Children learn bad dietary habits young

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am

Children are developing unhealthy eating and exercise habits at an alarmingly young age, which puts them at greater risk of chronic diseases, according to a survey.

A total of 7,057 students, aged two to seven, from 78 kindergartens were interviewed last year by the Centre for Health Education and Health Promotion at Chinese University.

The survey found nearly 70 per cent ate less than a bowl of cooked vegetables a day and 60 per cent had less than one serving of fruit each day.

Centre director Albert Lee said children had to have a healthy diet, or else they would be prone to obesity, heart disease and intestine cancer.

Professor Lee said parents might be setting a poor example. 'Adults fail to provide a good role model for children as they also eat less fruit and vegetables nowadays. A healthy eating habit has to be developed at an early age.'

Nearly 30 per cent of the children surveyed had sugary drinks more than three times a week while over 40 per cent had less than two glasses of water a day. Only 3.5 per cent had six or more glasses of water per day.

Almost half of the children said they exercised one to two days a week while 7 per cent reported they did not exercise at all.

Over 50 per cent of the children said they watched television for more than two hours every day.

More than 40 per cent of the parents said their children were picky eaters and did not like vegetables, meat, fruit and fish, among others.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection yesterday said there were norovirus infections at five homes for the elderly in the first week of this month.

Consultant Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said tests showed the gene of the norovirus had changed, which might cause more infections this summer. Outbreaks of the stomach bug usually occur in winter.

'But we're not seeing that the symptoms have become more severe,' he said. Patients typically suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea.