When I was 7 years old, I begged my mom to buy me Boo-Berry Cereal. A brightly colored blueberry flavored cereal that was part of the General Mills Monster Series. The answer was “no”. Our house wasn’t the house that had “bad” cereals, plus, her motherly instinct knew I wouldn’t like it or eat it. But I wouldn’t quit. Finally, just to prove a point, she relented. And like all moms, she was right. So right. Boy did I think it was gross. I distinctly remember the first bite and the overwhelming taste of fake, artificial sugar. That first bite was the last bite.
Well, no surprise, many years later I too have a house with the “good” cereals. I’m sure there will be a day when my girls ask for something I find awful (I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it), but for now, we stick to the good stuff. The cereals that are low in sugar and high in fiber. Because let’s face it, cereal is delicious. It is the perfect, quick & easy breakfast. So, if you’re looking to keep the good stuff in your house, here are my top recommendations for choosing healthy cereals:
Always look at the sugar content first. Sugar should be listed toward the end of the ingredient list (which means it has less of it). Also, watch out for multiple forms of sugar (fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, honey, brown sugar, molasses and more are all forms of sugar). Add fresh or unsweetened dried fruit for natural sweetness instead. The healthiest option is to choose a cereal with ≤ 5 g of sugar per serving. *Note: every 4 grams of sugar on the label translates to 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Aim to get at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving from whole grain cereals. Fiber will come from the whole grains in cereal, which is key to maintain a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps the digestive track move the way it should by providing the bulk that keeps everything running smoothly.
Good cereals are made from grains, which are naturally low in fat. So beware of a cereal containing more than 2 or 3 grams of fat per serving. You don’t want a cereal filled with unhealthy trans fats or saturated fats. You can also check the ingredient list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils – you definitely do not want this in your cereal.
You want the sodium content to be ≤ 240 mg per serving. One cup of added milk to cereal will add another 100 mg, so it is best to keep cereal on the lower end. The daily recommendation of sodium for children between the ages of 1 and 3 is 1,000 mg per day. For children aged 4 to 8, it is 1,200 mg per day. And while too much sodium at a young age isn’t as detrimental to health as it is in adults, providing your children with very salty foods and excessive amounts of sodium can shape their future food preferences.
Our favorite: Barbara’s Puffins (Original) – 5g fiber, 5g sugar, 1g fat, 190mg sodium
Cascadian Farms Purely O’s – 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 1.5g fat, 200mg sodium
Cheerios (not the flavored varieties) – 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g fat, 140 mg sodium
General Mills Kix – 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 1g fat, 219.9 mg sodium
General Mills Wheaties – 3g fiber, 4g sugar, .5g fat, 210 mg sodium
Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal – 5g fiber, 5g sugar, 1.5g fat, 90 mg sodium