Kids’ Breakfast Doesn’t Have to Be Sweet
Dec. 15, 2010 - Offer nutritious cereals at breakfast – and your kids will happily eat them. So says a new study on kids’ eating habits.
The 5- to 12-year-olds in the study were offered a choice of cereals, some high in sugar and others low on the sweetness scale. The kids gladly ate the low-sugar cereals, and many made up for the missing sugar by adding fruit to their meal.
The youngsters ate about the same amount of calories, regardless of whether they were allowed to choose from cereals high in sugar or a low-sugar selection. But the kids weren't inherently opposed to healthier cereals, the researchers found.
"Don't be scared that your child is going to refuse to eat breakfast,” says study coauthor Marlene B. Schwartz, Ph.D., at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “The kids will eat it.”
Nutritionists have long frowned on sugary breakfast cereals. In 2008, Consumer Reports analyzed cereals marketed to kids and found that each serving of 11 leading brands had about as much sugar as a glazed doughnut. The magazine also reported that two cereals were more than half sugar by weight and nine others were at least 40 percent sugar.
General Mills this week announced that it is reducing the sugar levels in its cereals aimed at children, although they'll still have much more sugar than many adult cereals.
Unfortunately, many parents believe that if cereals aren't highly sweetened, kids won't eat them. The new study, which will be published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, offers a counter-argument.
The researchers gave different breakfast cereal choices to 91 urban children who took part in a summer day camp program in New England. Most were from minorities families, and about 60 percent were Spanish-speaking.
Of the kids, 46 were allowed to choose from one of three high-sugar cereals: Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Cocoa Pebbles, which all have 11 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. The other 45 chose from three cereals that were lower in sugar: Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and Kellogg's Corn Flakes. They all have 1 to 4 grams of sugar per serving.
All the kids were also able to choose from low-fat milk, orange juice, bananas, strawberries, and extra sugar.
Taste did matter, but when given a choice between the three low-sugar cereals, 90 percent of the children "found a cereal that they liked or loved," the authors report.
Len Marquart, Ph.D., at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, says the study findings "confirm for people that their choices in the cereal aisle do make a difference."
Start the Day with Good Nutrition
A nutritious breakfast doesn't have to be boring. It doesn’t even have to include traditional breakfast foods, the American Dietetic Association says. Just be sure you include high-fiber carbohydrates such as fruit or whole-grain foods, protein, and a little fat. These nutrients provide lasting energy and help you feel full.
Mix and match traditional breakfast foods with items you associate with lunch or dinner. You may be surprised by how many options you have. Here are some ideas:
• Half a whole-grain bagel with a slice of turkey
• One slice of pizza right from the refrigerator
• One piece of whole-grain toast topped with one thin slice of your favorite cheese
• A portion of last night's leftovers
• Low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese and a small can of unsweetened fruit cocktail
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.