The 13 best low-sugar cereals for kids

Oct. 15, 2019
The 13 best low-sugar cereals for kids

There’s a reason cereal is a breakfast staple. It’s quick. It’s easy. And there’s no denying its deliciousness. But due to the amount of sugar some cereals contain — particularly ones marketed toward children — it isn’t always the best choice for kids. In addition to high-sugar diets being linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cavities, too much sugar can have an impact on how kids perform at school when it’s consumed first thing in the morning. 

“When kids consume a lot of sugar for breakfast, it reduces their ability to concentrate in class and increases irritability throughout the day, as their blood sugar spikes and then crashes,” says Lorraine Kearney, nutritionist and founder of New York City Nutrition.  

Does this mean you need to clear out the breakfast shelf in your pantry forever? Not necessarily. But you may want to restock it with low-sugar cereals. According to Katharine Jeffcoat, a registered dietician at Portland Pediatric & Family Nutrition, there are four key things to look for when choosing the best cereal for kids:

  1. Whole grains. “Parents should look for the first ingredient to be whole grain oats or wheat flour,” says Jeffcoat.

  2. Fiber. Cereals should have 3 grams or more of fiber per serving.

  3. Sugar. Total added sugar should be 6 grams or less per serving. 

  4. Protein. Protein should be 3 grams or more per serving.  

“For children ages 6 to 8, the recommendation for total added sugar per day is under 40 grams to meet the dietary guidelines of 10% or less of added sugar,” says Jeffcoat. “I encourage parents to limit sugar at breakfast to 10 grams or less to stay at or below their child's daily added sugar recommendation.” 

And for younger kids (ages 2 to 5), the number is a lot lower at 25 grams per day.  

Wondering about the best low-sugar cereal for kids? Here are 13 delicious options.

Classic cereals

1. Cheerios

Image via Cheerios

According to Jeffcoat, regular Cheerios are “always an excellent choice.”

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain oats, at least 14 grams

  • Fiber: 3 grams  

  • Sugar: 1 gram 

  • Protein: 4 grams

2. Shredded Wheat Original

Image via Post Consumer Brands

Not only is it delicious, but Original Shredded Wheat is a top-notch breakfast choice.

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain wheat

  • Fiber: 8 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Protein: 7 grams

3. Wheat Chex

Image via Chex

Another cereal Jeffcoat recommends is Wheat Chex.

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain wheat, 41 grams

  • Fiber: 6 grams

  • Sugar: 5 grams 

  • Protein: 5 grams

4. Kix

Image via Kix Cereal

“Kid-tested, mother approved.” Who didn’t love Kix as a child? Parents looking for a low-sugar cereal for their kids — or a great dry snack on the go — can feel comfy passing on this breakfast from their childhood. A splash of their favorite milk will up the protein.

  • Whole grain: Made with whole grain corn 

  • Fiber: 3 grams

  • Sugar: 3 grams 

  • Protein: 2 grams

5. Grape-Nuts

Image via Post Consumer Brands

When it comes to classic cereals with nutritional power, it’s hard to top Grape-Nuts.

“I’ve been eating it for years, but now my 4-year-old son loves Grape-Nuts, too,” says Amy Copeland, of Vineland, New Jersey. “Sometimes we mix it up by spooning it onto yogurt instead of using milk.” 

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain wheat flour and malted barley flour

  • Fiber: 7 grams

  • Sugar: 5 grams

  • Protein: 6 grams 

6. Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls

Image via Barbara’s

Another favorite of Jeffcoat’s — Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain oats and whole grain wheat flour

  • Fiber: 4 grams

  • Sugar: 5 grams

  • Protein: 3 grams

Organic and/or non-GMO cereals

7. Nature's Path Qi’a Cocoa Coconut Superflakes

Image via Nature’s Path

One cereal Jeffcoat always has in her pantry is Nature's Path Qi’a Cocoa Coconut Superflakes — and with good reason. It’s super healthy and the cocoa and coconut make it delicious.

  • Whole grains: Made with sprouted grains (sprouted black bean flour, sprouted brown rice flour), 35 grams

  • Fiber: 6 grams

  • Sugar: 6 grams

  • Protein: 6 grams

8. Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grain Granola

Image via Purely Elizabeth

Baked with coconut oil and sweetened with coconut sugar (a low-glycemic sweetener), it’s hard to go wrong with Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola. Also, it’s super tasty to kids and adults alike. 

“My kids and I are all obsessed with the Purely Elizabeth granolas,” says Rebecca Ingraham, of New Paltz, New York. “My 3-year-old daughter says they ‘taste like a treat.’ Works for me!” 

To add in a little extra fiber, try adding them on top of a nutrient-rich smoothie!

  • Whole grains: Made with organic gluten-free oats

  • Fiber: 2 grams

  • Sugar: 6 grams 

  • Protein: 3 grams

9. Cascadian Farm Purely O's

Image via Cascadian Farm

Whole grain oats as the first ingredient? Check. Crunchy taste kids love? Check. Cascadian Farm Purely O’s cereal is great for parents who are looking for an organic version of their beloved Cheerios.

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain oats and whole grain barley, 31 grams

  • Fiber: 4 grams

  • Sugar: 1 gram

  • Protein: 4 grams

10. Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes

Image via Nature’s Path

Made with six ancient grains (grains that haven’t changed over the last several hundred years) and a “crunch that keeps,” Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes are a way to start the day. 

  • Whole grains: Made with kamut khorasan wheat, oats, barley, spelt, millet and quinoa 

  • Fiber: 7 grams

  • Sugar: 5 grams

  • Protein: 5 grams

11. Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Crunchy Cereal in Golden Flax

Image via Food for Life

No matter what your life views are, it’s hard to argue with the nutritional value of Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Crunchy Cereal in Golden Flax. Not only does it pair great with cold milk and berries, it packs serious crunch. 

  • Whole grains: Made with a number of whole grains, including sprouted wheat, flax seeds, barley and millet

  • Fiber: 6 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Protein: 8 grams

Hot cereals

12. Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats

Image via Bob’s Red Mill

Cereal comes in all shapes, sizes — and temperatures. When the weather cools down, opt for warm cereals, oatmeals, and porridges, like Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats

“When choosing rolled oats, try sticking to ones that aren’t flavored,” says Kearney. “Many of the packets of instant oatmeal are high in added sugars and artificial flavors and should be avoided. Instead prepare a batch of steel cut oats at the start of the week and add mashed banana and raw cacao powder for a chocolate banana flavor.” 

Yum!

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain oats (and nothing else!)

  • Fiber: 5 grams

  • Sugar: 1 gram

  • Protein: 5 grams

13. Quaker Simple and Wholesome Oatmeal

Image via Quaker Oats

It’s a classic for a reason: Quaker does oatmeal well. And not only is Quaker Simple and Wholesome Oatmeal great because it’s super low in sugar, it’s also organic and customizable, giving everyone the opportunity to create their favorite breakfast, taste- and nutrition-wise. 

  • Whole grains: Made with whole grain oats, barley, buckwheat, rye and flaxseed, 32 grams 

  • Sugar: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 1 gram

  • Protein: 4 grams

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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