Press here to Skip to the main content
Font Size
Default Font Size Larger Font Size Largest Font Size RSS Subscription Advanced Search Sitemap Mobile/Accessible Version 繁體 简体

Shaking the salt and sugar habit

July 19, 2015

Tasty alternatives

Tasty alternatives:  Chinese Cuisine Training Institute Senior Instructor Luk Wai says using fruits and natural flavours for seasoning is healthier.

Sweet alternatives

Sweet alternatives:  Pumpkin and water chestnut can be used in steamed meatballs in place of sugar.

High note

High note:  Primary school students created their own song for a video competition to illustrate the ways to curb our use of salt and sugar.

Life lesson

Life lesson:  School Principal Lau Oi-man briefs students on the harm that may result from eating too much salt and sugar.

Eating too much salt and sugar can have a negative impact on our health. Because Hong Kong people’s average daily intake of these ingredients exceeds World Health Organisation recommendations, the Government is taking steps to help bring our intake down to healthier levels by 2025.


Some foodies have already picked up on the trend. Chinese Cuisine Training Institute Senior Instructor Luk Wai from northern China is one of them. He enjoys preparing and eating spicy dishes, but recently began using less salt and sugar – and avoiding sauces.


“Chilli bean sauce is a pungent blend of salt, chilli peppers and beans. It becomes even more salty after the fermentation process. When we eat it, we may not realise just how much salt is in it,” he said.


Mr Luk has 30 years of experience as a chef. While salt and sugar can enrich the flavour of dishes, he says that using fruits and natural flavours for seasoning is healthier.


“Lemon has an acidic taste that can enhance the flavour of steamed fish, so we can use less salt. Water chestnut is sweet, and can be used in steamed meatballs in place of sugar.”


Health alarm

The World Health Organisation recommends people eat no more than five grams of salt - slightly less than one level teaspoon, and no more than 50g of sugar - about 10 cubes, per day. Hong Kong adults are estimated to be eating twice the recommended level of salt, and too much sugar. This can trigger health problems.


High blood pressure is one of the most serious concerns, Centre for Food Safety Consultant Dr Ho Yuk-yin says. According to a Department of Health survey, more than 30% of people aged 55 to 65 have this affliction, as do more than 40% of those over the age of 65.


“The major determinant, as we understand it, is having too much salt in our diet,” Dr Ho said.


Eating too much sugar, he says, causes cavities in teeth, and obesity. Department of Health surveys suggest almost 40% of adults aged 18 to 64 are overweight or obese.


Taking action

In his 2015 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced the Government would develop a plan to reduce salt and sugar in foods to promote a healthy diet. It aims to reduce the average daily intake of salt to 7g by 2025, with an ultimate aim of 5g or below in the long term. Relevant departments have launched activities to raise awareness of the benefits of changing our diets.


The Centre for Food Safety launched a video competition, to allow participants to illustrate ways to curb our use of salt and sugar and to study nutrition labels.


CUHK FAA Thomas Cheung Primary School students created their own song for their entry in the video competition and won the first runner-up prize in the open category. Their teachers believe it is important to build a healthy eating habit from a young age.


Young ambassadors

“We hope students learn to adopt healthy eating habits through singing and dancing, and we wanted to deliver the healthy eating message through the video,” teacher Ken Yeung said.


Some participants have taken the message to heart and are sharing it with loved ones.


“Since we made the video, I have asked my family to have more meals at home. Eating out is unhealthy, as the foods usually contain more sugar, salt and fat,” primary student Chan Kin Yat said.


“Since acting in the video, I ask my mum to use less salt while cooking,” said primary student Liu Shuet Yi.


School principal Lau Oi-man realised the problems of overweight and obesity among Hong Kong’s youth when she joined the induction programme for newly-appointed principals three years ago.


The school selects a lunch supplier with strict quality control measures that follows Department of Health guidelines. It also invites students to be health ambassadors in extracurricular activities.


“We need to let students know the cause of obesity and the harm that results from having too much salt and sugar,” Ms Lau said.


The Government set up a committee in March, to make recommendations to the Secretary for Food & Health on ways to reduce people’s salt and sugar intake, and to encourage the food trade to use less salt and sugar in preparing food.


The Government will also study salt and sugar intake in Hong Kong, the salt and sugar content of food in the local market, and people’s knowledge, attitude and behaviour in relation to salt and sugar.

For Health We Change