Breakfast has a reputation for being the most important meal of the day and, although we don’t like to pick favourites, we think it’s well deserved!
Eating breakfast every day is a great habit to instil in your child for them to carry into adulthood. People who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to have a healthier diet overall, maintain a healthy weight and avoid heart disease and diabetes. Definitely a habit your child will thank you for in later life!
We understand that as parents it can sometimes be tricky to find the time to prepare healthy breakfast options for your kids. Luckily cereal is a quick, easy and delicious breakfast option that you can always have up your sleeve. However, many of the tempting boxes in the cereal aisle are more like sugar bombs than balanced breakfast. In this article, our in-house dietitians Anna & Alex share exactly how you can pick the healthiest breakfast cereal for your kids, plus some of their top recommendations!
Why is breakfast so important?
After 10-12 hours of sleep (if you’re lucky!) your child has depleted their energy stores and their body is just itching to be refuelled. Breakfast is a chance to stock up on energy for the brain and body to use throughout the morning.
Just think about how hard it is to focus when there’s no food on board! By feeding their brain and filling their tummy, your child will find it easier to pay attention, learn and remember. Their mood and behaviour is also likely to improve; after all, kids get hangry too! Plus they’ll have energy to move and groove around the playground.
A balanced breakfast also provides a big boost of nutrients essential for growth, development and good health. This goes a long way towards helping your child meet their daily nutritional requirements.
Is cereal a healthy option for breakfast?
For one, what could be easier than pouring a bowl of ready-to-eat cereal for a fuss-free start to the morning?
Being made from grains, cereal can also be terrifically nutritious. It’s a super source of carbohydrates (the body’s preferred source of energy), fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Every bowl of cereal is just begging to be covered in milk, topped with fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt. Right away you can tick off serves from 3 of the 5 food groups – grains, dairy and fruit – and rest easy knowing your child has a belly full of goodness.
What to look for when choosing a cereal
Unfortunately not every cereal you come across is a healthy option for your child. This is why it’s important to read the back of packet before buying.
Ingredients: flip the cereal box over and run your eye down the ingredients list; ideally, the first ingredient will be a whole grain of some description. Whole grains, as their name implies, have all 3 parts of the grain – the bran, endosperm and germ – intact. Each part of the grain contains a unique mix of nutrients including fibre, starch, protein, healthy fats, B vitamins and antioxidants. Whole grains also tend to be digested and absorbed more slowly for energy which will last through the morning.
Sugar: Next, you want to look at the sugar content. If a cereal is high in sugars, it’s time to put your detective skills to the test and investigate where these are coming from. Some sugars are naturally occurring (i.e. they come from fruit), which you don’t need to worry about too much; we’re more concerned about added sugars, which aren’t good for much other than a surge of short-lived energy. If sugar, or another name for sugar, is listed in the first 3 ingredients, it’s worth looking for a healthier alternative.
Fibre: Another nutrient to keep on your radar is fibre. A cereal high in fibre will keep your child feeling full so they can focus on playing and learning. It will also feed their friendly gut bugs, keep their digestive system healthy and help prevent constipation. A diet rich in fibre can reduce your child’s risk of developing diseases such as heart disease, bowel cancer and diabetes.
Wondering what constitutes a “low” sugar content and “high” fibre content? We’ve put together this little cheat sheet to help you choose a seriously good cereal next time you’re at the store.
Healthy cereals for kids
To save you time and effort, we compared over 250 cereals to determine the top products available from major Australian supermarkets. Here are the results:
Whether you’re after a healthier alternative to your child’s favourite cereal or looking to introduce them to cereal for the first time, you might like to give one of these fruit-free options a go!
While dried fruit is a source of beneficial nutrients, eating it frequently can increase your child’s risk of tooth decay. Since cereal is an everyday food for many children, we’ve chosen cereals that are free from dried fruit to keep their chompers in good order.
Alternative healthy breakfast ideas for toddlers
- If your child isn’t keen on cereal, not to worry – it’s not the end of the world! Other nutritious breakfast options include:
Porridge topped with stewed fruit
- Overnight oats
- Whole grain toast with baked beans, eggs, veggies, cheese, fruit or nut butter
- Smoothie made with fruit, milk and yoghurt
- Plain Greek yoghurt flavoured with fresh fruit
- Egg & veggie muffins
Enjoy more tips and tricks from our in-house Dietitians Anna and Alex – The Key To Stress-Free Family Mealtimes.