as dishes with a lot of sauces. It is advisable to choose takeaway dishes with more vegetables, less meat and less sauce with moderate amount of grains. Below are some healthy options for reference:

  • Grains: white rice, brown rice, noodles, rice vermicelli or macaroni in clear soup, congee, oatmeal, white bread and wholemeal bread
  • Vegetables: boiled vegetables, mixed vegetables casserole in clear soup and salad leaves (salad dressing to be served separately)
  • Meat, fish, egg and alternatives: pork tenderloin, skinless chicken fillet, steamed fish, boiled shrimps, steamed eggs and steamed tofu

Besides, avoid choosing desserts and sugar-sweetened drinks, e.g. soft drinks and cordial.

During the pandemic, many families avoid dining out and cook at home instead. It is advisable to prepare “3 Less” dishes with less oil, less salt and less sugar. You may make reference to the following tips when preparing healthy and delicious dishes for your family:

  • Less oil
    • Use no more than 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in each main meal per person, e.g. canola oil and corn oil
    • Use low-fat cooking methods, e.g. steaming, boiling, baking and stir-frying with little amount of oil
  • Less salt
    • Use natural ingredients, spices or herbs for seasoning, e.g. onion, lemon, garlic, ginger and parsley
    • Use fresh vegetables or fruits for homemade sauce, e.g. tomato sauce, spinach sauce and pumpkin sauce
    • Reduce the amount of salt used, avoid using ready-made sauces or seasonings high in sodium (salt), e.g. sauces made with canned soup, fermented bean curd and seafood sauce
    • Refer to “Less Salt for Health” poster for details
  • Less Sugar
    • Use fresh and sweet fruits when preparing dishes, e.g. apples, pineapples and dragon fruits
    • Reduce the amount of sugar used
    • Refer to “Less Sugar for Health” poster for details

Avoid going out during the pandemic turned out to be a good occasion to cook with young children at home. Cooking with young children not only enhances parent-child relationships, but also helps them to learn about a variety of healthy food ingredients and develop good eating habits at an early age. It is advisable to choose “3 low 1 high” food ingredients (i.e. low in fat, sodium (salt), sugar and high in dietary fibre) and prepare with less oil, less salt and less sugar. Below are some kid-friendly and healthy recipes for reference:

Take a break for 3 to 5 minutes for every 20 to 30 minutes of sedentary activity such as having online classes, watching TV, reading or playing video games. Stand up, do simple stretching exercises or walk slowly at home during the break.

Parents can design an active daily timetable for young children so that they will get used to engaging in physical activity at a designated time every day and develop the habit of regular exercise. Parents should become a role model by engaging in physical activities with young children and encourage them to complete simple household chores such as tidying up rooms and toys.

During the pandemic, young children should wear masks when they are having light intensity physical activities indoors and keep social distancing for at least 1 metre. However, as wearing masks partially prevent air from entering the lungs, parents should observe closely the health condition of young children when they are engaging in physical activities. Young children should not wear masks when they have moderate to vigorous intensity physical activities outdoors or swimming activities, but they should keep social distancing for at least 1.5 metres.

Young children have small stomach capacity. That’s why they don’t eat a lot in a meal. Their appetite varies in proportion to their activity level during the day. In most circumstances, they stop eating once they are full.

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 return to normal. Other reasons for lack of appetite are feeling too full or feeling reluctant to try out new food. Parents should pay attention to whether the meal time is appropriate and avoid giving meals to young children shortly after they wake up or when they are playing or feeling too tired. Young children should have regular meal time and small frequent meals, e.g. three main meals with one to two snack sessions a day. The main meals should be 4 - 6 hours apart, and snack sessions should be at least 1.5 - 2 hours apart from main meals. Avoid high-fat, high-sugar snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks to prevent spoiling young children’s appetite for a main meal.

Fruit and vegetables are two separate categories, each having unique characteristics and nutritional properties. They are equally important for a balanced diet. If young children dislike one or two types of vegetables, you can replace them with other vegetables of a different colour, shape, taste, etc. To stir up children’ interest and appetite, it is advisable to start with vegetables of a sharper colour, a sweeter taste and a crisper texture (e.g. tomatoes, sweet peppers). Also, you can encourage children to help prepare meals and choose food ingredients. In this way, they will be more interested in vegetables and more receptive to different foods and tastes.

