Study finds children eat half their daily sugar intake before the school bell rings

23 January 2017
Bowl of cereal

A survey of children’s eating habits in the UK has revealed that they consume half the daily recommended sugar intake before the morning school bell.

The survey conducted by Public Health England found that children consume more than 11g of sugar (nearly three teaspoons or cubes of sugar) at breakfast time alone.

The recommended daily maximum is no more than five cubes of sugar for 4 to 6 year olds and no more than six cubes for 7 to 10 year olds per day. By the end of the day children have consumed more than three times these recommendations.

The survey was conducted as part of the Change4Life campaign and also found that parents are unsure about what makes up a healthy breakfast for their children.

It found that of those parents whose child was consuming the equivalent of three or more sugar cubes in their breakfast, most considered their child’s breakfast to be healthy.

Some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time included sugary cereals, drinks and spreads.

Away from the breakfast table children were also consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks.  

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist, Public Health England, said children are consuming far too much sugar.

“A lot of their sugar consumption is before their first lesson of the day. It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught,” she said.

The Change4Life campaign helps parents identify the health harms of children eating and drinking too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, including becoming overweight or obese and developing tooth decay.

Recent reports show that childhood obesity in England has reached alarming rates. More than one in five children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to more than a third by the time they leave.

Commenting on the latest research findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation said the findings are worrying.

“When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

The Change4Life campaign has developed a Be Food Smart app to help parents cut down the amount of total sugar, saturated fat and salt in their family’s diet.