Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

Breakfast trends in children and adolescents: frequency and quality

Ute Alexya1 c1, Meike Wichera1 and Mathilde Kerstinga1

a1 Forschungsinstitut für Kinderernährung, Research Institute of Child Nutrition, Heinstueck 11, D-44225 Dortmund, Germany


Objective Although breakfast is important for obesity prevention and dietary quality, breakfast skipping is a common behaviour. Knowledge of changes in breakfast habits may provide potential behaviour targets for intervention programmes. The present study describes the actual data on trends in breakfast habits and composition.

Design A total of 7800 3 d dietary records of 1081 participants aged 2–18 years collected between 1986 and 2007 in the DONALD (Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed) Study were analysed using mixed linear models.

Results Breakfast was eaten at 78 % of all record days; regular breakfast (breakfast was eaten on all three recorded weekdays) was eaten in 75 % of records. During the study period, the number of records with regular breakfast decreased significantly in 6–12- and 13–18-year-olds (P = 0·0084 and 0·0350, respectively). Of all breakfast meals, 62 % were bread meals and 21 % were ready-to-eat cereal (RTEC) meals. RTEC meals nearly doubled from the youngest to the oldest age group (P < 0·0001). During the study period, the percentage of bread meals decreased, whereas the percentage of RTEC meals increased (P < 0·0001). A higher percentage of RTEC meals than the bread meals was in accordance with the food-based guidelines (36 % v. 20 %, P < 0·0001), i.e. a breakfast including grain, dairy and fruit/vegetables.

Conclusions In the DONALD Study sample, a negative age and time trend in breakfast consumption was verified. Interventions regarding breakfast habits should be aimed at adolescents and should focus on fruit/vegetables.

(Received April 06 2009)

(Accepted December 22 2009)

(Online publication March 18 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email