The 7 Best Baby Cereals of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Select the best cereal for your baby's needs

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Happy Baby Oatmeal at Amazon

"Happy Baby Oatmeal has three ingredients—oatmeal, vitamin C, and iron."

Best Organic: WutsupBaby Organic Quinoa Infant & Baby Cereal at Amazon

" WutsupBaby is great for on-the-go families with a pre-portioned package that will fit right in your diaper bag."

Best Rice: Earth’s Best Organic Infant Rice Cereal at Amazon

"This product is iron fortified for infant growth and development."

Best on a Budget: Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal at Amazon

"Oatmeal is a wonderful whole grain containing protein, fiber, and minerals, including phosphorus and zinc."

Best Multigrain: Beech-Nut Multigrain Baby Cereal at Walmart

"They offer a twist-top canister with a measuring cup built into the lid."

Best Single Ingredient: Holle Oatmeal Cereal at organicbabyshop.com

"This product follows EU's organic standards and regulations."

Best Variety Pack: Gerber Cereal Organic Variety Pack at Amazon

"The Gerber variety packs contain three products: rice cereal, oatmeal, and a multigrain product. "

At your child’s six-month well visit, it is likely your pediatrician will begin a conversation with you about starting complementary foods. It is most common to begin with baby cereals mixed with breast milk or infant formula to continue providing a nutritionally balanced meal while advancing your child’s oral skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a few general nutrition principles when introducing first foods. 

The AAP recommends introducing solid foods at around 6 months of age because this is when a child has displayed appropriate developmental milestones such as adequate head control and the ability to sit on their own. Around this time, you may notice your little one reaching for some of your food and showing more interest in what you are eating. These are signs that your child is ready to introduce solids.

The AAP also recommends starting with iron-fortified food. For exclusively breastfed infants, iron needs to be supplemented in the diet starting at 4 to 6 months of age as breast milk becomes an insufficient iron source. The same is true for formula-fed infants receiving less than one liter of formula per day.

Iron is essential in the diet of infants to support neurologic development and immune function. Iron-rich baby foods include pureed meats, legumes, some vegetables, and iron-fortified whole grain baby cereals. Given that they are mixed with breastmilk and formula, the relatively bland taste, fiber content, and iron—cereals are typically the perfect starting place for complementary foods.

Here, the best baby cereals:

Best Overall: Happy Baby Oatmeal

 Happy Baby Organics Clearly Crafted Cereal Whole Grains Oatmeal

Courtesy of Amazon

Happy Baby Oatmeal has three ingredients—oatmeal, vitamin C, and iron. The vitamin and mineral pairing is actually quite clever in this product, as vitamin C increases the absorption of iron in the human body.

Given the importance of introducing iron at this age, it’s reassuring to see a product designed to support iron absorption. Oatmeal is an excellent gluten-free whole grain containing small amounts of fiber and protein, which is perfect for a growing baby's needs.

Happy Baby Cereal comes in a resealable bag, which is great to maintain freshness and shelf life.

Good to Know

You may have noticed infant foods making the news in early February 2021. A Subcommittee within the U.S. House of Representatives reported that toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury were found in some infant foods.

Unfortunately, this is not new information. Low levels of toxic heavy metals have been present in the global food supply forever as they are naturally present in water and soil. Factors such as growth conditions, industrialization, and farming practices can increase heavy metals concentration in plant-based foods.

This document referred to very specific pureed and prepared baby foods across four product lines. The data reported was collected between 2017 and 2019, prior to August 2020, when the FDA provided finalized guidelines for inorganic arsenic levels in infant foods. It is worth noting that these companies have confirmed they are currently compliant with these 2020 guidelines.

So, where does this leave us? Most pediatric health care providers will agree on the same word—variety. Having a variety of foods from various sources and manufacturers ensures that even if a single ingredient is high in toxic metals, that single ingredient will not be high in your child’s diet. It is important to note, the primary products impacted by these findings are pureed baby foods and rice-containing products.

