Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang, Senior Advisor, National Healthcare Group Board of Advisors
Ms Audrey Yap, Vice President and Honorary Treasurer, Singapore Manufacturing Federation
Parents, ladies and gentlemen
Good morning. I am delighted to join you today for the launch of the National Healthcare Group’s (NHG) and Singapore Manufacturing Federation’s (SMF) Singapore Standard on Guidelines for Nutrition and Food Services for Infants and Children.
Importance of Promoting Healthy Eating Patterns in Early Childhood
2. The early years are indeed a golden opportunity to set up habits for a lifetime. Healthy eating and nutritional habits formed during early childhood go on to have positive effects on one’s long-term health. The research demonstrates this. According to the GUSTO study, a study on birth cohorts in Singapore, good eating behaviour can mitigate a child’s risk of obesity, even for children with risk factors like having a father or mother who is already overweight. Good eating behaviour includes consuming appropriate portions at meals. Conversely, studies show that poor eating habits and improper nutrition during childhood can lead to obesity, which in turns increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
3. We must therefore develop good healthy eating habits and provide children with nutritious meals from young. This requires the combined efforts of parents, caregivers, school leaders, and educators, and food service providers.
4. Healthy eating starts at home. Parents and caregivers can create a home environment that facilitates healthy and active living. This extends from eating well, sleeping well to being physically active and practising self-care. GUSTO has showed that simple actions like the portion sizes that parents pick for their children go on to influence the portions children serve themselves. To support parents and caregivers, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) runs educational programmes to promote positive habits, and shares healthy lifestyle resources on Parent Hub.
5. School leaders and educators also play an important role to inculcate healthy eating habits in our children. Therefore, HPB and our healthcare institutions are partnering with schools and preschools to foster healthy eating.
a. Under the Healthy Meals in Preschools Programme (HMPP) and Healthy Meals in Schools Programme (HMSP), preschools and schools use healthier ingredients to prepare meals for the students, such as lower sodium sauces, healthier oils, and brown rice. I think we should also include less sugar.
b. HPB also provides advice and resources to school administrators and canteen vendors to help them follow programme guidelines.
c. All mainstream schools and over 70% of preschools1 are on board the Healthy Meals programmes. I’m glad to note that many of My First Skool’s centres participate in this programme.
6. Healthcare institutions are also key players in supporting healthier eating habits among children. One student who has benefitted from their efforts is Lashaun Jehiel Abner G’haran, a Primary 3 student. After attending a programme run by NHG at his school, Lashaun is more conscious of his food choices, and now chooses to consume more fruits, and eats cookies in moderation. He has started choosing healthier snacks when shopping for groceries with his family. His family also creates a positive home environment to sustain these healthy eating habits.
7. I’m heartened to see these various efforts. Let us continue to work together to support our children in eating well and living well.
New Standard to Complement Existing Efforts
8. The new standard on Nutrition and Food Services for Infants and Children which is being launched today complements existing efforts. Aimed at promoting the health and well-being of infants and children up to the age of 12, the standard provides recommendations across a wide range of areas, from recommended portion sizes and nutritional balance in meals, to food safety and hygiene. I believe that this new standard will serve as an additional resource for school leaders, educators, and food service providers.
9. I would like to express my appreciation to the working group. Representatives from NHG, SMF – Standards Development Organisation, and the Singapore Standards Council, came together to develop these standards. They engaged a wide range of stakeholders, from academia and government agencies to healthcare, education, and food and service sectors. This initiative is a testament of how stakeholders across society can come together to support better health among Singaporeans.
10. In closing, let us continue to promote good health among our young ones, enabling our next generation to grow up healthy and strong. Efforts to bring about good nutrition and healthy eating behaviours must go hand-in-hand, and align with our Healthier SG strategy to get individuals to take greater ownership of their health to stay well. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Let us work together to raise healthy generations.
11. Thank you.
1 As of end-2022