Special K Diet: Cereal for Weight Loss?

By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

2999-special-k-diet.jpgThe Special K Diet was created by the Kellogg’s breakfast cereal company.

Basically, it involves eating a bowl (45g) of Special K with ½ cup of low-fat milk for breakfast then another for lunch OR dinner for two weeks.

Kellogg’s quotes the results of a scientific study supporting their diet, which showed that 3 out of 4 dieters achieved a slimmer waist and hips and lost up to six pounds over a two-week period.

Scientists at the university reached the conclusion that most of this was due to fat loss.

The diet is recommended for adults with a BMI greater than 25 and is not designed to be followed for any more than two weeks.

Special K Diet Basics

  • Eat two servings of Special K cereal a day and ½ cup low-fat milk for breakfast and either lunch or dinner.
  • The third meal should be a low fat and nutritionally balanced meal.
  • Snacks may include fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt or a Special K bar.
  • Beverages may be consumed as normal with no strict limits required as long as alcohol is avoided. Water and diluted fruit juices are recommended.

Although calorie counting is not required the actual calorie intake is in accordance with requirements for weight loss for most individuals.

The participants in the study mention above consumed an average of 1590 calories per day. This was calculated to be a reduction of their normal calorie intake of 27% and of fat intake by half.

Sample 1 Day Meal Plan

Breakfast

1 bowl of Special K Bliss Strawberry and Chocolate with 125 ml skimmed milk
Coffee or tea

Snack

Apple

Lunch

Bowl of Special K Red Berries with 125 ml skimmed milk

Snack

Carrot sticks, sugar snap peas or a Special K Bar

Dinner

Grilled salmon, boiled new potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and peas

Dessert

Banana and low-fat yogurt or
Fresh fruit salad

Exercise Recommendations

Exercise is mentioned as being important as part of a healthy lifestyle with 30 minutes of daily activity recommended in accordance with government recommendations.

Costs and Expenses

There are no costs involved as all the details of the Special K Diet along with menu plans, meal suggestions and recipes are available on the Special K Challenge website.

The Catch? You have to buy plenty of Special K Cereal, bars, and shakes from your grocery store!

FAQ

Will I Lose Weight With Special K?
Individual results will vary, but this diet works using the meal replacement technique. You’re replacing your usual higher calorie meals with lower calorie ones. There’s nothing magical about the cereal, but it’s all about calorie reduction. This type of diet would work with just about any cereal.

Can I do this plan for more than 2 weeks?

Kelloggs would love that, but hopefully after two weeks you will have learned to eat less and control your portions better. Doing this diet for more than two weeks can lead to boredom and the potential of binge eating. Special K Cereal isn’t exactly the best thing to be putting into your body after all.

How much weight will I lose?

Results will vary and will depend on a number of factors including how well you stick to the plan.

Does it matter which Special K I choose?

Yes and no. The original diet was based on the original cereal. For the chocolate and other sweeter varieties the serving size is smaller. 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup for the calories to be the same. There is also more refined sugars in the sweet varieties which can spike insulin levels.  Dieters would be wise to choose the less dessert-like cereals.

Do I have to use milk?

Milk alternatives are fine, but watch out for the ones that have a lot of added sugar.

Pros

  • No calorie counting necessary.
  • Simple and easy to follow.
  • Scientifically proven to be effective for 75% of people.
  • Breakfast has been shown in many studies to produce a wide variety of health benefits including lower cholesterol levels, improved memory and concentration and a higher intake of certain vitamins and minerals.
  • One large study showed that people who ate cereal for breakfast had a lower body mass index than those who skipped breakfast or had eggs for breakfast.

Cons

  • The lack of variation in this diet may lead to boredom as well as potentially compromised nutrient intake. Even though the breakfast cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals it is questionable as to the degree that this can make up for nutrients that would otherwise be obtained from a wider range of whole foods.
  • Special K is not based on whole grains and is not a particularly good source of fiber. It is necessary to consume an abundance of fruit and vegetables during the day as well as to include a source of whole grains such as brown rice or legumes in the other meal in order to meet daily minimum fiber requirements.
  • Hunger is likely to be a problem for most people. Special K is high GI and high sugar which can actually trigger an increased appetite for many individuals.
  • The weight may be regained easily when a normal diet is resumed after the two week period.

