How are we meeting the challenge of providing a balanced, nutritious breakfast to children as Fuel for Learning and good health?

By Annah Herbert-Graham, Magic Breakfast's Nutrition Advisor

Magic Breakfast strives to provide healthy, nutritious breakfasts to children to support their learning and wellbeing throughout the morning, with our ultimate aim being #NoChildTooHungryToLearn.

We have always supplied core breakfast products which meet School Food Standards[1] across the UK and continue to review our breakfast provision as new evidence and guidance emerges in relation to nutrition and health. In light of changes to nutritional requirements in Scottish schools last year[2], and with the emphasis on providing healthy, balanced choices to all our partner schools, we have assessed and updated the range of breakfast products that we offer, with emphasis on providing variety and balance, increasing fibre intake and reducing sugar consumption: all important nutritional considerations that are linked to better long-term health outcomes.

Balance and Variety

A balanced breakfast will contain foods from all major food groups, including proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (focusing on unsaturated fats). Within this balance we also need to include vitamins and minerals, which we get from fruit, vegetables, dairy products, animal and plant-based proteins. The NHS Eatwell guide gives a clear visual idea of which foods fit into each group.


We can see that an overall healthy diet should consist of roughly:

1/3 Fruit and Veg : fresh, frozen or canned = essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.

1/3 Starchy Carbohydrates: opt for wholegrains = increase fibre and sustain energy.

1/3 Protein / Fats: from dairy, meat, fish, eggs, beans and other plant-based sources. Fats are essential in the diet in small quantities. Aim to include unsaturated fats such as oily fish, olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

Alongside food, it is important to offer water with each meal to ensure the body is adequately hydrated.

When considering how to ensure good breakfast nutrition, the key is to offer a variety and balance of foods and nutrients over time. We can use the Eatwell guide to build the best combinations of common breakfast items, ensuring a balanced meal. This method of approaching breakfast will inform the range of items we provide and how we guide schools in supplementing the offer to include all food groups.

Possible breakfast combinations, which can be mixed and matched as long as a range of foods and food groups are offered, include:

Quaker Oat Porridge (or gluten-free alternatives such as Buckwheat / Millet / Amaranth / Quinoa) made with milk (or calcium fortified dairy-free alternative) + mixed berries as topping + flaxseeds / sunflower seeds

Weetabix + milk + chopped banana / berries + glass of water

Wholemeal toast + baked beans + pear + glass of milk

‘Half and Half’ toast (with unsaturated spread e.g. olive oil) + eggs (poached / scrambled / boiled) + apple + glass of milk

Seeded Bread + hummus as spread + chopped cucumber / carrot / pepper + glass of milk

Bagel + low-fat cream cheese spread + chopped tomato / chives + glass of water

Plain natural yoghurt + handful of oats / cereal + berries / banana / apple / kiwi + pumpkin seeds + glass of water


Focus on Fibre

Fibre is an essential part of a healthy diet which supports digestive health, sustains energy levels and balances blood sugar levels. However, it is known that many of us do not consume the recommended amount of daily fibre for our age - currently 20g a day for primary aged children, 25g a day for secondary aged children and 30g a day for adults.

The recently updated Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) introduced a minimum standard for fibre, stating that all bread and cereals provided in schools must contain at least 3g of fibre per 100g. Any product containing 6g of fibre or more is considered ‘high fibre’. In terms of nutrition, this is a welcome move as we should take every opportunity to increase children’s fibre intake, and wholegrain breakfast cereals are excellent sources of fibre. 

For this reason, we have replaced some of our lower-fibre cereals with higher-fibre cereals, such as Kellogg's Raisin Wheats and Nestle Cheerios Vanilla O’s (which offer an impressive 17.9g fibre per 100g - that’s 5.4g per serving, or 27% of an 8 year old’s recommended daily intake). These new additions to our breakfast offering to schools are nutritionally superior not only in terms of fibre, but they also provide more protein per serving. Protein keeps children fuller for longer and is essential for healthy growth and development.  It should be part of every meal offered during the day.  

As well as the breakfast cereals we provide, we encourage schools to offer fruit and vegetables alongside bagels and cereals to further increase the nutritional value of breakfast for children. If we view breakfast as an opportunity to provide at least 20% of children’s daily nutritional needs, it highlights the importance of choosing nutritionally dense foods that support health and wellbeing as well as keeping children full and fuelled throughout the morning. 


What’s the deal with fruit juice?

We know that fruit juice is popular with many children, can be a source of Vitamin C and helps to keep children hydrated. However, fruit juice also has a high free sugar content. It contains the sugars from the fruit without the fibre, leading to a rapid spike in blood sugar (glucose) levels, followed by a quick dip in energy levels. This is not ideal for children needing to sustain their energy across the morning.

The recommended portion size of 150ml maximum per day is difficult to monitor as fruit juice cartons often come in larger volumes and need to be measured out to stick to this guideline - something which we understand can be a challenge in busy school breakfast settings. Further negatives of high-sugar consumption, especially through drinks, include damage to dental health and the growing concern around childhood obesity and diabetes. We feel these risks to children’s health outweigh the popularity of fruit juice.

After having carefully compared the nutritional benefits of drinks that could be served at breakfast, and taking into account existing school food regulations, from February 2022 we are discontinuing our offer of fruit juice to our partner schools and are recommending that water or milk is served to children instead. Milk is a healthy alternative to fruit juice, providing hydration as well as protein and calcium, which are particularly important nutrients in supporting growing bodies & minds. In Scotland, fruit juice has already been removed from school food provision in a move to try to reduce children’s sugar intake, based on current evidence-informed health guidance. 

Alongside providing quality nutritious options, it is essential that Magic Breakfast, as a food provider, works with our partners and the whole school community to support young people in making healthier food choices. Providing consistent messaging in line with wider public health advice advocates our commitment to tackling child food insecurity now while taking into consideration the long-term positive health outcomes that are linked to access to good nutrition during childhood.

[1] DfE School food standards: resources for schools
[2] Scottish Government. Healthy eating in schools: guidance 2020. February 2021,