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What is a Cereal Diet?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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People may automatically think of the cereal diet as substituting two meals a day with Special K® cereal. Called the Special K Challenge, creators of the diet boast that people who have a bowl of the cereal for breakfast and one other meal may lose up to six pounds (2.72 kg) or about a jean size in two weeks’ time. Various studies on this type of diet have been performed, and some people do lose a small amount of weight, mainly because they reduce their calorie intake by substituting lower calorie cereal for higher calorie foods. Not everyone loses weight, and some studies suggest average weight loss may be about a pound to four pounds (.45-1.81 kg) in a two-week period.

Emboldened by the relative success of a cereal diet like the Special K Challenge, other cereal makers have suggested using cereal as a means of losing pounds. Some companies like Kashi&reg: offer high fiber low calorie cereals, and others simply recommend eating any type of cereal. Those who create these diets may recommend eating a bowl of cereal as a snack during the day or at nighttime before bed when cravings hit. Companies have also started manufacturing accessory foods to the diet like cereal bars or nutritional replacement drinks to use as snacks while you’re on a cereal diet.

There is something to be said for dropping a little weight via a cereal diet of these types, but they do require adherence to the diet. You also have to pay attention to things like portion size, since many standard bowls in kitchens are much bigger than a single serving size. Dieters who appear to have success on a cereal diet also change the way they eat other meals and reduce portion size while increasing health value of these meals. Mostly, these diets may be effective if overall calorie intake is reduced, and ineffective when it isn’t.

There are some critics of the cereal diet, especially when cereals that are mass-produced are used. Cereal like Special K does have some nutritional value but also contains high fructose corn syrup. In the end, the extra calories from added sugars might be better consumed by adding fruit to a cereal that wasn’t pre-sweetened. Some recommend using or making your own healthy cereals inside of buying prepackaged ones.

People attempting to “detoxify” themselves after eating too much junk food may try another form of cereal diet. They may choose to eat only cereals and possibly milk for a few weeks. This diet is likely to bore most people, and may not provide adequate nutrition. It isn’t recommended for long-term use because of its nutritional deficits.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By amypollick — On Jul 21, 2010

Exactly right, Christensen. The South Beach Diet is OK in the short term. It can help someone with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes get their blood glucose levels normalized and leveled out. However, as a long term diet, at the very least, it is extremely difficult to follow, because it is so restricted. Some carbohydrates are necessary in any diet, even one with a restricted carb amount.

By christensen — On Jul 21, 2010

Moldova, I'm glad South Beach worked for you, but the mainstream medical community discourages its restrictions and strongly encourages carbohydrate consumption. It's not necessarily the best diet for most to follow.

By subway11 — On Jul 21, 2010

Crispety- I agree with you. Eating a variety of foods but controlling the portion size is probably more manageable than keeping certain foods off limits or eating the same food everyday like the cereal diet suggests.

By Crispety — On Jul 21, 2010

Moldova- I have heard of the South Beach diet, but I prefer Weight Watchers. It follows a simple approach to weight loss by allowing the dieter to eat a variety of foods and still lose weight.

The focus for Weight Watchers is on behavior modification and eating smaller portions. For example, Weight Watchers often suggests that its member use a smaller plate when eating

This creates an image of a full plate, but the plate might be one third of a size less than a traditional plate. It is these small changes that are the cornerstone of the Weight Watchers program. They always say that it is progress not perfection that a member should strive for.

By Moldova — On Jul 21, 2010

I just want to add that a more efficient way to lose weight is to follow the South Beach Diet.

The South Beach Diet offers a low glycemic approach to eating that allows dieters to lose an average of ten pounds in the first two weeks.

The diet follows two phases. The first phase allows the dieter to eat lean protein and vegetables.

Fruits and even foods with whole grain are prohibited. The second stage reintroduces some fruit and whole grains such as whole wheat pasta.

The diet was established by a Miami cardiologist who saw the connection between a high sugary diet and diabetes that often led to heart disease.

This diet eliminates cravings because sugary foods are not ingested, which provides the dieter with more energy. This type of diet is a better long term solution than the cereal diet.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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