Effects of Serving High-Sugar Cereals on Children's Breakfast Eating Behavior

Children who eat breakfast have better overall nutrition and lower body mass indexes than kids who skip the meal. While ready-to-eat cereals are a popular choice, many of these cereals are high in sugar, adding “empty” calories to breakfast.

Researchers tested children’s choices of cereals at a summer day camp where they offered three high-sugar cereals to one group and three low-sugar cereals to another group. They also offered milk, sugar packets, orange juice, and sliced bananas and strawberries. The children were randomly placed in separate dining areas and allowed to eat as much as they wanted. After breakfast they completed questionnaires regarding their taste preferences. Researchers recorded the amount of food consumed and calculated the calories.

All children participating responded that they liked or loved the cereals they ate. Children in the low-sugar group consumed slightly more than one serving of cereal, while those in the high-sugar group ate two servings. Even though low-sugar children added sugar to their cereal, they consumed much less sugar overall (.7 teaspoons) compared to high-sugar children (5.7 teaspoons). Low-sugar cereal children were more likely (54%) to put fresh fruit on their cereal than those eating high-sugar cereals (8%).

The authors conclude that children will eat the cereals they are served and even with sugar added, low-sugar cereal is a superior nutritional choice.