If you're busy and you love carbs, then we may have found — or make that rediscovered — the perfect weight-loss approach for you. A team of international researchers recently tested a version of the Special K diet to see if the classic cereal-based plan might be a worthwhile alternative to today's many complicated diets. Boy, is it ever! Over the course of two weeks, cereal dieters shed about 100 percent more weight and 275 percent more belly fat than dieters allotted the same calories but asked to prepare meals from scratch. And according to tests performed at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, women who stick with a cereal diet a bit longer lose six times more weight than other dieters.
Why does cereal work so well? “It’s faster than fast food, more satisfying than shakes, and packs a surprising number of fat-fighting nutrients,” notes Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, author of 60 Seconds To Slim ($5.97, Amazon) and The Cultured Cook ($10.97, Amazon). Choose one of the many healthy new cereals now available, she adds, “and you can increase results dramatically.”
A team of Woman’s World readers took Schoffro Cook's advice enjoying two bowls of healthy cereal a day plus a sensible dinner and snacks. In seven days, they burned off six, seven, and even eight pounds! How much could you lose? Scroll down to find out.
Getting Started: How to Pick a Healthy Cereal for Weight Loss
Schoffro Cook and other cereal experts we spoke to — including University of Scranton’s Joe Vinson, PhD — are all fans of options made with 100 percent whole grain and very little added sugar. Choosing a protein-rich cereal can also help boost results, notes Schoffro Cook. And both she and Vinson agree that new research on cinnamon’s ability to stimulate weight loss is so promising, it’s an amazing ingredient to maximize a cereal diet’s results. Schoffro Cook’s picks for best weight-loss cereals are:
- Kashi GoLean Cinnamon Crisp ($13.26 for a pack of four, Amazon)
- Cheerios Protein with Cinnamon & Almonds ($21.89 for a pack of four, Amazon)
- Special K Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch Protein (from $11.99, Amazon)
Pour yourself a bowl of cereal at any two meals a day, adding milk and fruit. Enjoy a third healthy meal of your choosing (up to 450 calories) and two healthy 100-calorie snacks. That’s all there is to it.
Why the Special K Cereal Diet Is So Effective
A cereal diet is a lot like a shake diet, but with one key difference: It’s more satisfying. The reason? Research shows liquid calories lack the ability to make us feel full. By contrast, brands like Kashi GoLean and Special K Protein are loaded with hunger-killing fiber, protein, and antioxidants. And since cereal is typically fortified with bonus doses of vitamins and minerals, studies show cereal eaters have much higher levels of vitamin A, calcium, folate, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and zinc — nutrients that are linked to increased energy, faster metabolism, better fat-burning, and more.
Fact: Almost everyone eats cereal with milk — a food rich in calcium and other nutrients that, according to University of Tennessee researchers, prompt our bodies to stop storing fat and start burning it!
Cinnamon and weight loss go hand in hand.
When Vinson tested dozens of cereals, he found all whole-grain cereal is high in polyphenol antioxidants — but those with added cinnamon “are about six times higher than the rest.” Turns out, polyphenols interfere with carb digestion in a way that “prevents some calories from being absorbed by the body — so they don’t count!” A preliminary Japanese study also found that polyphenols cause a short-term burst of faster calorie-burning. Schoffro Cook adds that there’s evidence that polyphenols lower excessively high blood sugar and reduce a type of inflammation that stalls our thyroids. “In general, polyphenols help us burn fat faster,” she notes.
There’s more: Recent University of Michigan tests on human fat cells found that a different compound in cinnamon — called cinnamaldehyde — increases metabolism in so many ways, scientists hope they’ve found a new way to treat obesity.
Your Cinnamon Cereal Diet Meal Plan
Inspired by recent research and tips from top experts, our nutrition team created this no-fuss plan for you to try. While using this plan, you’ll average about 1,300 calories a day — but it should feel like a lot more. Make water your main beverage. Add other low-calorie beverages and extras (such as coffee, tea, spices, vinegar, zero-cal sweetener) as desired. As always, get a doctor’s OK before trying any new plan.
