Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Contrary to Popular Belief, Kids Like Low-Sugar Cereal

I am personally of the opinion that you learn to accept and like the foods that you're exposed to. Give kids healthy food, and they'll grow up eating healthy food. Certainly, palates change and adapt as we grow up, but in childhood, it's a simple formula; at least it was in my home growing up. It went like this: Mom provides food, kids eat the food. Hungry kids can't refuse food, so they'll eat it eventually. It's not easy, and it takes perseverance on behalf of both parties, but trust me, I'm nothing but grateful, because that's the right way to do things, if you ask a Dietitian. So it comes as no surprise to me when researchers at Yale just 'discovered' that kids will eat cereals, even if - gasp - there's no sugar all over them! How can this be?

In the study, half of the children were given sugary cereals like Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles and Frosted Flakes, while the other half were given low-sugar options like Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes. What happened was not totally surprising: the kids in the 'high-sugar' group ate almost two bowls, while the low-sugar group downed about half a bowl less. In both groups, the kids rated the cereals highly and said they tasted good. The main difference was that the low-sugar group at the 'right' amount of cereal, while the high-sugar group not only ate more, but also consumed way more sugar, both of which bump up the total calories consumed by the kids.

In addition, the kids in the low sugar group ended up consuming more fresh fruit and orange juice after they were done with their cereal, bumping up the nutrient value of the whole meal. This makes sense, as they not only had more room left from eating less cereal, but the fruit and juice tasted better than if they had just eaten spoonfuls of sugar - obviously the fruit and juice would taste less sweet and less desirable in that case.

We know what dumping refined sugar does to our bodies; the physiological response is a spike in blood sugar, followed by a bigger spike in insulin to help bring all that sugar into our cells. The problem with these big insulin spikes is that they overshoot the amount that is needed, causing our sugar levels to dip afterwards. The result? A sugar-high and insatiable appetite followed by lethargy, confusion and the need for a nap. Over the long-term, these highs and lows, in addition to consuming too many calories, can raise one's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Who wants their kids to go through that?

Realistically, this message applies to all age groups - eat healthy more often and that will become your new norm. It's amazing how the more sugar we eat, the less we notice it. Try cutting it out or reducing the amount you consume for a few days and you'll be shocked at how sweet some things taste once you get the sugar addiction out of your system!