The Department of Health recommends an intake of at least one serving of fruit per day for young children. While fruit is low in energy, it also contains fructose, overconsumption of which will result in excessive intake of energy and sugar, lead to obesity and spoil the appetite for main meals. One serving of fruit is approximately equivalent to 2 pieces of kiwi fruits, 1 piece of orange or apple, half piece of banana, etc.

If your kids refuse to eat meat, you should first find out the reason behind. They might be too lazy to chew, find the taste of meat unpalatable or dislike the coarse texture of meat. You may try cutting the meat into finer pieces or cook longer to make the meat more tender, so that your kids will find it easier to chew and swallow. To add extra colours and flavours to the dish, you can cook meat together with vegetables of different colours, which can give children better appetite.

Also, you should accept the fact that the young kids are bound to dislike one or two food items. This is acceptable as long as they do not have a dislike for all foods in a whole food group. For example, if your kids refuse to eat a certain type of meat (e.g. pork, beef or lamb), you can replace it with other meats or other protein-rich foods (e.g. fish, eggs, dry beans and its products) to ensure that your kids have an adequate intake of nutrients, especially protein.

There are many reasons why children develop picky eating, including unpleasant eating experience, imitation of care-givers’ eating behaviour, misconception about food and nutrition, and dental problems. To find out the reasons behind, parents should communicate more with teachers and family members to work out a solution. Picky eating should not be mistaken for misbehaviour or disobedience.

As long as children do not have a dislike for all foods in a whole food group and this does not affect their growth and bodily functions, it is acceptable for them to be picky eaters at times. Parents can replace children’s disliked foods with other foods in the same food group. For example, if children dislike broccoli, you can replace it with other vegetables such as choy sum and tomatoes. Parents should provide a wide variety of foods and encourage children to try them out in the following ways:

  • Change the cooking method.
  • Keep providing the disliked food in small amounts to create more opportunities for children to get familiar with the food. Praise them as a sign of encouragement if they are willing to try out the food.
  • Act as role models and eat together with children.
  • Create a relaxing and harmonious dining environment and atmosphere.
  • Cook with children using their disliked food to change their impression of the food.

Most foods commonly used as rewards (e.g. soft drinks, sweets, chocolate, potato chips) are high in fat, sodium or sugar. Using food as a reward goes against the principles of healthy eating and prevents children from developing good eating habits, thereby affecting their health in the long run. Using food as a reward will also:

  • encourage children to eat high-fat, high-sodium or high-sugar foods, thereby affecting their future eating habits and increasing the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.
  • indirectly encourage children to eat even without feeling hungry, which contradicts the healthy eating habit of “eating when hungry and stopping when full”.
  • encourage children to associate emotions with foods, e.g. when they are in a positive or negative mood, they may turn to snacks either for heightened joy or for comfort.

Parents and teachers can consider the following alternatives to food rewards:

  • Offering words of approval to children in front of the class or commending them openly, e.g. “Well done!”, “Good attempt!” or “Ming has done a good job; you should learn from him!”.
  • Giving children gifts (e.g. stickers, stamps, stationery) as rewards.
  • Giving children the priority to participate in their favourite games.
  • Giving children extra time for gross motor activity.

It is certainly not appropriate to eat and play at the same time. Not only does it distract young children at the dining table, but it also makes them eat too much without being aware of it. This leads to a higher risk of overweight and obesity. What young children need is a comfortable and quiet environment without distraction so that they can concentrate on eating. Parents should also teach children to stop eating when they feel full and not to force themselves to empty their plates.

No single food can solve the problem of picky eating. Behavioural modification is the solution to the root of the problem. Over-reliance on these milk formula products will curb children’s opportunities to try other foods and impede their development of good eating habits. Moreover, this may lead to excessive energy intake and increase the risk of obesity. Parents should consult a dietitian or paediatrician if they believe the problem of picky eating is affecting children’s growth or bodily functions.

There can be many reasons why young children eat too slowly. For example, they may find the food unpalatable, too hard or too dry, the food piece size too big or the meal portion size too large, or they are already full. To address the issue, parents should first find out the reason.

To increase children’s appetite, you can prepare meals to their liking and use more vegetables and fruit to make the dish healthier. If the food is too hard, too dry or too big for young children to bite or swallow, it can be cut into smaller pieces or cooked longer until tender. When having a main meal, give young children the right portion size of food. Stop giving them snacks or drinks at least 1.5 hours before a main meal to avoid spoiling their appetite.

