As a parent or guardian, you likely know how challenging food can be for your kids. Some children are very picky eaters, while others will eat you out of house and home. We all want what is best for our kids, but how do we decide what that is when it comes to food? We’ve put together a list of the best cereal for kids to keep in your pantry. They’ll offer your family a balance of indulgence and health while always tasting great!
Best Cereal for Kids – Top 5 Reviewed
1. General Mills Lucky Charms
- CEREAL: Lucky Charms Cereal is a...
- MAGICAL MARSHMALLOWS: Fun shapes kids...
- GLUTEN FREE: Gluten free kids breakfast...
- WHOLE GRAIN: 11g of whole grain per...
- KIDS SNACK: Enjoy this sweet, crunchy...
Lucky Charms appeal to that balance we all strive for. The marshmallows are a great sweet treat, while the toasted oat portion contains the healthy whole grains that kids need to thrive. It’s a great way to ensure that your child starts their day with a hearty breakfast.
Mornings can last for a long time, and lunch often feels far away to growing kids. A good breakfast can bridge this gap and keep them playing and learning throughout the morning. The marshmallows found in Lucky Charms will appeal to even the pickiest eater, so you won’t need to fight to get them to eat with this cereal.
While it does include some added sugar, Lucky Charms is a gluten free option. That makes this a compromise that works for children with some dietary restrictions. It is not a great choice for those who have sugar limitations, but General Mills does use whole grains in this cereal. Recently, Lucky Charms even added a unicorn marshmallow that appeals to those who like a bit of magic in their lives.
What I Like:
- Fun marshmallow shapes
- Whole grains
- Gluten free
- Sweet enough to be tasty
- Stays crunchy in milk
What I Don’t Like:
- 10 grams of sugar
- Contains food dye in marshmallows
2. Kellogg’s Fruit Loops
- FUN FRUITY FLAVOR - Kellogg's Froot...
- SWEETENED MULTIGRAIN KID'S CEREAL -...
- FAMILY FAVORITE - Cereal that's perfect...
- TRAVEL READY FOOD - Great for backpacks...
- PACKAGED FOR THE FAMILY - Includes 1, 26...
Generally speaking, we think of cereal as a choice for that morning meal when we break our overnight fast but offering cereal as a snack can unleash previously undiscovered adult superpowers! Often, kids are asked to go long stretches between meals. They are growing so quickly that they really need a chance to snack in between those meals, but how can we do that while running errands, attending practices, and keeping up with our busy schedules?
This is where cereal can save the day! Fruit Loops, in particular, is a phenomenal snacking option. You can pack it, dry, in a container or baggie and offer it up whenever your child gets hangry. In Fruit Loops, Kellogg’s has managed to create a great balance of good taste and good vitamins and minerals in a shape that is great to take on the go!
The different colored loops are fun, and their frosting tastes great! They are easy for small fingers to grasp, too. Even if some Fruit Loops land on the floor, their bright coloring will make them easy to spot.
You can feel good about offering Fruit Loops as an anytime snack, since they are made with multigrain and include a thorough assortment of vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that this cereal does contain wheat, so it’s not gluten free. It also has a touch more sugar than Lucky Charms.
What I Like:
- Great for travel
- Convenient snack
- Sweet enough to be tasty
- Tastes good dry
What I Don’t Like:
- 12 grams of sugar
- Contains food dye
3. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
- Irresistibly crunchy and deliciously...
- Start your morning off right with...
- A good source of 10 vitamins and...
- A fat-free cereal that's sure to help...
- Convenient, ready to eat cereal packaged...
Frosted Flakes are a classic cereal choice. They are beloved for their simplicity. Simply fill your bowl with flakes and top them with milk. Unlike boring, cardboard flavored flakes, you won’t need to add any sugar to these. Kellogg’s does a great job balancing the sweetness to ensure that kids will love the cereal without going overboard.
These flakes do get a bit soggy sometimes, so you’ll want to keep the serving size small enough to be consumed quickly. This actually works to the advantage for many parents. It encourages children to learn portion control and pair their cereal with a serving of fruit!
Frosted Flakes do not contain wheat or food dye, so they are a great choice for children with food sensitivities. They do have 14 grams of sugar, though, which is where keeping portion sizes appropriate can be beneficial. Luckily, it is all real sugar, as Kellogg’s has chosen not to include corn syrup in this cereal.
Kellogg’s has chosen a great spokesperson for Frosted Flakes, too. Tony the Tiger is a big advocate of kids staying active and can help you remind your child to balance their diet with their activity level. Some of the proceeds from Frosted Flakes is even used to support youth sports, though you’ll want to be sure to check for specifics based on how and where you purchase it.
What I Like:
- No corn syrup, food dye, or wheat
- Tastes great!
- Pairs well with a side of fruit
What I Don’t Like:
- 14 grams of sugar
- Can get soggy in milk
4. Rice Chex
- BREAKFAST CEREALS: Wholesome breakfast...
