Children who ate high-sugar cereals consumed almost twice as much refined sugar as those who ate low-sugar cereals, even though the latter group added table sugar to their servings. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Children served low-sugar cereal are more likely to eat a nutritious breakfast, even if they sprinkle on table sugar, compared with those served high-sugar cereals, a new study finds.

The study in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics looked at 91 children aged five to 12 attending a summer day camp that served either high-sugar or low-sugar cereals.

The children chose either three high-sugar or three low-sugar cereals, as well as milk, orange juice, sliced bananas and strawberries, and sugar packets.

Children who ate high-sugar cereals consumed almost twice as much refined sugar, 24.4 grams, as those in the low-sugar group, 12.5 grams — despite the fact that children who ate low-sugar cereals added significantly more table sugar to their bowls (9.6 grams versus 1.4 grams), the researchers found.

Those in the low-sugar group also added more fresh fruit.

The high-sugar cereals all had 11 to 12 grams of sugar per serving, according to the study.

The three other cereals had one to four grams of sugar per serving.

Appealing options

When researchers asked the children how much they liked the cereal, 90 per cent said they found a cereal that they liked or loved.

"Because of the prevalent marketing of high-sugar cereals to children, many parents feel that they are faced with a choice between purchasing high-sugar children’s cereal versus having their child eat no breakfast at all," Jennifer Harris of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and her co-authors concluded.

"Our results suggest that children will eat low-sugar varieties, and parents can make these options more appealing by adding a small amount of table sugar and/or fresh fruit to the bowl. This strategy could help reduce the amount of added sugar in children’s diets while also promoting a balanced first meal of the day."

Last week, General Mills, announced it was continuing its move to reduce sugar levels in its cereals aimed at children. The company said all Big G cereals advertised to children will have no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving by year's end.

The sugar reduction campaign will expand globally to 130 countries, the company said.