Which breakfast cereals are healthy for children (and their parents)?

Breakfast cereal is a swear word in my house. When my Dad comes to stay he has 5 different types of cereal that he religiously mixes before serving himself up the biggest bowl you’ve ever seen. Ask any nutritionist about their views on cereal and they will huff and puff and get on their ‘cereal’ box!!

For good reason though. For far too long we’ve been tricked in to believing that cereal constitutes a good start to the day with its tempting marketing, seal of approval by the Queen, pictures of our finest sporting heroes and extra added nutrients – they do not tell you that they’ve had to add back in the nutrients they originally took out during the processing!

Now I hear you shouting at me, what are we supposed to eat and I don’t have time for anything else and are there any cereals that are any good and can my children still eat their favourite one????

So here is my guide to breakfast………………

Understanding the food label

Before you look at the food label you need to understand that a teaspoon of sugar is 5g. Ideally we do not want our children having more than 5 teaspoons a day or 25g.

Turn to your cereal packet and look for the nutrition table. You will see two sections. One tells you how much nutrition per 100g and then other per serving.

On cereal packets, the serving size is 30g. Have you ever actually measured out 30g, its ridiculously small? My Dad must have 100g in his bowl, it’s so big!!! (and yes I’ve tried to tell him)

On the nutrition label you will see a carbohydrate of which sugars section. This is the one you need to ascertain how much sugar is in there.

To give you an idea a nutritionist would say that 10g per 100g is A LOT.

The government would say that 22.5g of sugar is high although interestingly until 2014 the figure used to 15g. They increased the amount with absolutely no explanation or reasoning – no wonder Jamie Oliver is banging his head against the wall.

So ideally you want to be looking for cereals that contain less than 10g of sugar per 100g.

The average amount of sugar in a child’s serving of the most popular breakfast cereals is 2 teaspoons, that’s before you add anything else. Totally disgusting.

To put that in to context porridge has 1g per 100g od sugar and cocao pops has 35g per 100g. A cereal that might surprise you is Special K, always considered to be the dieters’ choice but this comes in at 17g!

Are any cereals good?

The only cereals I can recommend are:

  • Shredded Wheat
  • Weetabix
  • Oatibix
  • Ready Brek – original – although you are still better off with Scottish rolled oats
  • Oats so simple – original – same as above
  • Dorset Cereal Simply Nutty Muesli
  • Rude Health Puffed Rice

There may be some others but because there are so many you need to check the labels for yourself if you are unsure.

What’s the alternative?

In my house we avoid cereals for the vast majority of the time and my two children aged 4 years and 7 years will have the choice of these breakfasts:

  1. Banana pancakes
  2. Porridge
  3. Eggs done many ways with wholegrain bread/toast
  4. Toast with no added sugar peanut butter or cashew nut butter
  5. Pancakes, homemade healthy recipe
  6. Breakfast muffin, homemade healthy recipe
  7. Bircher muesli, homemade healthy recipe
  8. Frittata – omelette
  9. Granola, homemade healthy recipe
  10. Cooked English breakfast


This link has a table of many cereals giving their sugar and salt content coloured green, amber or red. It was done in 2012 but is still a really good indication.

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  1. Joanna on September 2, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Really interesting read, I always feel cereal is bad and try and stick to porridge and weetabix but it’s hard as the kids, especially my older ones, want the brands. I also do eggs but feel pancakes and muffins would be exciting for them, like they are getting a treat! I would welcome recipes for your breakfasts at home to try with my kids!

  2. Jo on January 4, 2017 at 2:36 am

    What a clear and brilliantly written article. I usually am left confused and baffled how to take nutritional advice into practice. I have printed this for my pinbard, for reference and ideas.

  3. Ross Krebs on July 19, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Offering better food choices to your child is important. Many years ago the message might have been “eat breakfast,” but that was before so many heavily processed foods with minimal nutritional benefits were available. (Remember when breakfast foods were eggs and toast, or plain oatmeal cooked on the stove, or a bowl of unsweetened cold cereal with milk?)

    Allowing children to eat many of the processed foods marketed for breakfast contributes to a diet that is high in sugar, sodium, and fat, and relatively low in fiber, which can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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