The “News” About Children and Cereal

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Did you catch the reports about the new Yale study that found that kids really do like low sugared cereals just as much as the high sugar counterparts?  My favorite part of this story was the way that it was reported by the press: as a SURPRISE!!  Like this is really big news for parents!  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that it really is big news to cereal manufacturing companies.

Cold cereal is something that most children eat a lot of, and it is unique on the grocery store shelf in that there are so many varieties developed exclusively for kids.  I can’t think of many other food products that are so clearly either for “kids” or for “adults.” And as is the case with just about every food that is made for and marketed to children, “kiddie cereals” are inferior in both nutrition and taste to the cereals made for adults.

Because they are such a basic staple in most people’s diets, there is a whole chapter in my book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything,” about cereal.  In fact, in conducting research for the book, I had several taste-testing panels, where we really tasted a multitude of popular kiddie cereals and noted differences (what little there are) between the brands.  There are detailed notes on what we found in the book, but the overall conclusion is this: Children’s cereals for the most part all taste the same, and that sameness is SWEET.

If you want to teach your kids to eat a wide variety of foods, and thus be on the path to really “eating everything,” a smart move is to skip over the children’s cereals altogether, and instead start them off from the beginning on adult cereals.  If you compare the food labels, you’ll see that the adult products generally have fewer grams of sugar per serving.  And it’s important to note that the sugar in many adult cereal products often comes from dried fruits like chopped dates or raisins.  You at least are getting that small nutritional benefit, as well as a little textural variety.  In the children’s cereals, the sky-high sugar level is just added sugar.

I’m hoping that food manufacturers will start taking note of findings like the one that just came out of Yale.  And parents, if you must serve your kids Fruit Loops or Apple Jacks, at least keep the portion size to a “topping.”  Start your kids off early on low-sugar cereals and sprinkle a little bit of their favorites on top.  Like these researchers found, very soon they won’t even know the difference and in fact may come to prefer the lower-sugar variety!

This is my last blog entry for 2010.  I look forward to being back in this space after the holidays!

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2 Responses to “The “News” About Children and Cereal”

  1. tryityoumightlikeit Says:

    Our favorite kiddie cereal was Kashi Mighty Bites and they discontinued them. We were so disappointed. My kids were on a kick for a while asking for the junk cereal but lately they just want to eat the same kind we’re having.

  2. Crunchy Chewy Mama » Blog Archive » Study says kids don’t want sweet cereals Says:

    […] just learned from Nancy Piho’s My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus blog about the results of a new study on children and cereal. In a study published in Pediatrics, Yale […]

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