We Found The Cereals That Kids, Parents And Nutrition Experts Agree On

If they’re demanding nothing but “Box O’ Sugar Bombs,” here are some options.
HuffPost Illustration/Cascadian Farm/General Mills/Kashi

Even if you weren’t much of a cereal person before becoming a parent, having kids inevitably changes your relationship to that aisle of the grocery store.

We talked to parents for tips on navigating the slippery slope to the cereal bowl, and then we checked in with nutritionists for recommendations. The ideas might reduce a few morning tantrums, but if you make them wear that sweater with the itchy label, then you’re on your own.

Advice from nutritionists

If you’re seeking a cereal you can feel good about serving, put on your reading glasses and start reading labels. “Sugar in your cereal bowl can add up quickly, so keep in mind that there are 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon,” Registered dietician nutritionist Vicki Shanta Retelny told HuffPost. “If you pick up a box and see 16 grams of added sugar per serving, that’s 4 teaspoons.”

For portion size, “stick with 200 calories or less per serving,” RDN Amanda Frankeny told HuffPost. “Read the box to determine the calories and proper serving size for your child, because serving sizes can vary drastically. The same calorie level can be found in 1/2 cup of one type of cereal and more than one cup of another. Also aim for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Along with a well-rounded diet, that will help kids get the recommended daily value of 25 grams of fiber.”

Other suggestions came from RDN Sara Haas, who told HuffPost: “Pick one day each week when ‘fun’ cereal is allowed. Maybe it’s a weekend when you know kids will be having an active day. Be sure to supplement the meal with fruit, yogurt and other nourishing goodies.” Another suggestion she had was to try a simple switch of crockery. “Try serving the ‘healthier’ cereal in a cup or mug, or serve it dry on a plate. You can treat it like trail mix, so kids can eat it dry and have milk on the side.”

This might be the day you decide to put down that box of Frooty Tooty KidZ Korny Puffs and start from scratch. If so, consider plain old oatmeal. “Hands down, oatmeal rules as a best breakfast cereal for not only kids, but also adults,” Toby Smithson, registered dietitian, told HuffPost. She cited a 2019 study in which children who ate oatmeal at breakfast scored better in overall diet quality and had a higher intake of nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A and E. “Nutritionally speaking, oats are the breakfast of champions,” she said.

Set up guardrails for the cereal aisle

Many parents, road-weary after too many punishing trips down the cereal aisle, have established hard-and-fast shopping rules. Jessie Carlson, fitness teacher and mother of three, told HuffPost: “First, it has come from the co-op, Whole Foods or the natural/organic section at the grocery store. Second, it has to have a minimum of 5 grams of protein. Finally, it can’t cost more than $3, which usually means it has to be on sale.” With this philosophy in mind, Carlson’s kids usually get Kashi, Barbara’s Puffins or Nature’s Path Pumpkin Seed and Flax Granola.

Maggie Sonnek, a writer and mother of three kids, sidesteps the issue entirely. “Cereal causes fights between our kids, and I hate hearing, ‘He got more than me!’ Plus, it’s expensive, at upwards of 5 bucks a box. And then our kids are hungry again soon after they eat it. Our compromise is to serve toast, oatmeal or eggs for breakfast and let them feast on cereal at my parents’ house when they stay over there. For one or two days, they can eat all the coco crispies or raisin crunch they want. Then, it’s back to the breakfast basics.”

A “variable reinforcement” approach is favored by author and mother of two Dana Raidt. “We seem to have found a happy medium with Cheerios, Chex and Special K Red Berries. Adding sliced bananas or strawberries to a healthy, less-fun cereal seems to boost morale a bit, too.” That works for most days, but she does also treat the kids to an every-few-months splurge on Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch or Cocoa Puffs. “And the grandmas always seem to have those at their houses when we visit,” she observed.

Then there are parents who let their cereal flag fly. Andrea Lahouze, a mother of three who is currently writing a children’s chapter book, told HuffPost: “Nothing is off limits, and as a result, they don’t crave it, sneak it or binge on it. Madeleine, who’s 9, is health conscious and likes Crispix and Smart Start. Rosalie, who’s 5, loves Cocoa Krispies, but she also enjoys different granolas. Even baby Amélie, who just turned 1, enjoys cereal, which is great, because many varieties are an excellent source of iron, which babies really need. One of her faves is Cinnamon Life.

“When I want to incorporate cereal into a meal for the girls, I either top it with fruit or make it into parfaits with layers of yogurt, fruit and cereal. It’s also something they can help to make, like a make-your-own-sundae station but healthier.”

Here are some brands that just might please kids and parents alike.

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Barbara’s Puffins Cereal
All Puffins flavors have 10 grams of sugar or less per serving and are Non-GMO Project Verified. “They’re a favorite for my 2-year-old son and his dietitian mama, because they’re packed with flavor, hold up well in milk, and are great dry on the go, too,” RDN Chelsey Amer told HuffPost. “Nutritionally speaking, I love that they’re lower in sugar than most breakfast cereals. They contain 6 grams of fiber per serving and even 3 grams of protein, thanks to whole grains.”

