Interesting Tips
How to determine whether a child is overweight or underweight?
You can use the Weight-for-Height Chart to determine whether a child's weight is proportional to his or her height. If a child's weight exceeds the weight-for-height median by 20% (i.e. 120% of the median) or more, he or she is overweight. If a child weighs 20% less than the weight-for-height median (i.e. 80% of the median) or below, he or she is underweight. Children who are overweight or underweight are advised to consult a physician or a dietitian for follow-up.
My child is a picky eater. What should I do?
In general, the term "picky eater" refers to a child who refuses to eat certain foods. The reasons behind such behaviour may include unpleasant eating experience, imitating care-givers' eating behaviours, misconception about food and nutrition, and dental problems. Instead of seeing picky eating as disobedience, parents should try to find out the reasons behind picky eating and work out a solution.
Most children's picky eating habits will improve as they grow up. As long as children do not have a dislike for all foods in a whole food group and their growth and bodily functions are not affected, it is acceptable for them to be picky eaters occasionally. Parents should provide a wide variety of foods, create a relaxing dining environment, and act as role models by eating together with children. Moreover, parents can encourage children to try out their disliked foods in different ways, such as modifying the cooking methods, giving verbal praises, and cooking children's disliked foods with them so as to change their impression of these foods.
The "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students" (latest version) recommends that a healthy lunch should provide grains, vegetables and meat (and its alternatives) in the ratio of 3:2:1 by volume. Will children's growth and development be affected if meat has the least portion in a diet?
According to the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid, children need a moderate amount of protein. To obtain adequate protein for maintaining bodily functions and healthy growth, lower primary students and upper primary students are recommended to have 1 to 2 servings and 1½ to 2½ servings of meat, fish, egg and alternatives respectively in each meal.
My child always feels hungry. Is it normal?
As children have a small stomach capacity and high activity level, they may easily feel hungry. When children are hungry, parents can prepare low-fat, low-salt, low-sugar, and high-dietary fibre snacks with reference to the "Nutritional Guidelines on Snacks for Students" (latest version) issued by the Department of Health. However, please bear in mind that snacks should not be consumed excessively. Snacking should also not be too close to a main meal as this will spoil children's appetite.
My child is skinny. No matter what he/she eats, he/she does not gain weight, what should I do?
There are many causes of leanness or poor absorption of nutrition, including inborn factors or unhealthy eating habits. Parents may first observe their children's eating habits, and refer to the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid in order to determine whether their children have obtained adequate nutrition. Parents can also help their children develop a regular eating pattern and prepare for them balanced meals or healthy snacks. Besides, doing exercise is beneficial for body growth. If there is no substantial improvement, please seek professional advice from a physician or a dietitian.
Children love sugary foods. Can I use sugar substitutes to replace granulated sugar?
Sugar substitutes, also known as sweeteners, are a sweet-tasting but low-energy food additive that can replace sugar in foods. If sweeteners are added to a food, children are more likely to develop a sweet tooth. To avoid affecting their health and development, primary students are advised to minimise the consumption of sweeteners. On the other hand, it is advisable to encourage children to eat sweets in moderation and reduce dietary sugar intake starting from a young age.
My child wants late-night snacks. What should I do?
Parents should understand their children's needs. If children feel so hungry that they cannot fall asleep, parents may give them healthy snacks in small quantity, e.g. wheat bread, bread roll, fresh fruit or low-fat milk; over-eating should be strictly avoided. If eating late-night snacks is simply a bad habit of children, parents should provide proper guidance to help them develop healthy eating habits.
How many vegetables should children eat in the other two main meals if vegetables are not included in their breakfast?
Children aged 6 to 11 should eat at least 2 servings of vegetables every day, while 1 serving of vegetables is equivalent to one bowl of uncooked vegetables or half a bowl cooked vegetables. If vegetables are not included in their breakfast, children should eat a sufficient amount of vegetables that are evenly distributed over lunch, dinner or tea time.
My child's weight is on an increasing trend, but he/she is not full when given too little food. What should I do?
When children's weight is on an increasing trend, parents do not need to worry too much. It is not necessary to put children on fad diets, which affect their growth and development. By encouraging children to exercise and break the bad dietary habits, parents can help them maintain a normal weight. To offer children a sufficient portion of meals with balanced nutrition, parents may follow the recommendations in the "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students" (latest version) issued by the Department of Health. Please note that if a diet is too strict or if children use an inappropriate method to lose weight, their physical and mental development is likely to be affected. If necessary, parents may seek professional advice from a physician or a dietitian.
