Diana, Nova Scotia:
I'm curious... if others have made the connection between obese children and breakfast cereals made into dessert with all the sugar and other sweet things added to them.
Dr. Mallika Marshall:
Yes, this has been studied. Scientists looked at nearly 40 children, some overweight, some not. For breakfast they were given either a whole grain cereal, a whole grain cereal with added sugar for taste, or a refined-wheat cereal like corn flakes.
The kids who ate the refined cereals were hungrier by lunchtime and ate far more than the other children, whether they were overweight or not. Even the kids who ate a whole grain cereal with a bit of added sugar for taste ate less at lunch than those who ate the refined cereals.
Without reading the labels carefully, it's often hard to identity a healthy cereal from an unhealthy one.
Here's an example. I took two cereals out of my own cupboard this morning. I won't identify their brand names, but they are both very popular cereals. This first one is my son's favorite. It's a puffed rice cereal that he likes because it makes funny noises when the milk is poured over it. It is not a traditional sugary cereal, so we thought it can't be that bad. Well, if you look at the label, the first ingredient is rice, a refined carbohydrate, and the next few ingredients include sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The cereal isn't even sweet to taste.
In the other cereal, the first ingredient is whole grain oats and it has three grams of fiber per serving. The rice cereal has none. Obviously, the whole grain oat cereal is the healthier choice for my kids. Too bad it doesn't make popping noises when milk is added!
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