The message that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is familiar to many of us. And now a European study of Cypriot children has revealed that choosing the right kind of breakfast each morning can have a direct impact on their weight and overall health.

The paper, published online in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, investigates the significance of breakfast food choices in child health and the association between eating breakfast and Body Mass Index (BMI), which is an indicator of healthy weight.

The analysis is based on a sample of 1558 children aged between four and eight from Pafos and Strovolos in Cyprus, and examines the relationship between breakfast consumption with children's diet quality and cardio-metabolic risk factors. The research shows that amongst girls, those who eat breakfast on a daily basis tend to have lower mean BMI scores. They are also less likely to have high cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, regardless of their parents' BMI and their own levels of physical activity. Furthermore, amongst both boys and girls who ate breakfast regularly, breakfast cereals were found to be the most nutritious choice, compared to other breakfast alternatives. Children who consumed pastry products for breakfast had the least favourable nutrient profile.

Paper author Stalo Papoutsou, Clinical Dietician & Nutritionist and Associate Investigator at the Research and Educational Institute of Child Health in Cyprus, is keen to stress the importance of delivering public health messages to encourage good breakfast habits in children. She said: "We want to encourage health professionals to promote the benefits of daily breakfast consumption, and educate parents and children to make the right breakfast choices in order to ensure higher consumption of micronutrients and fibres, whilst reducing intake of sugar and fat."

The recently published paper - titled "The combination of daily breakfast consumption and optimal breakfast choices in childhood is an important public health message" - draws on data from the EC-funded IDEFICS Study (2006 - 2012), which is now being followed-up by the EC-funded I.Family research project (2012 - 2017). I.Family is investigating the relationship between family behaviours and children's breakfast habits, and observing changes to these habits as children move into adolescence.