- GLUTEN FREE: Simply made with no...
- WHOLE GRAIN: Made with 12 grams of whole...
- COLD CEREAL: Low in fat cereal that's...
- BOX CONTAINS: 12 oz cereal box; Stock up...
Rice Chex are a great option for those who want to limit their child’s sugar intake. They are awesome for kids with dietary restriction and can be a great snack too. The real power of Chex lies in their flexibility.
Imagine a cereal that is used as an ingredient in recipes just as often as it is covered in milk. Chex can be tossed with pretzels and crackers to make an amazing snack mix. This is a great opportunity to teach young children basic cooking, measuring, and math skills. There is no better way to introduce fraction than using a simple recipe.
Don’t worry if your child would rather make something sweet, either. Chex is also the key ingredient in Unicorn Poop, which can also be made with chocolate and called Muddy Buddies. No matter how you choose to mix them, rice chex can make an awesome snack!
Of course, they are also great when poured in a bowl and topped with milk, though your child won’t want to linger too long. They can sometimes get a bit soggy. With no gluten, no food dye, and just 2 grams of sugar, you’ll never regret letting your child enjoy Rice Chex!
What I Like:
- Great in recipes
- No gluten or food dye
- Low in sugar
- Travels well as a snack
What I Don’t Like:
- Can get soggy
- A bit bland when eaten with just milk
5. Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes
- INCLUDES: 1 box of Nature’s Path...
- SATISFYINGLY GOOD: Nature’s Path...
- ORGANIC & NON-GMO: Certified USDA...
- JUST THE GOOD STUFF: Heritage Flakes,...
- ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY FOOD: You...
These are the very healthy version of Frosted Flakes. They stay much crunchier in milk and will fill bellies for much longer than Kellog’s sweet version. Heritage Flakes are high in fiber to help your child feel full and promote a healthy digestive system. They do contain wheat, but do not have food dye or corn syrup.
Heritage Flakes are an environmentally responsible cereal option. They are organic and non-GMO. They contain just 5 grams of sugar and are made using ancient grains. They are made a company that believes in using fair practices to offer products that are of the highest quality.
While they do not have as many added vitamins and minerals as some of the other choices listed here, it’s because they don’t have as much added anything. They are a simple and straight forward blend of grains, cane sugar, sea salt, and honey. This makes them a great choice for those who prefer to follow a simple diet and want their children to focus on foods with simple ingredients.
The blend of grains combined with their touch of honey ensure the Heritage Flakes taste great, though they are not super sweet like Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, or Lucky Charms. They offer a healthier balance of nutrition by staying with a more natural list of ingredients. A great side effect is their consistent crunch, even after having milk poured over them.
What I Like:
- Environmentally responsible Non-GMO & Organic
- Low sugar content
- Stays crunchy
- Easy to understand ingredients
- No food dyes
What I Don’t Like:
- Not as sweet as some children may prefer
Educational Buyer’s Guide
With so many cereal options there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding what to keep stocked in your pantry. Some of these choices will be dictated by the dietary needs of your family. Others will be determined by your family’s values. Even once those factors have been considered, you’ll need to find a cereal that appeals to your children, and they can make for some tough customers.
It’s important to choose a breakfast cereal that you child well eat. It should offer them enough nutrition to keep them going throughout the morning. Even better, a good cereal can also make a great snack for those times when your child is hungry between meals. Here are a few factors to focus on as you try to narrow down your cereal selection:
Ingredients are the defining feature of any cereal. Which ones you are willing to include or must exclude may be driven by the health needs of your children, so consider them carefully. Some children are sensitive to food dyes, while others may struggle to digest gluten. Some kids feel better when they get enough fiber, and cereal can be a great way to ensure that they get the vitamins and minerals that they need.
Of course, sugar is always a heavily debated addition to food, and it comes in more than one form. Beyond that, there’s also Non-GMO and Organic certifications to consider, too. Hopefully, the following information will help you sort through and prioritize the ingredients that matter to your family.
Like many ingredients, food dyes can be a controversial topic. Some people insist that they do no harm, while others argue that they can contribute to hyperactivity and other behavioral struggles. Ultimately, you’ll want to decide for yourself. If your child has no behavioral issues, this may not be a concern for you.
Gluten is found in wheat. It is a protein that most people digest with ease, but there are some exceptions. Those who have Celiac Disease are essentially allergic to gluten. It can wreak havoc on their digestive system. Some people do appear to be more sensitive to gluten than others, and avoiding gluten has become a bit of a trend in the past few year.
Sugar actually comes in many forms, and different people may choose to avoid different forms of it. Some people strive to stay away from all of it. Whatever you feel is right for yourself and your family, it’s important to understand that most ingredients ending in -ose (like sucrose, fructose, and lactose) are all forms of sugar.
Some people may also consider honey a form of sugar, though most consider it a better choice than sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The reason for this differentiation is the amount of processing required to make it. Honey is just honey. It comes straight from a comb, though it can sometimes be pasteurized.
