I’ve always been a serious lover of breakfast cereals-the variety, the crunchy verses soggy textures, simply delicious. I know, however many parents who don’t like giving breakfast cereals to their children as they can be so high in sugar, and I’m not surprised as some varieties are made up of 1/3 sugar. We are born with a preference for sugary foods. Food manufacturers have exploited this biological phenomenon by making children’s breakfast cereals far more sugary than other cereals. As parents, we have to use all our willpower to resist the pestering from our little cherubs to buy the fun chocolately, sugary cereals with cartoon characters on the front. In my view, if it looks like a chocolate biscuit, simply adding milk does not make it a healthy breakfast. I should point out that manufacturers are now making progress to reduce the sugar content of breakfast cereals.1
However we shouldn’t tar all cereals with the same brush and if children have never been exposed to the really sweet varieties they won’t know what they’re missing by choosing less sweet alternatives. Cereal can provide a convenient, tasty, fun and nutritious start to the day. In fact, dietary surveys2 tell us that breakfast cereals provide a significant proportion of our daily intake of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.
As well as offering other options for breakfast, the cereals I provide my girls are Shredded Wheat bitesize, Weetabix and/or Lower Sugar Cheerios as base options with a sprinkling of slightly higher sugar Cornflakes or Rice Krispies. I always offer a combination of two or three different cereals in a bowl to make it more interesting. Added fresh or dried fruit, nuts, seeds and/or natural yogurt always go down well.
No added salt and sugar muesli is also a great choice, especially if you make it yourself as you can choose what to put in it. Porridge is a very healthy choice too, but remember it isn’t very energy dense (which is why it is such a good breakfast for adults, it expands upon cooking filling us up with fewer calories), so when making it for children don’t add water, use 50% milk, to 50% oats. Also add in extra fruit, nuts, seeds to make it even more nutritious.
Watch out for granolas and cereals which contain ‘no added refined sugars’. These are often high in sugar coming from honey, fruit juice, coconut nectar or other ‘natural’ syrups. Sugar from these sources are just as damaging to teeth as table sugar.
To work out if something is a low sugar option look at the label for grams of sugar per 100g of cereal. Below 3g per 100g is officially considered ‘low’ in sugar, but under 10g per 100g I would consider ok as sprinkling on top of a less sweet cereal base.
Obviously, there are lots of other nutritious breakfast options including fruit, yogurt, toast/fruit breads/bagels and nut butters, eggs, homemade pancakes etc., whatever you have the energy to make at that time in the morning and that your children are happy to eat. If you do rely on breakfast cereals, these can be a healthy choice too, just be sure to check the nutrition labels, as what might be marketed as healthy on the outside, isn’t always as healthy on the inside.
(Don’t worry I haven’t been sponsored by any of the brand names in this article!)
- Public Health England Sugar reduction: report on progress between 2015 and 2018 2019
- Public Health England National Diet and Nutrition Survey