cereal aisle at the grocery store

CACFP Approved Cereals for Daycare

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Breakfast is probably the most important meal of a childcare provider’s day. If you are on the food program, it can be confusing to figure out some CACFP-approved cereals to serve. Here are some tips to clear up any confusion for you and make your days in childcare easier!

cereal in a bowl topped with blueberries-CACFP Approved Cereals for Daycare

Feeding kids is an important part of running a home daycare. And doing it according to regulations can be a challenge sometimes. I recently talked to Londa, who has been a food program monitor for years and she shared some advice to help all of us.

Londa has been a CACFP Sponsor for nearly 25 years. After seeing how overwhelmed providers were with mealtime, she created The Kid Menus. TKM helps home daycare providers in the food program with their meal planning, so they don’t have to worry about it, but can still get reimbursed for serving good food.

londa headshot from Kid Menus

Breakfast options abound, and the meal can set the tone for the entire day. The guidelines call for only three components, one of which is required to be skim or 1% milk for kids over two and whole milk for kids under two.

The other two choices must represent the fruit/vegetable component and the bread/grain component (the 2017 updates to the meal pattern now allow for a protein to be substituted up to three times per week, which serves to improve nutrition and add flexibility to the meal pattern).

Requirements for Cereals in the CACFP

Cereals in the CACFP must contain limited sugar and contain no more than six grams of sugar per dry ounce. This is equal to 21.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of cereal, but we’ll learn to calculate that a bit later.

How to be certain you’re purchasing and serving an allowable cereal

  1. Look for a WIC label

The best place to look is right under the product at the store! Grocery stores routinely place a label beneath “WIC-approved” cereals. WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. This is another federal program administered by USDA and shares the same sugar limitation as the CACFP.

WIC Label on the grocery store shelf

Do be careful in making assumptions, as cereals on WIC lists are “brand specific”. You cannot assume that all Corn Flakes meet the sugar limitation just because Kellogg’s brand does. You must find the exact brand you are purchasing on the WIC list.

Most cereal found on any state’s WIC list is approved for use in the CACFP.

WIC on the grocery shelf price marker

2. Calculate Sugar Content

Childcare providers looking to expand their cereal options should also learn to calculate the sugar content of any cereal, as it is not difficult, and no WIC list will include every single allowable option.

The calculation is simple. Just look at the nutrition label on the side of the box and locate two numbers: grams of total sugar and grams in one serving.

Simply divide the grams of total sugars by the grams in one serving. The result must be less than .212.

The hardest part is remembering .212. Make a note on your phone so that you will have the number at your disposal when you find yourself in the cereal aisle at the grocery store!

Learning to do the calculation can help a provider feel more enlightened about the product they are serving and give them many extra options for cereal day!

For example, CLIF brand Blueberry & Almond Butter cereal lists 7g of Total Sugar on the nutrition label, which might lead a provider to think that it is not an allowable CACFP cereal. However, if we divide 7g by 58g (the serving size), the answer is .121, which is well below the limit of .212. (see photo)

Cereal with nutrition label for reading

How often should a childcare provider serve cereal for breakfast?

Cereal is a good option for a creditable CACFP breakfast – occasionally. The CACFP guidelines do not provide a firm answer for how often cereal can be served. The guidelines do, however, emphasize the importance of including a variety of different foods in the meal plan.

Personally, I like to see cereal served no more than one time per week. Serving three protein-based breakfasts and two grain-based breakfasts per week is a CACFP best practice and provide an ideal balance in the meal pattern and in children’s blood sugar and can be a great source for meeting the daily whole grain-rich requirement.

List of CACFP Approved Cereals

These cereals are CACFP approved and some of them can serve as your Whole Grain Rich (WGR) requirement for the day! However, the recipes manufacturers use for their formulations do change, so this list may not be valid forever. Remember, when in doubt, do the calculation above!

Some common CACFP approved cereals are:

  1. General Mills Cheerios (Plain)
  2. General Mills Berry Berry Kix
  3. General Mills Blueberry or Vanilla Chex
  4. Quaker ‘Life’ (Original)
  5. Post Honey Bunches of Oats (Crispy Almonds)
  6. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats
  7. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

We’ve compiled a full list of common cereals that are CACFP approved with photos and links. Sign up here to get the download.

Londa Tindle, CMP, CCNP

If you want to get your menus done for you every month for an affordable price, check out The Kid Menus pricing page here. I have used them and they are affordable and awesome. You get 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 10 snacks per month that come with a handy shopping list and 2 menus.

You can’t beat a deal like that. Save your time for you! And you KNOW these will meet CACFP requirements because Londa is the expert! It’s such a great help for a provider. (And no, they aren’t paying me for saying this, I just love the service!) You can even try it before you buy.

For more CACFP ideas, check these out:

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