Good or What?

Personally, I think incorporating some cereals into your diet can be good – but there are some caveats here:

Satiety – From experience, I’ve noticed that wolfing down a bowl of cereal doesn’t always curb the hunger pangs. However having a bit more protein in the mix does keep the pangs at bay.

Nutrition – The simple truth is – Special K is better than what most people eat, but it still contains such gems as High Fructose Corn Syrup. Serving for serving, it has less potassium and fiber than oats and more sugar. Compare here and here.

The Claim

“Lose 6 Pounds in 2 Weeks, but is this typical?

The Interpretation

“If you currently have a poor diet, but substitute it with our cereal – you may lose 4.4 pounds over the first two weeks. You will probably feel very hungry while restricting your calories and may find eating cereal for dinner or lunch to be untenable after a while. Boredom could well set in. History shows that a low-fat, higher-carb diet can work, but in the long run, it may backfire”.

That said – you could do a lot worse than eating cereal, skim milk, and fruit – it’s a lot healthier than the average American meal…

We also look in depth at the nutrition of Special K Cereal here.

602 Comments

  1. SHIRLEY

    DARLENE I NEED TO LOSE A LOT ALSO AND I START TOMORROW DO YOU WANT TO STAY IN TOUCH? I NEED A SUPPORT SYSTEM THAT I CAN RELATE TO…..

    Reply
  2. SHIRLEY

    VON CONGRATULATIONS, TALK ABOUT DETERMINATION AND NOW YOU HAVE THE REWARD…..I AM JUST STARTING NEED TO LOSE OVER 100 SO YOU GIVE ME COURAGE

    Reply
  3. SHIRLEY

    TIA I WISH YOU THE VERY BEST AND I AM STARTING TOMORROW IF YOU WISH TO CORRESPOND ABOUT DIETING I WOULD BE VERY GRATEFUL, I NEED TO LOSE AND I AM HOME 98% OF THE TIME….NEED TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT AM GOING THROUGH MY CLOSEST FRIEND WEARS SIZE 6 AND IS NOW SICK THT SHE GAINED 5 LBS…I AM ALMOST 300 AND SHE TELLS ME WHAT I SHOULD DO AND HOW TO DO IT SHE MEANS WELL AND I APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT SHE CARES BUT IT DOES NOT COMPUTE

    Reply
  4. SHIRLEY

    JAN, IT IS A START, MAYBE NOT THE FULL ANSWER BUT A GOOD START, IT IS NOT DRINKING LEMONADE …. SOME OF US CAN’T JUST AROUND AND DO THE EXERCISE THAT HELPS LOSING SO PLEASE TRY NOT TO DISCOURAGE US….WE NEED PEOPLE WHO ENCOURAGE

    Reply
  5. SHIRLEY

    I NEED TO LOSE A LOT OF WEIGHT AND I NEED TO START NOW AND STICK TO IT…..FOR HEALTH REASONS….I WOULD LIKE A SUPPORT PERSON TO WORK WITH AND HAVE SOMEONE TO TALK TO ABOUT THE STRUGGLE….I GO TO THE DR ON THURSDAY AND KNOW I WILL BE SCREAMED AT…..BUT APART FROM THAT I NEED TO LOSE AND NEED A PARTNER THAT KNOWS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT…. INTERESTED?

    Reply
  6. jan

    Are all you people that stupid, its not rocket science, you expend more calories then you take in plus aerobic workout at least 4 times a week = WT LOSS!!!!!!!!! can you all live on cereal for an extended period of time b/c the the weight when you start to eat NORMAL food again ITS BACK!!!!

    Reply
  7. LETLET

    AFTER READING EVERYONE COMMENTS, I GOING TO GIVE THE CHALLENGE A TRY. MY GOAL IS 10LBS, MY ONLY FEAR IS THAT I LOVE FOOD AND MY PORTIONS ARE TOO LARGE. SISTER AND I START ON MONDAY, WILL POST RESULTS IN 2 WEEKS.

