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Healthy Cereal For Kids & Toddlers: Low Sugar, Healthy Options


Are you looking for healthy cereal for kids & toddlers? At HighKey, our cereals are gluten free and $1.50 per serving! 0 Net Carbs* - 10 Grams Protein - 90 Calories - Grain-Free

IN THIS ARTICLE
  • Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal
  • Top Healthy Cereal for Kids
  • Top Healthy Cereal for Toddlers
  • Other Healthier Cereal Options for Toddlers
  • Best Cereal for a 1 year old
  • Best Cereal for a 2 year old
  • Lowest Sugar Kids Cereal
  • High Fiber Cereal for Kids

Low Sugar, Healthy Cereal Options For Kids


04-10-20


Look at you, overachiever! You not only want to make sure your kids eat breakfast every day, but you also are going the extra mile to make sure what they’re eating is healthy.  We get it. Taking a walk down the cereal aisle at your local store might leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed. After all, finding a healthy cereal for kids is no cakewalk.  There are so many choices, and as a busy mom, you may not have time to read every label or try to figure out which ones are the best - especially if your kids are there, asking for every brightly colored, sugary cereal on the shelf.

Cereal may have gotten a bad rap lately for being packed with sugar, but there are plenty of cereals out there that are lower in sugar, and make for a healthy breakfast or snack.  So, where can you find a healthy children’s cereal? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! We’ll help you narrow down what to look for in a low sugar kids cereal, and we have an extensive list of the best (and tastiest!) cereals out there.

Is Breakfast Really That Important?

We’ve all heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but is it really?  The evidence is varied, but some studies do suggest that children have improved concentration and memory when they eat breakfast in the morning.1   But, as you know, not all breakfasts are created equal, so let’s look at how to build a balanced breakfast for your child.

How to Build a Balanced Breakfast

For children, getting a nutrition-packed breakfast is beneficial.  The best breakfast for kids contains a good blend of carbs, protein, and fat.  Most cereals on their own don’t have a significant amount of protein and fat, so here are some ideas to make your child’s breakfast cereal more complete.

Pair a bowl of cereal with:

  • Milk - choose a milk that is 2% or whole for a boost of protein and fat.  Most kids already put milk in their cereal, but if you have a toddler who hasn’t mastered eating cereal with a spoon, serve milk in a cup along with breakfast. If you are a dairy-free household, choose your favorite unsweetened plant-based milk.
  • Plain yogurt - Like milk, choose yogurt that is 2% fat or more.  Make it fun and serve cereal on top of the yogurt.
  • Add cereal to trail mix - If you are eating on the run, combine dry cereal with sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, and/or a mixture of dried fruit for an extra boost of nutrition.
  • A spoonful of peanut or almond butter - Nut butters are the perfect complement to breakfast cereal, and most kids love them!

How to Choose a Healthy Cereal

Breakfast cereals can be a great source of vitamins and minerals for our children, they often contain whole grains to keep you regular (helloooo fiber!), as well as promote a healthy weight and lower risk of certain chronic diseases.2  But how do you know which ones to choose?  Let’s look at the top 10 tips for picking a healthy breakfast cereal.

Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal

  • Look for 6-9 grams of added sugar or less per serving. In general, the lower in sugar, the better. There is no magic cutoff for sugar, but there are lots of options that have 6 grams or less, so that is a good number to shoot for.  Why limit sugar? Added sugar consumption in children has been linked to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, so it's best to limit it as much as possible.3
  • Shoot for extra protein and fiber. Ideally, aim for a cereal with 2 grams of both protein and fiber per serving. They help keep kids feeling full and prevent blood sugars from spiking.
  • Find something kid-friendly. If you find the healthiest cereal ever, but your child won’t eat it, it is worthless. So, zero in on what your kid likes most - do they like cereal with shapes/letters? Chocolate flavored cereal? Or maybe anything colored is their thing? There are healthier options that fit in all those categories, so be sure to pick something you think your child will eat.