Chat with your children during the meal time if appropriate. This helps create a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. When young children behave well during a meal, parents can praise them as a sign of encouragement. When young children say they feel full, do not force them to eat.

Also, parents should create a quiet environment with relaxing ambiance for young children to enjoy their meal with no distraction. It is thus advisable to put toys away and switch off the TV and other electronic screen products (e.g. computers, computer games, e-books or -magazines and tablets) beforehand.

In general, snacks refer to processed foods or drinks that have high fat, high sodium and high sugar content but few essential nutrients. Because of their appealing tastes and colours, snacks are popular among young children and are even included as part of a main meal. To prevent young children from neglecting their main meals, parents can restrict their intake of snacks. However, such restriction should not be too harsh in order to avoid undesirable outcomes. Some studies show that if the snack restriction is too strict, young children tend to overeat snacks when they are given the opportunity. Parents may consider the following suggestions:

  • Set a good example for young children.
  • Plan ahead, reduce the frequency and portion of snacks provided; e.g. provide snacks in snack sessions only two to three times a week. This helps reinforce the message to young children that snacks can only be consumed sparingly.
  • Do no use snacks as a reward; otherwise, young children may associate eating snacks with behaving well. Also, one should not calm children in a tantrum by giving them snacks.
  • Arrange a snack session between two main meals and provide healthy food choices, e.g. fruit, bread, unsweetened or low-sugar bean curd dessert, low-fat milk (original flavour) or low-fat plain yoghurt, to prevent young children from eating unhealthy snacks due to feeling hungry.
  • Avoid keeping too many snacks at home.

Most young children have a sweet tooth, so it is easy to understand why the bland taste of water puts them off. Starting from today, you can give children a small quantity of water several times throughout the day, so that they will gradually get used to drinking water regularly. Besides, they can get their daily water intake from foods such as vegetables, fruit, milk and soup, which can also quench their thirst. In any case, give water to children at recess time or after activities. With more opportunities to drink water, children can gradually turn it into a habit.

Young children are usually active, but their stomach is small. It is impossible for them to eat too much in a meal. Even when attending a class, children will have energy and fluid loss, so it is easy for them to feel hungry. In this case, you can give them some carbohydrate-based and “3 low 1 high” (i.e. low-fat, low-sodium (salt), low-sugar and high dietary fibre) healthy snacks. However, remember not to serve them snacks more than once between two main meals; otherwise, frequent eating will increase the risk of tooth decay. Snacks should be provided in small serving size at least 1.5 - 2 hours apart from a main meal, so as to avoid spoiling the appetite for the next meal.

If young children still feel hungry after dinner, maybe it is because they had a larger volume of physical activity in the afternoon and burned more energy than usual. The regular portion of the dinner is not enough for them to fill stomach. In this case, you can give them extra grains and vegetables to replenish the energy lost. However, it is not advisable to offer extra meat, fish or egg and alternatives as these foods are higher in fat and energy, overconsumption of which may increase the risk of obesity. In addition, as it takes a rather high level of consumption of meat, egg, etc. to achieve satiety, providing such foods may make it difficult for young children to learn the good eating habit of “stopping when full”.

Replacing fruit with fruit juice is not appropriate because juicing results in the loss of essential nutrients, e.g. vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Moreover, it usually takes three to four pieces of fruit to make one glass of fruit juice, which contains more sugar and energy than one serving of fresh fruit. Juicing also releases sugar from the flesh. There will be a higher risk of tooth decay if the sugar attaches itself to the surface of teeth.

No. Both 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 describe 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.

The Department of Health recommends young children to avoid eating processed meat as it is high in fat or sodium content. For more information on processed meat, please visit http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/42034.html.

Although all vegetable oils are cholesterol-free, some of them (e.g. coconut oil, palm oil) are not recommended for frequent consumption because they contain a high level of saturated fat, overconsumption of which will raise blood cholesterol level and affect cardiovascular health. Canola oil, 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 amount of oil used for cooking should not exceed 6 teaspoons per day and 2 teaspoons for each meal.

The main difference between full-fat milk and low-fat or skimmed milk lies in their fat content; the content of other nutrients (e.g. calcium, protein) is similar. Young children aged two or above are able to get adequate nutrients from solid foods. They do not need to rely on dairy products as staple food. In order to reduce the saturated fat intake and maintain cardiovascular health, it is advisable for young children aged two or above to drink low-fat milk, while children aged five or above should choose skimmed milk.