How long before bed should I stop eating? Is eating absolutely not allowed?
Since it would take about 3 to 4 hours for the stomach to empty, you should avoid eating for 3 to 4 hours before bed to prevent stomach discomfort. However, if you feel hungry before bed, you may eat a small amount of healthy snacks, e.g. wheat bread, bread roll, fresh fruit or low-fat milk.
Is the potato a vegetable?
Similar to the sweet potato, the potato is considered as "grains" because of its high carbohydrate content. For other root and stem vegetables (e.g. taro and carrot) that are considered as "grains" , they should be counted as vegetables due to their high dietary fibre content.
Would low-fat dairy products (e.g. milk, yoghurt or cheese) be less nutritious?
Dairy products are rich in calcium and are good for children's development of teeth and bones. In fact, low-fat dairy products are to a certain extent similar to full-fat dairy products in terms of nutritional components, such as protein and calcium. Nevertheless, compared to full-fat dairy products, low-fat dairy products have lower energy and fat content, which can help maintain a healthy body weight.
Is chicken healthier than beef?
The nutritional profile of red meat (e.g. pork, beef and lamb) is slightly different from that of white meat (e.g. fish and skinless chicken). Red meat is richer in iron, which is essential to the production of red blood cells, whereas white meat has less fat than red meat. Therefore, red meat and white meat have their respective benefits. You can improve your health by consuming both types of meat in moderation in the daily diet, and using low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar cooking methods.
What does "serving/portion" mean? What is the difference between "serving/portion" and "serving size/portion size"?
"Serving/portion" is a unit commonly used in the dietetics profession for describing the amount of food an individual should have from different food groups on a daily basis, whereas "serving size/portion size" describes the quantity of food in a "serving/portion". For example, an adult should eat at least 3 servings of vegetables every day; 1 serving of vegetables is equivalent to half a bowl of cooked vegetables or 1 bowl (about 250 to 300ml) of uncooked vegetables.
What is saturated fat?
Saturated fat is also known as "saturated fatty acid". When consumed excessively, it will cause overweight or obesity and boost the bad cholesterol level in the blood, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Most fat and oil from animals and a few kinds of vegetable oil, such as coconut oil and palm oil, are high in saturated fat. It is advisable to minimise the consumption of saturated fat.
What kinds of edible oil are healthy?
Healthier choices of vegetable oil, such as olive oil, canola oil or corn oil, contain more unsaturated fat Yet, bear in mind that even though there are different kinds of oil, their energy content is more or less the same. They will cause obesity and affect our health if excessively consumed.
What is palm oil? Is it easily found in food?
Palm oil is a kind of vegetable oil extracted from the fruits of palm trees. As it is high in saturated fat, excessive intake will raise the bad cholesterol level in the blood and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases or stroke. Many food manufacturers use palm oil to produce ready-to-eat food items or snacks, such as instant noodles, cup noodles, potato chips, shrimp crackers or biscuits with fillings. Members of the public should limit the consumption of these food items and pay attention to the ingredient list on the package to determine whether a food item contains palm oil.
Are grape seed oil and rice bran oil healthy?
Grape seed oil and rice bran oil are vegetable oils that are rich in unsaturated fat which helps lower the blood cholesterol level and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Some probiotic drinks in the market are labelled as healthy drinks. Are they beneficial for children?
Research findings show that probiotics are good for intestinal health. However, most probiotic drinks in the market contain added sugar. Over-consumption of such drinks may cause excessive intake of sugar or energy and damage our health. Therefore, probiotic drinks should not be consumed excessively. For a probiotic drink with 5 to 7.5g sugar per 100ml, children are recommended to limit the consumption to no more than 2 times in a five-day school week and maintain a balanced diet.
Can I give sports drinks to children as a substitute for water?
Most sports drinks available in the market contain mainly water and sugar. If children replenish loss of fluids by consuming sports drinks instead of water on a daily basis, they may develop a sweet tooth, thereby hindering the establishment of healthy dietary habits. cTo replenish fluid loss, Therefore, water is the best and most convenient drink choice. Children should therefore drink fluids water regularly throughout the day to replenish fluid loss.
Is margarine much healthier than butter? Can I feel free to use more margarine for cooking?
