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Are Presweetened Cereals Better?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My husband heard of a study which suggests that children who eat a presweetened cereal for breakfast did better on tests at school. Now he wants me to buy sugary cereals for my family. I prefer to feed my family unsweetened, whole grain cereals and suggested the kids could get the same benefit from drinking a glass of fruit juice with breakfast. What is your opinion?

A: I'm not familiar with the study that you mention, but I certainly would not change to a presweetened cereal. Most likely, the comparison made in the study was sugary cereal vs. no breakfast. In that case, I'm sure the children who had the sweetened cereal performed better!

It is important for good brain functioning to have a steady supply of energy available. A well balanced breakfast that includes some fruit or yogurt and unsweetened cereal would be ideal. A glass of fruit juice is fine, but make sure it is real fruit juice and not just water with sugary syrup and food coloring added. Your children are much better off maintaining good nutritional habits: less sugar, more complex carbohydrates, and lots of fruits and veggies to keep their brains and bodies functioning well. In the long run, they will be happier and healthier, and perform well in all of their activities, including exams.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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