Children’s breakfasts ‘not as healthy’ as parents think – Nestlé

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New research from Nestlé Spain finds that parents are overestimating how healthy their children’s breakfasts are.

A study conducted by the Spanish unit of Nestlé found that 80% of parents in the country believe their children are eating a “healthy” breakfast. However, Nestlé concluded, only 35% of children aged between three- and 12-years-old consume a combination of dairy, cereals and fruit for the first meal of the day.

Recommendations published by the Spanish Ministry of Health as part of the country’s strategy for nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of obesity (NAOS Strategy) suggest children and adolescents eat whole-grain cereals, fruit and dairy products on a daily basis. The NAOS Strategy stresses that breakfast is an “important” consumption occasion during the day to encourage development and a healthy weight.

Fibre lacking

This latest research, conducted by the IV Nestlé Observatory on Nutrition Habits and Family Lifestyles (IV Observatorio Nestlé sobre Hábitos Nutricionales y Estilos de Vida de las Familias), concluded that even children eating cereals and dairy are not getting enough fibre in the morning. Only 46% of Spanish children incorporate fruit in their breakfasts while only two out of ten eat products that are high in dietary fibre or whole grains.

Laura González, head of nutrition at Nestlé Spain, noted that it is recommended that both children and adults increase their fibre intake for “its numerous health benefits”, with consumption linked to a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese.

“Breakfast should contribute 25% of the total daily energy consumption (between 300 and 400 kcals), help growth and regulate metabolic function,” González suggested. “It is advisable that the first meal of the day is balanced… you should include cereals, dairy products and fruit, which will provide all the energy and nutrients needed for the new day.”

Many children are also spending just 10 minutes or less eating breakfast, Nestlé found. According to the researchers, almost 60% of children eat in 10 minutes or less.

Last year, a study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine found that 35% of children across eight European countries (Belgium, Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland) ate breakfasts with their families. Having a regular family breakfast was inversely associated with children being considered overweight or obese. 

Mid-morning snacks lost with age

The Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition of the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality advises that Spanish consumers should spread their calorie intake out over five or six smaller meals each day. For example, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner.

However, while Nestlé Spain found that the “youngest” children typically eat five meals daily, the morning snack routine is frequently dropped as children get older.

According to the survey, 53% of children between the ages of three and six eat a morning snack daily. This fell to 37% of ten- to 12-year-olds. Children are also significantly more likely to eat a morning snack during the week than at the weekend, the survey discovered.

The market research was conducted by IPSOS on behalf of Nestlé. It was based on an online questionnaire and food diary maintained by families with children in the target age range in March of this year.

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