Children in England are consuming half of the daily recommended sugar intake in just their first meal of the day, according to a new Change4Life campaign from Public Health England (PHE).

PHE found that children in England consume more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, almost three sugar cubes, against the recommended daily maximum of five cubes of sugar for four to six year olds, and no more than six cubes for seven to 10 year olds per day.

The Change4Life campaign surveyed 200 parents of children aged between four and 10 about what makes up a healthy breakfast for their children. It found that of those parents whose child was consuming the equivalent of three or more sugar cubes in their breakfast, 84% considered their child’s breakfast as healthy.

Sugary cereals, drinks and spreads made up some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time. Eight in 10 parents (81%) surveyed believe food manufacturers have a responsibility to reduce sugar in their products.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist, PHE, said: “It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught. That’s why we’ve developed our Be Food Smart App, taking some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.”

More than one in five children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to more than a third by the time they leave, Public Health England.

Sara Stanner, science director at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

PHE’s new Change4Life campaign urges parents to Be Food Smart and take more control of their children’s diets. A new Be Food Smart app has been developed to highlight just how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that their children consume.