Here are the top healthy, low-sugar cereals for toddlers and kids that will help nourish your child while allowing you to get breakfast on the table quickly and easily!
Cereal for Kids
(Most) Kids love cereal and it’s a busy parent's best friend. I personally am so thankful for several options because I need all the help I can get in the mornings!
Simply serve with milk and fresh fruit for an easy and balanced breakfast.
Now I know cereals get a bad rap oftentimes for being loaded with sugar and questionable ingredients, but there are some great options out there.
As a registered dietitian with a Master's degree in nutrition, I am here to sift through the endless choices and provide you with the best cereals that will keep your child healthy and nourished.
How to Choose Cereal for Kids
- First, ignore all the labels on the packaging, such as "All Natural," "High in Vitamins and minerals", "Organic"
- But do look for "whole grain" (means at least half the grain ingredients are whole) or "100% whole grain" (all the grain ingredients are whole grain).
- Head straight for the ingredient list
- Shorter the better
- Look for a whole grain, such as whole oats, as the primary ingredient
- The lower down the list sugar is, the better
- Aim for 6 grams or less added sugar per serving, depending on the age
- Contains at least 3 grams of fiber
- Has at least 2 grams of protein
- Avoid those with artificial colors or sweeteners
- Note the serving sizes as they differ with each cereal brand.
Best Cereal for Toddlers (1-3 year olds)
I suggest prioritizing low-sugar cereals for this age group. All of these cereals have 2 grams or less of added sugar per serving.
The current recommendation is to avoid added sugars until age 2. And if your child hasn't been exposed much to sugary foods, use this time to your advantage! They will most likely enjoy the flavor and texture of these cereals.
My kids LOVED puffed kamut and shredded wheat, which have zero added sugars, for the longest time.
While some of these have less than the ideal amount of fiber, you can easily add some fruit, nuts, or seeds (chia, hemp seeds, etc.) to fill in the gaps.
Note that these amounts are based per serving size, which differs with each brand. So be sure to take a look at the designated portion.
- Arrowhead Mills Puffed Millet (0g added sugars, 2g protein, 1g fiber)
- Arrowhead Mills Puffed Kamut (0g added sugars, 3g protein, 2g fiber)
- Nature's Path Puffed Cereals (rice, millet, kamut - similar nutritional profile to above)
- Post Shredded Wheat (0g added sugars, Protein 7g, Fiber 8g)
- Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs (0g added sugars, 4g fiber, 5g protein)
- Cascadian Farms Purely O's (<1g added sugars, 4g fiber, 4g protein)
- Cheerios (2g added sugars, 4g fiber, 5g protein)
- Love Grown Power O's Original (0g added sugars, 5g fiber, 6g protein)
I also highly encourage you to look at your store brand options for O's, shredded wheat, rice crisps, and corn flakes. You will find that they are just as good and less expensive.
The ones with zero grams of added sugars are great choices for babies, as well! Serve as finger foods to help with their pincer grasp and allow your baby to get accustomed to the texture.
For babies and young toddlers, you can soak harder-to-chew cereals, like shredded wheat, in a little bit of breastmilk, formula, or milk to soften them up.
Best Cereal for Kids (4 years and up)
If you find that your older child no longer wants the cereals above, like mine right at around 5 years of age, here are some options to try.
They contain more added sugars, but still have a decent amount of protein and fiber and are much better options than a lot of the sugary cereals out there.
Tip: Try mixing these with any of the cereals above. And as your child gets used to this, you can add more of the lower sugar cereal. Of course, you can also add your own fruits.
- Barbara's Original or Cinnamon Puffins (6g added sugars, 6g fiber, 3 g protein)
- General Mills Kix (4g added sugars, 3g of fiber, 3g protein)
- General Mills Total (5g added sugars, 4g fiber, 3g protein)
- General Mills Wheaties (5g added sugars, 4g fiber, 3g protein)
- General Mills Wheat Chex (6g added sugars, 8g fiber, 6g protein)
- Kashi Organic Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal (6g added sugars, 5g fiber, 4g protein)
- Nature's Path Whole O's (4g added sugars, 4g fiber, 4g protein )
- Nature's Path Heritage Flakes (5g added sugars, 7g fiber, 5g protein)
- Nature's Path Mesa Sunrise (4g added sugars, 4g fiber, 4g protein)
Tips for Serving Cereal
- For young toddlers who are learning to use their utensils, start with just a small amount of milk and gradually increase.
- Dry cereals make for a great finger food and offer pincer grasp practice around 8-9 months of age.
- Use cereals as a great opportunity to get your child involved and to expose them to a variety of foods by serving with all kinds of toppings as suggested below.
- Do serve alongside other protein and fiber food sources to keep your child fuller for longer and to boost nutrition.
Fun Kid's Cereal Serving Suggestions
Rather than just serving cereal with milk, try adding some of these quick toppings. You can add them yourself or allow your child to pick and choose!
- Fresh or frozen fruits (thaw first)
- Freeze-dried fruits (can break them up or finely ground and add to milk! My kids love their brightly-hued flavored milk - reminds me of my childhood and loving the Apple Jacks milk, especially)
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Peanuts or any nuts - early AND continuous exposure to the top allergens is important!
In a jar or cup, layer yogurt, fruit, cereal, and nuts or seeds
Yogurt Toppings Bar
Again, this is a great idea for toddlers who seek independence or you want to encourage them to try more variety. Remember that even if they don't eat xyz, just seeing counts as exposure!
Here are some more EASY snack tray ideas to try for breakfast or lunch!
These no-bake peanut butter cheerio cereal bars are so easy to make with pantry ingredients! You can use any O's cereals!
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Ask me anything by leaving a comment below ;).