What are the Healthiest Breakfast Cereals?

If you have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that really isn’t an exaggeration. Breakfast is the meal that jump starts your entire day and gives you the energy to do the things you need to do.

Some of the healthiest breakfast cereals include cheerios, kix, shredded wheat, and quaker oat squares. Some cold breakfast cereals that are lower in added sugar, made with whole grains, and that have higher amounts of protein and fiber are good options to have for breakfast, but there are other healthy breakfast options as well! Some other healthy breakfast options are oatmeal, greek yogurt with granola and berries, or a fruit smoothie with greek yogurt and chia seeds.

Read on for tips on healthy breakfasts, how to choose a healthy cereal for kids, and some of the best options chosen by a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Popular Breakfasts for Kids and Teenagers

Popular breakfasts for kids include cereal with milk, poptarts, toaster strudels, toaster waffles, microwavable breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, yogurt, granola bars, protein bars, scrambled eggs, smoothies, and more. As you can probably guess, some of those have more nutritional benefits than others. 

A lot of these breakfasts are popular because they are quick and yummy. However, there are plenty of breakfast options that provide nutritional benefits and are also really tasty and easy to prepare- even for those crazy mornings.

Kids often get into a routine of eating similar foods because they know it will taste good and they don’t have to put too much effort into thinking of something to eat. However, you might be surprised at your child’s willingness to try new foods, especially breakfast foods!

Emphasize to kids that eating “healthy” doesn’t mean cutting out all sugar and only eating fruits and vegetables. Healthy foods can taste really good! Help them also recognize that eating a good balanced breakfast helps them feel good and have more energy during the day!

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast?

Cereal is a quick and easy breakfast that a lot of kids can make on their own. While cereal itself is not a “bad” food, many kids will feel better and more energized when they pair it with other foods. There are a few reasons why this is usually the case.

First of all, many cereals have a lot of added sugars. It is okay to have some added sugars in your food, but you might be surprised at how much is found in some cereals! 

Additionally, most cereals are fairly low in protein. Protein helps stabilize your blood sugar and can help prevent getting a “sugar crash.” Starting the day off with a super sugary meal without much protein to keep things stable can make your blood sugars do wacky things throughout the rest of the day and you may not feel your best. You can feel fatigued, lazy, irritable, and find it hard to concentrate later in the day if you started your day with a sugary breakfast.

Cereals don’t usually have much healthy fats or fiber. Like protein, these nutrients can also help to stabilize blood sugars and sustain energy. Healthy fats and fiber also help you feel more satisfied when you are eating! 

Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, which can be beneficial to get a few extra nutrients in before you start your day. Common fortified nutrients in cold cereal include iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, folic acid, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins. However, it’s better to get those nutrients from a nutritious breakfast of healthy fats, fiber, and healthy complex carbohydrates. Many cereals also boost impressive health claims that may not be entirely beneficial just from fortified nutrients.

I don’t know about you, but eating some cereals does not seem to satisfy me unless I eat a TON! However, with a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, cereal can still be part of a healthy breakfast. 

Tips for Including Cereal as Part of a Healthy Breakfast

If your child really likes cereal for breakfast, here are a few dietitian-approved tips for including cereal as part of a healthy breakfast.

  1. Be aware of the serving size. Rather than eating 3 or 4 times the serving size, teach kids to pair cereal with other nutrient dense foods.
  1. Compare the amount of added sugar listed on the nutrition facts label. If you are between two cereals that your child likes, choose the one with lower added sugar!
  1. Look at how much fiber is in the cereal. Look for one that has at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving.
  1. Choose lower sodium options. Packaged foods are notoriously high in sodium, which means teens usually get a lot more than they need! 
  1. Make sure you are choosing whole grain cereal options. Look for whole grains listed first on the ingredient list!
  1. Make homemade granola to eat with milk! When making things homemade, you have much more control over what goes into your food.
  1. Look for a higher protein milk to add more protein to your breakfast. I love the Fairlife low-fat milk! 
  1. Top cereal off with nuts, seeds, fruit, or cinnamon for extra flavor and satisfying fiber, fat, and protein.
  1. Choose a plain oatmeal or cream of wheat and add toppings to it as needed to add flavor!
  1. Add cereal as a topping to greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

Healthy Cereal Picks

Here are a few popular cereal options that tend to be a bit lower in sugar, higher in fiber and protein, and lower in sodium. 

  1. Oatmeal
  2. Cream of Wheat
  3. Bran Flakes
  4. Cheerios
  5. Kix
  6. Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares
  7. Shredded Wheat

This list doesn’t mean that these cereals are the best breakfast options available, and it doesn’t mean you can’t have other cereals either! The best practice is to just be more aware of what you are eating, and include lots of variety and balance at breakfast time!

Worst Breakfasts for Kids

The absolute WORST breakfast for kids is not breakfast at all! Eating breakfast is essential to waking up your body and mind and giving it the energy to function properly for the rest of the day. If not a lot of nutrient dense foods sound good in the morning, start where you can and your body should start giving you more hunger signals.

Tips for Healthy Breakfasts

If you don’t know how to plan a balanced breakfast, or are short on time in the mornings, here are some tips for feeding kids a healthy breakfast!

  • Choose a starch, a protein, and a fruit to make a nicely balanced breakfast that will provide them with lots of energy for their morning.
  • Create a list of starch options, protein options, and fruit options for teens to choose from. That way, they always have lots of ideas of things they can eat and don’t get bored eating the same thing every day. It also helps teens get more involved in the kitchen without having to ask a parent what is for breakfast every day!
  • Prepare anything you can the night before or at the beginning of the week to make the mornings a little less hectic. Maybe this means you portion out granola to go on yogurt, or you make and freeze a fruit smoothie. This can also include cutting up fruit so it is easily accessible in the morning. 
  • Remember that breakfast does not have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to always be super healthy. Eating something for breakfast is better than eating nothing.
  • Try and include new foods to keep breakfast interesting! 

If you struggle to think of healthy breakfast ideas, here are some options that show what a balanced breakfast might look like!

  • Cereal with milk, a hard boiled egg, and fruit
  • Dry cereal in greek yogurt with berries
  • Oatmeal made with milk, with added peanut butter, berries, and walnuts
  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries
  • Toast with peanut butter and banana, and chocolate milk
  • Fruit smoothie made with greek yogurt, with extra chia seeds or flax seeds
  • Fried egg sandwich with 100% fruit juice
  • Protein bar, toast with jam, and milk
  • Bagel with cream cheese, chocolate milk, and raisins
  • English muffin with an egg, and cheese, with a side of fruit
  • Crackers and cheese, milk, and grapes
  • Trail mix and chocolate milk
  • Cream of wheat made with milk, and toast with peanut butter and strawberries


Breakfast is such an essential meal for kids and teenagers! Eating breakfast can really have a huge impact on mood, energy levels, how well they perform in school, and in sports, and more!

That being said, cereal gets a lot of negative attention for being “unhealthy.” Rather than making cereal the bad guy, teenagers should be taught how to eat mindfully and be aware of how different foods make them feel. They can also be taught basic nutrition skills like reading a food label and balancing carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

Additionally, there are lots of other yummy and healthy breakfast ideas that can keep mornings interesting and exciting! Different foods provide different nutrients for the body and it is a great idea for teenagers to mix things up, include more variety into their meals, and try new foods! 


Cleveland Clinic. How to pick a healthy cereal. Health.clevelandclinic.org. Published October 21, 2020.

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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