How to choose breakfast cereals for kids

There are so many cereals to choose from! Here are some label-reading tips to help us make good decisions for our kids.

What makes a healthy breakfast cereal for kids?

Breakfast is an essential start to the day; it refuels children’s brains as well as their bodies. Cereals with milk provide carbohydrate, some protein, B vitamins, fibre and calcium. Add fruit to that and there’s more fibre plus a wider range of vitamins and minerals.

It’s unlikely you’ll need added vitamins and minerals in a cereal if you’re eating a balanced diet which includes fruit, vegetables and cereals as well as meat or other protein foods, as they will provide vitamins and minerals in a form more readily absorbed by the body.

Sugar

Earlier this year, Consumer magazine compared 26 breakfast cereals specifically aimed at children and found that over half of them were at least 1/3 sugar.

Often the excuse is that people are just going to add sugar at home anyway, but that’s really no excuse at all; we should be given the choice. High amounts of sugar in the diet are related to tooth decay as well as overweight and obesity, which is on the increase amongst our children.

Look for products with less than 15g of sugar per 100g, or if they contain dried fruit up to 25g per 100g.

Sodium

It’s best not to give children foods with high amounts of sugar or sodium as ‘everyday foods’ as they’ll become accustomed to these tastes. For children (and adults other than those on a low-sodium diet) look for a moderate sodium content of up to 400mg per 100g.

Fibre

For adults, breakfast cereals are often an opportunity to increase a low fibre intake, but kids don’t need as much fibre in their diet. Look for a cereal with more than 5g of fibre per 100g but no more than 15g.

In the past a rule of thumb for kids fibre needs (in grams) was to use their age and add five, but with the latest dietary recommendations you’ll need to add ten to the child’s age.