    Reply
  8. S-gurl

    Sherica,
    omg, I so want to know how your sister lost all of that weight in one month. I tried the special K diet for a day and just ruined it at the end of the day and never went back. Can you also email me on how she did it and what types of dinners you guys at. The whole plan actually. my email is arauhaprilsecond@yahoo.com. Hope to hear from you soon. and good luck to all who are on the special k challenge.

    Reply
  9. Miss Motivated

    Hi Jessica and all other Fans, seem like most of you all are pretty much lik me have tried everything there is to try. Bottom line is that anything will work it just all about finding what works best for you and sticking with it. So now I’m trying to fgocus on moreso of getting the willpower and keeping it. Jessica i would really like to know that diet that you are referring to and would like to ask anybody that can give me some tips on willpower please HELP ME!!!!!! I really need to loose about 100lbs long time goal,and about 30lbs by the end of November.

    Reply
  10. Butrfly

    Just thought I’d add…attitude is HUGE in trying to get fit and healthy! If your attitude sucks, then so will your results! Stay positive! If something ends up not working for you personally, just smile, tell yourself that you gave it your best shot, and MOVE ON! Don’t discourage others! I am starting this diet for the second time (first time was about 6yrs ago after my first child was born)…I currently have a 6yo, a 20mos old, and a 6 wk old newborn (no longer breastfeeding, so I’m free to get back in shape!). I know that I will have great results with this, especially when I’m combining it with 45min of cardio 5 days a week, pilates, and jumping rope!

    Good luck to all of you!
    PS: Don’t forget-stressing about weightloss can actually prevent it! Stay happy!

    Reply
  11. lisa

    hi jessica i will like more info about the 4 step program. what do i need to do to get ready for that big change. i have the willpower to do anything. im ready for something new.

    Reply
  12. hanna

    Did u guys know that program – 2 week challenge from Special K.com?
    I’ve tried but i’m wondering why people don’t talk about that?
    maybe it’s a way!!!

    Reply
  13. christie

    So over the summer I worked out by running for 45 mins about 4 times a week…I had to stop because I have no time between work and senior year this year. I am 142 lbs. I really wish I was 120 because I’m over weight for my size …(so my doctor says) I’m only 5’2!! So if I could just drop 3 jean sizes I would be soo happy…when I stated high school I was a size 3!! I’m a 7 now…sometimes well most times I feel completely self conscious…so I’m gunna try this special k diet….well see what happens =)

    Reply
  14. amanda

    haha yea thats funny as heck!!!! but im trying the challenge write now!!!! bye bye amanda womble

    Reply
  15. Jules

    actually I think you are lighter in the mornings because you haven’t eaten in 8 or so hours. In the evening you’re full from everything you’ve consumed during the day.

    Reply
  16. Nicole

    So I am going to try this Special K diet with 2 girls that I wrk with! we are all hoping that it will wrk! We are starting on monday so I will keep you all updated on how everything goes!

    Reply
  17. Check your facts

    What is wrong with high fructose corn syrup. It’s actually very comparable to cane sugar (your plain old sugar). There is no evidence that is has caused any health problems for anyone…ever. As with regular sugar, it is perfectly fine in MODERATION. It’s just an advertisement ploy when companies say “NO HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!!!” They just want you to buy their product. They know that the average consumer will say “Oh man, no high fructose corn syrup?? Awesome!” when in reality you don’t even know what it is. They tricked you. Sorry band-wagon jumpers, it’s the truth. Y’all are very easily fooled. Pretty much any food is ok (if not important/healthy!!)in moderation including: fats, carbs, sugars, etc. Your body needs a whole mix of things.

