Study: Kids' Cereals as Unhealthy as You'd Expect
> 4/4/2008 11:28:00 AM

Historically, breakfast cereals targeted at kids have not been pushed based on their health benefits. From Count Chocula to Cookie Crisp to Cocoa Krispies, some of the most popular brand names in kids' cereal would probably be just as comfortable in the candy aisle as they are in the breakfast aisle. But corporations have realized that marketing to children can only get you so far when mommies and daddies are buying the groceries, so more and more one will find marks of healthfulness (or at least reduced harmfulness) stamped on the cover of these cereal boxes, where they compete for space with colorful logos and imaginary pitch-men.

"Reduced sugar!" "Fiber added!" "Nutrition at a glance," stands a mere foot from "Fruit shaped marshmallows!" These admonitions to health are meant more to reassure than they are to inform. Few parents hold the illusion that these cereals will provide any more nutrition than a few pixie sticks and some graham crackers, but these reassurances can sway nonetheless. In the hopes of laying bare this deception, researchers from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have completed a study that examines the health claims of these cereals. Try to contain your shock: they're pretty much all lies.

The team, led by senior research scientist Marlene Schwartz, examined 161 cereals, and compared both children's and non-children's cereals to national standards for nutrition used in schools. Two thirds of the kid's cereals that the group looked at failed to meet these standards. Kids' cereals also were found to have more sugar, carbohydrates, calories, and sodium than their adult counterparts.

“People may assume that a low fat or reduced sugar cereal will help children limit the calories they are taking in, but this is not the case,” Schwartz said in a University release. “We found that cereals with nutrient claims have just as many calories as those without such claims.”

Swartz also went on to warn parents about the "halo effect" created by healthful claims on kids' cereal boxes, which can lead consumers to make false assumptions. Eating breakfast is an important habit for youths to develop, but what they eat can be just as important. Using sweet or more sugary alternatives as a treat or reward every once in a while might work as part of a strategy to get kids to the table in the morning. But don't let marketing gimmicks and idle claims fool you, Trix aren't for kids. They're not healthy for anyone. No matter what that rabbit says.

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