Healthy 5-Day Cereal Diet Plan

Healthy 5-Day Cereal Diet Plan

By wlr's Resident Foodie, Joanne Putney

When I heard talk in the office of the Cereal Diet being a popular choice, I was curious. So curious, in fact, I decided to try it myself!

I can see there's much appeal... Eating a bowl of cereals for breakfast, another for lunch and a "real meal" in the evening sounds like a pretty easy dieting option.

However, as tempting as the now-officially-extinct Special K diet sounds, I was concerned that just eating Special K with milk twice a day and a "real" meal in the evening wouldn't work well for me in real life.

Mainly, I was worried that I would be hungry. I honestly didn't think I could survive on just 2 bowls of Special K through to my evening meal. At just 175 calories a bowl, by the time 5 o'clock arrived, I'd have only consumed a miserly total of 350 calories (yikes) would most certainly be ravenous, grumpy and downright miserable. Not appealing.

On a regular day, I've consumed more than the 350 calories before 10am! 

Plus it doesn't really sound like a balanced diet, does it? 

So I decided to devise myself a protein-packed, fibre-filled, cereal diet plan which would keep me feeling fuller for longer, incorporated a healthy, family-friendly 500 calorie evening meal and hit my 5-a-day target.

Here's how I got on...

NOTE: For the purposes of this "experiment" I tried a LOT of cereals - in reality, I would buy 2 boxes - one for breakfast, one for lunch - and repeat them EVERY day!

Day 1 ~ Monday

1243 calories • 61.5g protein • 5.3 servings fruit & veg

Day one and I was pretty eager to get started. 

~ Breakfast ~ 298 cals ~

Muesli with Yoghurt and Honey (and an apple)

Muesli with Yoghurt and Honey
45g Alpen no added sugar muesli with 125g Fage 0% yoghurt and 1 tsp honey

In my quest to stay feeling fuller for longer, I swapped milk for Greek Yoghurt.

Have to admit, I was reluctant to switch to a 0% fat yoghurt (I’ve been raised on blue-top milk; it's a habit that’s hard to break). Yet, having discovered that Fage 0% Total not only has 0% FAT but also less than HALF the calories and TWICE the protein of my usual choice, I thought I'd give it a go...

I was concerned that it might be a tad tart so I topped it with a teaspoon of honey, and it was delicious. I just wish I'd chopped my apple and tossed it on top too!

Take a look at my yoghurt discovery:

  Cals Prot Fat
Fage
0% Total
68 12.9 ZERO
Yeo
Valley*
161 5.6 7.4

*Yeo Valley, Organic, Natural Greek Style Yoghurt

~ Snacks ~ 138 cals ~

Fresh Raspberries and Plain Peanuts

Fresh Raspberries and Plain Peanuts
80g fresh raspberries + 20 plain peanuts

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel eating cereals for lunch at work and didn't want to draw attention to myself. So I decided to incorporate a couple of healthy snacks to (hopefully) keep hunger at bay until I got home.

Usually, I wouldn’t buy raspberries out of season as they’re so expensive - £3 for a punnet in my local supermarket… I almost didn’t, but I’d happily splurge £3 on a slice of cake or coffee without a moment’s thought - why not treat myself to one of my favourite fruits instead… Plus raspberries are fibre-filled, hopefully to keep me feeling fuller for longer!

You could swap the raspberries for a pear (or other seasonal fruit if you'd prefer)

I’m not a fan of salted peanuts - but like them plain, like this. They are a perfect high protein snack - be sure to measure them out at home though! The nuts definitely helped keep the hunger at bay.

Although... by the time I got home at 3pm I was hungry. Proper hungry!

~ Lunch ~ 295 cals ~

Protein Weetabix with Milk and Banana

Protein Weetabix with Milk and Banana
2 Weetabix Protein with 125ml semi skimmed milk and 1 small sliced banana

I was really looking forward to trying Weetabix Protein - with 3.1g extra protein compared to Weetabix Original: 

See how they compare:

  Cals Prot Fibre
Weetabix Protein 144 7.6 3.8
Weetabix Original 136 4.5 3.8

A bit of a Weetabix lover, I was concerned they might taste different… and relieved to discover they didn’t - Just like Weetabix but with added protein to keep you fuller for longer - win win!

I switched my whole milk for semi skimmed (couldn't face skimmed folks!) AND swapped my usual sprinkling of sugar and for a small sliced banana to satisfy my sweet tooth and boost my 5-a-day quota. Yep, this is good... real good (bye bye sugar!)

