We know kids shouldn’t eat high sugar cereals. But actually implementing a ban is likely to defeat all but the most determined of parents. A very recent study out of Yale University in the US may give some hope to timid parents.
The researchers tried a tactic most parents would be reluctant to attempt. Instead of educating children, they just removed sugar-filled food as an option.
The researchers looked at a group of 89 kids (aged 5-12) and what they ate when they were away at summer camp. Half the group were offered only low-sugar cereals (the American equivalent of Weet-bix etc) and the other half were offered only high sugar cereals. Both groups had access to as much table sugar, strawberries and bananas and fruit juice as they wanted.
The Yale team wanted to know firstly if the kids offered low sugar cereals would protest and refuse breakfast. Perhaps surprisingly, 100 percent of the low-sugar group just ate what was on offer (1 percent of the high sugar group refused – obviously some aberrant child snuck in).
The interesting thing is that they ate alot less, in fact they ate half as much. The low-sugar group on average ate the recommended serving of the cereal (one cup). But the high sugar group ate on average two cups. The low sugar group compensated for less cereal by adding table sugar to their cereal and drinking more juice, but even when that was included in the calculations, they ate significantly less sugar than the kids munching on the high sugar cereal.
The researchers didn’t do it, but an interesting extension to this study would be to remove the table sugar and juice, but make sure there was plenty of cold milk to drink. I rather suspect the result would be even more impressive. My guess would be that the kids would once again just eat what was on offer, and perhaps eat less cereal and drink more milk, but their sugar consumption would be insignificant.
The researchers also asked the children to rate their breakfasts out of five (1 being the best and 5 being the worst). The high-sugar kids rated theirs 1.5 on average (no surprises there). They thought their breakfasts were just swell.
The low-sugar kids were of course, nowhere near as happy. Their average was 1.6. In other words, they had no problems with their brekkie’s either.
The interesting thing about this study is that it did what many parents find very difficult. It just removed the option. There was no attempt at moderation or education. The option was simply not there. The kids weren’t unhappy. And they didn’t starve. They just moved on with the new reality.
FYI: I will be giving two public lectures in Brisbane in the upcoming week. There’s more info on both at www.sweetpoison.com.au.