Cereal has been a mainstay of family breakfasts for over a century. It’s easy to see its appeal: It’s quick, convenient, inexpensive, and widely popular with kids. Of course, part of the reason little ones love cereal is that most brands are sweetened with added sugars and other not-so-healthy ingredients.
Let’s face it: Cereals like Froot Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Trix, and Fruity Pebbles sure do taste good, but they are essentially just desserts masquerading as breakfast. You’ll be better off feeding vegetables to your child. The good news: There are plenty of alternatives on the market that can be safely served to toddlers without overloading them with sugar.
When evaluating cereal to determine whether it’s a healthy choice, look for a brand that is low in added sugars (ideally 6 grams or less), high in fiber (shoot for at least 5 grams) and protein, and devoid of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.
While it might not be possible to find a cereal that checks off all the health boxes while still satisfying picky little eaters, there are a few options that have proven to be popular among parents and toddlers alike:
Tried-and-true Cheerios are hugely popular among families with young children, and for good reason: The cereal is easy for little fingers to grasp, doesn’t pose a choking hazard, contains just 1 gram of sugar per serving, is gluten-free, and is made with 100% whole-grain oats. Cheerios can be softened with a small amount of milk, or serve them dry as a convenient on-the-go snack.
Oatmeal is a great way to introduce older babies and toddlers to solid food and to help them master self-spoon-feeding. Oats are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Quaker Instant Oatmeal is made with 100% whole grains, has no artificial flavors or preservatives, and contains up to 4 grams of fiber, making it a healthy and filling meal for little ones.
With just 1 gram of fat and 6 grams of sugar, this healthy whole-grain cereal is a good source of fiber and protein, which are essential for active toddlers. The shape and texture of the puffins also make them fun and easy for little ones to self-feed.
Made from 100% whole grains, this super-healthy cereal has 0 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.
These crispy corn puffs contain just 1 gram of fat and 3 grams of sugar per serving. Its shape and texture make it fun and easy for toddlers to eat, hence the cereal’s popular slogan: “Kid-tested, parent-approved.”
Made from 100% whole grain with 0 grams of sugar, this classic healthy cereal can be naturally sweetened with some of your child’s favorite fruit. It also packs 7 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.
When serving cereal to your toddler, one trick to minimize messes is to use only a small amount of milk — enough to moisten the cereal for easier chewing and swallowing, but not enough to risk a big spill. If your child is new to using a spoon, be patient: It takes time to master the skill of self-feeding. Some cereals, like Cheerios, can be served dry, with the milk served safely in a sippy cup on the side. If they’re at a safe age to consume it, feed your child dried fruits, raisins, and nuts by adding these into the cereal. That’s how you make your own trail mix.
Whether you need to squeeze a quick breakfast into a busy morning, are looking for an easy snack to tide over your toddler between meals, or need a portable finger food for car rides, a healthy cereal is an important staple to have on hand.
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