When can babies have Cheerios?
Original Cheerios and other low- or no-sugar O-shaped cereals may be introduced around 9 months of age if the cereal is honey-free. To read more about why babies should not have honey before 12 months of age, see our honey page.
When were Cheerios invented?
Cheerios were invented in 1941 under the name “Cheerioats.” General Mills used what was then a novel technology to “puff” the oats—a now ubiquitous method in processed foods. Tasting these foods begins with a satisfying crunch that dissolves into smooth, soft texture. There are nearly 20 different Cheerios varieties available (some seasonal or only available in certain parts of the world), and countless other brands have imitated the cereal’s iconic shape. Since their invention, Cheerios have been marketed to children, and the brand’s efforts have paid off: the cereal is among the most popular processed foods for many babies and toddlers.
Are Cheerios healthy for babies?
Yes, if they are the “Original Cheerios” variety. Original Cheerios are low in sugar, fortified with iron, and offer a decent amount of fiber, plus other important nutrients such as calcium, folate, and zinc.
Cheerios do contain tripotassium phosphate, a preservative and stabilizer.1 Phosphates are added to many processed foods and are generally thought to be safe in limited amounts, but research suggests that added phosphates in processed foods can contribute to excess phosphate intake.2 While this is not thought to be an issue for healthy individuals, those with preexisting kidney conditions may be more sensitive to the effects of phosphates and should work closely with their primary care provider for individualized guidance around phosphates.3 4
★Tip: When shopping for dry cereals for baby, look for whole grain cereals that are low in sugar (less than 5 g of added sugar per serving), low in sodium (less than 200 mg per serving), and are fortified with iron.
Can babies have Honey Nut Cheerios?
Yes, but only after 12 months of age. Honey Nut Cheerios contain honey, which carries the risk of infant botulism. Babies under 12 months of age are most at risk of this serious illness. Other flavored Cheerios are safe for babies before the first birthday, but try to hold off until a child is older—these other varieties are typically higher in sugar and sodium compared to the Original version.
Do Cheerios have GMOs?
It depends on the type. Original Cheerios are not currently made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), although other varieties are made using GMO grains including corn, rice, and wheat.5 6 7 If avoiding GMOs (and the pesticides they are designed to withstand) is important to you, opt for Original Cheerios or organic cereal brands. To be labeled as “organic” in the United States, the food cannot be genetically modified, among other guidelines.8
Are Original Cheerios gluten-free and are they safe for children with celiac disease?
It depends on an individual’s sensitivity to gluten and where you live. Oats, the main grain in Original Cheerios, are naturally gluten-free but are highly susceptible to cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains such as wheat and barley. While General Mills labels some of their Cheerios products as gluten-free, celiac advocacy groups have questioned the safety of the company’s gluten-free practices.9 10 Uncle Tobys Original Cheerios (sold in Australia and New Zealand) are not gluten free, as they contain wheat. Ultimately, whether or not to include Cheerios as part of a gluten-free diet is a personal decision to be made with the counsel of your child’s primary care provider or gastroenterologist.
Are Cheerios a common choking hazard for babies?
No, though in theory an individual can choke on any food. Cheerios dissolve easily, requiring only a small amount of liquid (including saliva) to become mushy in texture, so there is little chewing needed to break the food down. If you find Cheerios are sticking to baby’s tongue and causing a fair amount of gagging, try soaking them in breast (human) milk, formula, cow’s milk, or water. It is important to note that some other brands of O-shaped cereals do not dissolve as easily as Cheerios and thus pose more of a choking risk, but if baby is self-feeding, the overall choking risk remains low. Never place food in baby’s mouth. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Do Cheerios contain common allergens?
It depends on the variety. Certain types of Cheerios contain common food allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat. As always, be sure to read the label before purchasing, as product ingredients can change.
Original Cheerios are made from oats, which are not a common trigger for IgE-mediated allergies. However, reactions to oats have been reported, particularly when the grains are applied to the skin of sensitive individuals.11
Oats and other oat products are a known trigger of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. FPIES is a rare and delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion of the food trigger. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration.12 13 Fortunately, most cases resolve completely during early childhood. To learn more about FPIES, read our post on Food Allergens and Babies.
If a child has celiac disease, know that there is ongoing debate regarding the safety of Cheerios for individuals with celiac disease. Despite oats being naturally gluten-free, many oat and oat products can commonly be cross contaminated with gluten-containing grains (such as wheat, barley, and rye), rendering them no longer gluten-free.14 15 Uncle Tobys Original Cheerios (sold in Australia and New Zealand) contain wheat and are therefore not gluten free. Celiac disease requires a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and lifestyle.16 A gluten “allergy” is typically a misnomer, often in reference to celiac disease.17 When in doubt, talk to the child’s primary care provider for more individualized guidance.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount over future servings.
Can Cheerios help babies poop?
Yes. Cheerios are primarily made from whole grain oats and thus provide good amounts of fiber that, in combination with a balanced and varied diet, can help support overall digestive health and bowel regularity.
