What are the Healthiest Breakfasts for Our Children?

What are the Healthiest Breakfasts for Our Children?
What are the Healthiest Breakfasts for Our Children?

As always, our moms are right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast cereals make up 50 % of all breakfasts eaten1 in those under 18.

Yet despite the popularity and convenience of children’s breakfast cereals, the nutritional value of these options remain questionable, often high in sugar and energy, and low in fibre.

So what’s the deal with breakfast and our children?

Why is Eating Breakfast Important?

Fact: children who skip breakfast have a 43 % greater risk of being overweight.2

We also know that breakfast-skipping children have lower intakes of fibre, folate, iron, and calcium,2 all important for a healthy and balanced diet.

Added to this, children who eat breakfast have better academic performance in the classroom.3

This is why encouraging a daily habit of eating breakfast is very important for our children.

Do SA Children Eat Breakfast?

Despite the well-known health benefits, it’s concerning that one in five South African children skip breakfast each day, according to the South African National Health and Examination Survey.4

This is in stark contrast to 93 % of Brazilian children5 who eat breakfast daily.

The trouble is that breakfast skipping may lead to distracted, hungry bellies not paying attention in the classroom.

It is also concerning that breakfast skipping as a child and over long periods may have detrimental effects on heart health.6

What’s the Deal with Breakfast Cereals?

While we appreciate how important eating breakfast is, the breakfast cereals marketed for children are often high in sugar and lacking in fibre.

High sugar breakfast cereals increase a child’s total sugar intake and lowers the nutritional quality of their breakfast.7

In Canada, sugar was the second most common ingredient8 in three out of four cereals. Published in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition9 in 2017, local findings are similar: children’s cereals are significantly more likely to have sugar as the first or second ingredient listed.

South African children’s cereals (compared to non-children’s cereal) contained significantly more carbohydrates, sugar, and salt, according to this study.

Healthy Breakfasts for a Week

Fortunately though, South African children are aware of the health benefits of eating breakfast:4 86 % believe breakfast is important to concentrate better at school and 89 % believe breakfast helps give them energy for the day.

A good quality and nutritious breakfast should be low in added sugar, high in fibre, contain some protein, and possibly even contain some calcium.

Here is one week of breakfast ideas that are just as convenient as a breakfast cereal, but much more nutritious:

  • Monday – Carrot Cake Overnight Oats: In a container, layer tw tablespoons of raw oats, ½ cup plain yoghurt, one grated carrot, one grated apple, and dust with cinnamon. Close the container and leave in the fridge overnight, ready to eat in the morning.
  • Tuesday – Veggie-filled Egg Muffins: In a container, scramble eight whole eggs. Add one cup of small diced veggies of choice, like bell pepper, baby spinach, red onion, mushrooms, etc. Mix together and pour egg and veggie mixture into a greased muffin tray. Bake until set, about 15 minutes at 180°C.
  • Wednesday – Tropical Smoothie: Blend together ½ cup plain yoghurt with 3 slices of pineapple, ½ small mango, and a handful of fresh mint. Add water to adjust consistency, as needed.
  • Thursday– Smashed Avo on Toast: Roughly mash ½ avocado with two tablespoons of hummus, cottage cheese or crème cheese, and a pinch of salt. Serve on high fibre toast.
  • Friday – Yoghurt Parfait: In a tall glass, alternative layers of plain yoghurt, a mixture of raw and unsalted nuts and seeds, and chopped fresh fruit like berries, banana, apple, and the like.
  • Saturday – Eggy Toast: Dip one slice of high fibre bread in a mixture of one egg, a dash of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla essence. Fry up in a non-stick pan and serve topped with crème cheese.
  • Sunday – Banana Oat Flapjacks: In a food blender, blend together two bananas, two eggs, ½ cup raw oats, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cook spoonful amounts of this mixture on high heat. Serve with a spread of nut butter.


  1. Fayet-Moore, F, McConnell, A, Tuck, Ket al. (2017) Breakfast and breakfast cereal choice and its impact on nutrient and sugar intakes and anthropometric measures among a nationally representative sample of Australian children and adolescents. Nutrients 9, 1045.
  2. Ardeshiralarijani E, Namazi N, Jabbari M, Zeinali , Gerami H, Jalili RB, et al. The link between breakfast skipping and overweight/ obesity in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders. 2019;18:657-6.4
  3. Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behaviour and academic performance in children and adolescents. Hum. Neurosci. 2013. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425
  4. Hoosain E, Dwane N, Reddy P, Jacobs L, Shisana O, Labadarios D, et al. The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2012: SA-NHANES-1. Cape Town: HSRC Press; 2013. (Available from: http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/researchoutputs/view/6493.)
  5. Pereira JL, Castro MA, Hopkins S, Gugger C, Fisberg RM, Fisberg M. Prevalence of consumption and nutritional content of breakfast meal among adolescents from the Brazilian National Dietary SurveyPrevalence of consumption and nutritional content of breakfast meal among adolescents in the NationalFood Consumption Survey. Journal of Paediatrics. 2018;94(6): 630-41.
  6. Monzani A, Ricotti RB, Caputo M, Solito A, Archero F, Bellone S, et al. A Systematic Review of the Association of Skipping Breakfast with Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Children and Adolescents. What Should We Better Investigate in the Future? Nutrients 2019; 11(2), 387. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020387
  7. Harris JL, Schwartz MB, Ustjanauskas A, Ohri-Vachaspati P, Brownell KD. Effects of Serving High-Sugar Cereals on Children’s Breakfast-Eating Behavior. American Academy of Paediatrics. 2011; 127(1):71-6.
  8. Kent MP, Cher C, Phillippe S. The healthfulness and prominence of sugar in child-targeted breakfast cereals in Canada. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2017;37(9):266-73. doi: 10.24095/hpcdp.37.9.02
  9. Wiles NA. The nutritional quality of South African ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017; 30(4):93–100.
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