A Balanced Diet

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (June 2, 2016)


We all know the importance of having a balanced diet and how it affects our health. Children learn about the food pyramid at school and how it’s important to eat carbohydrates to give us energy, proteins and vegetables to give us vitamins and minerals, dairy to give us calcium and how we should cut down on sugar and sweets. Some people choose to go on fad diets that cut out certain food groups but generally it’s accepted that we should have a balanced diet for the benefit of our health.


In the same way, children should have a ‘balanced diet’ in their time. In the same way that an imbalanced food diet affects our health negatively, an imbalanced time diet also affects health. But more than that, it can affect emotions, relationships, academic output and much more.


Some important components that I think every person should have in their ‘time diet’ are sleep, eating and drinking, social activities, personal time, exercise, work time and free time. And the proportion of time for each of those activities will change with age. For example, a baby will have more sleep time than work time but as we grow into adults, work time may end up being longer than sleep time. Proportion of time for these activities may also change with seasons in life. For example, a person taking a gap year may be spending more time in social activities than someone who is in college. So the pyramid looks different for each person according to age, life stage and personal choices.


However, as a general guideline, I would say that a healthy ‘time’ pyramid would look something like the diagram below for a child in Primary School. Sleep is essential in the development of the brain, in replenishing lost energy and for general well-being of health and should therefore take up most hours in a day. Work time I would define as time spent at school and homework done at home. Social time would include time with friends and family, perhaps attending activities with others and conversing with others. Eating and exercise is essential to good health and a good portion of time should be dedicated to it. I think free time is also important in giving a child personal time and the chance to play and develop creativity. And the last part of the pyramid is screen time and I would define that as including playing video games, communicating using technology and watching TV. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with those things as long as they are done in moderation and with self-control.


It saddens me when I see children falling asleep in class at school because they are so tired from working and not spending enough time sleeping at night. As with any part of our lives, we have to see whether we are being good role models to our children. I was recently having dinner at a restaurant where the father spent the entire meal looking at his phone as he was playing a card game. Subsequently, his son, who was sitting opposite him spent the entire time on his phone as well. Precious family bonding time and eating time was turned into screen time. As adults, we have to ask ourselves how healthy our ‘time pyramid’ is and to evaluate what is healthy for our children.


I hope that our children would not only have a healthy, balanced food diet but also a healthy, balanced time diet that best facilitates their development and growth.



#Responsibility#balanced_diet #health #time_management #role_model #growth

均衡生活

眾所周知,均衡飲食對維持健康很重要,因此孩子從小在學校學習食物金字塔──碳水化合物提供能量、蛋白質和蔬果給予維生素及礦物質、奶類是鈣質的主要來源,而糖類應該少吃為妙。儘管有些人會因節食而停止攝取某類食物,不過大家都公認均衡飲食是健康的不二法門。其實除飲食以外,孩子亦應該有均衡作息,否則有礙健康之餘,還會影響情緒管理、人際關係及學業表現等各個方面。


每個人的生活時間表都應該包含一些基本元素,包括睡眠、飲食、社交活動、私人空間、運動、工作和閒餘時間,它們所佔的比例會隨著年齡改變。比方說,嬰兒對睡眠的需求大,成長以後工作則會霸佔更長時間。生活步伐的轉變也會影響時間編排,例如有些大學生會選擇休學一年,花更多時間體驗社交生活。故此,「時間金字塔」會根據年齡、人生階段及個人選擇而有所調整。


話雖如此,我認為一個標準的小學生「時間金字塔」應該分成以下四層:第一層是睡眠,它對大腦發展至關重要,有助補充能量和維持健康;第二層是學習和社交,分別指學校與家庭的課業,以及與家人、朋友以至其他人的互相溝通;第三層由運動與飲食和閒餘時間組成,吃得有益和恆常運動是健康的先決條件,而孩子也需要空閒時間去自由玩樂和發揮創意;最後是屏幕時間,例如玩電子遊戲、使用通訊工具和看電視。只要使用得宜和懂得適可而止,這些電子娛樂其實並無不妥。


今時今日,不少學生為應付繁重課業而犧牲睡眠時間,甚至邊上課邊打瞌睡,這種情形總是令人於心不忍。我們既然是孩子的仿效對象,也要注意自己的生活習慣。一天我到餐廳吃晚飯,看見一位父親全神貫注在手機咭牌遊戲上。沒多久,坐在他對面的兒子也拿起手機埋頭在玩,珍貴的家庭生活和共饍時間就這樣電子屏幕佔據了!作為大人,我們要從自身做起培養孩子健康習慣,不斷檢視自己的「時間金字塔」是否擺放恰當。


我衷心希望孩子將飲食和時間金字塔銘記心中,成為他們終生受用的重要財產。


christine@jems.com.hk

劉馬露明


2016年6月2日

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