Bowl of healthy cereal on a white plate. One hand is on the table, the other is holding a spoon in the cereal.

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It is not hard to see why cereals are a staple in many households. It is convenient and kids love it. It feels like a win-win-win.

Probably. But many breakfast cereals, although fortified with vitamins, are loaded with added sugars, processed grains, dyes, and other potentially undesirable ingredients if you have kiddos who are gluten-free or have other food intolerances.

Even though the occasional bowl is not a big deal, most of us know that Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs are better than healthy breakfast foods.

But what can you look for in a cereal that will provide better nutrition for your child? And will your child actually eat it? Even adults don’t tend to be fans of high-fiber, low-sugar cardboard cubes — er — healthy cereal.

Read on for the things to look for, what to avoid, and a few cereals that are healthy options for your family.

Some basic nutrition guidelines apply to all children, even if they have different food preferences.

One of the hardest to follow is the recommendation for sugar intake from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP recommends no more than 25 grams (or about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for children over the age of 2. Eating too much sugar can put your child at a higher risk of obesity, dental cavities, heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.

Note that this recommendation says added sugars, so it doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit.

But it will only take you a few minutes of reading nutrition labels to realize that 25 grams of sugar adds up really fast. And, let’s face it: Most kids are sugar monsters. They just love the stuff (and actually, sugar has addictive properties, so the more we have the more we want).

Yes, there’s some debate over whether high fructose corn syrup has different effects on human health than regular table sugar. But the best practice remains: All types of added sugar, including table sugar, corn syrup, and agave should be limited in your child’s diet as they’re unhealthy if eaten in excess.

“The amount of sugar in your child’s cereals is more important than the amount of high fructose corn syrup.”

Fiber and protein are two ingredients you do want in your child’s cereal.

Fiber is good for gut health and helps slow the rise of blood sugar. Protein is an important building block for your child’s growth, and also helps keep them full until the next meal (although they usually get plenty of protein from other sources, like milk).

We listened to experts, scoured ingredient labels, and listened to parent reviews to find cereals that are less likely to cause a sugar crash. Most of these cereals have less than 7 grams of added sugar. The sugar content per serving is 6 g.

Our kids were happy to taste test some of the options.

We think there will be some new family favorites when it comes to cereals.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $5 per box
  • $$ = over $5 per box

Best allergy-friendly cereal

Three Wishes Cinnamon Cereal

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: gluten and grain-free (including corn free), kosher, vegan, high protein, low sugar
  • Cons: expensive, flavor and texture may not appeal to kids as much as some other options
  • Basic nutrition facts: 130 calories, 2 g fat, 8 g protein, 3 g fiber, and 3 g sugar per serving

Three Wishes is a company that makes better-for-you twists on classic cereals.

Their cereals are higher in fiber and lower in sugar than typical cereals. chickpeas are a good source of plant protein and are used in their cereals.

Their cinnamon cereal is a fan favorite. It’s gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, kosher, non-GMO, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free. Fun fact: Cinnamon may also have health benefits (including a positive effect on blood sugar).

“The texture of this cereals is very good, but a few parents think it’s too dense for young toddlers, who may have trouble chewing.”

Best high-in-fiber cereal

Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: high fiber, low sugar, organic ingredients, great crunchy texture
  • Cons: may be a little hard to chew for younger kids, a bit pricey
  • Basic nutrition facts: 160 calories, 1.5 g fat, 5 g protein, 7 g fiber, and 4 g sugar per serving

This delicious, flaky cereals has a great nutrition profile, with only 4 g of sugar per serving, 5 g of protein, and 7 g of fiber. It has wheat, oats, and other whole grain items.

Most parents said their kids like this cereals, which are almost all organic.

“It is a favorite among health-conscious parents and kids. Some parents said that their local grocery store doesn’t carry this brand, but it’s becoming more widely available and is available online.”

Best cereal with no added sugar

Cascadian Farm Organic Cashew Coconut Granola

  • Price: $
  • Pros: super tasty, sugar is all from fruit, fats are from nuts and coconut, healthier option for granola
  • Cons: some pieces may be a choking hazard for young toddlers, high calories per serving
  • Basic nutrition facts: 330 calories, 18 g fat, 5 g protein, 4 g fiber, and 7 g sugar per serving

The cashews coconut variety from Cascadian Farm is unlike the jam packed Granola variety. 7 g of sugar from fruit like dates is included in this recipe.

You’ll also find 25 g of whole grains in a serving of this granola. But be mindful that the serving size for granola is usually smaller than that of cereals — the recommended serving for this option is 2/3 cup.