~ Dinner ~ 511 cals

Pasta with Pesto and Parmesan

Pasta with Pesto, Broccoli and Peas
90g pasta mixed with 1 tbsp pesto, 100g steamed broccoli, 40g petit pois and sprinkled with 1 tbsp Parmesan

Pasta with pesto is a quick, weekday dinner - it’s one of my go-to dishes for when DS1 has football training and needs to eat earlier than the rest of the family. I’m not a big fan of us eating separately - and refuse to cook different meals for anyone - so I try to find something super quick and easy to make that I “don’t mind” cooking twice in one day - and pasta is perfect for this.

Usually, for “speed” (read: laziness!)  I’d simply stir through the pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan (plus a little drizzle of olive oil - sshh!).  Tonight I tossed in some steamed broccoli and peas… Wow! Such little extra effort and it was so much tastier and interesting to eat… (and even DS1 loved the extra veg - bonus!)

Pasta with pesto comparison

  Cals 5-a-day Fibre
Adapted recipe 511 1.9 6.1
Usual recipe 504 0 1.9

Day 2 - Tuesday

1237calories • 61.1g protein • 6.1 servings fruit & veg

After a successful start to the week, I was really looking forward to experimenting with my cereal options today...

~ Breakfast ~ 263 cals

Special K Nourish with Yoghurt and Raspberries

Special K Nourish with Yoghurt and Raspberries
40g Special K Nourish with 125g Fage 0%, 80g raspberries and 1

Another “new” (to me) cereal on the market - Special K Nourish Dark Berries is described as “a delicious combination of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries & redcurrants mixed with multigrain and wheat flakes & clusters of oat, rye and seeds. Each bowl contains 7 vitamins & iron as well as fibre and wholegrain.” - sounds good, hey?

I like Special K original, but don't find they keep me full for very long... With this in mind, I paired the Special K Nourish with some Fage 0% for a protein fix and some high-fibre (super expensive) raspberries. The cereal / yoghurt / fruit combination was divine!

I was curious to see how it compared to regular Special K:

  Cals Prot Fibre
Special K Nourish 150 5.6 3.8
Special K Original 152 4.0 1.0

I was surprised by the figures. Per serving Special K Nourish has nearly 4 x the fibre than Special K Original... plus the taste was quite "delicious" (in my opinion). I think I'm a convert!

~ Snacks ~ 206 cals ~

Banana and Pretzels

Banana and Pretzels
1 small banana • 30g salted pretzels

Day two and I'm still not brave enough to pull out a bowl of cereals for lunch at work. Yet, despite packing some pretzels and a banana, I struggle to get through my SHORT working day. By the time I arrive home at 3pm ish, I'm really a little grouchy (thankfully the house is empty).

~ Lunch~ 314 cals ~

Apple and Cinnamon Porridge

Apple and Cinnamon Porridge
Porridge made with 40g oats, 125ml semi skimmed milk, ½ tsp cinnamon and 1 grated apple

Still I resist the urge grab anything in sight and quickly rustle up my pre-planned porridge. Oh boy, am I pleased I did! Honestly, this bowl of warm, freshly cooked porridge is EXACTLY what I'm craving - some proper comfort-style food. I was tempted to just make it plain for speed - but the added  apple and cinnamon didn't add any time and was so worth the little extra effort. I don't think the photo does it justice, blame the hunger!

~ Dinner ~ 454 cals ~

Honey and Soy Prawn Noodle Stir-fry

Another quick family dinner - prawn noodle stir-fry... In my eagerness to eat it though, I totally forgot to take a photo.

Day 3 - Wednesday

1254 calories • 67.5g protein • 6.6 servings fruit & veg

Day 3 and I'm still enjoying my cereals - was worried that eating so many may put me off, but I think both the variety and healthy extras are helping me to continue enjoying them.

~ Breakfast ~ 261 cals ~

Shreddies Max Oat Granola with Raspberries

Shreddies Max Oat Granola with Raspberries
45g Shreddies Max Oat Granola with 125ml semi skimmed milk and 80g raspberries

Shreddies are a family favourite in our household - popular with both adults and children alike... When, I spied the new Shreddies Max - I was curious. It wasn't until I got them home, I discovered they were not Shreddies as such: Shreddies Max "is a delicious granola that combines the great malty taste of Shreddies with crunchy oats". Hmmm...

Poured into a bowl, they looked pretty tempting. I topped them simply with some milk and a the rest of my luxury raspberries. I loved the oaty granola / Shreddies combo (Note: the kids were not so impressed...) 

Did a quick Shreddies comparison:

per 45g serving: Cals Prot Fat
Shreddies Max Oat Granola 186 5.8 3.4
Shreddies Original 182 5.0 0.9

... and I'd stick with Shreddies Original in the future. 