Most sports drinks available on the market contain mainly water and sugar. If young children replenish fluids by drinking sports drinks instead of water, they may develop a sweet tooth, which hinders the development of good eating habits. Therefore, water is the best and most convenient choice. Young children should regularly replenish fluid loss during the day or activities (including during a meal).

Most cakes and biscuits are prepackaged foods that generally have higher contents of trans fat, saturated fat, sodium or sugar than fresh foods. Hence, they should not be considered as healthy snacks and are not recommended for daily consumption. Long-term consumption of snacks high in fat, sodium or sugar can lead to an increased risk of obesity and other chronic diseases. Wholemeal bread, pita bread, bread rolls, raisin bread and sweet corns are some of the better grain-based snack choices.

To choose healthier biscuits, avoid those with fillings (e.g. cream biscuits, wafers) and those that are high in fat (e.g. cookies). Read the nutrition label on the food package to compare nutritional content among similar products and choose the ones that contain less fat, sodium and sugar. If a product fulfils the following criteria (per 100g of food), it is a healthier choice:

  • total fat: 3g or below;
  • sugar: 5g or below; and
  • sodium: 120mg or below

Plain biscuits (e.g. Marie biscuit, animal cracker, soda cracker) are relatively healthier options, but they should only be consumed occasionally, with one serving size consisting of 2-3 pieces.

For cakes, plain sponge cakes are a better choice, but they have a high content of sugar; 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. reducing the amount of butter, replacing butter with canola oil or using raisins or fruit pulp instead of sugar.

In fact, there are many healthy snack choices. Examples include fresh fruit, bread rolls, raisin bread, wholemeal bread, hard boiled eggs, low-fat milk and calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk. Remember to keep snacks in small portions to avoid spoiling children’s appetite for main meals.

Many people believe that “long-boiled” pork bone soup is rich in calcium, and that frequent consumption of this soup promotes bone development in children. In fact, prolonged boiling does not help bones release calcium into the soup. Instead, large amounts of fats (especially saturated fat) are dissolved into the soup. This likely results in excessive intake of saturated fat and adversely affects health in the long run. Therefore, the consumption of such soups should be restricted. To look for substitutes for “long-boiled” pork bone soup, try clear soups made with vegetables (including gourds), dry beans and a small amount of fish or lean meat.

In general, “organic food” refers to foods that have been produced or planted without using chemicals or pesticides or undergoing genetic modification. In terms of nutritional values, organic foods are similar to their non-organic counterparts, but are more expensive and available in fewer choices. Organic produce has a shorter shelf life than non-organic produce as pesticides are not used in the former. It is advisable to consume organic produce when it is still fresh. Besides, some processed organic foods are marinated with a lot of fat/oil, salt or sugar during the manufacturing process, thereby having adverse effects on health.

In fact, organic food is not the key to healthy eating. What is the most important is to have a balanced diet, choose a wide variety of foods every day and avoid picky eating.

Compared with the same amount of salt, chicken powder does contain less sodium. However, we usually use a greater amount of chicken powder than salt during the cooking process. As a result, we end up adding more sodium to the cooked dishes. Having a high sodium (salt) intake in the long term will increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. As recommended by the Chinese Dietary Reference Intakes (2013), the daily sodium intake for children aged 4 to 6 should be less than 1200 mg (i.e. the sodium content of about ½ teaspoon of salt or 1 tablespoon of soy sauce).

Instead of using chicken powder and salt, you can find many other better and healthier ways to boost the flavour of cooked dishes, such as adding natural spices, herbs or fruit and vegetables (e.g. spring onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, lemon, orange, mushroom). For the sake of children’s health, it is important to help them retain their taste sensitivity towards salt by teaching them to choose light-flavoured foods and stay away from salty foods.

Foods high in fat, sodium and sugar (e.g. ice cream, cakes, sweets, French fries) are at the top of the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”, so their consumption should be kept minimal. To help young children develop good eating habits, parents should prevent them from associating their emotions with these foods; otherwise, they will turn to unhealthy foods for emotional comfort in future.

However, most kindergartens and child care centres organise birthday parties for pupils on a monthly or bimonthly basis, at which foods such as cream cakes, sausages and fried fish fingers are served. As a result, young children will associate these foods with happy emotions, thinking that eating cream cakes or sausages makes them happy. In the long term, this will give young children a desire to eat merely for pleasure, leading to unhealthy eating habits and wrong eating attitudes. For these reasons, small amounts of healthy snacks should be provided in festivals and celebrations. In addition, young children should be allowed to explore and come across various kinds of food, and given guidance from the viewpoint of health and nutrition.