Best Organic: WutsupBaby Organic Quinoa Infant & Baby Cereal

WutsupBaby Organic Quinoa Infant & Baby Cereal

Courtesy of Amazon

WutsupBaby is a newer brand on the market, starting production in 2010. Their product line uses the protein powerhouse ingredient quinoa, which is also high in fiber.

WutsupBaby is non-GMO Project Verified and certified USDA Organic. It's always a good idea to consider an organic product for your baby, as organic foods have fewer pesticides, produce a lower carbon footprint, and have lower levels of toxic heavy metals.

Note that WutsupBaby is not an iron-fortified cereal. While there is some naturally-occurring iron in quinoa, it is not enough to meet a child’s needs at that age. So, if you are introducing this around 6 months of age and your child has no other added source of iron, a supplement or iron-rich alternative is recommended with this product.

WutsupBaby is great for on-the-go families with a pre-portioned package that will fit right in your diaper bag, purse, or even back pocket.

Best Rice: Earth’s Best Organic Infant Rice Cereal

 Earth's Best Organic Infant Cereal

Courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to selecting the best rice cereal for your infant, try to combine two principles—variety and organics. It is always recommended to have a variety of grains and cereals, so if you choose to include rice in your child’s diet, remember to switch it up by including other options on different days, such as oatmeal, quinoa, or multigrain cereal.

Selecting an organic rice cereal inherently reduces the level of heavy metals. Rice is most commonly associated with the presence of arsenic due to its production method, the soil it is grown in, and the water rinsing process. So why, you may be asking yourself, would we even recommend rice cereals? Rice is a staple in many cultures, and infants are generally consuming less than three tablespoons per day. Rice cereal is certainly safe to consume in a varied, healthy diet and is affordable to manufacture.

Earth's Best Organic Rice Cereal is a trusted product that is non-GMO, easily digestible, and iron-fortified. Earth's Best is very easy to prepare, but if you're a more adventurous home cook, you can try making your own baby rice cereal.

Best on a Budget: Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Quaker oats old fashioned

Courtesy of Amazon

Yes, a family-favorite pantry staple can be a great option for your baby. Just toss some oatmeal in a blender, pulse several times, and there you have it—baby cereal. Oatmeal is a wonderful whole grain containing protein, fiber, and minerals, including phosphorus and zinc. Like iron, zinc becomes insufficient in maternal breast milk at six months, and including an oatmeal cereal is the perfect booster.

Adequate fiber in your child’s diet is important for long-term gut health, stool regularity, and blood sugar management. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are present in oatmeal. Each supports the body differently: soluble fiber helps to soften stools, and insoluble fiber binds and moves stool and waste throughout the body.

Old Fashioned Quaker Oats are a budget-friendly option that the whole family can enjoy. No need to purchase a box of baby-specific cereal. You can simply modify the cereal consistency before preparing for your baby.

Best Multigrain: Beech-Nut Multigrain Baby Cereal

Beech-Nut Organic Complete Multigrain Baby Cereal

Courtesy of Walmart

Most baby cereals come in a resealable pouch with serving size recommended on the back. Not Beech-Nut, they offer a twist-top canister with a measuring cup built into the lid. This is incredibly convenient, especially if you're trying to make a bowl of oatmeal for your baby in a hurry.

While there are no official recommendations for whole grain and fiber intake under one year of age, it is always important to return to embrace variety. Beech-Nut contains oat, wheat, and rice flours and is iron-fortified.

Best Single Ingredient: Holle Oatmeal Cereal

Holle Bio Organic Cereal

Courtesy of Organic Start

When considering a baby food that is a single ingredient product, it is important to remember that supplemental iron should be prioritized. Once that has been considered and supplemented, it is completely appropriate to utilize a single ingredient product. Holle Oatmeal Cereal takes the top pick among single-ingredient products.

