Breakfast: the most stressful meal of the day?

A boy pours colourful cereal into an overflowing bowl

For Sugar Awareness Week, we’re sharing 10 tips from nutritionists to help you avoid processed sugar at breakfast, and instead enjoy a healthy start to the day.

Whether you leap out of bed ready to greet the day or hit the snooze button on your alarm at least once, there’s no doubt that mornings can be stressful for many of us.

It can be even more of a rush when you’re racing to get to work on time, or to drop off children at school or nursery.

All this busy-ness can have us reaching for the quickest and most convenient options for breakfast: cereals, croissants, toast, yoghurt and takeaway hot drinks.

Unfortunately, these options are not always the healthiest. In fact, Action on Sugar, a UK charity, is highlighting that rather than breakfast being the most important meal of the day, it’s actually often the sweetest.

Dessert to start?

Sugar Awareness Week 2022 campaign posterZoe Davies, a nutritionist at Action on Sugar, says: “Breakfast provides us with a great opportunity to start our day consuming a variety of essential nutrients, but unfortunately commercial breakfasts are often high in free sugars. We shouldn’t be sold a dessert for our first meal of the day.”

At World Cancer Research Fund, we’re proud to be supporting Sugar Awareness Week on 14– 20 November 2022. With Action on Sugar, we’re urging the food industry to reduce the sugar in the breakfast products they sell, and encouraging schools and nurseries to offer low-sugar breakfast options.

However, when you’ve lost the house keys, the kids are squabbling, and the shower has mysteriously run out of hot water, the convenience of sugary breakfast cereals can’t be denied – plus we know that many children will eat them without a fuss.

So we asked Rachel Clark and Sarah Drabble – 2 of our expert nutritionists at World Cancer Research Fund – to provide some realistic tips for avoiding the sugar at breakfast without creating extra stress.


Overnight oats recipe
Try overnight oats for a minimum stress breakfast.

Top 10 breakfast tips

  1. Kids are often really hungry when they wake up. Wholemeal options, such as sliced bread, wraps, pitta, bagels or muffin, will help kids stay fuller for longer. Opt for a nutritious topping such as peanut butter, mashed banana or cream cheese.
  2. If your children will only eat cereals, stick to low-sugar ones such as wheat biscuits (OK we all know what they’re really called), shredded wheat or puffed rice. Sweeten with chopped dried or fresh fruit. Save sugary cereals for a treat – you could buy selection packs rather than a whole packet.
  3. Overnight oats can be prepared the night or even a few days before, ready for a speedy breakfast in the morning. Older children often enjoy choosing the ingredients themselves.
  4. Yoghurt – lower sugar or ideally plain – is popular with adults and children alike. Mix with easy fruit (raspberries/blueberries/banana/grapes/strawberries), oats, nuts or a small handful of cereal to create your own muesli.
  5. For pre-school kids, it’s all just food. They don’t yet know that certain food is associated with breakfast. Don’t be afraid to microwave leftover cooked veg or frozen veg at breakfast.
  6. Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast is super quick in the microwave, and has protein and fibre. Plus it’s warming!
  7. Make your own breakfast bars. They’ll have much less sugar in them than shop-bought options and you can pack them with oats and other nutritious ingredients to be eaten at home with a drink, or on the move.
  8. Grab a banana to have on the go if it’s a very busy morning!
  9. Stick to water or milk for drinks. Water down fruit juice if you do offer it or save it for the weekends.
  10. You’re a role model! If eating with the kids, make sure you have something healthy too.

> Action on Sugar has produced a booklet full of low-sugar breakfast recipes.

> Check out all World Cancer Research Fund’s breakfast recipes (some of which are for lazy weekends!)