Breakfast Cereal: If It's Not Sweet, Kids Will (still) Eat!

Kids say yum!

Guess what? A study in the medical journal Pediatrics finds that if you ask kids to choose between 3 not-so-sweet breakfast cereals, they will find a cereal that they really like. So, you don’t need to buy brightly colored, cartoon-decorated, extremely sweet cereal with marshmallows  to get your kids to eat breakfast.

The study which proves what my mother, who’d buy us a box of sugared cereal once a year, knew without any control groups. When it comes to breakfast cereal, kids will eat what you buy.

As Marlene B. Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, co-authored the study says: “Don’t be scared that your child is going to refuse to eat breakfast. The kids will eat it.”

The researchers discovered this truly astonishing feature of children’s eating habits, one that’s almost as surprising as the brand new life form NASA recently detected, by taking a group of inner city kids, 60 percent of whom were Spanish speaking (code, code, code) who were at a summer camp in New England and dividing them into two groups.

One group of 46 kids could choose from Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Pebbles,  each of which have 11-12 grams of sugar per serving. The second group of 45 chose between Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes,  each of which have 1-4 grams of sugar per serving.  The “low sugar” cereals still have more sugar than cereals marketed to adults. All the kids had low-fat milk, fruit (bananas and strawberries), orange juice, and extra sugar available. Kids in both groups found cereals they liked to eat.

All joking aside, one interesting finding is that both groups consumed about the same number of calories at breakfast but the kids in the high-sugar group ate more cereal and therefore almost twice as much refined sugar as the kids in the low-sugar group.  The kids in the low sugar group also ate more fruit and orange juice.

Sugared cereals are really sugary.  Even if they say “whole grain” on the box, a 2008 study by Consumer Reports found that a serving of cereal of 11 leading varieties marketed to kids had as much sugar as a glazed donut.

All of which is to say, kids will eat what you have in the cabinet.  Kids’ nutrition can seem a little bewildering what with all the advice thrown at us every day. But, healthy snacks, cereal that’s less sweet, having fruit around, all these choices contribute to healthy kids, who, it turns out,  don’t have to have the sweetest cereals to eat breakfast.

What do you think? Are sweet cereals a staple or a treat in your house? How do you balance healthy snacks and sweets?

Article Posted 5 years Ago
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