“Sugar free” drinks available on the market are drinks that contain no more than 0.5g of sugar per 100ml serving. Although drinks labelled as “sugar free” have low sugar content, parents should note that drinks containing caffeine and sweeteners are not suitable for young children. Children are less capable of breaking down caffeine and may suffer from hand tremors and sleep disturbance due to excessive intake. Drinks containing caffeine include lemon tea, green tea, black tea, milk tea, coffee and energy drinks with added caffeine. Drinks containing artificial sweeteners (e.g. diet soft drinks) are generally lower in nutritional value and show a high sweetness potency, which may cause young children to develop a sweet tooth.

Water is the best drink for young children, whereas low-fat milk and calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk are healthy drink choices too. Frequent consumption of drinks with added sugar may lead to obesity, hence increasing the risk of chronic diseases, e.g. diabetes and stroke.

Iron is an essential mineral in our body and a major 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 weaken body immunity.

In order to prevent iron deficiency anaemia, you can refer to the healthy eating principles as described in the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” and consume iron-rich foods in moderation. Iron-rich food can come from two sources, namely animals and plants. It is easier for the human body to absorb iron from animal-based foods. Foods that are rich in iron include:

  • Animal-based foods: meats (e.g. beef, lamb, pork), seafood (e.g. shrimp, oyster, clam), eggs, etc.
  • Plant-based foods: dry beans and soy products (e.g. kidney bean, soybean, bean curd sheet), seeds and nuts (e.g. pumpkin seed, sesame, almond), iron-fortified breakfast cereals, etc.

Eating these foods together with vitamin C-rich foods (e.g. orange and kiwi fruit) helps your body absorb iron.

The healthy eating principles emphasise choosing a variety of foods, so it is not advisable for young children to frequently consume just one type of food. If a young child eats one egg every day, it is less likely for him/her to eat other foods in “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives" (e.g. poultry, beef, pork, dry beans, soy products, fish, seafood).

Young children need different nutrients for healthy growth. Since nutritional values vary among different food types, it is impossible to obtain all the nutrients the body needs from a single food. Young children aged 2 to 6 are recommended to have 1.5 to 3 servings of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives” every day. Eggs can be consumed in moderation and are under the category of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives”. One serving of meat is equivalent to one egg (including egg yolk) or cooked meat in the size of a table tennis ball.

Sports drinks are mainly for athletes engaging in endurance training. Their function is to replenish the energy, fluids and electrolytes (e.g. potassium, sodium) lost during exercise. The major ingredients of sports drinks are water, sugar and electrolytes.

Energy drinks, which are claimed to have energy-enhancing effects, are mainly for people frequently working overtime or students preparing for their upcoming examinations. The major ingredients of energy drinks are caffeine, vitamin B complex, taurine (a kind of amino acid), carbohydrates, etc. Some energy drinks are even added with sugar or electrolytes. Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks cannot be used for fluid replenishment since water is not a main ingredient in these beverages.

Energy drinks contain caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system. Compared with adults, young children metabolise caffeine more slowly. When young children consume too much caffeine, they may experience anxiety, insomnia and palpitations. Therefore, energy drinks are not recommended for young children.

Lemon tea and milk tea are usually made with black tea, which contains caffeine. It is thus advisable not to offer these drinks to young children.

Young children are also recommended not to consume other caffeine drinks, including most teas (e.g. pu’er, tieguanyin, green, oolong and jasmine), coffee and cola.

Having a balanced diet is the key to promoting good physical development and muscle growth. Although protein-rich foods (e.g. meat, fish, egg) provide the essential nutrients for cell and muscle growth and maintain normal bodily functions, they contain a higher amount of fat and energy which increases the risk of obesity. Overconsumption of these foods is not advisable. As recommended by the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”, the daily high-protein food intake is 1.5-2 servings for N to K1 children, and 2-3 servings for K2 to K3 children.

When a young child shows a tendency towards obesity, you do not worry too much. It is not necessary to put the young child on diet or use fad diets to help him/her lose weight. As young children gradually grow and develop, all you have to do is encourage them to exercise and drop the unhealthy eating habits. In doing so, their weight will gradually return to the normal level.