Other things to consider:

  • Gluten-free: If someone in your family has a gluten intolerance, look for options that are clearly labeled gluten-free or check the ingredient list for specific grains of concern.
  • GMO: Along the same lines as organic, if having non-GMO foods is important to you, make sure you check the packaging for the non-GMO symbol.
  • Food dyes: Some kids are more sensitive than others to dyes in food, and many cereals (even those without bright colors) contain artificial food dyes, so be sure to look at the ingredient list if that is something you’re concerned about.
  • Allergies: Does your child have any food allergies?  Many cereals contain some of the top allergens: wheat, nuts, corn, dairy, soy - so be sure to check labels to find a cereal that works for you.
  • Age of your child: If you have a toddler, you may need to find a cereal that is easy to chew, and one they can easily pick up and feed themselves.  Some cereals may be too hard for a younger child to safely eat, so make sure you try any new cereal yourself before feeding it to your toddler.
  • Accessibility: Not everyone has a Whole Foods or Trader Joes close by, so while those stores may have more healthy cereal options than your traditional grocery store, we’ve tried to include cereals on our list that are pretty easy to find.  Scout out the local stores you shop at most often to see which cereals they carry and go from there, or opt for online purchasing.
  • Choose whole food ingredients. Whole-grain cereals are good for the kiddos, but some families might steer away from whole-grains due to allergies, taste preferences, or dietary restrictions. Fortunately, you can easily find cereals made with alternative whole food ingredients such as almond flour, coconut flakes, and flax seeds.

Top Healthy Cereal for Kids


Now that you have a rundown of what to focus on when choosing a healthy cereal for kids, let’s recap. You want to look for cereal with 6-9 grams of added sugar or less (note: the sugar we have listed for each cereal below is the added sugar), and 2 grams or more of protein per serving, plus fiber. Depending on your personal preferences, you may also want to look for cereals that are gluten-free, non-GMO, free of allergens, and available in your area. Here are some of our top picks!


HighKey Protein Cereal
  • 90 calories
  • Less than 1 gram of sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 10 grams protein
  • Craving cereal, but don't want to load up on sugar? That is why we created our line of HighKey Protein Cereals. Enjoy cereal again with macros you love, but with the taste of your childhood favorites!
Kix Original 
  • 120 calories
  • 3 grams sugar
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: You can find it on most grocery store shelves and it is low in sugar.
Berry Kix and Honey Kix
  • 120 calories
  • 6 grams sugar (Honey Kix) / 7 grams sugar (Berry Kix)
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: These are slightly sweeter than Original Kix, so if you have a sugary cereal lover, this one’s for them!  Also, they use fruit and vegetable juice to color the berry kix, so it’s a good option if you’re avoiding food dyes.
Multigrain Cheerios
  • 110 calories
  • 6 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s made with 5 different whole grains, and is perfect for little fingers to pick up.
Quaker Oats Life
  • 120 calories
  • 6 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: Because of its bigger size, it’s easier to eat on the go without making a mess.
General Mills Wheaties
  • 110 calories
  • 4 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s crunchy and only slightly sweet, so it’s the perfect cereal to top with a handful of berries.
Special K Red Berries
  • 110 calories
  • 9 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: Who doesn’t love a good crispy cereal?  The freeze-dried strawberries add a fun (and sweet) crunch.
Post Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted
  • 160 calories
  • 9 grams sugar
  • 2 grams fiber 
  • 3 grams protein
  • What we love about it: The sweet granola clusters make this one a kid favorite!
Barbara’s Puffins Peanut Butter
  • 160 calories
  • 9 grams sugar
  • 2 grams fiber 
  • 3 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It has the taste of a sugary cereal, but still fits in the 9 grams of sugar limit.  
Kashi Organic Honey Toasted Oat
  • 150 calories
  • 7 grams sugar
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 4 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It is sweet and crunchy, and has 2 servings of whole grains.
Love Grown Sea Stars
  • 120 calories
  • 9 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 4 grams protein
  • What we love about it: With added protein from beans (trust us, you won’t taste them!), it is packed with nutrition, but still fun and colorful. 
Love Grown Power O’s Chocolate
  • 130 calories
  • 8 grams sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 4 grams protein
  • What we love about it: You can satisfy your chocolate-loving child, while knowing you are feeding them a cereal full of fiber and protein.
Nature’s Path Crispy Rice
  • 150 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 3 grams protein
  • What we love about it: Cereal that crackles and pops is so fun, and this version is made with brown rice, so it's a good source of fiber, too!
NEW KID APPROVED PROTEIN CEREAL
VARIETY PACK
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Top Healthy Cereal for Toddlers

If you have a child under age 2, you’re likely scouting out a healthy cereal for toddlers.  So what’s the difference between cereals for toddlers and those for older kids? In terms of nutrition, the biggest difference is in added sugars.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while children over 2 can have up to 25 grams of added sugar each day, children under 2 should have no added sugar.  While that may not be easy to achieve (even foods like spaghetti sauce and bread have added sugars), it is important to try to limit added sugar as much as possible for toddlers.  Don’t stress too much about this recommendation - a tiny bit of sugar isn’t a big deal, so just do your best to limit it. Below are our top picks for the healthiest cereal for toddlers with 1 gram or less of added sugar.

