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The Special K Challenge

The Special K Challenge: How it Works continued...

It's also easy to follow. Like a meal replacement diet plan, the Special K Challenge eliminates the guesswork for all snacks and most meals. The freedom to self-select a third meal makes the Challenge more acceptable to most dieters.

Results of a 2002 study done at Purdue University (funded by Kellogg) 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 2-week period," says study author Rick Mattes, PhD.

Be warned: You may be very hungry on the Special K diet, depending on what you're used to eating. It's high in carbohydrates and relatively low in fiber and protein.

The Special K Challenge: What the Experts Say

The Special K diet is simple, uses foods that are readily available, and is doable for most people. But experts don’t give it a total thumbs-up: It's too low in protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. It also lacks an exercise component and the kinds of sustainable changes that are the foundation for healthy weight loss plans.

There certainly is no harm in following the Special K diet plan for a few weeks and using it as a springboard to a more balanced weight loss plan that includes exercise, the experts say.

"While it may be an overly simplistic plan … it is a great way to start focusing on the things that need to change to get your diet a step in the right direction," Mattes says.

Keep in mind that most dieters lose a little water weight when starting a weight loss plan. You may lose a little more than the usual 1-2 pound weight loss per week on this plan at first, but you can expect slower weight loss after the first few weeks.

One expert says the Special K diet could be a good choice for people who tend to skip meals during the day.

"This may be a useful option for anyone who routinely skips meals or who eats fast foods or meals loaded with calories," says Lynn Grieger, RD.

This is especially true for those who tend to overlook breakfast, another expert says.

"One of the best aspects of the [Special K] Challenge is getting people to eat breakfast because breakfast has been shown to produce a whole host of health and cognitive benefits, including weight control," says Marisa Moore, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Hunger is likely to be an issue, though. Grieger cautions that cereal with skim milk and fruit is a great meal or snack, but unless you choose a high-protein, high-fiber cereal, you may be hungry in an hour or two.

"Eating foods low in fiber and protein causes hunger sooner and may trigger overeating of the wrong kinds of foods," Grieger says.

Moore suggests that dieters reduce the boredom of eating so many cereal products by adding plenty of fruits and vegetables to the Special K diet.

"Aim for 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, which will lower your calorie intake naturally and provide a wealth of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals," she says.

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