Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Pearl Pugh, paediatric dietician at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, on getting a good breakfast

Breakfast is an essential start to the day providing a good source of ‘brain fuel’ to help children concentrate at school and have the energy to play.

Many make claims to be healthy – but what does this actually mean? Healthy foods should be nutrient-rich, whilst low in sugar and salt, and provide a source of wholegrain fibre to promote a healthy bowel.


Many foods display information on the salt content on the front of the packaging. This may be shown as a percentage of your guideline daily amount or a traffic light to show whether the food is low, medium or high in salt. Aim to mainly eat foods that are green or amber.

  • A product is high in salt if there is more than 1.5g (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g
  • A product is low in salt if there is 0.3g or less (or 0.1g sodium) per 100g.
  • As a rule, aim for foods that have low to medium salt content – less than 0.75g salt or 0.3g sodium.  Many cereals contain between 1.25g and 2.25g salt per 100g, that’s the same as eating two to three packets of crisps for breakfast every day in terms of the salt content!


Carbohydrates come in two forms –complex carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals, or sugars which are either added refined sugars e.g. sugar and high fructose corn starch found in biscuits, or naturally occurring sugars found in fresh, tinned and dried fruits.  

Choosing wholegrain varieties of complex carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread and cereals, helps to provide a valuable source of dietary fibre. This also helps the body to use the sugar that is released from these foods more slowly.

Eating foods that are high in refined sugars can cause a rapid rise in your blood glucose, which signals to your brain to release insulin from the pancreas, and instead of dampening your appetite, creates a stimulus and craving for more sugar.

A large serving of a sugar-coated breakfast cereal, typically 50g-100g, provides up to 37g of sugar per 100g, that’s up to seven teaspoons in every portion or the sugar equivalent of up to five donuts. 

What does a healthy child’s breakfast look like?

  • Weetabix with banana slices and whole milk
  • Porridge made with full fat milk, topped with sliced strawberries
  • Shredded wheat with blueberries and whole milk
  • Wholegrain toast with cream cheese
  • Wholegrain bagel or toast with scrambled egg with low salt ketchup
  • No added sugar muesli combined with cornflakes with full fat milk or yogurt
All served with a small glass of fresh fruit juice, full fat milk or water. 

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