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Children's Health

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Low-Sugar Cereals Help Kids Eat Healthier

Children Who Ate Low-Sugar Cereals Ate Less and Were More Likely to Put Fresh Fruit on Their Cereal, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 13, 2010 -- Children are more likely to eat a nutritious, balanced breakfast if they are served low-sugar cereals, even if they add a little table sugar to their bowls, a new study says.

Although children may favor cereal that’s high in sugar, they’re more likely to eat fruit at breakfast when served a cereal containing less sugar, researchers say.

The study observed what 91 children aged 5 to 12 at a summer day camp ate when served either high-sugar or low-sugar cereals.

Cereal, Fruit, and Added Sugar

In the study, children were divided into two groups. One group had a choice of three high-sugar cereals and the other group had a choice of three low-sugar ones. Milk, orange juice, cut-up bananas and strawberries, and small packets of table sugar were available to both groups.

All the children reported after breakfast that they either liked or loved the cereal they’d eaten, whether it was high or low in sugar content.

But kids in the high-sugar group ate about two servings, nearly twice as much refined sugar, or 24.4 grams, as the children in the low-sugar group, who ate a little over one serving on average, with 12.5 grams of refined sugar, according to the researchers.

And this was true even though the kids who ate low-sugar cereals added significantly more table sugar to their bowls.

The children who ate low-sugar cereal ate similar amounts of milk and total calories, and were more likely to put fresh fruit on their cereal than the kids who ate high-sugar cereals.

The researchers say their study shows that kids will eat low-sugar cereals and like their breakfasts, even though they think the brands higher in sugar taste better.

So the take-home message, they say, is for parents to serve low-sugar cereals, but spice the servings up psychologically by also offering fresh fruit and table sugar.

Such a strategy, the researchers say, could reduce the amount of added sugar in children’s diets.

A Little Psychology With Breakfast Can Help

Children who were offered low-sugar cereals (Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes) were “significantly more likely to put fresh fruit on their cereal, compared with children” offered high-sugar cereal choices (Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, Frosted Flakes), the researchers say.

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