Why is breakfast important?
Research shows that eating breakfast has positive effects on children’s concentration, supporting their morning learning, as well providing energy until their next snack or mealtime.
Breakfast 20%Within the early years, breakfast should be seen as equally important as other meals and snacks. The morning meal plays an important role in providing children with daily nutrients and energy they require for growth, play, development and learning. The Eat Better Start Better voluntary food and drink guidelines highlight the energy and nutritional requirements that children should receive across daily meals and snacks provided in early years settings:
- mid-morning snack 10%
- lunch 30%
- mid-afternoon snack 10%
- tea 20%
This leaves 10% for an additional drink or drink and 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)
Providing Breakfast In your Setting
In line with our recent social media posts (follow us on our platforms below!) here are our top tips when providing breakfast within your setting:
- Speak to parents to ensure children always eat breakfast at home or if not when they arrive in the setting to ensure children are not missing this important meal
- Cereals are a great breakfast option, ensure you choose breakfast cereals with the lowest sugar content (e.g. porridge, wheat biscuits) during your settings food shop. Look at the back of the ingredients list and review (of which are sugars) per 100 gram, selecting cereals which are low (green) or medium (amber) in sugar. For more confidence in your food labelling skills book on our Food and Nutrition for Toddlers Training
- Choose bread or bread products lower in salt, by looking at the back of the ingredients list and review (salt or sodium equivalent) per 100 gram, selecting those low (green) or medium (amber) in salt.
- Provide at least 3 different varieties of starchy foods across breakfast each week, e.g. wheat biscuits, porridge or bread
- Ensure your breakfast menu provides a variety of wholegrain and white starchy foods as part of breakfast across the week
- Ensure a portion of vegetable or fruit is offered at breakfast each day
- Think of the variety of foods offered. Good sources of iron and zinc include beans and eggs
- It is best practice to provide three portions of milk and dairy foods each day and one of these can be as part of breakfast
- Ensure children have access to fresh drinking water at this time
Additional resources for best practice at breakfast
For more ‘best nutrition practice’ guidelines around breakfast, as well as healthy balanced breakfast ideas, explore the Eat Better Start Better guidelines.
Example menus and useful guidance for your settings to support you to meet the Early Years Foundation Stage requirements for food and drink.
Download Change4Life’s Food Scanner app to find out how much salt and sugar is in your settings breakfast menu.
By Jamie Douglas