Are Cheerios Healthy for Toddlers?

Cheerios are a common first cereal for little ones, and they can definitely fit in a healthy diet.  Be sure to choose the original cheerios - other varieties can be high in sugar.

Original Cheerios
  • 80 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s a great cereal for little ones just learning to feed themselves - not only is it easy to pick up, but it’s also low in sugar.

Other Healthier Cereal Options for Toddlers

Love Grown Power O’s, Orignal
  • 130 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: For a toddler cereal, it is especially high in protein and fiber.
Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs
  • 150 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 5 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s a rare cereal with zero grams of added sugar!
Barbara’s Honest O’s Original
  • 150 calories
  • <1 gram sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: Easy to eat, full of fiber and protein, and perfect for snacking!
Mom’s Best Toasted Wheatfuls
  • 200 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 7 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: We love that it is 100% whole grain.  It’s bigger size makes it ideal for older toddlers to eat. Or, break it into small pieces for younger toddlers.
HIGHKEY ® INSTANT
HOT CEREAL

90 calories
No added sugar
3 grams fiber
10 grams protein
What we love about it: We have legitimate bragging rights on this one...it is not only delicious and crunchy, but it’s loaded with protein, is a good source of fiber, it's gluten and grain free, and it has all of the sweetness kids love without any of the added sugar. Available in Cinnamon, Cocoa, Frosted and Fruity flavors! 

Best Cereal for a 1 year old

Still wondering what cereal might be right for your younger toddler?  For one year olds who are just starting to eat regular foods, focus on cereals that are easy to pick up, chew, and swallow.  Cereals that are smaller in size, like Cheerios and Barbara’s Honest O’s are the perfect starter cereal for a 1 year old. Whole grain puffs are another great option to start with because they dissolve easily, and are simple to pick up.  Focus on cereals with a softer texture (avoid crunchy cereals), that are small enough to easily chew and swallow.   

Best Cereal for a 2 year old

Once your child has mastered the basic O’s, they’re ready to move on to cereals with different textures.  You could try something with a crunchier texture, like Love Grown’s Power O’s, or a cereal that is bigger and might need to be eaten with a spoon, like Mom’s Best Toasted Wheatfuls.  Most 2 year olds are becoming more independent and like a challenge, so try to offer a variety of different shapes and textures of cereal.

Lowest Sugar Kids Cereal

You may not have a toddler, but still want cereal with the lowest sugar possible, and we’ve got you covered!  The amount of sugar added to cereals in most grocery stores range from zero grams (which is hard to find!) to 18 grams or more.  Below are our top picks for the lowest sugar kids cereal - all the options have 1 gram of added sugar or less per serving.

Original Cheerios

  • 80 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s available in most grocery stores, so it's easy to find!

Love Grown Power O’s, Original

  • 130 calories
  • 1 gram sugar
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: For a low sugar cereal, it is especially high in protein and fiber.

Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs

  • 150 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 5 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s a rare cereal with zero grams of added sugar!

Barbara’s Honest O’s Original

  • 150 calories
  • <1 gram sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: Easy to eat, full of fiber and protein, and perfect for snacking!

Mom’s Best Toasted Wheatfuls

  • 200 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 7 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: We love that it is 100% whole grain.  It’s bigger size makes it ideal for eating on the go.  

High Fiber Cereal for Kids

High fiber cereals can be tricky to track down, as many cereals have very little fiber, and are mostly refined wheat flour.  Fiber is an important part of a child’s diet, as it lowers risk of chronic disease, and helps keep them feel full.4  The good news is, there are more and more cereals available now that are great sources of fiber.  Here are some of our fiber-packed favorites.

Barbara’s Puffins Original and Cinnamon

  • 130 calories
  • 6 grams sugar
  • 6 grams fiber
  • 3 grams protein
  • What we love about it: The cinnamon is full of flavor and satisfyingly crispy.

Kashi Cinnamon French Toast

  • 120 calories
  • 7 grams sugar
  • 6 grams fiber
  • 2 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s a great high fiber alternative if your kids love cinnamon toast cereal.

Nature’s Path Flax Plus Raisin Bran

  • 210 calories
  • 6 grams sugar
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It’s the highest fiber cereal on our list!

Nature’s Path Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch

  • 220 calories
  • 9 grams added sugar
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • What we love about it: It has a great balance of fiber and protein, and the added raspberries give it an extra burst of flavor.

