Children's diets have gone from congee, steamed ribs, fruit and choi sum to burgers, fries and pizza Ann Cheung Chui-wah still remembers her first encounter with McDonald's back in 1975, when she was a pupil at SKH All Saints' Primary School. Ms Cheung says she had to save her pocket money to buy her dream delicacy - an apple pie. 'My family wouldn't go there because they thought it's very expensive, you know. It cost a dollar to buy an apple pie, but I only had a few cents' pocket money,' she recalls. The experience proved disappointing: she didn't like the taste of the pastry. But she did fulfil her dream of eating at McDonald's. 'We felt McDonald's was a high-end restaurant and their meals were not that popular among the general public. It's not that we didn't want to go, but our economic condition didn't allow us to,' Ms Cheung remembers. Like most other children, she had a steamed rice roll, congee or bread for breakfast. If they got up early, their father might take them to a Chinese restaurant to eat barbecued pork buns. 'We always ate at home for lunch after school - steamed spare ribs, and some fruit as well. We got a richer meal for dinner, as we would have soup, steamed chicken or choi sum stir-fried with beef.' Instead of going to fast-food restaurants they would frequent dai pai dongs. 'We ate few snacks, but we would eat ice lollies sometimes. Sometimes we would also eat street food, such as cuttlefish, or iced pawpaw.' She would play badminton during breaks and going home meant climbing several flights of stairs. But things have changed. Thirty years after it established its first restaurant in Hong Kong, McDonald's is hugely popular, especially among children. Some are drawn by the taste, others the variety, but perhaps the most crucial selling factor is the cost. 'You get a hamburger, coke and ice cream for just about $20,' says Lai Wan-chi, a current pupil at SKH All Saints' Primary School. 'I never feel bored eating McDonald's, no matter how many times I go there,' says fellow school-mate Xie Yu-yu, to the nods of other students. Their favourite? 'McCrispy chicken and French fries!' they reply in unison. But they say they only have time to go to McDonald's after supplementary lessons on Saturday mornings, as they have to eat in school on weekdays. Most eat meals provided by caterers. Each day, they are given three types of lunch box from which to choose. 'Option A' is fatty food such as chicken wings, hot dogs, pizza or hamburgers. Options B and C are different kinds of noodle or rice dishes, such as chicken or pork chop curry. Primary Six student Kei Ka-hung was asked which option she prefers. 'Of course Option A. I love the chicken wings, they're the most tasty.' Ka-hung says he never eats very much at home. 'Sometimes I would dump it before I eat up half of the bowl [of rice],' he said. 'Home-made food tastes the worst.' But as tasty as he finds the lunch boxes at school, he often snacks on shrimp or potato chips and regularly buys soft drinks. Retired teacher So Wai-yee, who taught at the school from 1973 to 2000, is a witness to the change in children's eating habits and lifestyles. 'When I first came here, the tuck shop sold congee but it stopped selling this in 1985. In 1975 they started to sell potato and shrimp chips,' she said. 'In the past, children liked skipping, swinging or playing on the slide. Nowadays, it seems fewer kids like to play, perhaps because of a lack of space for them. Besides, they like sitting in front of a TV or computer, and always have to stay in air-conditioned rooms,' Ms So said. 'Unlike the past when everybody led a hard life, now parents simply can't resist buying kids the food they like.'