Your Cereal Meals
(Enjoy twice daily)
- 1 cup whole-grain, protein-rich cinnamon cereal, such as Kashi GoLean Cinnamon Crisp, Cheerios Protein with Cinnamon & Almonds, or Special K Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch Protein
- 1/2 cup milk (2 percent, fat-free or unsweetened almond or coconut milk)
- 1 small serving of fruit, such as a small apple
Your Sensible Suppers
(Choose one daily)
- 4 oz. lean pork chop or chicken breast, 2 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
- 1/2 cup boiled red potatoes, 1 tsp. olive oil
- Unlimited salad veggies, 1 Tbsp. dressing
- 4 oz. lean grilled steak or lean bun-less burger with 2 Tbsp. steak sauce
- 1/2 baked potato, 1 Tbsp. sour cream, chives
- Unlimited steamed vegetables, 2 tsp. olive oil, and seasoning to taste
- 3 oz. cooked ground turkey or beef and 1/2 cup corn sautéed in 2 tsp. olive oil with low-sodium taco seasoning; serve over large mixed salad with 1 oz. shredded cheese, 1 Tbsp. vinaigrette, and 1 Tbsp. sour cream
- 4 oz. chicken breast, sliced, tossed with 1/2 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta, unlimited zucchini noodles and/or steamed spaghetti squash
- 1/2 cup no-sugar-added marinara sauce, and 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
- Unlimited spinach sautéed in 2 tsp. olive oil, spritz lemon juice
Your Satisfying Snacks
(Choose up to two daily)
- Option 1: 8 large shrimp, 2 Tbsp. cocktail sauce; celery sticks
- Option 2: 2 Tbsp. shredded cheese melted on 1 corn tortilla; 1 Tbsp. salsa
- Option 3: 3 cups all-natural popcorn
- Option 4: 1/3 cup shelled edamame, 1 tsp. soy sauce
- Option 5: Any 100-calorie pack nuts
How to Create Your Own Cereal Diet Menus
To customize this plan, build two meals per day around 100 percent whole-grain cereal with up to 240 calories and at least 11 grams of protein per serving. To maximize results, opt for cereals that are lower in sugar and contain cinnamon. Enjoy cereal with 1/2 cup milk (2 percent, fat-free, or a no-sugar-added plant-based option) and a small serving of fruit. At your third sitting, allow yourself about 450 calories and include protein, healthy fat, and lots of veggies. Plan for 200 calories of healthy snacks to control between-meal hunger.
Fact: Women who eat cereal at least four times a week weigh, on average, nine pounds less than women who don't.
Taking Cinnamon Supplements for Weight Loss and Bonus Benefits
Though you can get up to 500 mg. of cinnamon a day from the cereal on this plan, taking a cinnamon supplement (like Trunature’s CinSulin ($44.95, Amazon) or Nature’s Bounty Cinnamon 1,000 mg. ($7.21, Amazon)) makes it easy to increase your intake even more and get even more health benefits. Important note: Always get a doctor's OK before taking any new supplement.
Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar.
Taking 1,000 mg. of cinnamon daily helped folks with poorly managed Type 2 diabetes lower their fasting blood glucose by 17 percent! Cinnamon improves the way we use insulin, making it easier for cells to turn sugar into energy.
Cinnamon helps lower cholesterol.
A USDA team found that compounds in 6,000 mg. of cinnamon daily have such a powerful impact on the body, they slash “bad cholesterol” by up to 27 percent.
Cinnamon helps improve memory.
Preliminary tests suggest cinnamon may protect and stimulate our neurons in a way that prevents age-related memory problems. While more studies are needed, one brain researcher says he has begun taking 3,500 mg. of cinnamon nightly.
Real Women's Cereal Diet Results
"This diet is so easy and it works so well," marvels Ohio retiree Jeannie Herman, 65, who dropped eight pounds and 10.5 inches in one week. "I liked cereal before, now I love it!" Texas grandmother Christa Rutelonis, 67, agrees. After dropping six pounds in seven days with zero hunger, she has only one complaint, “my family keeps stealing my Cheerios!”
Karen Ann Mitchell is also hooked. “On a low-carb diet, I’m cranky and only lose about two pounds a week,” reveals the Pennsylvania mom, 51. “Cinnamon cereal took away my sugar cravings and made me happy and energized. Plus, I lost eight pounds in a week. That's quadruple my usual results. I’m thrilled!”
“Normally, I eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast, so I was excited to see if this cereal diet would work,” says Illinois mom Maggie Beers, 40. “The cereals were tasty and full of cinnamon flavor, and I enjoyed eating the carbs that I normally don’t have.” In a week, Maggie lost about a pound a day — and saw a full inch of belly fat disappear. “I was really surprised by the results. Stick to it, and it will work for you, too!” Maggie's best tip? Stick to a schedule! "The consistency of eating at the same time each day helped me stay on track!"
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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