Creative Commons License photo credit: maia hopes.

My daughter loves Froot Loops® for breakfast. Every morning she likes to have a bowl of these colorful rings with milk. As if it is not sweet enough for her, she squeezes a generous dose of honey over it from her Honey-Bear bottle. It has become her daily routine. She does not want to eat any other cereal. In fact, we carried two boxes of Froot Loops with us to India because we knew she was not going to touch anything else in the morning!

I know, it is not really healthy. Surprisingly – and to our great relief – she is not big on other sugary stuff, which is why we don’t try to stop her from enjoying her favorite breakfast cereal. Because eating breakfast each morning is very important, we have accepted her preference.

Still, we have been trying to find a way to reduce the sugar level in her breakfast bowl. This weekend, we stumbled upon Fruity Cheerios® which looked almost identical to the box of Froot Loops sitting on the nearby shelf. Since Cheerios is one of our favorite food brands, we decided to give it a try!

We also bought a box of our regular Froot Loops, just to be safe!

Front of the box labeling on Fruity Cheerios emphasized whole grain, calcium and vitamin D. But on a closer look, as shown in the following table, it has lower sugar and higher levels of other vitamins and minerals compared to Froot Loops.

When I showed the Fruity Cheerios box to my daughter, she paused for a moment but then happily tried it instead of the Froot Loops. Just for the record, I did not try to trick her into thinking that I was giving her the usual Froot Loops. Plus she can now read the box anyway!

She still added the regular dose of honey….oh well!

Overall, I think it is a better choice, but in some ways you could call it the lesser of the two evils. There are, no doubt, healthier breakfast choices, but then we don’t have that option right now. We plan to slowly start introducing her to other foods at breakfast.

What do you think? Share your child’s breakfast favorites in comments below!

Disclaimer – I have not received any sponsorship or free samples of product for writing this review. For complete nutritional information check out Fruity Cheerios and Froot Loops.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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23 comments

  1. Marie

    Just out of curiousity – are the serving sizes the same for each cereal (as listed on the nutrition label?) ….sometimes looks can be deceiving because the serving sizes aren’t the same. (not saying this is the case here – but I’ve been surprised before)

    Have you tried the chocolate frosted mini wheats – they are delish & my kiddos LOVE them. I’m a dietitian and always on the hunt for that elusive balance between healthy & yummy/fun eating for the kids. 🙂

    -1
    • Serving size is about the same – Froot Loops is 1 cup (29 g) and Fruity Cheerios is 3/4 cup (27 g)
      As for the chocolate frosted mini wheats – sounds like a good idea, but they don’t look any where close to the colorful rings! I think this is something the cereal companies are good at – they find out the shape/size/color that works to attract the attention and then promote that via packaging and other marketing.

      I agree with you in finding a balance between healthy and yummy/fun eating for kids.

      -1
  2. Ken

    Did you notice both have 25% of recommended daily supply of iron!
    Some cereals have 50 or 75 or more. Combine that with the iron you get from bread, crackers, and so on, in a day you would see that you are getting way more than the daily recommended amount of iron.
    What does this amount of iron do in your body?
    Your body is smart, so your body will try to get rid of the excessive iron. Someone may look at this as though your body needs more iron, and recommend an iron supplement. What you really need is a balance that your body does not current have.

    • Iron is an important mineral but too much of it can be a problem. Iron supplements can be toxic for small children.
      Iron deficiency in the US is rare, but approximately 25% of the world’s population is iron deficient according to the PDR for Nutritional Supplements. I think iron fortification of processed foods is not necessarily a bad idea because their nutritional value is not very good otherwise.
      You make a good point that too much of the processed food can result in getting more than you need. Processed foods have a place, but we should not overuse them for a variety of reasons.

  3. Eris De Suzerain I

    Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, you are correct in that. Neither one of those overly processed cereals are setting your child up for a future of healthy eating. There is no rule that says kids have to have cereal for breakfast – what about whole wheat breads with eggs, or add some cream cheese and honey to that.. Have some real fruit, instead of the froot. Early introduction and acceptance of real foods is important in establishing a lifelong healthy diet.

