How To Pick a Cereal For Kids


Choosing a cereal for your kids, while a seemingly easy task, often ends up being a daunting one. Look at the cereal aisle and you are flooded with choices all of which proudly boast some nutrition message on the package. “Made with 8 grams of whole grains”, “gluten-free”, “heart-healthy”, “cholesterol-free” even on packages so colorful and not healthy looking, that it’s hard to know which message is important.

Cereal can be a quick, easy breakfast or snack for kids loaded with nutrients (if you know what you are looking for). It can also provide a ton of vitamins and minerals thanks to cereal fortification and enrichment with things such as zinc, iron, thiamin, folate and many other B vitamins. Parents sometimes ask if the vitamin and mineral quality isn’t as good since these are added to the cereal. Would I prefer your child eat actual whole grains like buckwheat, farro, brown rice and whole wheat flour or beans and seeds to get all of these vitamins and minerals? Absolutely. But, show me a roomful of kids who are consistently choosing one of these foods over a good old bowl of cereal. So, I’ll take the vitamins and minerals where I can get them. (FYI…Enrichment and fortification of cereal has dramatically reduced malnutrition in the US (and around the world), so those vitamins and minerals definitely get absorbed.) But, since many boxed cereals have these added to them, how else do you choose which one to buy?

Take these two cereals above: The easily recognizable Lucky Charms vs Kashi Organic Honey Cinnamon Cereal. At a quick glance, much is similar - both have about the same number of calories and boast lots of nutrition messages on the box (those are in white under the cereal bowls). The vitamins and minerals that are listed on the side of the Lucky Charms are far superior with almost 4x the number of vitamins and minerals in the cereal. But, the Lucky Charms of course is loaded up with artificial colors and flavors, has less fiber and more sugar. So, how do you go about choosing?

HOW TO GUIDE to Choose a Cereal for Your Kids. Answer these questions:

-how long is the ingredient list? are you able to pronounce the ingredients? If list is too long and/or you can’t pronounce ingredients, PASS

-does the cereal have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving?

-is sugar listed in one of the first 3 ingredients (often disguised as other names….such as cane sugar, brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice and the list goes on), Ideally NO, but doesn’t make it a done deal. Read on to see why

-ideally, the cereal has <5 grams of sugar per serving, but for kids, it’s hard to find ones that kids like with that little sugar. Instead, try to find one with <8 grams of sugar per serving

-if it is colored, is it with natural food colorings such as beet or beetroot?

-did you check that specific cereal flavor? just because one version of a cereal is healthy, doesn’t mean every “flavor” is equally healthy (it’s often NOT. Some Cheerios flavors have double the calories of others and serious amounts of sugar - 1 g of sugar in plain Cheerios vs 14 g in Oat Crunch Cinnamon)

-don’t assume because a cereal has “fruit” in it, that it is actual fruit or provides any nutrition. It often provides extra sugar and little nutrition. Instead, add your own fruit to cereal

-remember that every cereal has a slightly different serving size - they generally range from 3/4 c - 1 c

Some cereals that are REALLY good options (if you have an incredibly open-minded child who doesn’t mind a plain and dry cereal):

  • Weetabix

-4 g fiber/2 g sugar

  • All-bran

-10 g fiber/6 g sugar

  • Shredded Wheat

-7 g fiber/0 g sugar

Cereals That are MORE POPULAR with Kids (in no particular order):

  • @lovegrown Fruity Sea Stars

-no HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)

-no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives


-2 g fiber/7 g sugar (it’s a little low in the fiber, but it’s made up for with the extra protein)

-3 g protein

-fun shapes and colors

  • @kashi Organic Honey Cinnamon Cereal (pictured above - it is a good choice whereas Lucky Charms is not)

-organic ingredients

-no HFCS

-no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

-3 g fiber/7 g sugar

-made with whole grains

-contains iron, magnesium, folate, phosphorus

*tastes like mini cinnamon buns

  • @barbarasbakery Original Puffins Cereal (one of my personal favorites)

    -5 g fiber/5 g sugar


    -non GMO

    -3 g protein

    -high in Vitamin C

    -many of the other flavors of Puffins are good choices as well

  • @GeneralMills Corn Chex


    -no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    -2 g fiber/3 g sugar (also, low in the fiber, but also very low in sugar which is a plus)

    -very high in iron (great for a vegetarian child or one whose diet is low in iron)

  • Steel Cut Oats

    -no ingredients other than oats!

    -4 g fiber/0 g sugar

    -5 g protein

    -also contains iron

    -add 1 tsp of maple syrup and you are still only at 5 g sugar

  • @annieshomegrown Organic Frosted Oat Flakes Cereal

    -3 g fiber/8 g sugar (slightly high in sugar, but it’s made up for with extra protein)

    -3 g protein

    -many of the other Annie’s cereals are disappointing

  • @naturespathorganic Envirokidz Corn Puffs Gorilla Munch

    -very short ingredient list - only 4 ingredients


    -no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    -2 g fiber/8 g sugar (on the higher side for sugar)

    -2 g protein

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of good cereals as there are so many others including store brands at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods etc. This is meant to be a guide to help you figure out which things to look at on a nutrition label. This post is not sponsored. These are my opinions on a variety of different cereals available.