Cereal is a mainstay in the diets of toddlers and preschoolers. But there is a wide variety available, and choosing the right one can be a challenge. So what should you be looking for when it comes to the cereal you buy and feed your child?

Rule #1: Choose low sugar content.

Many parents wouldn’t dream of offering dessert for breakfast, but many cereals on the market today pack a punch of sugar that would equal a bona fide dessert.

Ideally, you want to choose the cereal that has the lowest amount of sugar per serving. Look for cereals with around 5 to 6 grams of sugar per serving, like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Kix, Wheaties, Life, and Shredded Wheat.

Serving sizes can be different with each cereal type. For example, granola-type cereals are around 1/4 to 1/3 cup serving sizes, while “puff” cereals are 1/2 cup to 1 cup serving sizes.

Watch out for sugary cereals, since they can get the day started on the wrong foot.

Honey Smacks201 Twinkie
Cocoa Krispies152 snack size Kit Kat bars
Trix131 Fruit by the Foot
Apple Jacks121 packet Fruit Gushers
Cap’n Crunch123 powdered mini donuts
Fruit Loops123 mini Laffy Taffy
Cocoa Pebbles1115 small jelly beans
Fruity Pebbles113 Rolos pieces
Cocoa Puffs101 Reese’s Cup
Golden Grahams103 Starburst
Lucky Charms107 Candy Corn pieces
Cookie Crisp92 Oreo cookies
Peanut Butter Crunch93 Caramel Rice Cakes (reg. size)
Honey Nut Cheerios92 ½ Chips Ahoy cookies

Rule #2: Look for fiber.

Cereal can be an easy way to get the day started with fiber, which can be helpful in preventing constipation and keeping your child regular. Choose half of your child’s grain options like cereal, bread, and pasta from a whole grain source. When choosing cereal, pick options with more than 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Double-check the ingredient list because it will let you know how “whole” those grains are! Ingredients are listed by weight, so look for cereals that list whole grains as the first ingredient. And beware! Multi-grain doesn’t always mean whole grain. Look at the label to be sure. “Made with whole grain” can be deceiving too, with as little as 10 percent whole grains.

Rule #3: Nutrient fortification.

Cereal can be a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin D, since these nutrients are fortified (added back) in cereal. For toddlers in particular, who can be picky eaters and avoid iron-rich foods like meat, finding a good source of iron in cereal can be key to overall health. Add a source of vitamin C like orange juice or citrus fruit when your child is eating non-meat sources of iron to increase the uptake of iron in the body.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020


  • Ready-to-eat cereal can be a good source of nutrition for your child.
  • Many cereals contain too much sugar; stay around 5-6 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Look for good sources of fiber and whole grains, as well as fortified nutrients, such as calcium and iron, in cereals.


  1. Castle JL and Jacobsen MT. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.
  2. Environmental Working Group. Sugar in Children’s Cereals.


  1. Honey Nut Cheerios is a big eye opener for me… The others I assumed were full of sugar, but I classify Cheerios in my own mind as a different category although we usually buy the plain Cheerios and add honey to them. Will be paying closer attention now.

  2. Wow! Seeing the comparison is really an eye opener. I do love Fruit Loops though. 🙁

  3. Wow, seeing the amount of sugar in some of these is very eye opening!!! 🙁

  4. My LO just started eatting cold cereal and I never though I how much sugar is in honey nut Cheerios


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