    • I agree, there are many other options for breakfast. And it is always a good idea to try different things. Thanks for your comment!

  4. It’s not enough to compare the nutrients. You need to look at the ingredient list:
    Froot loops uses Artificial colors that may cause hyperactivity. It also has partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat)

    • Hemi

      I am honored to receive a comment from you. Seriously, I admire your website and appreciate your thoughtful comment.
      We are no fans of cereal – certainly not everyday – but I wrote this article to illustrate a key point. The first is an acknowledgment that most parents, us included, have to face the real life challenge of raising healthy eaters in the world full of processed food. Yes, convenience has a price – certainly reflected in the high cost of processed food. But there is a good reason for demand. People live busy lives and need to rely on ready to eat food to do the other things in their life. Having said that, we need to make smart choices and limit consumption of processed food as much as possible.

      The second point is that parents have two options to influence change in their child’s eating behavior. One is to create boundaries and establish rules. The other, preferred by us, is a more gentle – yet firm – approach which looks for ways to get the child to make a different choice. In this particular case, we have accomplished that task by switching the choice from one brand to another.

      I am not treating this as an issue in nutrition, although that is certainly very important to us. But we take a rather long term perspective on it and keep it in the context of our children’s personalities. That is why my focus is not so much on the ingredient list (there is almost no difference between the two cereals anyway).

      Thanks again for your comment.

  5. cathy

    Kudos to you for shamelessly admitting that your daughter is a Fruit Loops addict! 🙂 Seriously, raising kids is hard, and raising them to be healthy eaters is even harder in our over-processed world. I think that it’s wonderful that you’ve found a more acceptable substitute for your daughter. My son also adores Fruit Loops, but fortunately we’ve been able to limit it to a treat when we travel.

    For breakfast around here, my son likes cereal (Cascadian Farms cinnamon squares – with a sugar content on par with the Fruity Cheerios – I sometimes curse my husband for bringing the first box home) and more substantial and traditional homemade breakfast foods – like pancakes, biscuits, eggs. Unfortunately for him, his mother does NOT like to cook in the morning, so cereal it is! 🙂 My daughter is like me and is not hungry at breakfast time. On school days, I make sure she has something to eat, but on non-school days, I let her eat an early snack instead of forcing breakfast on her. She goes for lighter breakfast fare – pumpkin muffins, cereal (Kix lately), and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

  6. Great point Jenna. I guess it we have chosen not to fight the battle at breakfast for now. Certainly, it is high on our list to tackle as we encourage our daughter gently to grow out of this habit. I think overall, she is not a sugar junkie because she does not care for candies or ice cream or other sugary treats. Her twin brother is the one with the sweet tooth, but then he is not a cereal eater!

    Hopefully we will be able to strike a good balance using a careful, tailored approach.

    Thanks for sharing the breakfast favorites of your kids. Boiled egg with toasted waffle seem to work with our son on weekends.

  7. Thanks for your comment. I think we cannot ignore the fun/enjoyment/pleasure side of eating. Still, getting her out of this fixation on a not-so-healthy cereal is something we want to do, but our approach is gentle and patient. Hopefully it will work out in the long run!

  8. Is this peanut butter a boy thing? Not trying to be sexist here, but my son Armaan is also a peanut butter fan. Sometimes he simply sits down with a jar of peanut butter and scoop out a few spoons and not touch anything else! Thanks for sharing your comment.

    • L Gozzard

      Please be careful when children are consuming spoonfuls of peanut butter as it is a huge choking risk as the hiemlich maneuver will not work with a substance that viscous.
      I myself enjoy fruity cheerios immensely even though they are not available in Canada and I have to buy several boxes when I or a friend goes over the border. They are pretty tasty mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with the multigrain cheerios!
      Thanks for your blogpost!

  9. Did you notice that the Cheerios has nearly ten times the sodium of the Fruit Loops? Are your kids short of the vitamins listed? Vitamins are best absorbed from whole foods, not supplements.

    What is the source of coloring? How much is “whole grain?” The chart doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Both cereals are highly processed with added salt, sugar and food coloring. So the Cheerios have one gram less of sugar than another junk cereal. It’s still 6 of one and half dozen of the other. And what’s the point of a cereal with less sugar if the honey dish is on the table? :).