Using margarine instead of butter for cooking will not be healthier. because it contains trans fat, which will raise the bad cholesterol level in the blood and lower the level of good cholesterol if consumed excessively. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases or stroke. Moreover, as margarine has the same level of energy as butter, it will lead to obesity if consumed excessively.
I seldom use oil when cooking. Why am I still obese?
In addition to fat and oil, excessive intake of any kinds of food will result in consuming too much energy, which will easily lead to obesity. Therefore, you should pay attention to the amount of food you eat. For details, please refer to the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid as a reference. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle will lower the energy expenditure, thereby contributing to excess energy, which will be stored by the body as fat. To maintain a healthy weight, you should exercise regularly in addition to dietary control.
Is long-boiled pork bone soup good for the body?
Many people think that long-boiled pork bone soup is rich in calcium, believing that it would benefit children's bone development. In fact, boiling does not release calcium from the pork bones; it simply dissolves a massive amount of fat (especially saturated fat into the soup, which will easily result in over-consumption of saturated fat Thus, both long-boiled pork bone soup is not recommended for frequent consumption. For the sake of children's health, parents can make clear soup with gourds, vegetables, dry beans and a moderate amount of fish or lean meat.
Do lower primary students and upper primary students have the same portion of lunch?
As the daily nutritional needs of lower and upper primary students are not the same, their demands for grains and meat and its alternatives are different. Please refer to the "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students" (latest version) for more information about the recommended quantity. As for the recommended intake of vegetables and fruits, it is generally the same for all students.
What is the intake ratio of energy or nutrients for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
The three main meals should each provide 30% of the energy or nutrients needed for a day.
What could be done if the food provided by the current school lunch supplier is not quite healthy and parents do not have time to prepare lunch for their children?
Parents may refer to the "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students" (latest version) issued by the Department of Health and reflect the nutritional problem in school lunch to the dedicated working group in school.
If I eat less rice and more different types of food, will I take in more nutrients without getting fat?
No. Grains, vegetables and meat and its alternatives should be served in the ratio of 3:2:1 by volume in a healthy main meal. Grains, such as rice and noodles, should be eaten the most since they are rich in carbohydrates and provide energy to the body. Vegetables and fruits are a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. As fresh vegetables and fruits are also low in energy and fat, they should be eaten more often. For children aged 6 to 11, they need to eat at least 2 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit a day. As meat contains more fat than rice, it should be eaten in moderation, or else it can cause weight gain when consumed excessively.
Why do children have snacks?
If children have three balanced meals a day with adequate intake of energy and nutrients, snacks are not a must-have. Since children usually have a smaller stomach, they may not take in enough food during main meals to meet their nutritional needs. In addition, as children have a high activity level, snacks can be used for energy and water replenishment. Yet, please remember that snacks should neither be consumed excessively nor used as a substitute for main meals.
When is the right time for children to have snacks?
Snacks should be served between two main meals. To avoid affecting children's appetite for the next main meal, the snack time should be at least 1.5 to 2 hours away from the main meal.
My child loves fried and deep-fried snacks. What should I do?
To improve children's eating habit, you can first reduce their weekly frequency of eating fried and deep-fried snacks. Then gradually, you can use a variety of fresh vegetables or fruits to replace fried and deep-fried snacks. Parents should be patient with children and provide them with different kinds of fruits and vegetables that have fresh taste and bright colours. As children are good at adapting, they can soon get used to the new taste.
If children do not like to drink water for replenishment of fluids, can I give them Tetra Pak drinks or sweet drinks?
Adequate fluid intake is vital to the body. It can help digest and absorb food, increase metabolism and prevent constipation. Parents should always encourage children to drink more water. It is advisable to drink about 6 to 8 glasses of fluids every day. As Tetra Pak juice with added sugar has a higher sugar content, over-consumption can lead to overweight and obesity. In addition to water, low-fat milk and low-sugar soy milk are good choices as well.
Should schoolchildren skip breakfast to avoid over-eating if they eat snacks during recess time?
No. Schoolchildren should develop the habit of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Breakfast is a main meal that cannot be neglected and should be eaten at a regular time, with grains (e.g. bread, congee and oatmeal) as the main ingredient. Eating breakfast can boost schoolchildren's ability to think and learn. Skipping breakfast may result in schoolchildren eating too much during recess or lunch time. As long as children eat a balanced diet, they may have a small amount of snacks between main meals to replenish energy and water.

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