Is Special K cereal healthy?

By | February 6, 2020

Special K cereal

Kellogg’s Special K cereal has long been marketed as a healthy breakfast option. Advertising campaigns such as their 2005 ‘Drop A Jean Size Challenge’, have helped to cement Special K’s reputation as the cereal choice that can help with weight loss.

However, if you are looking for ways to ‘drop a jean size’, does Special K cereal provide a healthy way to achieve this?  We’ve taken an in-depth look at this popular breakfast option to discover if Special K cereal is good for you and just how healthy it is.

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Special K cereal – Ingredients

Ingredients for the Special K cereal do vary depending on the flavour you choose. However, most varieties feature the core ingredients of rice, wheat gluten, wheat bran and sugar.

The original Special K cereal contains defatted wheat germ, which is produced by extracting the oil from wheat germ to add a toasty flavour to the cereal.

Other flavours such as Red Berries and Fruit & Yogurt contain wheat bran which is a good source of nutrients, protein and dietary fibre.

Special K cereal – Nutrition

When considering the nutritional values of cereals, it’s always best to check the labelling to see if the cereal you choose is right for your needs. We all need to ensure we have a healthy and nutritious breakfast, so here’s our quick guide to the nutrients in Special K cereal:

Carbs

Special K cereal contains a varying amount of carbohydrates depending on the flavour you opt for. Here are the details of three of the most popular choices (based on a 39g serving):

  • Red Berries: Dietary fibre – 3g / Total sugars – 11g (which includes 10g added sugar)
  • Original: Dietary Fibre – <1g / Total sugars – 5g (which includes 4g added sugar)
  • Honey & Oats: Dietary Fibre – 4g / Total sugars – 11g (which includes 11g added sugar)

The Original flavour has less sugar than other choices – the Red Berries and Honey & Oats varieties each have 11g of sugar – of which at least 10% is added sugar.

When you consider that 10g of sugar is the equivalent of 2.5 teaspoons of sugar (which has no nutritional value) then Special K is maybe not as healthy as you thought it was.

Fibre

Whilst the original Special K has the lowest sugar content, it also has less than 1g of dietary fibre. Fibre is essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system and the British Nutrition Foundation recommends an adult should have 30g of fibre a day.

This makes Special K Original a bad choice if you are looking for a breakfast option to increase your fibre intake. The Red Berries and Honey & Oats flavours score slightly higher but are not going to make a significant impact on your daily intake of fibre.

It would be worthwhile adding a chopped banana or apple to your bowl of Special K to increase the amount of fibre you eat at breakfast.

Fat content

There is some good news for Special K in terms of fat content. The Original variety contains almost no fat at all, with Red Berries containing just 0.5g and the Honey & Oats 1g.

With the average fat content of a serving at just 0.5g, they are not saturated or trans fats, which are the worse kind of fats for cardio health.

Reducing the amount of bad fat in our diets is always a good thing, but it is worth remembering that some low-fat foods will have high amounts of added sugar in them as unfortunately, it is the sugar (or fat) that makes many cereals taste so good.

Protein

An adult woman should aim to consume at least 45g of protein per day. Protein is a vital component to help your body build and repair tissues, and it also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which is important if you are trying to lose weight or cut down on snacking.

The Original Special K delivers 7g of protein (or 13g if served with ¾ cup of skimmed milk), but the other flavours are lower with just 3g of protein per 39g serving.

For an added protein boost, Kellogg’s have created a Special K Protein cereal, which provides 15g of protein (which rises to 22g when served with ¾ cup of skimmed milk) making it a better option to help top up your protein levels.

Calories

There are variations in the number of calories in each cereal, some of the popular flavours have the following calories per 39g serving:

  • Red Berries: 140 calories (200 calories with ¾ cup skimmed milk)
  • Original: 150 calories (210 calories with ¾ cup skimmed milk)
  • Honey & Oats: 150 calories (210 calories with ¾ cup skimmed milk)

In comparison, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes have 157 calories per serving and Coco Pops have 150 calories, which does not make Special K significantly lower than many other popular breakfast cereals.

Vitamins and minerals

Many breakfast cereals, including Special K, are fortified with minerals and vitamins. The Original Special K contains vitamins A, C and E, plus also it has B-complex vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin. A serving also delivers 100% of your folic acid RDA and 10mg of potassium.

Special K vs Cornflakes vs Oatmeal – A quick nutritional comparison per 100g

Special K OriginalKellogg’s Corn FlakesQuaker Instant Oatmeal
Calories375 calories378 calories370 calories
Total Fat1.5g0.9g7.7g
Salt1g1.13g0g
Total Carbs79g84g59g
of which sugars15g8g1g (naturally occurring)
Protein9g7g11g
Fibre4.5g3g9g

As you will see from the table above, Special K Original cereal fits between Corn Flakes and instant oatmeal when it comes to the amount of carbs it contains. But unfortunately, it has the most sugar out of all which is not naturally occurring – it’s added, processed sugar with no nutritional value.

In terms of calories and salt, Special K Original is comparable to Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and it’s only slightly higher in protein than cornflakes. This does not make Special K cereal any healthier than sugary cornflakes though.

If you compare Special K Original cereal to Quaker oatmeal, you will quickly see that they don’t differ too much in calories per 100g but the oatmeal is much healthier as it contains more protein, more fibre, no salt and much less carbs.

Keep in mind that oatmeal will keep you fuller for longer due to slightly more protein per 100 g and more fibre. So Quaker Oatmeal is our winner if you are looking for a healthier start of your day.

Is Special K good for weight loss?

We’ve not found that Special K cereal has any advantages for weight loss over the majority of many other breakfast cereals.

All the varieties we’ve explored have 4.5 Slimming World syns per serving, and most varieties do contain lots of added sugar which can cause weight gain if consumed too often. The healthiest Special K option would be the Original flavour as this has the least amount of added sugar, however, you should know that there are much healthier cereal options out there when it comes to sugar content. It’s much better if you stick with oatmeal or try plain Shredded Wheat, for example, both with no added sugar at all.

Are Special K bars healthy?

Special K is not just a cereal brand, Kellogg’s also produce Special K bars which are handy for a quick snack on-the-go, but again do contain added sugar so should be eaten in moderation if you are trying to lose weight or reduce your sugar intake.

Our final thoughts… is Special K healthy?

We’ve found that whilst Special K is an easy and tasty breakfast option that does offer some of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function, it’s not as healthy and beneficial for weight loss as most people think it is.

We suggest that a bowl of porridge would provide a more balanced breakfast, as it is packed with natural ingredients that will keep you feeling fuller for longer, making you less likely to snack between meals.

Author Bio

Kerry passionately believes that eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast provides a head-start to reaching your nutritional requirements for the day. She encourages everyone to make time for breakfast which will lead to you feeling fully-fuelled to face the day and encourage more healthy food choices overall.

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