    Reply
  18. Katherine

    I just had my second baby and need to lose the baby weight, too, so I’m right there with you momma! It is very tough to find time for yourself when you have little ones. I have a two-year old and an 8-week old. I have to lose twenty pounds that I put on this pregnancy because I refuse to buy bigger pants! I try to run on my treadmill when the kids are asleep, or take them for a walk in the stroller. For snacks, I buy healthy snacks for my 2-yr old that, if I need to grab something to eat, I can eat his without feeling guilty. He loves the Special-K cereal bars! I just started the Special K diet today, so we’ll see how it goes. But don’t hate your body or feel bad about a few extra pounds, think about the miracle it performed by giving you a beautiful baby! Good luck!

    Reply
  19. kay Sue

    Page…what about your dinners?

    K.Sue

    Reply
  20. Kelsey H.

    A lot of the people that have commented are making me feel terrible, I weigh 198 lbs not the 145 or 132 some of you are complaining about! I don’t look any bigger, but can’t fit in anything but sweats,I need help, but people aren’t taking me seriously due to the fact I look the same as I did 50lbs and 1 yr ago, so please don’t complain about being a size 3 instead of zero or you could end up in extra larges, and have your ENTIRE body covered in stretch marks like me, and I’m still in highschool.

    Reply
  21. johnson

    Chel did you exercise at all with your weight loss

    Reply
  22. Kiera

    I’ve read most the comments above, and everyone has interesting opinions. I found this site because I’m on the Special K diet for the second time and am not losing a thing. Last May I got on the diet to give me those last few pounds right before my wedding. I was also exercising 6 days a week and sleeping about 5 hours a night (you try to sleep a week before your wedding, ha ha). I’d dropped about two pounds in the two weeks, from 120 to 118. Over the month after my wedding, despite continueing to exercise 4 days a week, I flew back up to 125 (still a normal weight, but not my ideal of 120-122). Now I’m coaching and teaching and am crazy busy, watching my weight creep back up from lack of exercise (literally have no time). I decided to give the Special K a try again hoping to keep my self at 125 until the season is over. No dice. Not only that, but I’m getting depresed and frustated over the fact that I can’t eat anything but stupid cereal and candy bars. Lack of serious exercise is making me look fatter despite the fact that I’m hardly eating during the day. It is devastating. Now I am nearly 130 and wish I had a million bucks for lypo. I end up stuffing face at dinner and probably eat more than I would normally for dinner. For me, the key seems to be exercise, and I feel like the psychological effects of seriously denying yourself a variety of foods is not worth it. I’m changing to a whole grains/fruits and veggie diet and praying for the four weeks to pass “weightlessly” for me to get back in the gym.

    Reply
  23. Holly

    …almost at the end of my Special K Challenge (has been 12 days). I feel great and way slimmer. I wasn’t really big to begin with, but I was overweight for my height (I’m only five feet tall). The worst part of this diet was the first couple days, but every diet is like that. The best thing was the you get your third meal however you like.

    I ate my cereal for breakfast and lunch and then got to have goodies like steak or pizza… my usual meals anyway, for dinner. The Special K snack bars, cereal bars, and protein bars are really good and they tended to at least make me not starving while I waited for dinner to arrive. The diet also made me eat a lot more fruit, which my old diet lacked.

    Reply
  24. Marisol

    that is very good

    Reply
  25. Marisol

    Hi,

    my name is Marisol and I am 19 years old. I weigh 160 pounds. I want to loose 40 pounds. I would like to know if by only!!! eating special K cereals and milk I will loose weight?

    Reply
  26. sarah

    Dear Ladies,

    Now I know we live in a society that expects us to be perfect and beautiful, BUT…

    Don’t any of you know anything about losing weight?

    It is physically IMPOSSIBLE to lose 20 pounds in a week ~ even if you ate nothing! One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so times that by 20 and you get 70,000 calories that you would have to burn to lose those 20 pounds. I don’t know of anyone that can shed that many calories in a week.