To help young children gradually develop a healthy lifestyle, parents may provide the right portion of food with balanced nutrition in accordance with the healthy eating principles and give them sufficient time for gross motor activities. Please note that excessive dieting or inappropriate weight loss methods during young children’s growth period may adversely affect their physical and psychological development.

Lactose intolerance is a condition where the body lacks an enzyme called lactase. This makes it difficult for the body to break down lactose in cow’s milk and causes symptoms of discomfort, e.g. abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Such symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the degree of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not the same as food allergy and should be managed differently. When preparing meals for those who are lactose intolerant, avoid foods with high lactose content, e.g. cow’s milk. As dairy products are rich in calcium, it is advisable to choose high-calcium food items as substitutes, e.g. firm tofu, low-lactose milk or calcium-fortified, low-sugar soymilk.

In general, young children are able to get an adequate amount of nutrients to sustain growth and health if they eat a lot of grains/cereals, fruit and vegetables, and a suitable amount of meat, eggs, dry beans/soy products and dairy products as recommended by the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”. As such, they do not need dietary supplements.

Moreover, as most dietary supplements in the market are just synthetic products, overconsumption of them will cause liver and kidney overload on young children and other adverse effects on their body. In the long run, their health may suffer.

Calcium strengthens bones while dairy products are a major source of calcium. Although milk is a convenient source of calcium, it constitutes only part of a diversified and balanced diet for young children. Around two cups of milk (480 ml) a day is sufficient to meet the calcium needs of children aged 2 to 6. If a child drinks too much milk, his/her appetite for other nutritious foods will be displaced and his/her formation of healthy eating habits will be hindered. Generally speaking, children aged between 2 and 5 can drink low-fat milk while those aged 5 or above can drink the skimmed one.

Fish contains many essential nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids and protein. DHA is a kind of omega 3 fatty acid. It has a critical role in the development of retina and brain in human foetus and during the first two years of life. For children aged 2 or above, there is currently insufficient evidence to link increased intake of DHA with improved mental development or specific functional benefits (e.g. enhancing memory). Fatty fish such as salmon, sardine, jade perch, eel and yellow croaker are rich in DHA. Some fish that are available in the local markets, like golden thread, Pacific saury and pomfret, also contain a moderate level of DHA.

Children aged 2 to 6 are recommended to have 1.5 to 3 servings of “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives” every day. One serving is equivalent to about 30 g of cooked meat (size of a table tennis ball). This is generally sufficient for young children to get enough protein to maintain normal body function and growth. Since methylmercury can adversely affect the nervous system, young children should consume a variety of fish in moderation and avoid consumption of large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, splendid alfonsino and orange roughy.

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.

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 Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide (2017), 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.

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.

Cooperation between families and schools is the key to success in developing children’s active lifestyles. Therefore, both parties play pivotal and coordinated roles in promoting physical activities among children. Parents should take initiative to communicate and cooperate with schools:

  • Learn about the physical activity arrangements made by your children’s schools. If possible, join their activities
  • Share your views about building a healthy campus with your children’s school. Participate in the home-school working group for setting up healthy campus policies
  • Participate more in the physical activities organised by your children’s school or the community (e.g. hobby groups, outdoor activities and workshops) so as to learn about the related knowledge and application skills
  • Join more in parents-children activities like exercise classes, play groups and hiking
  • Guide your children to set goals for physical activities and make use of the “My Physical Activity Diary” to develop sporting habits
  • When your children’s physical conditions change, inform the schools so that appropriate arrangements can be made

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.

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 Physical Activity Guide For Children Aged 2 to 6, 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.

Children aged two below 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.

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.

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.

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.

There are no individual food item or dietary supplements that can prevent COVID-19. One of the tips to stay healthy and enhance immunity is to maintain a balanced diet and eat according to the proportion indicated in the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” so as to attain a more balanced and comprehensive nutrition.

During the pandemic, the eating, exercise and living habits of young children are affected. Young children consume more snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks at home, leading to excessive energy, fat and sugar intake and weight gain. To maintain an optimal body weight, young children are advised to have a regular diet with more vegetables and less meat in main meals to obtain balanced nutrition and reduce the intake of snacks that are high in fat or sugar. However, young children should not on diet and lose weight as it will deter them from obtaining the necessary energy and nutrients they need and affect their growth.