~ Lunch ~ 260 cals ~

Shredded Wheat Bitesize with Blueberries

Shredded Wheat Bitesize with Blueberries
40g Shredded Wheat bitesize with 40g blueberries and 125ml semi skimmed milk

Finally, I've finally plucked up the courage to take my cereals to work! After all my worry early in the week, it turns out that no-one battered an eyelid. For me this was a massive turning point - suddenly this cereal diet was actually working with my usual daily routine :)

Having carefully measured out the items at home, my lunch took seconds to prepare in the office - bonus! I didn't realise quite how much I'd been missing a real meal* at lunchtime, until I ate this. The blueberries gave a sweet kick. Simple but satisfying.

*I'm not sure when cereals for lunch became a "real meal"

~ Snack ~ 109 cals ~

Apple with Peanut Butter

1 small sliced apple with 15g peanut butter (to dip)

Having eaten my lunch at work, I was ready for a snack by the time the kids got home from school. I was pretty pleased with my healthy apple slices with peanut butter dip (the kids were not!) Nevertheless, I enjoyed the sweet / savoury combination and it helped bridge the gap between lunch and dinner.

~ Dinner ~ 578 cals ~

Beef Enchilladas with Balsamic Drizzled Baby Spinach

Beef Enchilladas with Baby Spinach
Enchilladas with Spinach Salad

Enchilladas (from a box) are another family favourite in house - usually, I'd make them per the box instructions. This week, I cut back on the cheese and threw some extra sweetcorn in too. Served with some baby spinach, drizzled in balsamic dressing - ooh they were lovely. Even the kids enjoyed them immensely too!

Day 4 - Thursday

1231 calories • 57.5g protein • 6.3 servings fruit & veg

Having left my overnight oats in the fridge, I was more than a little looking forward to eating them today. With a concerted effort, I resisted eating them first thing (just!)

~ Breakfast ~ 230 cals ~

Weetabix with Warm Milk and Honey

Weetabix with Warm Milk
2 Weetabix Protein with 125 ml warm milk and 1 tsp honey

Weetabix with warm milk is a real winter treat for me. Through the summer months, I forget it's even an option - but, as soon as the colder weather sets in - comfort springs to mind. I decided to keep it simple this morning and drizzled it with a little honey - it was divine!

~ Lunch ~ 336 cals ~

Overnight Oats with Mango

Overnight Oats with Mango
Overnight oats made with 40g porridge oats, 125g Fage 0%, 125ml apple juice and 100g chopped mango 

Lunchtime simply couldn't come quickly enough today. Not because I was hungry though (the Weetabix did a good job of seeing me through (almost too good a job!) I just couldn't wait to enjoy my overnight oats... I left them on my desk to bring them up to room temperature, and they were so wonderful - the apple infused oats with the sweet mango. I shall be making this again... and again...

After the oats though, things got a little manic - some event at the school, then DH's train was delayed. In the midst there simply wasn't time to cook what I'd planned and knew that takeaway was pretty certain.

I did a quick calorie count of my usual: Quarter Pounder, medium fries and an orange juice. Wow - 963 calories, that's ridiculous!

Using the wlr database I discovered I could swap to a wrap with side salad and HALVE the calories!

See how my McDonald's meals compare:

McDonalds Meal Cals
Usual Quarter Pounder, Medium Fries, Orange Juice 963
Swap Grilled Garlic Mayo Chicken Wrap, Side Salad, Orange Juice 471
Amazing Calorie Saving - MORE THAN HALF! 492

~ Dinner ~ 628 cals ~

McDonalds Crispy Chicken Wrap Meal

McDonals Crispy Garlic Mayo Chicken Wrap
McDonalds Meal: Crispy Garlic Chicken Wrap, Side Salad and Orange Juice

However, things went a little awry when I got there - and I somehow ordered a Crispy Garlic Mayo wrap instead of the Grilled one. I'm blaming the pictures on the self serve screen - the Crispy one just LOOKED so much more appealing than the grilled one.

I was feeling pretty smug though, having stuck to my resolve to swap my fries for salad (in reality I was secretly craving the kids' chips...) I don't think matters were helped all that much with the sheer difficulty that eating a salad out of a plastic cup entails. Nor the fact that I'd doused mine in balsamic dressing, which made the whole ordeal rather messy. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole treat (and break from food prep) - I'd just be more careful with my choices in future.

See how my McDonald's meals compare:

Actual Crispy Garlic Chicken Wrap, Side Salad + Dressing, Orange Juice 628

~ Snack ~ 37 cals ~

Just an Apple

Later in the day I was strict and snacked only on a apple - effectively keeping myself within my calorie quota... Ooh, was I chuffed with myself!