Best Hot Cereal for Kids

When looking at healthy hot cereals for kids, the criteria are the same as for cold cereals - focus on high fiber, low added sugar, and some protein.  Many hot cereals, especially the instant packet varieties,are loaded with sugar, so below are our top picks for lower-sugar options that are still packed with flavor.

Nature’s Path Original Instant Oatmeal

  • 190 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 6 grams fiber
  • 8 grams protein
  • What we love about it: The only ingredient is oats, so it doesn’t have any additives.  You could dress it up with some fresh fruit, cinnamon, or a splash of maple syrup for a little sweetness.

Bob’s Red Mill Brown Sugar and Maple Oatmeal

  • 240 calories
  • 9 grams sugar
  • 7 grams fiber
  • 7 grams protein
  • What we love about it: If you have a kiddo who loves maple and brown sugar oatmeal, this kind has added flax and chia for extra fiber and protein.

High Key Strawberries and Cream Hot Cereal

  • 160 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 9 grams protein
  • What we love about it: If you’re eating keto yourself and don’t want to serve a different breakfast for the rest of your family, this is a great option!

Best Granola for Kids

Many kids love granola because it's crunchy and sweet, and who can blame them?  Granola is typically made with whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dried fruits, all of which are packed with nutrients.  On the other hand, many granolas are high in sugar, so we’ve rounded up a few options with less sugar than traditional granola, a good amount of fiber, and some protein. Here are a few you could try.

Kind Vanilla Blueberry Clusters

  • 110 calories
  • 5 grams sugar
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 3 grams protein
  • Why we love it: Two of the first three ingredients are whole grains, so it's a good source of fiber, but still tastes like a treat.

Bear Naked Triple Berry Granola

  • 100 calories
  • 2 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 3 grams protein
  • Why we love it: The blend of granola and berries makes it the perfect topping for yogurt.

HighKey Cinnamon Almond Granola

  • 150 calories
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 6 grams protein
  • Why we love it: If you’re a keto diet follower, this is a good choice if you don’t want to buy a separate granola for your kids.  We also love that it contains nutrient-packed seeds and collagen protein.

Where to Shop for Healthier Cereals

While we can’t predict what will be at your local grocery store, most of the cereals on our list can be found at major grocers and big box stores.  Specialty stores like Whole Foods will also carry many of the cereals listed above. Another great place to shop is online - Amazon and Thrive Market are a great place to look for healthy children’s cereal, and you can have it shipped right to your door.

What if my Kid(s) Already Love Sugary Cereal? 

If you are struggling with a child who is already attached to sugary cereals, we’ve got some tips for helping them learn to like a new cereal.  It can sometimes be a challenge to get kids used to lower sugar options if they’re hooked on how their favorite cereals taste, but with a few tricks and a little perseverance, it CAN be done!  Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Mix their favorite version with a new version.  Choose the healthy cereal from our list that you most want to try, and mix it half and half with their favorite cereal.  Once they are used to that, mix ¾ of the new cereal with ¼ of their old favorite. Then, you can try 100% of the new cereal.  If they are resistant to that, don’t be afraid to sprinkle a few pieces of their old favorite on top. A few pieces isn’t a big deal nutritionally, and they’ll still be eating mostly low sugar cereal.
  • Sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar or other natural sweetener on top of the new cereal.  With the sweetness sitting on the surface, it will taste much sweeter without being loaded with sugar.  
  • Consider adding their favorite fruit to the cereal.  This helps to add a little sweetness and incorporates another food that they like.  Adding a familiar food to a new food helps encourage hesitant kids to feel more comfortable with trying something new.
  • Serve it in a different way.  Try introducing a new cereal at snack time instead of breakfast, mix the cereal into trail mix, or sprinkle it on top of a bowl of yogurt.  Introducing it at a time other than breakfast can help ease them into trying it without making them miss the sugary cereal they know and love.

With all the options on the market, finding a healthy cereal for kids is easier than ever - when you know what you’re looking for.  We’ve given you almost 30 options to get you started, so get out there and get shopping! Consider having a healthy cereal tasting party with your family to make things fun and get everyone excited about trying something new.  Bonus: It will help you narrow down which cereals are your new favorites!

  Kaleena Lundmark
Kaleena Lundmark is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food photographer. She also is the founder of The Crowded Table, a website dedicated to helping busy moms make easy paleo meals. You can find her recipes and get inspiration for kid-friendly meals thecrowdedtable.com

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