    It is healthy and safe to lose 1-2 pounds per weeek – maybe 3 when you first start, so it should take 10-12 weeks to lose your 20 lbs. There are so many fads out there and that’s why they are fads – they don’t work! That’s why you all gain your weight back. You have to realize that there is only ONE way to lose weight! CALORIES IN < CALORIES OUT! You could kick start your weight loss routine with the Special K Diet because it definitely reduces your caloric intake, but it is not a long term solution, it is simply meal replacement. Women should be eating no less than 1200 calories a day for your internal organs and energy levels to function properly - and since most of us burn well over 2000 calories a day by just existing and living our daliy routines, you will lose weight! There are many programs out there that replace 2 of your daily meals with replacements, Slim Fast is another example. And yes they do work to get you started beacuse they are portioned meals. Go to http://www.nutritiondata.com and really start researching the foods that you are putting in your body ~ and hopefully that is all you will need to direct your food choices! Also research your daily caloric need to really pinpoint your needs, then reduce those by 1000 calories a day to lose 2 lbs per week.

    It’s all numbers!

    Good Luck to all of you and please do your homework before you decide to try the next fad!

    ~Sarah (lost 40 pounds in 8 months and have kept it off for 2 years)

    Reply
  27. Faye

    I just started on Special K last Friday. I have decided to incorporate it as part of my transition to a healthier lifestyle by replacing my usual bagel with butter, choco chip muffin, high sugar cereal with Special K chocolately Delight for breakfast.

    So I stick to only Special K for breakfast, with fruits/veggies for snacks and a low calorie lunch and healthy dinner. I don’t eat out, I don’t eat fast food – so we’ll see how it goes.

    Nutrition wise, its better than the 450 calories from a large bakery muffin.

    Reply
  28. tiana

    how many grams of fat and calories does a normal bowm of cereal (special k with strawberries have ?

    Reply
  29. brenda

    hello jordi,
    You said you have lost 44lbs in the last month… Wow!! that is amazing. How exactly did you do it? Do you excerise on the side?

    Reply
  30. brenda

    Hello!
    You said you loist 7-8lbs in a week and a half, right. I want to loose 20lbs. I heard about this diet on the T.V and i was very interested. So what exactly do you do, as far as your diet? Do you exercise on the side?

    Reply
  31. jacklynedwards

    melissa, u can loose weight quickly!! google the sacred heart diet….it’s a detox diet that cleanses the impurities out of your body. i lost 16 lbs in 4 days….i stopped after the 4 days because you aren’t supposed to loose more than 17 lbs in 7 days. it works….it does make u tired and jittery but after u end it and continue to eat healthy you feel SOOOO much better!

    Reply
  32. Caitlyn

    Hey, I’m 17 and I weigh in about 203 [last time I checked] and I’m about 5’4″. Yes, I know I’m over weight. But any way. I use to be skinny, not extremly skinny but I had a nice body, does that make since?

    Well,I have depression and insomia. My depression pills work fine, but I came to not give a crap about anything anymore [signs of the pills working you may get more depressed,nice.] and my sleeping/emotional pills made me sleep-walk/eat. Now I stopped taking those pills like,a year ago. But I still sleep-walk/eat.

    So my question is..

    What should I do about sleep eatting? I was thinking of putting a few specail Kay bars on my nightstand. I mean its better then eatting half a cake again, right?

    I will go back to working out, you know daily jogging, hitting the gym when ever I can, and gym at school. But the food is what I’m worried about.

    Reply
  33. watever

    James just shut up! whole grain stuff i great for you and Kashi stuff is the best, i eat it all the time. But seriously stop criticizing what people say. Whether it’s they love whole grain or addicted to Special K you seem to have a problem with it. Anyway…
    I weigh like 140 lbs. maybe a little less and I’m about 5′ 10″. I know it doesn’t sound fat but when you look at me it’s like ugh she’s fat. This Special K thing isn’t going to work out for me. I need a better way to lose weight by spring time I might be going to europe!! I mean I work out know and eat about a 1000 calories a day but nothing seems to be working please HELP ME!!

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR ANY RESPONSE ;P

    Reply
  34. Eliane

    17 is not too young to lose weight.
    I was 12 when I decided to eat healthier and lose some weight. Now I’m 14 and I had lost about 20 pounds.

    Reply
  35. Emily

    I’m really interested in trying this diet. I want to lose about 10 pounds, at least. The problem is for me, anytime I eat cereal with a decent amount of fiber, it goes right through me. Not to sound gross or anything, but that can be a major problem if I’m eating this for lunch or something at work. I mean, I guess it’s technically good for me. I just see it as being a potentional problem, especially with all the fiber Special K probably has. BLAH.