Oftentimes, various additives and supplemented to our food supply to extend shelf life or increase taste. Babies don’t need us to increase their palatability; they need us to introduce whole foods in their most natural state to support a healthy, balanced and neutral relationship with food.

Of note, Holle is a European brand, so it does not undergo the same regulations as US-made products; however, the EU does have regulations on testing for the presence of toxic heavy metals in their food supply.

Best Variety Pack: Gerber Cereal Organic Variety Pack

Gerber baby cereal Variety Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

Rounding out the list is Gerber’s variety cereal pack. Gerber is the original in the baby food industry. Their products are high-quality, consistent, and readily available to consumers.

As discussed, providing various organic whole grains is the safest and smartest way to introduce complementary foods to your little one. The Gerber variety packs contain three products: rice cereal, oatmeal, and a multigrain product.

As your infant gets more adventurous, they could even try banana, peach, or apple mixed into their cereal. Introducing new flavors and textures early on can help prevent picky eating down the road. 

Final Verdict

Happy Baby (view at Amazon) is an organic product line with simple ingredients and includes complementary iron and vitamin C.

What to Look for in a Baby Cereal 

Variety

Always change up your grains. Rotate through various whole grains and even rotate through product lines. Not only will this increase your child's exposure to different tastes and textures, but it will also provide a variety of nutrients and decrease exposure to various heavy metals. 

Simplicity

Less ingredients are always preferred. Ideally, these products would have only three ingredients—grains, iron, and vitamin C.

FAQs

Should baby cereal be an infant's first food? 

Baby cereal is a perfect starting place for your infant, but it certainly is not mandatory. Introducing an iron-rich food that is easy to manipulate in the mouth, gentle on the stomach, and has a generally bland flavor typically points right to baby cereals. With that in mind, if you are interested in starting with banana, avocado, or even pureed iron-rich meat or legumes, that is perfectly safe as well. 

Which cereal is best to start with? 

Typically an oatmeal cereal is an easy starting place. Picking a single ingredient product and mixing it with a known taste, such as breast milk or your baby’s preferred formula, increases the chances your little one will have a successful feeding experience. 

Why does rice cereal potentially contain arsenic? 

The way in which rice is produced, including the soil and water used to grow it, naturally has high levels of arsenic. Over the years, industrialization and the reuse of soil have amplified this issue. At this time, there is no reason to suspect that arsenic levels have risen over time, but rather, our understanding of the impact of arsenic on the human body has enhanced.

Unfortunately, this is a global issue. Safe levels of arsenic, and other heavy metals, can be measured in our food supply. Thankfully, the FDA has recently caught up with the EU in establishing safe and mandated minimums. 

Why should you not put cereal in a baby bottle?

Historically, providers and parents alike would recommend adding a little bit of rice or oatmeal cereal to a baby’s bottle to help with reflux symptoms or just generally fussy babies. The AAP no longer recommends this practice.

Before 4 months of age, an infant’s digestive tract is not mature enough to fully process rice cereal nutrition. Studies have actually found a link to increased food allergies following the early introduction of baby cereals. It can also become a potential choking hazard.

The one exception to this recommendation would be if a Speech and Language Pathologist advise you to thicken your baby’s formula due to a concern for unsafe feeding patterns and possible aspiration. 

What Experts Say

“I recommend starting baby cereals between 4 to 6 months when babies display adequate head control and can safely eat and digest solid foods. I typically recommend iron-fortified cereals to help increase—and sometimes replace—iron stores.”Daniel Sahm, M.D.

Why Trust Verywell Family?

To write this article, Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, LDN consulted with trusted peers in the pediatric healthcare system and referenced multiple studies and papers. She looked to the AAP for infant feeding guidelines and recommendations and the FDA, EPA and CDC for updates on food handling and practices. She used her experience in clinical practice to inform her category-specific choices and furthered her education on baby cereal ingredients by diving deeper into published clinical research.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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