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. 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.
Barbara’s Original Puffins Cereal
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.
Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs
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.”
Barbara’s Shredded Wheat
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. You could even add some dried fruit, raisins, and nuts to 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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