No breakfast food offers nutrition and convenience the way cereal does. But when you go down the cereal aisle you may be overwhelmed by the choices. Which cereals are best for my kids? How much sugar is too much? How much fiber and whole grains should I shoot for?
You’ll be glad to hear that research is on cereal’s side. In fact, a review study looking at the evidence up to 2013 found cereal eaters have diets higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in fat than those who don’t eat cereal for breakfast. People who eat cereal are also leaner and at a lower risk of gaining excess weight. And research clearly shows that cereals made with oats, barley or psyllium help lower cholesterol while high fiber, wheat-based cereals benefit digestion.
So I compiled a list of guidelines to help you choose ready-to-eat cereals that are right for your family. The guidelines listed below include (per serving) 10g or less of sugar, 3g or more fiber, whole grain as the first listed ingredient and no artificial colors & questionable preservatives. Fortification can benefit kids, especially babies, toddlers, and adolescent females at increased risk for iron deficiency.
Here are 10 kid-friendly kinds of cereals that meet these criteria. If you have a great cereal that is not listed, let us know in the comments.
1. General Mills Cheerios: 1g of sugar, 3g of fiber and whole grain oats as the first ingredient (14g whole grain). Cheerios also contain 45% Daily Value (DV) for iron, making it a great finger food for toddlers. There are other similar products such as Trader Joe’s Os. Cheerios will be going gluten-free in the fall of 2015.
2. General Mills Kix: 3g of sugar, 3g of fiber and whole grain corn as the first ingredient (15g whole grain). This cereal is fortified and contains 45% of the DV for iron.
3. Nature Path’s Whole Oats Cereal: 4g sugar, 3g fiber, and brown rice flour is the first ingredient (14g whole grain). This cereal is gluten-free and is not fortified. A good choice if you’re looking for a bit sweeter cereal without going overboard on sugar.
4. Barbara’s Bakery Multigrain Spoonfuls: 5g of sugar, 4g of fiber and whole oat flour is the first ingredient (19g whole grains). This cereal is not fortified.
5. Kashi Honey Sunshine Squares: 6g of sugar, 6g of fiber and whole-grain yellow cornmeal is the first ingredient (20g whole grain). This product is not fortified.
6. Kashi Whole Grain Flakes: 6g sugar, 6g fiber and Kashi’s 7 whole-grain ingredient blend is the first ingredient (31g whole grains). This is a good choice if you want something more substantial and nutritious than corn flakes. It is not fortified.
7. Nature Path’s Sunrise Crunchy Maple: 7g sugar, 3g fiber, and whole-grain cornmeal is the first ingredient (12g whole grain). This product is gluten-free and is not fortified.
8. Cascadian Farms Honey Nut O’s: 7g sugar, 3g fiber, and whole oat flour as the first two ingredients are whole grain oats and whole grain barley (18g whole grains). This product is fortified and contains 25% DV iron. This is a good choice for the honey nut lovers in the house.
9. Cascadian Farms Graham Crunch: 8g sugar, 3g fiber, and whole-grain wheat is the first ingredient (12g whole grains). A bit more sugar than the other cereals but its a fun cereal choice for kids who like that graham taste.
10. 360 Everyday Value Crunchy Cinnamon Squares: 8g sugar, 3g fiber, and organic whole wheat flour is the first ingredient (17g whole grain). This product is only fortified with calcium (10%DV) and it is a Whole Foods brand.
Almost made it but…
There are lots of great cereals not included like Rice Chex falling short on fiber and Mini-Wheats with 11g of sugar per serving but is packed with whole grains (42g) and fiber (6g). And Oatmeal Squares and Life Cereal were left out because they contain artificial colors. And many cereals have the BHT preservative which is on CSPIs caution list. Again, still fine products but not enough for our best list.
Last updated 5/20/15
For everything you wanted to know about feeding your young child, check out Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School