Hongkongers eat the equivalent length of the Earth’s circumference in French toast annually, a survey has found, prompting a nutritionist to warn of health risks caused by the city’s snacking habits.
Other popular treats include French fries, fried chicken thighs, egg tarts, and pineapple buns with butter, the online survey conducted by health platform HealthyD found.
“Hong Kong’s favourite foods are deep-fried with a lot of oil, and usually served with butter and syrup. Excessive consumption could lead to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease,” Cynthia Wong Oi-se, a senior nutritionist at NutraCare Consultancy, said of French toast.
The survey found Hongkongers get through about 320 million servings a year of French toast, a dish made of fried sliced bread soaked in eggs and milk, and containing 420 calories per serving – the energy level of two bowls of rice. Some 57 per cent said this was their favourite snack.
French fries, with 539 cal per serving, were second favourite, followed by fried chicken thighs (431 cal), toast with condensed milk and peanut butter (405 cal), egg tarts (230 cal), and pineapple buns (421 cal).
About 55 per cent chose milk tea – the popular local beverage made from black tea and evaporated or condensed milk – as their preferred drink. One cup contains 140 calories. Its popularity was closely followed by lemon tea and lemon water, according to the survey.
A citywide health survey released by the government in 2017 found half of people aged 15 or older were overweight or obese. Still, despite an overwhelming majority (83 per cent) of the respondents thinking the snacks were “very unhealthy” or “not so healthy”, 61 per cent said they had no intention of making fewer visits to cha chaan teng.
“One glass of iced lemon tea can contain as much as six spoons of sugar,” Wong said. “Choose skimmed milk rather than full-fat, which is high in calories.”
The HealthyD survey also found Hong Kong diners visited cha chaan teng on alternate days, with 88 per cent of respondents making a weekly average of 3.6 visits to the traditional restaurants. The major reason for going to cha chaan teng was convenience, according to 68 per cent of the respondents.
Variety of dishes (41 per cent) and affordable prices (40 per cent) were also popular reasons.
Wong said a balanced diet and regular exercise were key to staying healthy and offered some tips for cha chaan teng diners.
“Have a tomato and boiled egg sandwich or go for toast with jam if you are a toast lover. There are healthier options at cha chaan teng and you can do it step by step and build up a healthy routine,” Wong said.
More than 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio exercise at least three times a week would burn calories and keep weight stable, she added.