How do you serve Cheerios to babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Original Cheerios may be introduced as soon as baby can pick them up and bring them to their mouth. For many babies, this will occur closer to 9 months of age, but some babies develop the skill earlier. If baby can pick up Cheerios and bring them to their mouth independently, it’s okay to serve them.
9 to 12 months old: When it comes to selecting Cheerios or other O-shaped cereals, opt for the Original variety or other brands that are low in sugar (5 g or less of added sugar per serving), low in sodium (less than 200 mg of sodium per serving), free of honey, and fortified with iron. Scatter the Cheerios on a high chair tray or table to give baby the opportunity to practice their developing pincer grasp. Consider offering Cheerios or similar cereals just a couple of times a week or less to give baby the opportunity to explore to a wide variety of colorful, fresh foods. You can also try serving them toward the end of a meal so baby doesn’t fill up on Cheerios at the expense of trying different foods.
12 to 24 months old: Continue to opt for the Original variety or other brands that are low in sugar (5 g or less of added sugar per serving), low in sodium (less than 200 mg of sodium per serving), and are fortified with iron. At this age, toddlers tend to develop stronger food preferences and more selective eating habits. If Cheerios are becoming the star of a toddler’s meals and snacks, try lessening the frequency of serving Cheerios to prioritize colorful, fresh foods.
Mix up your mornings with ideas from our guide, 50 Breakfasts for Babies & Toddlers.
Recipe: Pink Cheerios Parfait
Yield: 1 c (240 ml)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 9 months+
- 6 large strawberries
- ½ c (120 ml) plain yogurt
- ¼ c (7 g) Original Cheerios
- 1 tsp (3 g) unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (yogurt). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. Always check for potential common allergens in ingredients listed on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as Cheerios and other O-shaped cereals. Added ingredients may include wheat, a common allergen, or honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.
- Wash the strawberries. Remove any stems. Mash the berries until mostly smooth. A little texture is okay as long as there are no large chunks of berry.
- Set aside a spoonful of mashed strawberry to drizzle on top.
- Swirl the rest of the mashed strawberries into the yogurt to make it pink.
- Scoop some yogurt into baby’s bowl, then sprinkle some Cheerios on top. Repeat, creating 2 or 3 layers of pink yogurt and Cheerios.
- Grind the sunflower seeds into a fine powder. Drizzle the rest of the mashed strawberries and sprinkle the ground-up sunflower seeds and a few Cheerios on top.
Serve the Parfait
- Let baby self-feed, and if baby is showing signs of the pincer grasp, offer some Cheerios on the side of the parfait for baby to practice picking up.
- If help is needed, pre-load a baby spoon and place it next to food for baby to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the pre-loaded spoon in the air for baby to grab from you.
- Eat alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: Pink Cheerios Parfait is best enjoyed the day it is made. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days but the Cheerios will become very mushy.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Tripotassium Phosphate. (1982). Evaluations of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Retrieved June 30, 2022
- National Institutes of Health. (2021). Phosphorous. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Shimada, M., Shutto-Uchita, Y., & Yamabe, H. (2019). Lack of Awareness of Dietary Sources of Phosphorus Is a Clinical Concern. In vivo (Athens, Greece), 33(1), 11–16. DOI: 10.21873/invivo.11432. Retrieved June 30, 2022
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- Canadian Celiac Association. Notice about GF Cheerios. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Thompson, T. (2021). Gluten Free Watchdog’s updated position statement on Cheerios. Gluten Free Watchdog. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Boussault, P., Léauté-Labrèze, C., Saubusse, E., Maurice-Tison, S., Perromat, M., Roul, S., Sarrat, A., Taïeb, A., & Boralevi, F. (2007). Oat sensitization in children with atopic dermatitis: prevalence, risks and associated factors. Allergy, 62(11), 1251–1256. DOI: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2007.01527.x. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Blackman, A. C., Anvari, S., Davis, C. M., & Anagnostou, A. (2019). Emerging triggers of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome: Lessons from a pediatric cohort of 74 children in the United States. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 122(4), 407–411. DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2019.01.022. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Mehr, S., & Campbell, D. E. (2019). Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome: guidelines summary and practice recommendations. The Medical journal of Australia, 210(2), 94–99. DOI: 10.5694/mja2.12071. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Ciecierska A, Drywień ME, Hamulka J, Sadkowski T. (2019). Nutraceutical functions of beta-glucans in human nutrition. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 70(4):315-324. doi: 10.32394/rpzh.2019.0082. Retrieved June 30, 2022
- Pinto-Sánchez MI, Causada-Calo N, Bercik P, Ford AC, Murray JA, Armstrong D, Semrad C, Kupfer SS, Alaedini A, Moayyedi P, Leffler DA, Verdú EF, Green P. (2017). Safety of Adding Oats to a Gluten-Free Diet for Patients With Celiac Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Clinical and Observational Studies. Gastroenterology. 153(2):395-409.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.04.009. Retrieved June 30, 2022
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