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Which breakfast cereals should we give to our children?

What kind of breakfast is good for our children to eat? Which breakfast cereals do we need to buy? Should we choose cereals with chocolate or other high-sugar content, so that they consume them more easily?

Researchers from Yale University of the USA tried to answer these common questions. The main objectives of their research were to test whether children will consume low-sugar breakfast cereals, and the results of the consumption of high- versus low-sugar content cereals.

91 children, who were attending summer day camp, were randomly assigned to two groups: one group received a breakfast with high-sugar cereals, and the other low-sugar cereals. The breakfast also included low-fat milk, orange juice, bananas, strawberries, and sugar packets for all the children. The participants in the research chose whatever they wanted from the above for breakfast and completed questionnaires after eating. The researchers examined what they consumed, and measured the amount of calories consumed by each child.

All the children, not only those who ate high-sugar cereals, reported that they liked the breakfast. The children, who consumed low-sugar cereals, consumed on average one serving of cereals (35g), whereas those who ate the high-sugar cereals consumed significantly more, almost twice the amount (61g). The group with the high-sugar cereals consumed almost twice the amount of sugar (24g versus 12.5g). The total calories that were consumed at breakfast did not differ significantly between the two groups. Also, the quantity of milk they consumed did not differ. On the contrary, there was a big difference in the consumption of fruit: only 8% of the group of children who ate the high-sugar cereals put fruit on their cereals, compared to 54% of the group of children with the low-sugar cereals. The percentage of calories from fruit was 13% for the children who ate the sweet cereals, compared with 20% for the children in the second group.

The researchers concluded that, compared with low-sugar cereals, high-sugar content breakfast cereals increase total consumption of sugar in children, versus consumption of healthier choices, like fruits. They also concluded that children will readily consume cereals without much sugar, if we offer them to them, a choice we should make as parents in order to offer a superior breakfast option.

So, buy healthy cereals and corn flakes for breakfast. Avoid buying “chlidren’s” cereals with lots of sugar, chocolate etc., with the excuse that they are the only ones your child eats. Your child will get used to and readily consume low-sugar content cereals, combined with juice and fruit, as long as you make the decision. Don’t go for inferior solutions with poor nutritional value, and the risk of excessive intake of sugar, obesity, constipation, and other harmful effects. Our children’s behaviour at breakfast is determined by us and our choices.

Source: Jennifer L et al. Effects of Serving High-Sugar Cereals on Children’s Breakfast-Eating Behavior. Pediatrics. 2011 Jan;127(1):71-6.

Translation, comments: Stelios Papaventsis MRCPCH DCH IBCLC 2011

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