RDN Sharon Palmer is also a fan: “They’re crunchy, and they have a mild, neutral flavor, with just a touch of sweet,” she told HuffPost. “They’re great to mix into snack bags with other healthy ingredients, such as raisins and peanuts. Of course, they’re also good in a bowl of dairy or plant-based milk. They hold up without getting soggy quickly.”

“I always encourage the idea of mixing in lower-sugar cereals to cut back on total sugar, so as a ‘kid compromise,’ you can do half Original and half Chocolate and Peanut Butter Puffins in the bowl,” Retelny said.

Get Barbara’s Puffins Cereal for $6.29.
Cascadian Farm Purely O’s
Cascadian Farm
“They’re mild and nutty, with that good earthy oat taste, and they’re naturally sweet with no added sugar,” Palmer said. “They’re organic, whole grain and they have less than 1 gram of added sugar. My kids still love this cereal, and they really don’t mind if I serve the plain version. It’s naturally sweet enough.”

Get Cascadian Farm Purely O’s for $3.49.
Cheerios are made from whole-grain oats, and they don’t contain any artificial flavors or colors. “In my house, Cheerios are king,” parent Kelly Allard told HuffPost. “It’s a happy-medium kind of cereal that you can dress up with bananas and berries. My husband will only eat Cheerios, and even if I’m making something fancy for breakfast, he still eats a bowl before the ‘main course.’”

“These are always a classic in our home, and they were the first cereal my son ever tried,” Amer said. “With just 2 grams of added sugar per serving, they’re one of the lowest-sugar cereals on the market. Plus, I love that whole-grain oats are the very first ingredient, along with 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving. I like to serve them with high-protein pea milk and fruit.”

A tip from Retelny: “I get the type of Cheerios with only 2 grams of added sugar and toss in a smaller portion of Honey Nut or Cinnamon Cheerios for a touch of added sweetness.”

Get Cheerios for $3.99.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
General Mills
“I’m a big fan of this cereal,” RDN Karen Ansel told HuffPost. “It contains whole wheat, so it supplies a little fiber. Plus, it’s fortified with iron, a mineral that many kids don’t get enough of. It does contain about a tablespoon of sugar per serving. But if you’re trying to limit the sugar in your child’s diet, mix it half and half with original-flavor Cheerios.”

Get Cinnamon Toast Crunch for $2.98.
Kashi GO Breakfast Cereal
“My kids love its nutty crunchiness, and Cinnamon Vanilla flavor is a favorite,” Palmer said. “It has an interesting lineup of ingredients like pulses for more protein, plus it’s organic and rich in whole plants. I love that it has no added sugars, but still is tasty and mildly naturally sweet.”

Ansel prefers the Peanut Butter Crunch variety. “It’s one of the few cereals that delivers protein and fiber, yet doesn’t taste like cardboard. Yes, it does have some sugar, although slightly less than a tablespoon per serving, but in return you get 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, which can help keep kids’ energy levels on an even keel throughout the morning.”

Get Kashi GO Breakfast Cereal for $5.99.
Kind Dark Chocolate Almond Cereal
"I’m a fan of this cereal because it’s a good source of protein and fiber, with 6 grams protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving, to keep kids feeling fuller for longer,” RDN Amy Gorin told HuffPost. “Plus, what kid is going to pass up eating chocolate for breakfast? I also like that it’s sweet, but not too sweet, and is packed with whole grains like sorghum and brown rice.”

Get four boxes of Kind Dark Chocolate Almond Cereal for $35.99.
General Mills
For a brand that was first produced in 1937, it’s still going strong for its fans. “Kix taste great, and I love that they have 3 grams of fiber per serving, plus 3 grams of protein, thanks to whole grains,” Amer said. “My son loves them on top of yogurt in the morning or to munch on dry as a snack.”

Get Kix for $3.98.
Nature’s Path Envirokidz Panda Puffs
Nature's Path
“This is a fun cereal for kids, not only because of the cute packaging, but also because they get to eat peanut butter-flavored cereal for breakfast,” Gorin said. “The first ingredient is whole-grain corn meal, and there are 3 grams each of protein and fiber per serving. I’d recommend adding in some chopped nuts such as almonds or hazelnuts for additional protein and fiber.”

Get Nature’s Path Envirokidz Panda Puffs for $15.60.
Seven Sundays Muesli Cereal
Seven Sunday
Functional nutrition coach Christina Sandok has replaced her kids’ cereal with muesli. “Our favorite brand is Seven Sundays,” she told HuffPost. It’s made with unprocessed ingredients and without refined sugar, GMOs or artificial flavors. “I advise tossing muesli into low-sugar Shredded Wheat or plain oatmeal,” Retelny said. For more inspiration, check out these kid-styled bowls of muesli with favorite toppings and splashes.

Get Seven Sundays Muesli Cereal for $12.63.

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