HAVING a breakfast is more important for children than the make-up of the cereals they eat, according to Safefood, the body responsible for the promotion of food safety.
Safefood director of human health and nutrition, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, said parents should not get obsessed about the nutrient labels on cereal boxes.
She was responding to a study published this week by Which?, the British consumer watchdog, which found little effort had been made to reduce sugar levels in children’s cereals since it had highlighted the issue in 2006.
“All of the cereals available have a very good micro-nutrient content, they are high in vitamins and minerals and usually fortified, and that’s a good thing,” Dr Foley-Nolan said.
However, most important of all was for children to eat breakfast, Dr Foley-Nolan said. “We are reassured to find 94% of children do, this is infinitely better than not eating anything or eating certain cereals,” she said.
Dr Foley-Nolan said parents did not need to study nutrient labels “with a magnifying glass”, but to focus instead on some of the contents such as salt, sugar, and whether the cereal was fortified.
“Look to see if they are high in fibre and low in sugar. Salt is an issue, but it is not a major culprit in the overall picture.”
Dr Foley-Nolan said porridge “the old-fashioned porridge, not the ready made stuff” was to be recommended, as well as Weetabix. “The more wholegrain content, the better,” she said.
To entice children to eat healthier cereals, parents should try adding honey or fruit to porridge or serve the favoured cereal with branflakes.
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