Children require foods that pack a nutritional punch throughout the day, and especially in the mornings. But it can be tough to find the time to prepare a complete breakfast for the littles, so we moms and dads rely on foods like cereal to help get the kids to school, and get to work, on time while ticking the major nutritional boxes. Remember to include at least 4-5 food groups at every meal; for breakfast this could include whole grain cereal like the ones mentioned below, dairy or fortified non-dairy milk, fruit and healthy fat (almonds, chia seeds) or lean protein. Below are the best cereal options for kids that I found at my local Redondo Beach Trader Joe’s grocery.
My Criteria for “The Best”
Boxed cereals can be higher in sugar than fiber, and in that way, they can be more like dessert than a hearty grain bowl. To determine the criteria for the best children’s cereals, I looked to Maryann Jacobsen, a pediatric dietitian who has written on this topic in 2010. See her post for her criteria, which includes 12 g whole grains per serving, 3 g fiber or more per serving (a good source of fiber), 10 g or less sugar per serving, no artificial colors or preservatives, and bonus points for fortification with vitamins and minerals. For this post, I chose the following criteria:
3 g or more per serving
8 g or less per serving (less than 2 tsp sugar)
Optional, but desirable for those with iron deficiency or anemia.
My criteria is focused on cereals with two main qualities: higher in fiber and lower in sugar.
Cereals with at least 3 g fiber will most likely be high in whole grains, and some labels do not include information about the grams of whole grain per serving, so I chose not to focus on that. I also made the criteria for sugar stricter, bringing the rule for inclusion on our list to a lower 8 g of sugar, the equivalent of 2 teaspoons, although less added sugar in everyday food is always better since kids are exposed to so much at school, parties and other events. (To make unsweetened cereal sweeter, you can always add fiber-packed fruit like diced mango or berries.) Trader Joe’s line of products do not contain artificial dyes or preservatives so by shopping there, parents know they are reducing the amount of artificial colors in their children’s diets. See this article for why reducing artificial colors is advantageous for children: Artificial food colors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for .
Without further ado, here are the best cereals for kids at Trader Joe’s
10 Best Cereals for Kids at Trader Joe’s:
1. Joe’s O’s Toasted Whole Grain Oats* (1 cup serving): 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar
2. Trader Joe’s Shredded Bite Size Wheats (1 cup): 5 g fiber, 0 g sugar
3. Trader Joe’s Multigrain O’s* (1 cup): 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar
4. Triple Berry O’s* (3/4 cup): 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar
5. Trader Joe’s Mango O’s (seasonal item) (1 cup): 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar
6. Toasted Oatmeal Flakes* (3/4 cup): 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar
7. Kashi Go LEAN Original (1 ¼ cup): 13 g fiber, 8 g sugar
Note that Kashi Go LEAN Crunch contains 13 g sugar
8. Kashi Organic Autumn Wheat (29 biscuits): 6 g fiber, 7 g sugar
9. Weetabix* (2 biscuits): 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar
Weetabix can tend to break down pretty quickly in milk, but if your child is a fast eater they will still get a good crunch.
10. Barbara’s Multigrain Puffins* (3/4 cup): 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar
11. Barbara’s other cereals: Cinnamon Puffins, Original Puffins, Multigrain Spoonfuls (3/4 cup): all contain 4-5 g fiber and 5 g sugar. These are not fortified like the Multigrain Puffins are.
Note that Barbara’s Morning Oat Crunch is higher in sugar (11 g per 1 cup serving).
*Fortified with vitamins and minerals
Another great way to eat high fiber, low sugar breakfast cereals: Combine them! Trader Joe’s has a delicious line of Bite Size Wheats both with and without sugary frosting. Since the original Bite Size Wheats contain 0 g sugar–and all varieties are high in fiber—try combining the plain with the Maple & Brown Sugar or Frosted varieties to reduce the sugar to 5-6 g per 1 cup serving. The same can be done with regular Joe’s O’s and the Honey Nut Joe’s O’s or Fruity O’s. For more information on how to deal with sugary cereals, see Jill Castle’s post on the topic.
“Clusters” and “Just the Clusters” Cereals are Highest in Sugar. I found that the Trader Joe’s “Clusters” cereal line (Very Berry, Super Nutty, etc.) was adequate in fiber, but all contained at least 11 g sugar per serving. Similarly the “Just the Clusters Granola” cereal line (Vanilla Almond, Maple Pecan, etc.) was adequate in fiber but contained at least 12 g sugar per serving. The Low Fat Granola varieties also contained over 10 g sugar per serving.
What was the cereal highest in sugar, with 18 g or 4 ½ tsp sugar per 1 cup serving? Trader Joe’s Organic Raisin Bran Clusters. It was also one of the highest in fiber at 9 g, so this cereal would be a good option for combining with another flaked cereal to reduce sugar content in the bowl.
Sarah Pruett Soufl, MS, RD is a non-diet Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about helping families develop feeding and eating habits that help children cultivate life-giving relationships with food long-term. Learn more: souflnutrition.com