The 6 Best Baby Cereals of 2022, According to a Dietitian

Happy Baby Oatmeal is our top pick with iron fortified organic oats

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The most common first food when introducing solids in the United States is iron-fortified baby cereal. “Iron is important for growth and development, so picking a cereal that is iron-fortified is crucial,” says Annemarie Hofmeister, FNP.

Reviewed & Approved

Happy Baby Oatmeal is our top pick, made with organic whole grain oats and fortified with iron and vitamin C. If you are looking to test out different cereal options, try Gerber Cereal Basic Flavor Variety Pack, which includes oatmeal, rice, whole wheat and multigrain cereals.

There are many options on the market—ranging from single-grain cereals, such as rice, oat, or barley, to multi-grain options that combine two or more varieties. Having single-grain options to start out is important, as the AAP recommends initiating one new food at a time every three to five days. This will allow you to identify any potential allergic reactions. Once you have done this, it is completely fine to have multi-ingredient, multi-grain options that include the ingredients you have already initiated with your baby.

When you are ready to pick the best cereal for your baby, it's important to know what to look for. Hofneister says, “I encourage families to look for cereals with only a few ingredients, organic if able, and to be sure iron is listed as an added mineral.” In general, look for minimally processed options, prioritizing products with whole grains and iron. Try feeding your baby a variety of different cereals to make sure they are getting a balance of different nutrients.

Here, are our picks for the best baby cereals on the market:

Best Overall: Happy Baby Oatmeal

4.8
 Happy Baby Organics Clearly Crafted Cereal Whole Grains Oatmeal

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Fortified with iron and vitamin C

  • Certified organic

  • Resealable bag

Cons
  • Pricier than other options

Happy Baby Oatmeal tops our list with just three simple ingredients—oatmeal, vitamin C, and iron. The vitamin and mineral pairing is quite clever in this product, as vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. Given the importance of introducing iron at this age, having a product that is designed to support iron absorption is key. A single serving provides 45% of the daily value of iron.

Oatmeal is an excellent gluten-free whole grain option that contains fiber and protein, making it ideal for your growing baby's needs. Including oatmeal in your baby's diet helps them get enough of the major building blocks necessary to support their growth and development.

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

Age: 4-6+ months (Stage One) | Price per ounce: $0.47 | WIC Approved: No | Protein per serving: 2g | Fiber per serving: 1g | Iron per serving: 5mg (45% Daily Value)

What the Experts Say

“I recommend starting solids when the child is showing signs of interest in eating, such as watching a parent eat or grabbing at food, and once they have adequate head control and sit supported. I personally fed my three boys Happy Baby brand cereals as they only have three ingredients and a good amount of iron per serving.”Annemarie Hofmeister, FNP

Best Rice: Earth's Best Organic Infant Rice Cereal

 Earth's Best Organic Infant Cereal

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Iron-fortified

  • Certified organic

  • Trusted brand

Cons
  • Rice is higher in arsenic than other grains

  • Pricier than non-organic options

When it comes to selecting the best rice cereal for your infant, try to prioritize both variety and organic options. We recommend including 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 tolerated options on different days, such as oatmeal, quinoa, or a multigrain cereal. 

When selecting a rice cereal, organic choices inherently have lower levels of heavy metals. Rice is most at risk of being contaminated with arsenic due to its production method, the soil it is grown in, and the water rinsing process. Both organic and non-organic baby rice cereal will contain some arsenic, though organic picks contain lower levels of the heavy metal. Keep in mind that feeding your baby rice cereal is a good option, but it should be one of a variety of infant cereals your baby consumes.

Earth's Best Organic Rice Cereal is a trusted product that is non-GMO and iron-fortified.

Age: 4-6+ months (Stage 1) |Price per ounce: $0.59 | WIC Approved: Yes | Protein per serving: 1g | Fiber per serving: 0g | Iron per serving: 5mg (45% Daily Value)

What to Know About Arsenic in Rice

A concern that has been raised about infant rice cereal is the detection of arsenic. Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil and water—one that cannot be eliminated. Rice, in particular, absorbs arsenic from the soil and water used to grow it. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first released a warning about the level of inorganic arsenic present in rice products, including popular infant cereals. Understandably, this led to concern among parents. A 2020 follow-up from the FDA released guidance for industry on an acceptable level of arsenic, consistent with the AAPs recommendation. The FDA is continuing to test and monitor arsenic levels in various infant foods available on the market. Of note, the FDA still recommends iron-fortified rice cereal as a good option for your baby, as long as you are also feeding your baby a variety of other foods.