Best general cereal (pun intended)

General Mills Cheerios

  • Price: $
  • Pros: relatively affordable, lowest sugar option, kids tend to love the texture, nonmessy snack if eaten dry, fairly high protein when eaten with milk
  • Cons: not as high in fiber as some options, although still a good source of fiber due to oats being the main ingredient
  • Basic nutrition facts: 140 calories, 5 g protein, 4 g fiber, and 2 g sugar per serving

For a long time, Cheerios have been a favorite. They are made from oats and have a lot of fiber, a lot of vitamins and a lot of minerals.

The only cereals that kids actually eat with less than 2 grams of sugar per serving are Cheerios and Wonder Mills.

“You can make a basic cereal with any fruit, nuts, or yogurt, and it’s also free ofgluten. The little Os are a good early finger food for toddlers because they are easy to eat and dissolving quickly.”

Best budget cereal

Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Cereal — Organic Warm Cinnamon

  • Price: $
  • Pros: relatively affordable, fun shapes, flavor that kids like
  • Cons: a little higher sugar than some options on this list
  • Basic nutrition facts: 150 calories, 2 g fat, 4 g protein, 5 g fiber, and 7 g sugar per serving

Adults and kids alike love this cinnamon flavoured whole grain cereals from Kashi. It is delicious and comes in close to our 6 g mark for sugar, but also packs 5 g of fiber and is a good source of fiber for your kids.

Parents say that this cereals is the right amount of sweet to keep kids interested. One of the most affordable organic brands is Kashi.

Best high-protein cereal

Three Wishes Honey

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: vegan, gluten-free, low in sugar, high in plant-based protein
  • Cons: expensive, dense texture, not super high in fiber
  • Basic nutrition facts: 130 calories, 2 g fat, 8 g protein, 3 g fiber, and 3 g sugar per serving

The O-shaped cereals from Three Wishes are a higher-protein, lower-sugar alternative to the popular Honey Nut Cheerios. They are grain-free, vegan, kosher, non-GMO and use plant-based ingredients.

“Parents said this cereals doesn’t have the nutty flavor of its competitor and may be hard to chew for younger toddlers.”

“It is not all that high in fiber. Some people don’t like plant and animal sources of the same thing.”

If you are following a vegan diet or looking for a healthier honey-flavored cereals, this is a great choice.

Best hot cereal

Quaker High Fiber Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar

  • Price: $
  • Pros: warm cereal option for cold days, easy for young children to eat, very high fiber, convenient packets
  • Cons: only eight packets per box, a bit high in sugar for this list (although not compared to many children cereal options)
  • Basic nutrition facts: 150 calories, 2 g fat, 4 g protein, 10 g fiber, and 7 g sugar per serving

Oatmeal is a great option for a breakfast with a lot of fiber. For babies and toddlers, hot cereals are great for cold mornings.

The oatmeal packets from Quaker have 10 g of fiber per serving, which makes them the champ on our list.

They have 7 g of sugar, but are sweetened with monk fruit to keep the sugar content low.

Adding milk will help cool the oatmeal to a child-friendly temperature.

Best not-a-kid-cereal

General Mills Wheat Chex

  • Price: $
  • Pros: pleasant texture and nutty flavor, high fiber and high protein, fortified with a lot of vitamins and minerals, affordable
  • Cons: may not be sweet enough to tempt some kids, not gluten free (contains wheat)
  • Basic nutrition facts: 210 calories, 1 g fat, 6 g protein, 8 g fiber, and 6 g sugar per serving

“General Mills’ Wheat Chex is a classic when it comes to natural sources of fiber and protein.”

It has a light, crisp texture from wheat, unlike some high fiber cereals that have a cardboard-y feel.

It has 8 g of fiber per serving. It has 6 grams of sugar and 6 grams ofProtein. It is good when you are looking for breakfast cereals that are low in sugar.

A dry snack made from wheat Chex can be used in a healthier snack mix. It is widely available and affordable.

This is not a wheat-free option, as per the name, because it contains wheat.

Best high fiber cold cereal

Cascadian Farm Organic Hearty Morning Fiber Cereal

  • Price: $
  • Pros: very high fiber, organic, produced with sustainable farming practices
  • Cons: high sugar, texture may be hard for some children
  • Basic nutrition facts: 220 calories, 3.5 g fat, 6 g protein, 10 g fiber, 10 g sugar

The multi-textured cereals from Cascadian Farm Organic are sweet and satisfying.

