Subjects: Behavioral health
Just about everybody agrees that kids should eat breakfast every day. Breakfast improves their overall nutrition and their performance in school, among other things. But how helpful can breakfast really be if it consists of cereal deluged in sugar?
Thankfully, a new study by Jennifer Harris and colleagues at Yale suggests that kids are perfectly willing to consume low-sugar cereals instead, particularly if they can add a pinch of table sugar or fresh fruit to the mix.
To evaluate kids’ willingness to eat low-sugar cereals, Harris’ team randomized 91 kids between the ages of 5 and 12 to two groups. Kids in the first group were offered low-sugar cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies which contain 1 to 4 grams of sugar per serving. Kids in the other group chose between Cocoa Pebbles, Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops, which contain about 12 grams of sugar per serving.
Kids in both groups were also offered OJ, 1% milk, pre-cut sections of bananas and strawberries and sugar packets. The kids served themselves and then completed a questionnaire about their breakfast.
Harris’ team found that kids randomized to the low-sugar cereals consumed about half as much refined sugar as those in the high-sugar group (12.5 g versus 24.4 g). They were also more than 6 times as likely to add fresh fruit (54% versus 8%). As well, they were equally likely to “like” or “love” their breakfast. The amount of milk, orange juice and total calories consumed did not differ between the groups.
The authors concluded that “compared with serving low-sugar cereals, high-sugar cereals increase children’s total sugar consumption and reduce the overall nutritional quality of their breakfast. Children will consume low-sugar cereals when offered, and they provide a superior breakfast option.”
The authors added that their results probably underestimat the overall impact of giving kids low-sugar cereals for breakfast. “Children’s taste preferences develop over time through continued experiences with different foods,” they wrote. “If kids are given highly sweetened cereals regularly, they are likely to learn to prefer sweetened foods in general.”
The write-up appears in Pediatrics. Cereal marketers and moms, take note!