The Special K Diet: Everything you need to know

Eat two bowls of cereal a day for breakfast and lunch, then an evening meal of your choice and drop a jeans size in two weeks? We look into the Special K diet plan.

What is the Special K diet?

The Special K diet first launched back in 2004 with the enticing promise that women could ‘drop a jean size in 2 weeks’.

So simple, cheap and convenient, it attracted dieters because all you had to do was replace a couple of meals a day with cereal and milk to cut calories.

If one of those meals was usually a triple cheeseburger and fries, inevitably, a 150 calorie alternative would soon shift the pounds.

Dieters wouldn’t have to starve themselves – and the cereal worked as a kind of replacement meal that could actually be eaten and be much more satisfying than having a milkshake.

Special K Diet plan evolution: how does it work?

Kellogg’s seem to have abandoned their diet plan site for the time being but the diet did evolve to feature a free online plan. People who wanted to lose weight could choose the type of meal plan they wanted, give their age, gender, current weight and height and set their targets for weight loss.

Special K followers could choose from the following options:

1: Quick and Easy – for the on-the-go lifestyle, great for busy people

2: Loads of Variety – great for those who love to try new things

3: Vegetarian – fresh flavours, healthy ingredients and no meat

Either way, the diet would principally revolve around:

Breakfast: One serving of Special K cereal with skimmed milk and fruit.

Lunch: Repeat your breakfast meal or substitute with a Special K Protein Meal Bar or Protein Shake.

Dinner:
Tuck into an evening meal of your choice.

Snacks:
Snacks could feature any two of the following products: Special K Protein Meal Bars, Protein Shakes, Breakfast Shakes, Protein Granola Bars, Crackers, Cracker Chips, or Popcorn.

Alternatively followers could eat fruit or veg.

Special K cereal bars

Special K diet weight loss: how much could you lose?

‘Drop a jeans size in 2 weeks.’ The premise of the Special K diet almost sounds too good to be true. But according to the Special K Challenge, you could lose up to 6 pounds in 14 days if you eat cereal or other Special K products for breakfast and lunch, plus a regular dinner.

The Special K Challenge promotes quick weight loss through portion control with two of your daily meals and snacks. But it makes no recommendations about the content or size of the third meal. And if that meal is loaded with fat and calories, the calorie savings from the rest of the day could be negated – and you won’t lose weight.

Dieters should also make sure they stick to the recommended portion size of 140g of cereal with 100ml of milk to make sure they are effectively controlling their calorie intake.

How does the Special K diet help you to lose weight?

Special K is low in fat and makes it easy to cut out fatty meals by replacing them with cereal at just 150-200 calories a bowl (depending on your portion size and choice of milk).

The results of a 2002 study done at Purdue University (funded by Kellogg’s) showed that replacing regular meals with calorie and portion controlled cereal meals could result in weight loss. Study participants took in an average of 1,590 calories per day and cut their fat intake in half.

‘Substituting cereal for higher-calorie meals can help people trim calories and fat. In the study, we found those reductions were doable and resulted in about a 4.4 pound weight loss over a two week period,’ said study author Rick Mattes, PhD.

How many calories are there in a bowl of Special K?

The number of calories in a portion of Special K will of course depend on the amount poured into the bowl.

Kellogg’s recommend a serving size of 140g (about the size of the palm of your hand), where the cereal’s calorific value would be 120 calories.

100ml of full fat milk adds 68 calories (188 cal total)
100ml of semi-skimmed milk adds 47 calories (167 cal total)
100ml of skimmed milk adds35 calories (155 cal total)

Garo/Phanie/REX/Shutterstock

Special K diet pros and cons

Pros:

It’s easy: The Special K diet is a synch to follow. It’s straightforward without too much weighing and measuring (once you’ve measured the serving size a couple of times you’ll know what to do without scales).

It’s cheap: Replacing a meal with cereal and milk is far cheaper than buying in specialist meals or lots of fruit, veg, lean protein and grains.

It’s fast:
No need to learn any new recipes or create meals from scratch.

It’s high in fibre:
 Helping you to feel full and less prone to snacking. The diet also encourages you to eat other healthy foods such as fruits, yogurt, low-fat milk, fish, chicken, vegetables and dairy that are low in carbs and fat content.

You can still eat what you love: Well, to a certain extent. No one’s advocating tucking into a giant pizza and tub of ice cream at the end of a hard day’s fasting. But within reason, dieters can enjoy a good meal at the end of the day, as long as it doesn’t contain too many calories or too much fat. There’s a lot of scope there!

It’s free: There are no weekly diet club fees to pay and the ingredients are cheaper than buying a ‘normal’ lunch or say, a continental breakfast.

There’s some variety: There are 10 different types of Special K cereal to choose from, including Original, Red Berries, Chocolate, Peach & Apricot, Creamy Berry Crunch, Oats & Honey, Fruit & Nut, Nourish Berries, Nourish Seeds and Nourish Cranberry & Apple to help mix things up a bit. Kellogg’s have also increased the range of snacks available since the diet first launched to add more choice for followers of the plan.

Cons:

It could get boring: Eating the same thing 14 times in one week could start to grate after a while. Dieters may find themselves desperate for a change on day three.

It’s nutritionally limited: Eating cereal and milk twice a day is a lot less nutritional than eating eggs, fish, salad, fresh fruit and vegetables, for example.

How to make the Special K diet more interesting

Kellogg’s have lots of suggestions for foods you can eat to help increase weight loss and increase the nutritional value of the meals and snacks you eat around the plan, for example:

Vegetables – Celery, carrot, beetroot, spinach, green beans, turnip, radish, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, cauliflower, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, leek, cabbage, bell peppers, drumsticks, squash, etc.
Fruits – Peach, apple, orange, grapefruit, watermelon, musk melon, plum, and pomegranate.
Proteins – Tuna, salmon, chicken breast, ground lean turkey, ground lean beef, mushrooms, soy chunks, lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
Fats & Oils – Rice bran oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and ghee (clarified butter).
Dairy – Low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, and eggs.
Spices – Cinnamon, ginger powder, garlic powder, cardamom, fennel seeds, fenugreek, onion powder, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder, coriander powder, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and black pepper.
Herbs – Coriander leaves, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and dill.
Beverages – Buttermilk, fresh fruit juice, and fresh coconut water.

And they also have plenty of recipe suggestions, including: Baked Special K & Vegetable Cutlet and Special K Nachos And Yummy Yogurt dip.

What is the best cereal to lose weight?

For the healthiest breakfast cereal options, the NHS advises people to choose wholegrains, which are lower in sugar, fat and salt. Some of the best choices would be wholewheat cereal biscuits (aka Weetabix) Shredded wholegrain pillows (aka Shredded Wheat) and porridge oats.

All of these cereals are high in fibre and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Research also suggests a diet high in fibre may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain vitamin B for energy and are low in sugar (for slow-release energy rather than a sugar-filled spike followed by a yawn-inducing dip).

Mueslis, which usually contain wholegrains and fruit, are often seen as a healthier option, but check the label first – many can be relatively high in fat, added sugar and, in some cases, salt.