Choosing Cereals For Toddlers

photo of different toddler breakfast cereal recommendations by Starting Solids Australia

Before we jump into our guide on buying cereals:

We do not believe that foods are "healthy" or "unhealthy"or that they are "good" or bad".

Food is just food.

There's no need to moralise it. There's room for all foods in our diet.

We also appreciate that you might have a little one that is a very "fussy eater" and your options are a little more limited for now.  Or maybe your toddler has a dairy allergy so finding cereals with added calcium that are also dairy free is a bigger priority than the sugar content. There might not be a "perfect" option for your family, so if it is working for you, then continue doing it! You don't need to throw out the open box of cereal because it is a little high in salt or sugar.

We do also believe that it is important to know what is in the food that you are buying. Knowing what is in them, means you are making an informed decision about what you buy, whatever that is.

It is easy to be misled by buzz words and clever marketing! Having someone (like us) that can navigate the nutrition guidelines and compare this to what is on the market is helpful for many families. We are asked daily in our online community about cereals for toddlers and what to look for. So we have decided to put together a guide (not rules!) on what to look for when purchasing cereals for your kids.

So here it is: Cereals for toddlers!

What to look for?

SUGAR:

The main thing we are considering when it comes to cereals is the sugar. We are ideally aiming for less than 15g per 100g to keep the sugar content low to moderate. Lower is better where you can!

Keep an eye out for tricky labelling around sugar. Sometimes it will say things like dextrose, fructose, caster sugar, maple syrup, glucose, golden syrup, honey, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar and raw sugar. These are ALL sugar.

The higher up the ingredient list, the more of that ingredient is in that product. So if sugar is one of the first few ingredients you know it has a decent amount of added sugar in there.

FIBRE:

We are ideally aiming for 3g or more per serve. You can easily boost the fibre of cereal at home by adding in some fruit, ground nuts, or seeds (think chia and hemp). Most children in Australia do not get enough fibre in their diet, so cereals with a good amount of fibre are an easy way to help boost their overall fibre intake. 

SALT:

This will be called sodium on the nutrition information panel on the box. Although we are less concerned about salt intake after the age of 1, we still want to pick a lower salt option when we can. We want to aim for cereals with less than 400mg per 100g and as close to or lower than 120mg per 100g is best.

SATURATED FAT:

Although we recommend full fat options for children under the age of 2, it is recommended to limited saturated fat for all children. Aiming for less than 3g per 100g is ideal. Most cereals will be less than this.

IRON:

This is really only something that is relevant for parents of fussy eaters i.e who don't eat any meat, or for vegan/vegetarian children where we are more focused on getting iron in at each meal/snack over the day. 

Added iron in cereals is a super easy way to increase the iron intake for our fussy eaters! 

For any vegan/vegetarian families we absolutely encourage a 1:1 consult with one of our paediatric Dietitians to ensure your little one is getting everything they need.

CALCIUM:

Again, not relevant to look at for most parents! If you have a dairy and soy free kiddo then added calcium might be something you priorities more. Ideally anything with 120mg of calcium per 100g or more is GREAT. Again a 1:1 consult with one of our paediatric Dietitians is definitely worthwhile for any allergy families to ensure your little one is getting everything they need. It might be better to focus on other food sources of calcium or even a supplement in some cases.

PROTEIN:

In general, there is no need to reach for cereal options marketed as "high protein". In Australia, most toddlers meet their protein needs with ease, and most exceed them. 

COST:

Obviously this is a big one. The cost of a grocery shop has increased significantly and we know that it is getting harder to feed families. If a cereal isn't "perfect" when it comes to nutrition but it is what you can afford and you know your kids will eat it, then this is a huge consideration to take into account. Wait for products that you want to try, but not sure if you kids will eat, to come on special. Buy things that tick the boxes for your family in bulk when they are on special too. 

Want specific recommendations and reviews of cereals? Leave a comment below and let us know WHAT cereals you want us to take a closer look at and keep an eye out for our upcoming product reviews!

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Responses

  1. Weetbix bites please! I love them and so does my toddler for the added iron. I’m not sure how ‘nutritional’ they are. Getting an explanation of how to read the panel and seeing how you do it will help me in future. Thanks!

  2. Would love to see a review on weet bix bites as my partner reaches for those as a fast convenient breakfast option for our toddler most days of the week while I’m still in bed with our newborn and can’t make a nutritious breakfast like Oats or eggs. He’s now gone off normal Weetbix because he’s used to the sugary bites!! 🙁