The government wants more kindergartens and child care centers to sign the “Healthy Drinks at School” Charter, pointing to the need for greater joint efforts that will help create and enhance a school environment and culture that is conducive to healthy eating.
The call from the Department of Health (DH) came after a survey found that many young children were still being fed with high-fat or sweetened drinks at schools.
Unveiling the survey results Tuesday, officials said that although over 60 percent of kindergartens and child care centers had formulated a healthy eating school policy, more than half of them were still offering students full-cream or sweetened dairy products, which could increase the risks of overweightness and obesity among the kids.
The Survey on Healthy Lifestyle of Preschool Students 2016/17 was conducted between November 2016 and March 2017, during which 380 schools and 3,639 parents of lower class students were interviewed to assess the diets and physical activity of preschool students during and after school.
Presenting the findings, Dr. Anne Fung Yu-kei, an assistant director of health at DH, said kindergartens and child care centers were found to be providing fewer instant drinks, not including milk formula, compared to a similar survey conducted in 2013.
Also, there is less frequent use of food as rewards for preschool students.
However, more than half of the interviewed institutions still provided full-cream or sweetened dairy products, such as chocolate milk, to their students, Fung said.
The survey also found that 45 percent of staff members and 42 percent of parents had used biscuits, cookies, sweets and chocolate as rewards to their students and children in the week before they were interviewed.
Calling the situation not ideal, the DH pointed out that the amount of sugar contained in a cup of chocolate milk is nearly 70 percent of that recommended for five-year-old children for their daily intake, and that a cup of sweetened malt drink could contain sugar that can easily exceed the recommended amount.
In addition, Fung noted that 94 percent of preschool students had not consumed enough fruit and vegetables, or less than two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables, and as many as 77 percent had less than the recommended 180 minutes of physical activity per day, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
To reduce the sugar intake of preschool students from drinks, the DH has launched the Healthy Drinks at School Charter, implementing the program from the 2018/19 school year.
So far more than 300 kindergartens and child care centers, which account for 30 percent of their total in the city, have signed the Charter, vowing not to provide drinks with added sugar or products with relatively high sugar content, and not to use food as a reward.
Fung advised parents to pay attention to their children’s daily intake of fruit and vegetables and use rewards such as verbal encouragement or applause, or additional parent-child activity time or offer their children small school supplies, instead of food to ensure their healthy development.
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