    Reply
  36. carolyn

    Jessica, what is this diet you are referring to? I would love to lose about 20 pounds.

    Reply
  37. chuck

    Hello Page i was on weight watchers of 3 months and lost 15 pounds thought i was doing good so i quit to try and do it on my own well bad idea not only did i gain the 15 pounds back i picked up 10 more now cant get it off everything i do fails.
    What can i do should i try the special k i need motivation do this really work.

    Reply
  38. Jessica

    There is a way to eat on a restricted calorie diet, without pills and injections, that will facilitate weight loss. It actually guarantees you lose between 3 and 7 pounds a week.
    It is NOT easy, you have to make some sacrifices, but it works so quickly, the results speak for themselves. Check out Ideal Protein if you have the willpower to cut out carbs, dairy, and fats for a little while. They get gradually reintroduced over the 4 step program.
    I didn’t have much weight to lose, but I was 5’9 and 163lbs, and cut down to 145lbs in 6 weeks. It was doctor regulated (one of my girlfriends just got her physicians diploma), all fat loss, not just dropping water weight. The program focuses a lot on protein, your skin stays tight and cellulite is reduced, if not eliminated.
    Like I said, it’s not a miracle diet, you HAVE to have a tremendous amount of willpower to stick to each part of the program, but it is so worth it in the end.

    Reply
  39. Alisha

    you can not, and will NOT lose more then 5 pounds a week, in a healthy way. starving yourself, or puking yourself, that’s a way you can lose 10 pounds in one week. but in a HEALTHY, diet and exercise way. you will NOT lose more then 5 pounds in a week. if you really want to lose weight you need to diet, and exercise. what most people don’t do right, is what you eat. a piece of fruit that has 200 callories, to a candy bar that has 200, ofcourse people would reach for the candy bar. but there is GOOD callories, and BAD callories. good callories are in fruits, vegies, fish, some chicken. bad callories is in bred, junk food, unhealthy foods. You need to get in a diet, and KEEP it. ask your doctor how many callories you should consume, if you were to take a diet, and then consume that. When you exercise, I recomend walking, alot. because once you reach your weight goal, people gain weight back on after because once they’ve lost all the weight they wanted, they stoped dieting, and stoped exercising. NO human can keep it off without doing anything. being thin takes alot of work, it sucks, but that’s just how it is. if you want to keep the weight off, go on a good diet that you can stay on for the rest of your life. and, do exercises you can also do for the rest of your life. as in, walking alot. the day you stop dieting and exercising as much as you did when you were on the diet, you will slowly start putting the weight back on. so keep on a good diet and exercise.

    Reply
  40. meth head

    that actually really works. haha.

    Reply

References

  • Hooper R. Body Shape and clothing size changes following Kellogg’s "Slimmer Waist this Summer" (internal report). Dept Human Sciences, 2002. Loughborough University
  • Ruxton CH, Kirk TR. Breakfast: a review of associations with measures of dietary intake, physiology and biochemistry. Br J Nutr 1997;78(2):199-213
  • Cho S et al (2003) The effect of breakfast type on total daily energy intake and body mass index: Results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey. J Am Coll Nutr 2003; 22(4):296-302
  • Englyst, K. N., Vinoy, S., Englyst, H. N., & Lang, V. (2003). Glycemic index of cereal products explained by their content of rapidly and slowly available glucose. British Journal of Nutrition, 89(03), 329-339. link
  • Heymsfield, S. B., Van Mierlo, C. A. J., Van der Knaap, H. C. M., Heo, M., & Frier, H. I. (2003). Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. International journal of obesity, 27(5), 537-549. link
  • Flechtner‐Mors, M., Ditschuneit, H. H., Johnson, T. D., Suchard, M. A., & Adler, G. (2000). Metabolic and Weight Loss Effects of Long‐Term Dietary Intervention in Obese Patients: Four‐Year Results. Obesity Research, 8(5), 399-402. link