New recipes for lunchboxes will reduce junk food and provide a more balanced diet Lunchbox providers to 500 primary schools have been given a list of healthy recipes in a government campaign to reduce obesity and promote good eating. The 30 recipes in the 64-page guideline include shiitake mushrooms and bean curd, Polynesian pork and Spanish-style seafood rice. The EatSmart@school.hk campaign also contains rigorous guidelines on the size of portions and the use of salt and vegetable oil. Nearly 400,000 children from 500 whole-day schools are expected to benefit from the recipes sent to lunchbox suppliers by the Department of Health. Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen, assistant director of the Centre for Health Protection, said: 'Everyone has noticed that schoolchildren are getting fatter and fatter. In Hong Kong, obesity among schoolchildren increased from 16.4 per cent in 1997-1998 to 18.7 per cent last year. 'Children here often spend eight hours at school, often starting the day with a snack for breakfast followed by maybe junk food for lunch. A lot of times parents and schools are not aware.' She cited research by the Health Department that found only 14.6 per cent of lunchbox providers supplied vegetables every day. Not one lunchbox provided a balanced diet featuring the five food groups and 4.9 per cent provided schools with processed food more than twice a week. 'Part of the reason they serve unhealthy food is that they receive no positive feedback for serving healthy food,' Dr Ching said. 'We hope clearer guidelines and more co-operation between parents, schools and lunchbox providers will reverse the trend of increasing numbers of fatter children.' Dietician Gene Cheung Chun-hing, of Diet Asia, welcomed the initiative but advocated a more rounded approach. 'Kids love fried food and sweet food, so that is hard to avoid,' Mr Cheung said. 'With bad parental guidance and the availability of junk food near schools, the benefits of a healthy school lunch may be limited. I believe it is more important to educate parents and control children's snacking.' Ng Mee Chong, health promotion committee co-ordinator at Sung Tak Wong Kin Sheung Memorial [Primary] School in Tai Po, said they started advocating healthy snacks in 2000 by 'bribing' children and stocking the tuck shop with fruit, bread, cherry tarts and sweet corn. 'The kids were initially very reluctant, but we began giving prizes to children if they could lay off the snacks for one week. Then we frightened them with stories from the newspapers about the dangers of obesity, and together with peer pressure, as well as teachers setting a good example, we managed to wean them off unhealthy food within a year,' Ms Ng said. Lee Pui-ki, 12, who just graduated from the school, said her new dietary regime had helped her lose weight and clear up her skin. 'When I first went to school I used to eat a lot of snacks, crisps, chocolate and sweets, and I didn't like the fruit they were trying to make us eat. But they started offering prizes for not eating snacks. Now I am used to it I very rarely snack,' she said.