Breakfast in Your Early Years Setting

Research shows that eating breakfast in your early years setting has positive effects on children’s concentration, supporting their morning learning, as well providing energy until their next snack or mealtime.

It’s important that your setting views breakfast as equally important as other meals and snacks. The morning meal plays an important role in providing children with daily nutrients and energy that they require for growth, play, development and learning. The Eat Better Start Better guidelines highlight the energy and nutritional requirements that children should receive across daily meals and snacks provided in early years settings:

  • breakfast 20%
  • mid-morning snack 10%
  • lunch 30%
  • mid-afternoon snack 10%
  • tea 20%

This leaves 10% for an additional snack at home in evening.

(Note: This is based on a full day care setting and the assumption that lunch is a larger meal and tea is a lighter meal).

Breakfast ideas in early years settings including weetabix with milk, scrambled egg and tomato on toast, natural yoghurt with mixed berries, crumpets

Communication with families

It’s important to speak to parents to find out if their children eat breakfast at home. If not, children should be offered breakfast when they arrive at your setting, to ensure they’re not missing this important meal. For children that do have breakfast at home you can share our Family Breakfast Ideas blog which has lots of great recipes!


Let’s take a look at some of the key Eat Better Start Better guidelines for breakfast time in your setting:

Eat Better Start Better guidelines for breakfast. Provide a portion of starchy food as part of breakfast each day. Provide at least three different types of starchy food across breakfasts each week, for example cornflakes, wholegrain toast, porridge. Provide a variety of wholegrain and white starchy foods as part of breakfast each week. It is good practice to provide wholegrain starchy foods for at least one breakfast each week. Choose breakfast cereals with the lowest sugar content. Choose those which are labelled as ‘low’ (green) or ‘medium’ (amber) in sugar. Avoid cereals labelled as ‘high’ (red) in sugar such as sugar-coated or chocolate-flavoured cereals. Choose bread and bread products with a lower salt content. Choose those which are labelled as ‘low’ (green) or ‘medium’ (amber) in salt. Provide a portion of vegetables or fruit at breakfast each day. Foods from this group provides a useful source of iron and zinc and can be provided as part of breakfast. It is best practice to provide three portions of milk and dairy foods each day (including those provided at home); one of these can be provided as part of breakfast. Children must have access to fresh drinking water. Provide only fresh tap water and plain milk for children to drink.


Here are some of our top tips when providing breakfast in your setting

CEREAL

Cereals are a great option, so ensure you choose breakfast cereals with a low (green) sugar content. A low sugar cereal is one that has less than 5g sugar per 100g (always look at the nutrition information per 100g and not per serving)

Low sugar cereals include:

  • Porridge – check out some of our favourite overnight oats recipe here!
  • Ready Brek
  • Wheat biscuits, e.g. Weetabix
  • Oat biscuits
  • Puffed rice, wheat and oats
  • Shredded whole wheat

You may occasionally choose those labelled as ‘medium’ (amber) sugar but avoid cereals labelled as ‘high’ (red) sugar, such as sugar coated or chocolate-flavoured cereals.

Label Reading Guide Per 100g

Product label reading guide to help you to choose products that are low in sugar. Always look at the nutrition information on the label by looking at the per 100g column and not per serving. A product is low in sugar if it has less than 5g of sugar per 100g. It has a medium level of sugar if it has between 5g to 22.5g of sugar per 100g. The product is high in sugar if it has more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g.

BREAD

Choose bread or bread products lower in salt, by looking at the back of the ingredients list and try to offer a variety of white and wholegrain. Toast is a quick, easy and nutritious option to serve in your setting. Just be mindful about the toppings that you have available for children. Here are some examples of our favourite toppings in Green and those to avoid in Red.

Examples of nutritious toast toppings include sliced avocado, hard-boiled egg, roasted tomatoes, cheese, cream cheese, hummus, mashed fruit, such as banana, strawberries or raspberries. Toast toppings to avoid include jam as it is high in sugar, chocolate spread as it is high in sugar, marmite and bovril as they are high in salt, honey as it is high in sugar, marmalade as it is high in sugar.

 

You can also vary the bread that you offer. For example you could offer

  • Pitta
  • Crumpets
  • Pancakes – check out some of our favourite pancake recipes here!
  • Chapatti

Avoid high fat options, such as croissants.

Examples of alternatives to bread that can be offered at breakfast include, chapatti, pancake, crumpets and pitta.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

It’s important to offer a portion of fruit or vegetables at each breakfast time. While fruit are often the preferred option, there are lots of ways vegetables can be included too. For example, offer them as a finger food alongside breakfast dishes, such as mushrooms and tomatoes.

Here are some examples from First Steps Nutrition, which are all in-line with the EBSB guidelines:

Example breakfast ideas including: porridge oats made with whole milk, mashed strawberries and kiwi fingers. Wholemeal toast fingers with scrambled egg and roasted tomatoes. Rice cake fingers with full-fat Greek yoghurt and mashed blueberries and raspberries. White toast fingers with low sugar, low salt baked beans and mushrooms. Shredded wheat with milk, raisins and banana fingers. Eggy white bread with strawberry fingers

You can find more recipes via:


Additional resources for best practice at breakfast times

Book our Menu Planning training for more information, advice and support in creating menus to meet children’s requirements.

Example menu placed in front of an Eat Better Start Better page

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