[Parent Connection] Snack smart!
A healthy diet is more than just eating well at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For many of us, snack is a core element of our daily nutritional intake which is often overlooked and hence, becomes a contributor of detrimental effects on long-term health and well-being.
Early this year, the Hong Kong Department of Health has revised the Nutritional Guidelines on Snacks for Students for use in primary and secondary schools. In line with recommendations from World Health Organization, this guideline aims to help students achieve healthy weight, increase fruits and vegetables consumption, and reduce the intakes of total fat, sugar, and salt (sodium). This latest, sixth edition of the guideline has introduced more snack examples as well as the ‘Healthy Snack Checker’ website for schools, parents and students to make better, informed choices of healthy snacks.
As healthy eating doesn’t end when the school bell rings, parents may take reference to the tips when they prepare home snacks for their children as well!
Got no time for the 37-page long full version? No worries, here’s a summary for you!
Quantity of snacks
While snacking helps provide energy and nutrients between meals to support learning and activities throughout the day, having too much may affect students’ appetite for main meals and disrupts their meal schedules. Therefore, snacks provided or sold to students should be no more than 125 kcal per serving and drinks should no more than 250 mL.
Examples of recommended servings of 125-kcal snacks include:
- 3 to 4 rectangular biscuits
- Half a sandwich e.g., 1 slice of bread + unlimited vegetables + ½ piece of ham, egg, 2 tablespoons of canned tuna, etc.
- Half a bowl of corn kernels
- Half a bowl of cut-up fruits e.g., melon, apple, pear, etc.
- Half a bowl of dehydrated fruit chips
- ¾ cup of pure fruit juice
- One egg
- One chicken wing
- 3 to 5 pieces of steamed ‘siu mai’
- 2 to 3 pieces of steamed dumplings
Quality of Snacks
Similar to the Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students , snacks can be classified into three categories based on their nutritional value and potential impact on health:
- Snacks of Choice are always encouraged as they provide students with important nutrients and contain less fat, salt and sugar.
- Whole grains e.g. whole wheat bun
- Fruits and vegetables with no added oil, salt and sugar e.g., corn kernels and cherry tomatoes
- Low-fat/skimmed dairy products with no added sugar
- Lean meat and its alternatives
- Low-sugar and low-fat drinks e.g., unsweetened soy drinks
- Snacks to Choose in Moderation should be consumed no more than twice in a five-day school week because they contain more fat, salt and sugar despite their nutritional values.
- Bread, biscuits and grains with higher fat, salt or sugar content e.g., stir-fried noodles
- Processed and preserved vegetables
- Fruits with added sugar
- Full-fat or sugar-sweetened dairy products
- Processed, preserved, fatty meat and its alternatives
- Pure fruit juice
- Snacks to Choose Less are high in fat, salt and/or sugar, therefore, are strongly discouraged for sale in schools as frequent consumption increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
- Energy-dense, high-fat, high-salt or high-sugar foods e.g., cream bun, deep-fried chicken legs, instant noodles
- Drinks high in sugar
- Food and drinks that contain caffeine or sweeteners (for primary school students only)
‘Healthy Snack Checker’
Wonder which category a certain snack falls under? Find out using this amazing tool! https://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/en/snack_list.aspx
- Hong Kong Department of Health. Nutritional Guidelines on Snacks for Students. Available at: https://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/files/pdf/snack_guidelines_bi.pdf. Accessed on 13Oct2022.