My previous breakfast cereal post featured my top 10 picks of the cereal aisle. By popular demand, I returned to the cereal aisle to find you my top picks for healthy kids cereals. I have to admit, I had a lot of trouble – there just aren’t that many good ones to choose from!
Children need a breakfast cereal to be low in added sugar and sodium* and high in fibre. Cereal should be minimally processed so that its a source of wholegrains which gives important B vitamins and the fibre needed to fill them up, avoid constipation and feed their good gut bacteria.
*this is especially important for babies and toddlers who should avoid added sugar and salt.
You’ll find my list, the top 5 below. To see how the others measured up, continue reading to see my wooden spoon award for the worst, the most unhealthy kids breakfast cereals. Then, I have included a table with information about all 24 kid’s cereals for you to rank by name, fibre sugar and sodium.
I want to preface this guide to kids cereals with my view on kids foods more generally. Quite simply, they don’t need them. Food marketed for children are rarely the healthiest choices, in fact they’re often worse than the regular version. ‘Kid friendly’ foods are flavoured or sweetened and altered so they don’t resemble the ingredients. These foods (like chocolate cereal, sweetened pouch yoghurt, or dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets) are telling our kids that this food is tastier and more exciting and that regular food is boring.
I prefer to set young children up with a love for (or acceptance) of the plain wholefoods we want them to be eating as they get older. They’re more likely to be healthy eaters later in life when they’re familiar with plain wholefoods. The adults I work with often wish they had developed a taste for more healthy wholefoods in childhood and had been taught what to do with them!
What to look for in a kid’s cereal
While numbers (grams of sugar, sodium and fibre) are important, they aren’t everything given my philosophy of feeding children as future healthy eaters. Brands can tweak the sugar content and add in some fibre to get better numbers (and earn themselves a better health star rating), but they’re still providing a sweet processed food that’s coloured and shaped into food that doesn’t look like it’s ingredients. So keep this in mind – does your child’s favourite cereal look like food made from grains?
Having a number guide can be useful when reading food labels. With breakfast cereals, we the trifecta of low sugar, low sodium and high fibre.
- Less than 10g sugars in 100g (or under 15g if you want a treat cereal, but not for everyday eating).
- Less than 250mg sodium in 100g (remember no added sodium/salt for babies and young toddlers)
- More than 8g fibre per 100g
Before we launch into my top 5 cereals for kids, have you seen my blog The Top 10 Healthiest Breakfast Cereals? The first 8 picks in that list are better choices than some of these listed here, so make sure you check that out too. Your child doesn’t need a ‘kid’ cereal, a bowl of porridge or homemade muesli is perfect!
Top 5 Healthiest Kid’s Cereals
- Sanitarium Weet-Bix for Kids
- Freedom Foods Rice Puffs
- Be Natural Mini Bites
- Arnold’s Farm Littler Farmers Chocolate Granola
- Freedom Foods Messy Monkeys Choc Crunch Cereal
1. Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids
Next to oats, Weet-Bix for kids is a staple in our pantry. It’s much like the regular version of Weet-Bix but with no added salt and less sugar. This means it’s a good choice for the youngest members of your family too. It has also been fortified with calcium in addition to the iron and B vitamins found in regular Weet-Bix.
Many families I work with have had a lot of success with introducing Weet-Bix kids (or regular weet-bix) and having a “buffet” of toppings children can chose from in the morning to make it a more interesting breakfast. You can put the toppings into a devided container or just pull the jars/packets out of the pantry and line them up. We love choosing from grated apple, sliced banana, chopped dried fruit, LSA mix, hemp seeds, chia seeds and lightly crumbled nuts.
My only complaint about Weet-Bix for kids is the small pack size. They only come in the small 375g pack which isn’t very economical for families.
2. Freedom Foods Rice Puffs
You’ll find this cereal in the health food aisle as it is gluten free. These rice puffs ARE a lot healthier than the traditional rice bubbles. They’re higher in fibre thanks to the addition of resistant dextrin, a prebiotic fibre that our good gut bacteria like to eat. This cereal does have some added sugar (5.5g/100g) and sodium (250mg/100g) but much less than Kellogg’s or home brand rice bubbles.
An alternative to this one is the Abundant Earth brand puffed rice. You’ll find it in a clear bag on a lower shelf in the health food aisle. It doesn’t have any crunch to it, but makes a great addition to your own muesli mix. The only ingredient is brown rice.
3. Be Natural Mini Bites
If your kids will only eat a sweet cereal, then these are my top pick of the sugary cereals. They’re wholegrain with a little sugar sprinkled in the middle. The sugar crystals are quite big which makes it feel like you are having more sugar than you really are. I like these as not only is the cereal component good quality and minimally processed, they have less than 10g sugar per 100g (8.7g/100g). They also don’t have any added sodium and are high in fibre.