Granulated sugar is made by breaking down the plant, sugar cane and then evaporating the liquid to leave behind sugar crystals. Corn syrup goes through a similar process, though it’s a bit more involved. The corn must be processed to extract any sweetness. From there it is converted into a sweet syrup.
Non-GMO & Organic Certifications
Products can go through a process to be certified as organic by the USDA. These foods meet specific standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture. The requirements vary depending on the crop or livestock being raised, but generally an Organic certification means that limited pesticides have been used on the soil for at least 3 years, and animals have been raised in a reasonably natural environment.
The bureaucracy and paperwork associated with the label have led it to be somewhat controversial, as it can present hurdles that small family farms are not always able to overcome, despite their farms following some of the most humane and environmentally responsible practices.
Non-GMO products get their label from the NON GMO Project, which is a 501(c)3 organization. They have their own set of rules and regulations that farmers and producers must follow to be given the Non-GMO label. This will mean that the ingredients used in the product have not been genetically modified. There’s now a wide selection of Non-GMO certified products.
Cereals are a food that is often used and eaten in ways that differ from the most basic purpose that they’re intended to serve. Some pair well with milk at breakfast time, while others are great solo snack. There are even cereals that are primarily used as ingredients in other recipes.
The purest cereal lovers may tell you that cereal was really meant to go in a bowl and be allowed to swim in milk before being scooped by a spoon. The cereals best for this purpose won’t get soggy. Some may absorb more milk than others, and some even cause the milk to change color or flavor.
Many cereals taste great by themselves. Those which make the best snacks have uniform sized pieces that are easy to pick up and munch on. Their flavor should be well-balanced with the need to add milk for moisture. Snacking cereals should not easily crumble.
While there are fewer cereals intended to be ingredients in other recipes, those that are become known for that trait. Rice Krispy’s are a great example! They are more likely to be eaten in the form of bars and mixed with marshmallows than they are to be found in a bowl full of milk. Other cereals, like Chex, are versatile enough to be found in both sweet and salty recipes.
Best Cereal Brands
Kellogg’s was founded in 1898 and is known for their Corn Flakes, though they’ve expanded quite a bit over the years. Early on, they showed their commitment to consumer health by displaying ingredients directly on boxes – before it was required.
General Mills has a 150 year long history of making food. The company is passionate about what they do and was one of the first to begin incorporating whole grains into their “Big G” cereals.
Post has been making cereal since 1895. Their brands include iconic names like Grape Nuts, Raisin Bran, and Fruity Pebbles.
There are so many choices available in the cereal aisle, and they are changing every day. Classics, like Cheerios, may never disappear, but trendy treats like “Baby Shark Cereal” are often fleeting. Hopefully, you’ve got a better idea of what cereal is right for your family. We also put together a few questions that are commonly considered when trying to choose the best cereal for kids. This should help clarify any remaining questions.
Should I only offer my child cereal at breakfast time?
No. Cereal makes a great snack to take with you in a container or baggie, and cooking with cereal by tossing together a simple snack mix or following a recipe for Muddy Buddies or Rice Krispy Treats is a great way teach your child basic cooking skills like measuring. It will even help them learn math, especially fractions.
What is a “healthy” cereal?
This really depends on your specific family. If your child has any food sensitivities, that should be your primary concern. If allergies aren’t an issue, then it will depend on your families’ food values. Are you all trying to stay away from sugar? If so, your child may prefer a cereal that’s less sweet. As with all food, moderation is important. Teach your child what an appropriate serving size of cereal looks like and encourage them to have a piece of fruit with it.
Does my cereal need to be NON-GMO and Organic?
Again, this will ultimately be a personal preference. If you are buying from a major brand, this may give you the piece of mind of knowing that it was produced in a way that is responsible for the environment. On the other hand, locally sourced granola, from a farmer’s market, is unlikely to have these labels, but may still align with your family’s values.
How old should my child be before I introduce them to cereal?
This is a great question for your pediatrician. While cereal is often one of the first solid foods given to toddles, the specific brands and timing will depend on the development of your child. Your pediatrician may consider their teeth, weight, and the other foods they are eating as they help you decide.
Hopefully, this has helped you sort through the myriad of cereal choices available to you. You should have an idea about what kinds of cereals you want to keep stocked in your pantry for several occasions and have an idea of what you value in a good cereal. We’ve included a selection of the best cereals for kids to enjoy for breakfast, to mix into other recipes, and to take as a snack while traveling.
At the end of the day, keeping a variety of cereal options is always the best choice. While you don’t need to have a specialized cereal pantry, giving your kids the option to choose a sweet cereal one day and a healthier option another day will help them learn moderation and balance. Those are food skills that we can all benefit from.
Some children even enjoy building a bowl of cereal that combines different brands, so don’t feel like you have to limit them to just one choice each day. Who knows, your child may even decide to mix two different cereals together to create a blend that is as unique as they are!