Snacks are in general high in fat, sodium (salt) and sugar. Regular consumption of snacks will increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay. On the contrary, moderate consumption of healthy snacks supplements the nutrients required by young children. Parents are advised to provide a small portion of healthy snacks only once between main meals, e.g. half piece of medium-sized fruit, half a bowl of corn kernels, one small oatmeal bun, one glass of low-fat milk with original flavour or one glass of calcium-fortified low-sugar soymilk.

During the pandemic, young children avoid going out and spend more time at home, resulting in more sedentary activities. Indeed, sedentary activities and physical activities can be conducted at the same time, for example stand up or do stretching activities while watching TV and walk slowly at home while using the phone. Parents should also pay attention to the sitting posture of young children from time to time to ensure they maintain a proper posture.

Regular physical activity not only helps healthy body development of young children, but also reduce the risk of illness. Young children may have negative feelings especially during the pandemic when they avoid going out and stay at home all day. Regular physical activity helps young children to improve their psychological conditions and stay cheerful.

Indeed, there are many different kinds of physical activities. Young children can also engage in physical activity such as dancing, jumping and doing household chores even the living environment is cramped at home. Besides, parents can also engage in parent-child physical activities with young children. All the parent-child physical activities below are suitable to play at home. Please visit the website below for details: https://www.startsmart.gov.hk/en/others.aspx?MenuID=132

Takeaway dishes normally contain hidden fat, sodium (salt) or sugar, especially deep-fried food, fried noodles and rice as well as dishes with a lot of sauces. It is advisable to choose takeaway dishes with more vegetables, less meat and less sauce with moderate amount of grains. Below are some healthy options for reference:

  • Grains: white rice, brown rice, noodles, rice vermicelli or macaroni in clear soup, congee, oatmeal, white bread and wholemeal bread
  • Vegetables: boiled vegetables, mixed vegetables casserole in clear soup and salad leaves (salad dressing to be served separately)
  • Meat, fish, egg and alternatives: pork tenderloin, skinless chicken fillet, steamed fish, boiled shrimps, steamed eggs and steamed tofu

Besides, avoid choosing desserts and sugar-sweetened drinks, e.g. soft drinks and cordial.

During the pandemic, many families avoid dining out and cook at home instead. It is advisable to prepare “3 Less” dishes with less oil, less salt and less sugar. You may make reference to the following tips when preparing healthy and delicious dishes for your family:

  • Less oil
    • Use no more than 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in each main meal per person, e.g. canola oil and corn oil
    • Use low-fat cooking methods, e.g. steaming, boiling, baking and stir-frying with little amount of oil
  • Less salt
    • Use natural ingredients, spices or herbs for seasoning, e.g. onion, lemon, garlic, ginger and parsley
    • Use fresh vegetables or fruits for homemade sauce, e.g. tomato sauce, spinach sauce and pumpkin sauce
    • Reduce the amount of salt used, avoid using ready-made sauces or seasonings high in sodium (salt), e.g. sauces made with canned soup, fermented bean curd and seafood sauce
    • Refer to “Less Salt for Health” poster for details
  • Less Sugar
    • Use fresh and sweet fruits when preparing dishes, e.g. apples, pineapples and dragon fruits
    • Reduce the amount of sugar used
    • Refer to “Less Sugar for Health” poster for details

Avoid going out during the pandemic turned out to be a good occasion to cook with young children at home. Cooking with young children not only enhances parent-child relationships, but also helps them to learn about a variety of healthy food ingredients and develop good eating habits at an early age. It is advisable to choose “3 low 1 high” food ingredients (i.e. low in fat, sodium (salt), sugar and high in dietary fibre) and prepare with less oil, less salt and less sugar. Below are some kid-friendly and healthy recipes for reference:

Take a break for 3 to 5 minutes for every 20 to 30 minutes of sedentary activity such as having online classes, watching TV, reading or playing video games. Stand up, do simple stretching exercises or walk slowly at home during the break.

Parents can design an active daily timetable for young children so that they will get used to engaging in physical activity at a designated time every day and develop the habit of regular exercise. Parents should become a role model by engaging in physical activities with young children and encourage them to complete simple household chores such as tidying up rooms and toys.

During the pandemic, young children should wear masks when they are having light intensity physical activities indoors and keep social distancing for at least 1 metre. However, as wearing masks partially prevent air from entering the lungs, parents should observe closely the health condition of young children when they are engaging in physical activities. Young children should not wear masks when they have moderate to vigorous intensity physical activities outdoors or swimming activities, but they should keep social distancing for at least 1.5 metres.