The debate over a cereal being “healthy” is ongoing.
Magic Spoon, a new high-protein, low-carb cereal company, hopes its keto-friendly nutritional profile, health promises, and of course exciting flavors are enough to convince adults that their days of puffed grain hoops and milk for breakfast aren’t behind them.
Packaged in technicolor cartoon boxes, Magic Spoon bills itself as a “healthy cereal that tastes too good to be true.”
They hang that health hat on the fact the cereal has a great deal of protein — 12 grams per 3/4 cup serving — along with 110 calories and just 3 grams of net carbs. Compare that to Cheerios, which has a respectable 3 grams of fiber but 20 grams of carbohydrates, all the typical keto eater can have in one day.
The ingredient list isn’t altogether confusing: protein blend (milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate), coconut oil, tapioca flour, chicory root fiber, natural flavors, salt, and a “sweetener blend.” If you follow a keto diet or a low-carb style of eating, you’ll recognize many of these ingredients as alternatives to flour, grains, and rice.
The sugars aren’t unfamiliar either: Magic Spoon says on their website that the sweetener blend in their cereals contains monk fruit, stevia, and allulose. The first two are popular among keto dieters for the no-carb, high-sweetness value.
Allulose, on the other hand, is a new kid on the “natural” sweetener block — and it’s one some experts Healthline talked to say is safe, but they caution that because it’s so new, very little is known about its long-term effects.
“Allulose is a natural sugar with 10 percent of the calories as table sugar and comes from maple syrup, figs, and raisins in small quantities,” said Michelle Shapiro, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in New York City. “The body does not recognize allulose as an energy source, so it does not spike blood sugar. Although the long-term research about allulose is limited at this point, preliminary research suggests allulose is safe and may help with blood sugar control.”
Indeed, most of the research that has looked at allulose (and there is not a lot) shows promise, but many of these studies are conducted in rats and dogs. Human studies are few and far between and often involve very small groups of test subjects.
But the small volume of studies was sufficient for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to declare in April 2019 that allulose does not need to be counted toward a food’s total sugar on the nutrition panel.
It should be noted that London-based food and beverage supplier Tate & Lyle is the one that petitioned the FDA for this special classification for allulose. They also make Splenda.
“[Allulose] has fewer calories, produces only negligible increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and does not promote dental decay,” Susan Mayne, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the department’s statement.
Magic Spoon may be the first to readily promote their use of the non-factor sugar, they certainly won’t be the last — which is why Shana Minei Spence, MS, RDN, CDN, founder of The Nutrition Tea, says you need to be aware of one important factor.
“It is sweeter than regular sugar, so be mindful of that,” she says.
The typical keto dieter aims to eat 20 grams of net carbs per day. Most cereals, even the ones that promote their protein and fiber content, put you over that goal with one serving. That doesn’t even include the milk, which may have 10 grams of carbs or more.
Keto cereal, it seems, sounds like a stretch, but the Magic Spoon panel bears out how it can fit into a low-carb diet: A serving has 8 grams total. Take away 2 grams for fiber and 3 grams for the allulose, and the 3 net carbs that remain are more than comfortable in the typical keto dieter’s daily meal plan.
“Technically, because this is less than 20 grams of net carbs, a person should be able to stay in ketosis while eating this,” Shapiro said. “To ensure staying in ketosis, maintaining a daily intake of less than 20 grams of net carbs and coupling this with some added fat, perhaps heavy cream, will be beneficial.”
Spence agrees you actually need more fat with the cereal in order to truly be a keto-friendly meal.
“It doesn’t contain a high amount of fat, which is also a basis for keto,” she said. “For those looking to be really ‘in ketosis,’ they would need to add a fat, such as turkey bacon, avocado, or eggs.”
Shapiro adds even non-keto eaters may find an alternative to the “fruit”-flavored cereals they sneak from their kids from time to time.
“This may be a suitable snack or part of a breakfast for a non-keto eater as well,” she said. “The cereal has high-quality ingredients such as whey protein, the best absorbed protein isolate; coconut oil, which has small amounts of medium chain triglycerides, which help to shunt the body into ketosis and can help with fat burning; and cinnamon, which can help with blood sugar control.”
Magic Spoon currently sells four varieties of their cereal: cinnamon, cocoa, frosted, and fruity. They’re only available direct-to-consumer, so you’ll need to order the splashy boxes four at a time for the price of $39 per case, or $1.39 per bowl.
If you subscribe to monthly deliveries (the four boxes equal 28 servings, or a month’s worth of breakfasts), you’ll pay only $1.25 per bowl, or $35 per case.
While that’s nearly double the cost of regular cereal, Magic Spoon’s creators hope the health-conscious eaters, especially those following the keto diet, will realize how the cereal can work well into their diet. No more frying eggs and bacon before work. You, like your kids, can pour a bowl of cereal and chow down over the morning’s news updates.