You may be aware of cereal diets that involve eating solely, or mainly, bowls of breakfast cereal and milk in order to lose weight. No one food will magically burn fat, but there are good reasons why replacing a few meals with a bowl of flakes might help you trim down.
Using cereal for weight loss isn’t a crazy notion, but you can’t live healthfully on it long term. It’s better that cereal is just a part of your weight loss plan, and not the only thing you eat.
Cereal Diet Health and Weight Benefits
A review in the September 2014 issue of Advances in Nutrition found very or quite good evidence that high fiber, wheat-based cereals could improve bowel function and lower the risk of diabetes. Regular breakfast cereal consumption was also associated with less risk of being overweight or obese.
Most cereals are fortified with several vitamins and iron; for example, a 1.76 ounce (50 gram) small box of All Bran provides just 150 calories, but provides 25 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, along with 30 percent the DV of iron and 10 percent the DV of vitamin D.
One or Two Bowls a Day, Not More
It's worth noting that reputable cereal manufacturers do not promote eating solely cereal and milk, as this is a very restricted diet, and such restricted diets are unhealthy.
For example, the Special K diet promotes swapping breakfast and lunch for a bowl of cereal, but eating a normal dinner, plus fruit and vegetables and other calorie-controlled snacks. This diet has some research backing: a small study involving 30 people published in the September 2015 issue of Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences found people on the regimen lost weight and fat, and reduced waist size.
The study also showed that 14 days eating mainly Special K was an effective motivator for a long term reduction in body weight. Cereal diets can be attractive because you have to make fewer decisions about food, but it's probably not a good idea to do them for more than two weeks at a time.
Don’t Be a Cereal Offender
If you are eating cereal for weight loss, compare labels and look for products that are higher in fiber and lower in total and/or added sugars. New labelling rules from the FDA require all food manufacturers to state how many grams of added sugars are in their products by the beginning of 2021. This is useful information that will help you gauge the healthiness of your favorite cereal.
Don't fall into the trap of pouring yourself more than the suggested serving size of cereal (weighing is a good idea at first so you don't overshoot).
Try using a small bowl, as you'll feel better about having a bowl that looks full rather than half empty. A February 2014 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children consumed 52 percent more cereal when they were served it in a larger cereal bowl.
- Advances in Nutrition: "The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base"
- FDA: "Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label"
- Journal of Pediatrics: "Larger Bowl Size Increases the Amount of Cereal Children Request, Consume, and Waste"
- NIH: "Calcium"
- Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences: "The Effects of the Special K Challenge on Body Composition and Biomarkers of Metabolic Health in Healthy Adults"
- Kellogg's: "All Bran Original Cereal Nutrition Facts"
- USDA: "Milk, Reduced Fat, 2%"