Examining the Nutritional Quality of Breakfast Cereals Marketed to Children

Marlene B. Schwartz, Lenny R. Vartanian, Christopher Wharton, Kelly D. Brownell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    99 Scopus citations


    There are both public health and food industry initiatives aimed at increasing breakfast consumption among children, particularly the consumption of ready-to-eat cereals. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there were identifiable differences in nutritional quality between cereals that are primarily marketed to children and cereals that are not marketed to children. Of the 161 cereals identified between January and February 2006, 46% were classified as being marketed to children (eg, packaging contained a licensed character or contained an activity directed at children). Multivariate analyses of variance were used to compare children's cereals and nonchildren's cereals with respect to their nutritional content, focusing on nutrients required to be reported on the Nutrition Facts panel (including energy). Compared to nonchildren's cereals, children's cereals were denser in energy, sugar, and sodium, but were less dense in fiber and protein. The proportion of children's and nonchildren's cereals that did and did not meet national nutritional guidelines for foods served in schools were compared using χ2analysis. The majority of children's cereals (66%) failed to meet national nutrition standards, particularly with respect to sugar content. t tests were used to compare the nutritional quality of children's cereals with nutrient-content claims and health claims to those without such claims. Although the specific claims were generally justified by the nutritional content of the product, there were few differences with respect to the overall nutrition profile. Overall, there were important differences in nutritional quality between children's cereals and nonchildren's cereals. Dietary advice for children to increase consumption of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals should identify and recommend those cereals with the best nutrient profiles.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)702-705
    Number of pages4
    JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Apr 2008

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Nutrition and Dietetics


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