    You don’t say anything about which costs more, especially compared to home-made oatmeal that can be cooked up in less than five minutes.

    My suggestion–Tell the kids they can have the packaged cereal once a week. Sure they’ll complain at first, but they’ll get over it quickly. Good luck.

    • Hannah

      Sorry I had a typo in the sodium content of the two cereals. Both Froot Loops and Fruity Cheerios have the same amount of sodium; i.e. 135 mg per serving. I have now updated the table comparing the two cereal.
      Source of coloring in Cheerios is red 40, yellow 6, blue 1 and “other” colors. Other additives are BHT, trisodium phosphate, ascorbic acid plus the vitamins and minerals. There is no information on how much “whole grain” is present. The ingredient list shows whole grain corn and whole grain oats.

      I agree that cereal is – after all – highly processed food and that home made foods are not only affordable but also quick and healthy (depending on how you cook them!). We take a more gentle approach and keep a long term perspective as we try to build healthy eating habits in our kids. I like to keep the “rules” to a minimum. As parents, we are constantly having to make trade-offs. The goal is to achieve a healthy attitude towards food in the long run. I don’t believe that you can accomplish that by imposing too many rules around eating. That is the main reason why diets don’t work in most cases.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  10. Egurel

    is the difference in salt content signifcant? Fruit looks seems much better for salt.

  11. I think you took all the right steps in this. Your daughter doesn’t eat a lot of other sweets, you made a healthier choice where you could, and you didn’t try to trick her or force her into eating (or not eating) something else. It would be a different story if Froot Loops were the ONLY thing she was willing to eat, but that is not the case. As all kids go through food phases, I’m sure your daughter will one day leave the Froot Loops behind!

  12. Selmada

    I think even just teaching her about reading labels and that not all foods that look the same are the same is a good thing.
    One think you can consider doing, again keeping it open with her, is ask if she would be willing to add a few, not many, regular cheerios to her bowl each morning. Its not a huge step, but again, its in the right direction. If she likes it, she may consider adding more of the regular (and her honey if she wants it).

    As others have commented, you are chosing between the lessor of evils here and continuing to move her in the right direction is good if she wont give it up completely (yet).

    Maybe pick one day of the week designated as ‘special breakfast day’ and make a fun and nutritious breakfast – together if you can. Let her pick what it will be, spend time during the week planning for it, looking through cookbooks or surfing the web. Have a special shopping trip if you can. One time, you’ll stumble upon a food she likes better than her cereal that is better for her and you can make the switch every day.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Selmada
      Great advice, and it worked! Thank you so much!!

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  14. Reshawells57

    It tastes way better that fruit loops

  15. Aiken

    I’m many, many moons past childhood, but I never lost my childish taste buds or my extremely-picky disposition. No one gets away with swapping brands on me.

    I still adore Froot Loops and recently discovered that Fruity Cheerios are all but indistinguishable from Froot Loops, aside from minor visual differences. I actually went to the bother of checking to see if they were literally rebadged Froot Loops, but they are made by different companies.

    From there, I also discovered that Dark Chocolate Multi-Grain Cheerios are absolutely delicious. They’re basically Multi-Grain Cheerios with some Chocolate Cheerios thrown in for flavor. I would have loved them as a kid, I guarantee.

    I also tried regular Multi-Grain Cheerios, and in my opinion they were _also_ delicious and would have worked great on me as a kid.

    The trick with a picky, change-resistant eater like me would have been the multiple steps I just described. I would never have stepped directly from my beloved Froot Loops to some abomination with “Multi-Grain” in the title, but this little voyage of discovery was undaunting, effortless, yummy, and at least somewhat better for me.

    As an aside, the Multi-Grain Cheerios lists on the side of the box which grains are whole grain. I think it was four, maybe five. Sorry, I don’t have a box at hand to check. I’m sure General Mills’ website has details. Also worth noting is that “whole grain” means using all elements of the grain, but not necessarily the grain, whole. There is still processing involved, which may cause nutrient breakdown in some cases, but at least no portion is discarded.