Best on a Budget: Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Quaker oats old fashioned

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Likely already in your pantry

  • Inexpensive

  • Naturally contains zinc

Cons
  • Not iron-fortified

  • Requires a blender or food processor

Oatmeal—an affordable, family-favorite pantry staple—can be a great option for your baby. Just cook the oats as you normally do, toss the oatmeal into a blender, pulse several times until you achieve the smooth consistency your baby requires, 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. Therefore, if exclusively breastfeeding, including an oatmeal-based cereal is a great addition.

Keep in mind that it is not iron-fortified, so you may want to accompany it with a supplement or an iron-fortified option. Talk to your healthcare provider to come up with the best plan for ensuring your baby meets their iron requirements.

Old Fashioned Quaker Oats is a budget-friendly option that the whole family can enjoy. You can simply modify the consistency when serving it to your baby. It may just take a few additional steps compared to other baby cereal options.

Age: 4+ months (blended to desired consistency) | Price per ounce: $0.18 | WIC Approved: Yes | Protein per serving: 2g | Fiber per serving: 2g | Iron per serving: 2mg (10% Daily Value)

Best Multigrain: Beech-Nut Multigrain Baby Cereal

Beech-Nut Organic Complete Multigrain Baby Cereal

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Multigrain to promote variety

  • Twist-top with measuring cup built in 

  • Iron-fortified

Cons
  • Not suitable as first food

Beech-Nut Multigrain baby cereal contains oat, wheat, and rice flours. It is iron-fortified, meeting 60% of the daily value of iron per serving. Unique to Beech-Nut is their twist-top canister with a measuring cup built into the lid. This added feature allows you to measure on-the-go if you have the ability to take the canister with you. 

While it is important to include a variety of grains, the AAP does recommend introducing new single ingredients every three to five days. Therefore, this multigrain cereal will not be your best option as a first cereal being that it is a combination of three single grains (oat, wheat, and rice). Multi-grain cereals become a great option once you know your baby can tolerate each individual grain. Once all are tolerated, the variety helps ensure your baby has an array of vital nutrients.

Age: 4-6+ months (Stage One) |Price per ounce: $0.28 | WIC Approved: Yes | Protein per serving: 2g | Fiber per serving: 1g | Iron per serving: 5mg (45% Daily Value)

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.

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.

Ultimately, 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 Whole Wheat: Gerber Whole Wheat Baby Cereal

Gerber Whole Wheat Baby Cereal

Source: Gerber

Pros
  • Single ingredient whole grain

  • Fortified with iron, vitamins C and E, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins

  • Non-GMO

Cons
  • Extensive ingredient list due to fortification

  • Added preservative

Gerber is one of the few brands that makes a single-ingredient whole wheat cereal. This is notably important as it is recommended to introduce one new food at a time. Wheat is considered a major allergen, so introducing a whole wheat single-ingredient product can help establish whether or not your baby has a food allergy early on. 

Earlier, we mentioned that the simpler the ingredient list, the better. Gerber is extensively fortified when compared to some others on this list. The Gerber Whole Wheat cereal is fortified with iron, vitamins C and E, zinc, calcium, and six different B vitamins on its ingredient list. 

When considering a baby food that is a single ingredient product, it is important to remember that supplemental iron should be prioritized and vitamin C is an added bonus to aid in iron absorption. Fortifications on top of those two are helpful to some but not necessary as your baby will also be consuming either breast milk or formula as their main nutrition source. 

Oftentimes, additives are supplemented in food products to extend their shelf life. Some experts feel that certain additives, such as potassium phosphate, should be avoided when it comes to infant foods. If you are comfortable with this additive, Gerber Whole Wheat makes for a great whole grain option when choosing infant cereals.

Age: 4-6+ months (Stage One) | Price per ounce: $0.33 | WIC Approved: Yes | Protein per serving: 1g | Fiber per serving: 1g | Iron per serving: 5mg (45% Daily Value)

Best Variety Pack: Gerber Baby Cereal Basic Flavor Variety Pack

Gerber baby cereal Variety Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Single ingredient and multigrain options

  • Fortified with iron, vitamins C and E, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins

  • Non-GMO

Cons
  • Extensive ingredient list due to fortification

  • Added preservative

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

As discussed, providing various single whole grains, followed by multigrain products, is the safest and smartest way to introduce complementary foods to your little one. The Gerber variety pack contains four products: rice, oatmeal, whole wheat, and a multigrain option.