10 g of fiber is contained in it. It has 10 g of sugar per serving, which is 4 g more than our 6 g mark.

“High fiber, high sugar foods are better for balanced blood sugar than low fiber, high sugar foods. If you are watching your child’s sugar intake, it is something to be aware of.”

Best dessert-type cereal

Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins

  • Price: $ (sold as a 4-pack on Amazon, available individually at stores such as Whole Foods)
  • Pros: super tasty, kid-approved, lower sugar than some children cereals, fun box that appeals to kids
  • Cons: higher sugar than our other options, lower fiber than our other options
  • Basic nutrition facts: 160 calories, 2.5 g fat, 3 g protein, 2 g fiber, and 9 g sugar per serving

“The peanut butter puffs are a big-time kid favorite, and they have a little more sugar than we would prefer. We couldn’t resist adding them to the list.”

2 g of fiber and 3 g of protein is what peanut butter puffs have. The ingredients are free of artificial stuff. These are a good option for dessert. The kids love to read the fun facts on the back of the box.

This product contains peanuts. Children with peanut allergies should be aware.

Name Price Protein per serving (grams) Sugar per serving (grams) Fiber per serving (grams)
Three Wishes Cinnamon $$ 8 3 3
Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes $$ 5 4 7
Cascadian Farm Organic Cashew Coconut Granola $ 5 7 4
General Mills Cheerios $ 5 2 4
Kashi Heart-to-Heart Oat Cereal — Organic Warm Cinnamon $ 4 7 5
Three Wishes Honey $$ 8 3 3
Quaker High Fiber Instant Oatmeal — Maple & Brown Sugar $ 4 7 10
General Mills Wheat Chex $ 6 6 8
Cascadian Farm Organic Hearty Morning Fiber Cereal $ 6 10 10
Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins $ (sold as a 4-pack on Amazon; can find individually in stores like Whole Foods) 3 9 2

It is very natural to experience decision-fatigue as a parent, but healthy eating is an area that will pay big dividends in the long run. When ordering groceries online, you should look for a few key things.

  • Is one of the first three ingredients in this cereal a whole grain? Whole grains provide fiber, complex fats, and complex carbohydrates that are great for kids’ energy levels, digestion, and metabolism.
  • How much sugar is in this cereal? Is it sugar from a natural source like fruit, or is it added/refined sugar that will spike your kiddo’s blood sugar and cause a crash?
  • How much fiber is in this cereal? The more fiber, the better! It’s great for gut health, balancing blood sugars, and feeling satisfied after a meal.
  • Does this cereal have any protein? Milk is a great source of protein (and you can add yogurt on top of cereal for another protein boost). But it doesn’t hurt if the cereal has a little bit of protein all on its own.

What type of cereal is best for weight loss?

If you are concerned about your child being overweight, you should have a conversation with your doctor.

There are positive ways to help your child maintain a moderate weight and growth trajectory. Overly restrictive diets and obsessing over your child’s food intake can cause self-esteem issues and damage their relationship with food.

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels. Childhood obesity can lead to serious health risks that could shorten your child’s adult life, so it’s worth developing healthy habits early. Your pediatrician should have some great suggestions for how to do this in a positive way.

The best cereals for a moderate weight are high in fiber and low in sugar. Portion size is important. You can use a measuring cup to see how much you eat.

Is it healthy for my child to eat cereal every day?

Yes! Kids can start the day with a bowl of cereals, since they are tired after a long night of sleep. To get the most nutrition from your cereals, choose a rich one that is high in whole grains, low in sugar, and has milk, yogurt, or fruit in it.

What type of milk should I use for cereal?

For children under 1 year, breastmilk or formula is recommended. For children 1 to 2 years, whole milk is recommended by the Association of American Family Physicians, as plenty of healthy fats are important for neurological development. After the age of 2, you can switch to 1 percent or nonfat milk on your child’s cereal.

It takes a lot of research to stay within the recommended daily amount of sugars.

“If you can keep your child’s breakfast cereals low in sugar, you’re already on the right track.”

“The rise in blood sugar can be mitigated by the amount of fiber in their cereals. Fiber is good for your child’s gut health and helps them feel full until the next meal.”

“Adding a boost of healthy nutrition to your child’s breakfast cereals can make their meal more satisfying and healthy. Sprinkle cereals with almonds, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, or hemp hearts for an extra dose of nutrition.”

With the right ingredients, cereals can be an easy breakfast or snack option that is rich in whole grains, fiber, and nutrition. We hope this list helps you out when you run out of breakfast cereals.