Cheerios have been around for over 80 years, so it’s no wonder they are so popular with multiple generations across the world.
With this famous cereal so widely loved and easily available in our local shops, as a new parent you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to give your little one some Cheerios, and if so, at what age they can be introduced.
As with other finger foods, Cheerios can typically be introduced to your baby once they begin eating solids, which is usually around the 6 to 9 month mark.
But should you favor one flavor over the other?
Are there issues with giving your baby too many?
And how do they compare to other processed snacks, like puffs?
Let’s find out.
What Are Cheerios?
Cheerios is a brand of cereal manufactured by General Mills, the multinational American food company that produces other well-known brands like Betty Crocker, Nature Valley and Haagen-Dazs.
Cheerios are primarily made with whole grain oats and, like most breakfast cereals, they are fortified with iron.
They can be found in around 20 different varieties – all are gluten free, but as you’d expect the ingredients, level of sweetness and the overall “healthiness” of each product varies depending on exactly what’s inside.
For example, one cup of Original Cheerios has only 1 gram of added sugar, whereas sweeter variants like Frosted Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon and Honey Nut have 12 grams of added sugar per serving.
Clearly one cup (around 37 grams) is a much bigger serving than you’d ever give your baby.
But given experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children under 2 years of age do not consume any added sugar at all, if you are going to give your baby Cheerios then it’s best to stick to the Original version, because these have by far the least amount of sugar.
When Can Babies Eat Cheerios?
A common question among parents is can a baby eat Cheerios without having any teeth?
If you’ve ever felt inside your baby’s mouth and had the misfortune of them biting down on your finger, then you will quickly realize that a baby’s gums are surprisingly firm!
Babies do not therefore need to have teeth before they can start eating solids, but what is important is that they are showing signs that they are ready to move on to solids.
Common signs of readiness include:
- Your baby can sit upright without needing any assistance.
- They can hold their head steady without excessive movement or bouncing.
- Your baby has the coordination to pick up an object by themselves, and move it towards their mouth.
- They are beginning to show an interest in feeding themselves.
- Rather than spitting food straight out, your child can actually swallow food.
Related: Your Must Have Baby & Toddler Feeding Guide
The manufacturer of Cheerios have also tried to directly answer this question, and their advice is that parents can introduce Cheerios when your child:
- Has some experience chewing (even though they may not have many / any teeth).
- Your baby has developed the “pincer grasp”, allowing them to pick up small objects between their thumb and their index finger.
As babies develop at slightly different rates it’s difficult to give a precise age when your child can eat Cheerios, but typically most parents find they can be introduced somewhere between 6 to 9 months of age.
Are Cheerios A Choking Hazard?
Cheerios are typically not a choking hazard for babies, because, they are small in size, and crucially because they dissolve easily in a child’s mouth.
However, as with any food there are still risks or considerations for parents to think about, most notably the fact you should never leave your baby unattended while they eat food, and you should always pay close attention to what your child puts in their mouth.
Which Cheerios Should You Give Your Baby?
When it comes to deciding which flavor to buy, parents don’t need to think too hard, because by far the best option is to give your baby Original Cheerios.
As we saw above, some other flavors can have up to 12 times more sugar, which should immediately rule them out given the advice from experts about babies under two not eating any added sugar at all.
It’s probably quite obvious that flavors like Chocolate (which children should avoid until they are two) and Honey (more on this below) contain sugar or other sweeteners, but you might be wondering can babies have multigrain Cheerios?
Multigrain Cheerios are surprisingly high in sugar – despite being labelled as a Heart Healthy cereal – one small adult serving (39g) serving contains 8 grams of added sugar.
This might be lower than the 12grams of added sugar found in the Chocolate and Frosted varieties, but parents should be aware that even healthy-sounding flavours like Multigrain are still best avoided when giving your baby Cheerios as a finger food.
When Can Babies Eat Honey Nut Cheerios?
Honey Nut Cheerios are undoubtedly tasty, but as the name suggests, they contain Honey, which is an ingredient babies should completely avoid in their first year.
So babies under one should definitely not be given the Honey Nut variety.
Knowing this, you next question is likely to be can my 1 year old eat Honey Nut Cheerios?
If you want to go by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of not giving children under two any added sugar, then it’s best not to give your 1 year old Honey Nut Cheerios, because of their high sugar content.
Honey Nut Cheerios contain Sugar, Honey and Brown Sugar Syrup, and these all contribute to the 12 grams of sugar in each cup.
However, parenting comes with a lot of decision-making and discretion, so the answer really depends on what you’re most comfortable with.
A very small amount of Honey Nut Cheerios here and there is unlikely to be a cause for concern, but given the Original version contain much less sugar, it’s best to stick to this Original version until your baby is at least two years of age.
What’s The Deal With Sugar Anyway?
Most of us enjoy sweet treats like cake, ice cream and candy, but why do experts recommend children limit their sugar intake?
If children consistently have too much added sugar, it can lead to a large blood sugar spikes over time, and as a result your little one can be at a higher risk of insulin resistance, prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
Too much sugar can also impact your child’s mood, sleep, activity and hyperactivity levels, which are all things that most parents want to keep consistent both throughout the day and from day to day.
Cheerios vs Puffs: What’s The Difference?
Another popular and convenient finger food is puffs, so it’s natural for parents to wonder how these compare to Cheerios.
The first thing to point out is that both are classified as processed foods, so nutritionally-speaking it’s better to give your child foods like fruit, vegetables, meat and fish when first introducing finger foods.
On balance there seems to be consensus that Cheerios are better than puffs, provided you opt for the Original version.
The main reasons for this include the fact that Cheerios are made of whole grain oat vs refined grains for puffs, Original Cheerios have lower levels of sugar and salt than most types of puffs, and Cheerios last for longer once opened, so they might work out more economical.