One drawback to this variety pack is that it does not come in an organic version. Organic vs. non-organic is no different from a nutrition perspective, but there is a risk of pesticide residue exposure and higher arsenic levels in non-organic rice cereals specifically. If you are alternating different cereals to ensure variety, according to the AAP, you do not need to worry about arsenic levels in your baby's rice cereal.

Age: 0-6+ months | Price per ounce: $1.33 | WIC Approved: Yes | Protein per serving: 1-2g | Fiber per serving: 0-1g | Iron per serving: 6.75mg (60% Daily Value)

Final Verdict

Happy Baby Oatmeal is our best overall pick for baby cereal. With just three ingredients—oatmeal, vitamin C, and iron—your baby is getting only what you want them to have. It takes the pick for simplicity, whole ingredients and fortification.

How We Selected

Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, LDN and Brittany Scanniello, RD consulted with trusted peers in the pediatric healthcare system and referenced multiple studies and papers. They looked to the American Academy of Pediatrics for infant feeding guidelines and recommendations and the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and Centers for Disease Control for updates on food handling and practices. They used their experience in clinical practice as pediatric dietitians to inform their category-specific choices and further researched baby cereal ingredients by diving deeper into published clinical research.

What to Look for in a Baby Cereal 

Variety

Once you know your baby tolerates a variety of different grains, be sure to mix it up! Rotate through various whole grains and even rotate through product lines. Each brand of baby cereal is made with different grains (oats, rice, quinoa, barley, etc.). Each grain has different nutrient ratios, making it even more important to introduce variety. 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

The fewer ingredients in a product, the better. Babies do not need us to increase food's palatability with added ingredients and preservatives. They need whole foods in their most natural state. This is an instance where more is not necessarily better. 

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. 

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

Key Nutrients

It is important to look for iron-fortified cereal, as a baby’s iron stores start to deplete at 6 months of age. Other nice-to-have ingredients include vitamin C, to aid in total iron absorption, as well as vitamin D (if exclusively breastfeeding). Formula-fed infants will likely be receiving enough vitamin D from their fortified infant formula.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should baby cereal be an infant's first food?

    Baby cereal can certainly be a great first food for your infant, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start with whatever age-appropriate food you choose, whether it be baby cereal, purees of fruits or veggies, or soft fruits and vegetables.

  • When can babies have cereal?

    Daniel Sahm, MD says, “I recommend starting baby cereals between 4 and 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.”

    It is also important to ensure that your child is able to sit supported. You might want to look for your child showing interest in eating, such as watching a parent eat or grabbing at food. Work with a pediatric healthcare provider to decide the best time to start solids based on your baby's growth, development, and needs.

  • How should baby cereal be introduced?

    Once you have chosen which single ingredient product of choice to introduce first, start with 1-2 tablespoons and mix with either breast milk or formula to the desired consistency. This is typically a thicker milk-like texture. Begin introducing one to two times per day as tolerated. After three to five days of your first single-ingredient cereal, you can introduce a different grain or food. Continue this pattern to provide a variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients. This technique allows you to identify any allergies if one were to arise as well as ensure your baby an array of vital nutrients.

  • Can I put cereal in my baby's bottle?

    It is not recommended to add cereal to your baby’s bottle unless advised by your pediatrician or another healthcare provider. Historically, providers would recommend adding cereal to a baby’s bottle to help with reflux or fussiness. The AAP no longer recommends this practice, as it can increase the risk of choking or cause an increased rate of weight gain. One exception would be if advised by a Speech Pathologist to thicken feeds if a baby has trouble swallowing thin liquids.

  • When can babies have rice cereal?

    Rice is a staple in many cultures and is often affordable and convenient. Rice cereal is safe to consume during the early stages of introducing solid food as part of a varied, healthy diet. Since rice has a higher risk of arsenic contamination than other grains, it is important to ensure it is not the only food your baby is eating.

    When starting solids, infants are generally consuming less than 3 tablespoons per day. Having a variety of foods from various sources and manufacturers ensures that even if a single ingredient is higher in toxic metals, that single ingredient will not be high in your child’s diet.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with her master's degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and a specialization in pediatric nutrition. She works as a clinical dietitian at Nemours/A.I duPont Hospital for Children and is a regular contributor to KidsHealth.com and the Nemours Promise Blog through Nemours Children Health System.

Additional reporting by Brittany Scanniello.

As a Registered Dietitian, Brittany Scanniello uses her clinical expertise to cut through marketing claims and get straight to the science. These are all products that she has researched, vetted, and would recommend to her own clients in private practice as well as include in the diet of her two young daughters.

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13 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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