5 Tips for choosing a nutritious and delicious children’s breakfast cereal

If you’ve ever walked down the breakfast cereal aisle in the supermarket, you’ll have noticed the plethora of colourful, vibrant packaged cereal boxes that are available.  It’s even more tricky to navigate when you’ve got the children in tow grabbing at boxes perfectly positioned at their height! 

What should I look for when choosing a children’s breakfast cereal?

Ideally, you want to tick off as many of these points as possible when choosing a children’s breakfast cereal.

1. Source of fibre/high fibre

Look for breakfast cereal that contains at least 3g of fibre or 6g of fibre per 100g. Hitting these numbers means a food can make a claim ‘source of fibre’ or ‘high in fibre’ respectively on the packaging. Understandably parents may be concerned about offering fibre-rich foods to their children. The worry is that children fill up on foods high in fibre, before taking in calories and other nutrients needed. The NHS suggests: “You can give your child wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice. But it’s not a good idea to only give wholegrain starchy foods to under-2s”. Choosing foods containing fibre helps us feel fuller, prevent constipation and help digestion.

High in fibre

2. Fortified with vitamins and minerals

Look out for breakfast cereals that have added vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamins B and D.

Fortified with vitamins and minerals

3. Low or no added sugar

Opt for breakfast cereals which contain no added sugar or are low in sugar. Low in sugar cereals contain less than 5.0g per 100g of total sugars. They’ll also be green on the front of pack traffic light label.

4. Low or no added salt

Children aged 1-3 years should have no more than 2g of salt per day. There is evidence that dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns in later life. So ensure not to add salt to children’s food and read your food label to look for ‘low or no added salt’ when choosing a breakfast cereal.  

5. Be wary of colourful packaging 

The packaging for children’s breakfast cereals is often covered in cartoon characters and unnecessarily high in nutrients such as saturated fat, sugar and salt. Whether at home or nursery, you could try decanting the cereal into Tupperware to let the children make their choice without being so influenced by their favourite characters!

Check out this recent survey by Action on Sugar of children’s breakfast cereals where they’re calling for the complete removal of cartoon characters, animations and vibrant colours on packaging that appeal to children for those products that are high or medium for total sugars, salt and/or saturated fat on the traffic light food label.

Which are the best breakfast cereals to choose from?

I’ve done the research, so you don’t have to! Having looked at many food labels, I know that some food brands meet the points I’ve mentioned above. 

Ready brek original

Ready Brek is made from rolled oats and oat flour. It’s fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D, B and iron. It’s high in fibre and low in salt and sugar. It’s a popular choice due to its comforting texture!

Porridge oats

Similar to Ready Brek, 100% porridge oats are high in fibre and contain no added salt or sugar. However, they haven’t been fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. Oats are still a great choice and a good option to introduce in the early years. 

Weetabix original 

Weetabix is made from wholegrain wheat and is low in salt, sugar (but still contains some added salt and sugar) and saturated fat and high in fibre. They’re fortified with vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron and folic acid. Like porridge, Weetabix is versatile and goes with many toppings such as seasonal fruit and plain yoghurt. 

Plain shredded wheat

This is made from 100% wholegrain wheat, is low in saturated fat, high in fibre and contains no added salt or sugar. 

Puffed wheat (plain and unsweetened)

Made from 100% wheat, this cereal is high in fibre, low in saturated fat and contains no added salt or sugar. Avoid serving to babies as it could be a choking hazard.

Can I serve the same breakfast cereal to my child each day?

Aim to offer a variety of cereals and other foods across the week at breakfast time. This might look like porridge, wholegrain toast or pancakes at home over the weekend when you’ve more time to prep. 

The nursery food guidelines recommend providing at least 3 different types of starchy carbohydrates at breakfast over a week. More variety equals more nutrients! Which is so important for little ones!

Can my baby eat breakfast cereal?

Yes! However it’s important to note that most breakfast cereals contain some added sugar and salt, so try to opt for those which contain the LEAST salt and sugar per 100g AND are green on the traffic light label. 100% porridge oats are a great breakfast option for babies as they don’t contain added sugar or salt. Weetabix contains a little salt but has the benefit of being fortified with lots of nutrients. Ultimately keep it varied in what you offer! Think porridge, pancakes and toast too!

Under the age of 1 babies shouldn’t have added sugar in their diet. Between the ages of 6 to 12 months, they should have less than 1g of salt per day. So it’s important to be vigilant and read the ingredients list on your food label when choosing a suitable breakfast cereal. However, you also don’t want to offer foods that are high in fibre to your baby, as otherwise, they can fill up before they’ve had a chance to take in other nutrients.

What extras should I serve with breakfast cereal?

As often as possible you want to offer your child a balanced breakfast. But what does this mean?! A bowl of cereal alone is not a complete meal. Aim to serve a portion of food from each of the food groups at each meal. Cereal is your starchy carbohydrate, for example, porridge oats or Weetabix. Cow’s milk (or a fortified unsweetened, plant-based milk alternative) would be your portion of dairy, alongside a portion of fruit or veg (this includes tinned, frozen or fresh-grated carrot and apple work well in porridge).

Within an early years setting the nursery food guidelines don’t require a protein-based food to be included at breakfast. However, at home, you could include a spoonful of nut butter or ground flaxseed to tick off all the food groups. 

Want more info about how to give children the best nutritious start in life?!

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