Day 5 - Friday

1243 calories • 66.5g protein • 5.5 servings fruit & veg

With rather a lot of boxes of new cereals in the cupboard at this point I thought I'd best start eating some up! Knowing what I enjoyed and what kept me feeling full meant putting together today's food was a breeze!

~ Breakfast ~ 295 cals ~

Shreddies Max Oat Granola with Yoghurt and Blueberries

Shreddies Max Oat Granola with Yoghurt and Blueberries
45g Shreddies Max Oat Granola with 125g Fage 0% yoghurt and 80g blueberries

Back with the Shreddies Max Oat Granola - this time topped with 0% fat yoghurt and blueberries. Not one for soggy cereals, I'm really enjoying the crunchiness of the granola with the the creaminess of the yoghurt and the little sugar hit of the berries. Yum!

~ Lunch ~ 301 cals ~

Special K Nourish with Milk and Banana

Special K Nourish with Milk and Banana
Special K Nourish with 125ml semi skimmed milk and 1 small sliced banana

To round my working week off, I kept lunch simple. Pre-measured at home, this was quick to make in the office - and I was no longer feeling paranoid thinking everyone was watching me. They weren't!

~ Snack ~ 37 cals ~

Apple

1 small apple

~ Oops ~ 147 cals ~

Mini Danish Pastry: Vanilla Crown

Mini Danish Pastry Selection
1 mini vanilla crown (and some others, I didn't eat - honest!)

Oops, indeed. I think my resolve may have faltered a little when the mini danish pastries arrived - courtesy of a colleague. Never normally one to refuse office treats, I felt the pressure was on... Fortunately working for wlr means the goodies tend to be mini where possible, so I succumbed. I mean - what damage can one tiny little mini vanilla crown do? 147 calories it seems!

All wasn't lost though - I simply saved my planned peanuts for another day (and gained back 118 cals). To be totally honest, I wish I'd refused the sweet sugar dip inducing pastry and enjoyed my protein-packed peanuts - It's a learning curve, I guess...

~ Dinner ~ 463 cals ~

Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice

Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice
Chicken Tikka Masala - from Delish Diet Plan Recipe Book - it was "Delish" too!

If it wasn't for the fact I had already defrosted the chicken (and had all the other ingredients) I wouldn't have made dinner tonight! The post danish pastry sugar rush soon had me feeling pretty hangry... I wasn't at all in the mood for making something new, from scratch.

I was proper pleased I did.

Once I'd chopped the vegetables and browned the chicken off in my crockpot - I just popped in everything else and picked DH up from the station whilst it cooked itself. Got home and 10 minutes later (having quickly cooked the rice) we were sitting down with the most delicious homemade curry EVER (and all for under 500 calories!) Even DH commented on how super tasty it was.

Try the recipe here - you won't be disappointed.

Day 6 & 7 - The weekend

And I quit...

The thought of sitting eating cereals at lunch whilst the rest of the family devoured fresh baguette, cheese and salami most certainly did not appeal!

Plus we had guests visiting - and I didn't want to feel like the odd one out, or have to try to explain myself. Cereals for lunch is still pretty odd, right?

In hindsight, on Saturday I could have stuck to my reduced calories allowance easily. On Sunday I could have enjoyed cereals for breakfast / real Roast Sunday lunch / cereals for supper and not felt deprived at all

However, for me, this was just an experiment to see I could create a more realistic, healthier Cereal Diet. I feel that I did

My Weight Loss (just for interest)

  • Weight Monday: 60.3kg (9 st and 7 lb)
  • Weight Friday: 59.6kg (9 st and 5½ lb)

Weight lost in 5 days: 0.7kg (1.6lb)

My Cereal Diet Observations

  1. I thoroughly enjoy cereals with 0% fat yoghurt and fruit - it takes them from the mundane to the magnificent
  2. Nobody takes half as much notice in what you eat as you would think they do, in fact even now some people in the office are surprised I did a week on cereals without them noticing (and this is wlr headquarters too!)
  3. Snacks were essential for me to survive - and switching out my chocolate / cakes / biscuits for fruit and nuts really worked for me
  4. Simple swaps to my regular recipes really improved both the calorie count and the taste too! It's so easy to stick to the usual because it requires no thought - but using the wlr database in the day (when I wasn't hungry) made it easier to stick to the planned changes in the evening.
  5.  It's really easy to accidentally consume hundreds of extra calories. If I hadn't been counting the calories I'd have eaten almost 1000 calories at McDonalds; plus 150 calories on a mini danish pastry I didn't overly enjoy (in reality, it would have been 300 calories cos I'd have had two!)

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