Take the confusion out of the cereal aisle and learn which healthy cereal for kids are best—and what to look for on a label to ensure that you’re choosing one with low sugar and lots of nutrition.
Healthy Cereals for Kids
With so many options at the store, choosing a healthy cereal for the family can be totally daunting. But this post will help you know a few good brands to turn to, as well as give you pointers on how to read an ingredient label to ensure that you’re buying what you think you are.
TIP: These cereals are great for breakfast and snack time.
Ingredients in a Healthy Cereal
When buying a cereal from the store, you’ll want to look for one that includes:
- whole grains
- 0-5 grams of added sugar
- ingredients you can understand*
TIP: *I prefer to buy cereals with fewer ingredients and clear labels so I know what I’m buying.
How to Choose a Healthy Cereal for Kids, Step-by-Step
No matter which store you shop at, the process of choosing a healthy cereal is the same. Here’s what I recommend:
- Pick up a box and look at the ingredients. Is the label fairly short? Do you recognize most of the ingredients?
- Look for a box that has a whole grain as one of the first three ingredients.
- Look for a box that doesn’t have sugar as one of the first three ingredients.
- Read the nutrition label. You want less than 5 grams of added sugar, as well as a few grams of both fiber and protein.
TIP: I prefer to buy cereals made without transfats and artificial coloring and sweeteners, so check that the box is free from them as well.
Best Cold Cereal for Toddlers
When buying a cereal for toddlers, ideally you’ll choose one that has 0-2 grams of added sugars. These are less sweet and are free from excess sugar that little kids simply don’t need in their diet. They also are easy to eat and taste good, so they are still a healthy breakfast or snack component. You can serve them dry or softened slightly in milk. Here are my favorites.
- Puffed rice, corn, millet, or kamut; 0 g sugar
- Shredded wheat (softened in milk for younger toddlers); 0 g sugar
- New England Naturals Unsweetened Granola; 0 g sugar
- Cheerios (or similar store brand “O” cereal); 1 g sugar
- Brown rice crisps
- Kix; 2 g sugar
- Rice Chex (or another unflavored Chex); 2 g sugar
- Corn flakes; 2 g sugar
TIP: That New England Naturals granola is the first granola I’ve seen without added sugar. It’s also free from large clumps and it softens nicely in yogurt and milk, making it a great options for kids.
Best Cold Cereal for Kids
If you have older kids who want a little more going on in their cereal, these options have a little more added sugar, but are still considered to be healthy due to their overall mix of nutrients.
- Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Spoonfuls
- Barbara’s Bakery Puffins (plain or peanut butter)
- Mesa Sunrise
- Kashi Heart to Heart
TIP: We sometimes mix these (or any other) sweeter cereals with plainer ones for a fun bowl with a little less sugar.
Best Hot Cereal for Kids
When looking for a hot grain or oatmeal for kids, the same tips apply: low sugar, high fiber, and some protein if possible. The easiest hot cereal to buy is old-fashioned rolled oats, though any oatmeal can work, even flavored ones that say “unsweetened” on the label.
Best Cereal for Babies
It’s recommended that younger babies have cereal with added iron since their iron stores begin to deplete around the age of 6 months. I love the Clearly Crafted line from Happy Babies since they have fewer ingredients than most other baby oatmeals AND the ingredients are actually easy to understand.
High Fiber Cereal for Kids
Shredded wheat cereals typically have about 4 grams of fiber, so they are a good option. You can also look at bran cereals, though do check the label to make sure you choose one with low sugar too.
Best Tips for Serving Cereal to Kids
- I started serving cold cereal to my little guy around 16 months. Start with just a little milk to soften the cereal (but not make a giant mess).
- You can serve cereals dry as a snack or meal component if you prefer.
- Remember that it takes kids time to become proficient in using a spoon, so expect a little bit of a mess.