Better yet is to have a simpler base (like rolled oats, Weet-Bix for kids or puffed rice) with a few of these mini bites sprinkled on top for the sugar hit.
Lunchbox Tip: Instead of Tiny Teddies or a biscuit as a lunchbox treat, try adding a small handful of Be Natural Mini Bites! Unlike biscuits they’re wholegrain and lower in sugar than biscuits.
4. Arnold’s Farm Little Farmers
It’s at this point that I want you to refer back to my earlier blog,
The Top 10 Healthiest Breakfast Cereals? There are better options on that list than this one and the next one.
I reviewed this cereal recently in my Instagram stories and I didn’t recommend it for every day eating. It’s quite high in sugar with 14.5g/100g, it has added sodium (but only 120mg) but it is very high in fibre with 14.5g/100g.
While it’s certainly not my first choice, compared to other sweet chocolate cereals, it is quite good. As you’ll see in the table below, many chocolate kids cereals marketed as being healthier have around 20-25g sugar per 100g. That’s almost a quarter sugar!
This cereal has some real chocolate pieces in it and I like that there is whole pieces of rolled oats and puffed rice. It looks like the ingredients.
5. Freedom Foods Messy Monkeys Cereal
Finally, Messy Monkeys. This cereal can be found in the health food aisle, but I had a hard to finding it, not all supermarkets stock it. Which isn’t a bad thing as it has just scraped into this list.
It hits my top limit for sugar content with 15g in 100g. This one has slightly less sodium than the Arnold’s Farm (above) but a little less fibre. These are a good option if want to have a ‘treat’ cereal as a topper for your plain cereal sometimes or if other family members insist of offering your child sweet cereals. They’re much, much better than Coco Pops but not as good as the other options in this list.
The ingredients include chickpea flour and fibre, which gives a little dose of protein too. This is a good thing, but I’d rather they weren’t another shaped novel cereal made from a mish-mash of flours. We don’t really need protein from cereal, we need a dose of wholegrains.
The worst kid’s cereals
The wooden spoon award for the least healthy kid’s cereal goes to… Coles Rice Puffs. This cereal had the least fibre (only 1g per 100g) and the most sodium (550mg per 100g). It’s just not filling enough for breakfast and it isn’ providing the goodness of wholegrains.
Second prize goes to Kellogg’s Frosties with 41.3g of sugar. That’s over 40% sugar!
How do the rest of the kid’s cereals compare?
Use this table to see how your child’s favourite cereal stacks up. Click or tap on the menu heading to reorder the list. For example, tap sugar to arrange by the most (or tap again for least) sugar per 100g.
When looking at the sugar content, keep in mind that Milk Arrowroot biscuits contain 22g of sugar per 100g. Twelve of these cereals have more added sugar that biscuits! Only 6 of these cereals had 10g or less sugar in 100g and 10 had less than 15g or less.
When looking at sodium, consider that salted potato chips contain around 450mg. Four of these cereals are saltier than potato chips! Only 13 of these cereals had 250mg of sodium or less.
|Brand||Type||Fibre/100g||Sugar/100g||Sodium/100g||Fortified with iron|
|Kellogg's||Sultana Bran Buds||14.8||23.9||125||Yes|
|Freedom Foods||Arnold's Farm Choc Granola||14.2||14.5||124||No|
|Be Natural||Wholegrain Mini Bites||11.9||8.7||5||No|
|Freedom Foods||Rice Puffs||11.5||5.5||250||No|
|Freedom Foods||Messy Monkeys||9.2||15.0||80||No|
|Freedom Foods||Breakfast Heroes Choc Boulders||9||22.4||200||No|
|Freedom Foods||XO Crunch||8.5||22.2||70||No|
|Freedom Foods||Brekky Heroes Fruit Hoops||7.7||21.6||80||No|
|Uncle Tobys||Fruity Bites||7.5||23.5||45||Yes|
|Kellogg's||Coco Pops Chex||3.3||37.4||530||No|
|Jordans||Grin-ola Choc Granola||6.7||14.0||10||No|
Switching from a sweet cereal
If you have now decided that the cereal your child eats regularly isn’t up to scratch, there’s a few ways you can make the switch to a healthier kids’ cereal. A surprising number of children are totally fine with just finishing the box and not having it being bough again (after the initial protest of course). Older kids should be in on the decision making and can use the table above (or the food switch app) to help you chose a better one.
If you prefer a gentler approach, choose a new base cereal like rolled oats/porridge, Weet-Bix kids or the Freedom Foods Rice Puffs and add tablespoon or two of the old cereal as a topper. Gradually reduce the ‘topper’ and then transition to some dried fruit, nuts or seeds instead.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist with a decade of experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and can help the overwhelm of eating and living well with private consultations, email Q&A and her school lunchbox ebook. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.