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April 9, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

What are some good healthy alternatives to help me wean myself off of sugary breakfast cereals?

I'm a big guy. 35 yo 6'3" right over 300lbs. In the last few months I have been slowly weaning myself off of things that I know are unhealthy: I have cut out sodas, fast food, cut way down on my carb intake and my decades long fight against skittles and sweet tarts. What I haven't been able to break is my addiction to cold cereals like fruit loops and frosted flakes. For years and years I have eaten a large bowl for breakfast and a bowl before bed, which I know is terrible, but its like I can't go to sleep without it. It's just my routine that I have been doing forever. My goal is not necessarily to lose weight, its to just get healthier with losing weight as a by product. I've read tons of threads on AskMe and all of that but I am specifically curious about people who have given up that cold cereal fix and what, if anything they have replaced it with. Thanks!
posted by holdkris99 to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
While it's still pretty high in carbs, how about some oatmeal with milk and fresh fruit -- preferably a fruit that is not overly sugary like apples. Oatmeal is a carb but at least it is not wheat (which I did not know until recently -- oats are not from wheat) and it would be healthier than sugary breakfast cereals made of refined wheat flour or corn.
posted by imagineerit at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh I meant apples ARE an example of an overly sugary fruit.
posted by imagineerit at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2012

I have not eliminated cold cereal, but I've gone from sugary stuff to the blander flakes, like Special K and Total, with fresh fruit mixed in (sliced banana, strawberries, blueberries, or raisins in a pinch). Still sweet, still satisfying in the same carbs-and-milk way, but the calories aren't of the empty variety.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2012

Could you switch to a "better" type of cereal, at least as a temporary step? I mean, a bowl of Puffed Rice or Cheerios before bed isn't ideal, but it's way better than Lucky Charms or something. It could also serve as a way to get more fiber and whole grains into your diet.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

How about doing it by steps? You could move to whole-grain granola (which can be equally sugary), then to muesli with some yogurt and fresh or dried fruit (which might be slightly less sweet and would still be wholesome), then to fresh fruit and yogurt, then to fresh fruit alone.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:32 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Low-carber here. If you must have something cereal-like, try a bowl of almonds and a spoon. I prefer eggs, though.
posted by callmejay at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been switching away from cereal-for-breakfast (and its cousin, jammy toast) gradually for a while, as I realized that have a breakfast (and often a second breakfast) with nothing but carbs and a sugar topping made for crap morning productivity.

For me, scrambling a quick egg and putting it on top of toast at least a few times a week has worked well. Getting a quiche from the bakery around the corner is a nice backup.
posted by feckless at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2012

I am very similar to you - I love sweetened cereal first thing in the am and then I can eat a bowl for dinner, too. But I was worried that even stuff like the Special K with Berries was really more sugar than I wanted. So, a few months ago, I tried (and now absolutely LOVE) Cascadian Farms Organic Chocolate O's. I have only found them at Target (and not all Targets carry it), but online it looks like it may also be at Wal-mart. They are pre-sweetened just enough (real cocoa) for me and a little bit healthier than most of the other cereals I've tried.
posted by foxhat10 at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2012

Agreed with callmejay. Nothing you replace this with will be a better substitution than a simple plate of scrambled eggs; mix in some toasted nuts or veggies if you miss the crunch.
posted by vorfeed at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2012

Response by poster: The almond idea is a good one, but for about 7 years I did meth and just destroyed my teeth, almonds are just too hard for me to chew, which sucks because I love em.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2012

Actually, I don't really know if this will help you since you are looking to get away from cold cereal...
posted by foxhat10 at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2012

My vote is this - keep the cereal, just move to a healthier one. Special K, or even simple Cheerios are not abysmal. Switch the milk out to Almond Milk.
posted by machinecraig at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2012

If you love almonds and can't chew them, you could get the sliced kind or the slivered kind. They're in the baking section of most grocery stores. And nth-ing the suggestion of a less sugary cereal (I love multi-grain cheerios) with skim milk.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been eating plain Cheerios with a couple of cut-up strawberries, a few blueberries, and half a cut up banana thrown in. The fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness. I too have cut way down on sugar and carbs.
posted by daydreamer at 11:47 AM on April 9, 2012

Some cold cereals are better than others. Maybe you can start by replacing the big bowl of fruit loops with something else?

For instance, I like Raisin Bran without anything added. Just Raisin Bran + milk works for me. Maybe you can try it and really savor the sweetness of the raisins? If the bran flakes are too rough, let them soak in milk for a little while. The raisins are sweet (and healthy, sugar aside) and the flakes are great at filling me up. If it doesn't quite do it, maybe add a little sugar to start with and work down to Raisin Bran alone.

Also, I like Cheerios smothered in cinnamon. I once went through a big container if cinnamon in two months just putting it on my cereal. Cinnamon has a natural sweetness and no calories, so go crazy with it. There's no "correct" amount. Imagine the insane amount of sugar you'd have to put on normal Cheerios to make them an acceptable substitute, then put that much cinnamon on them. They'll be sweet. If it isn't enough, add more cinnamon! Just make sure you mix it up so the cinnamon is mixed into the milky Cheerios and not powdery - you don't want to get a spoonful of cinnamon and accidentally do the cinnamon challenge.

If you really want to spruce it up, go for Cheerios + tons of cinnamon + a scoop of chocolate protein powder. Now you have milky, chocolaty, crunchy cereal - it's almost exactly like a kid's cereal except with protein that will keep you full and guilt-free cinnamon instead of processed sugar. Protein powder can be, well, powdery, so mix it well. Can't argue with chocolate for breakfast. Just don't go overboard with the protein powder.

Honestly, I would use cinnamon shamelessly as a harmless sweetener. Smother Cheerios and oatmeal. Later on, if for some reason you have to cut back on cinnamon (I can't imagine why) then you can cut back and you'll have learned to like some new replacement cereals.

Maybe once a week you could treat yourself to some eggs in the morning? Don't think of it as "I'm giving up my beloved cereal," think of it as "special day: hot breakfast day!" Then scramble some eggs. The best scrambled eggs have milk and such, but honestly I'm too lazy to mix things in the morning. I was always happy with cracking 3 eggs into a skillet (or pouring a cup of Egg Beaters in). Add salt and pepper, or even pour some salsa from a jar on it if salsa's your thing.
posted by Tehhund at 11:47 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, "healthier" doesn't always equal "fewer calories" but in case you want to reduce calories: you could switch to milk with less fat in it. The caloric savings from reducing milk fat add up over time.
posted by Tehhund at 11:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just switching to a less sugary cold cereal would be a big step. Do it gradually.

Start substituting 10 percent Cheerios (or whatever other non-sugary cereal you prefer) for some of your Fruit Loops or 10 percent corn flakes for some of your Frosted Flakes. Do that for a few days, then move it to 20 percent unsugared, and so on. I took this approach when switching from high-fat to skim milk and found it much easier than suddenly switching to something that just didn't taste right. (And as other mentioned, you can also try mixing some fresh fruit, or a very little bit of raisins or other dried fruit.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'd say switch to eggs and have cereal at the treat!

I eat eggs for breakfast most mornings but will occasionally eat Greek yogurt (full fat only! death to non-fat yogurt!) or leftovers, or a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon instead.
posted by vespabelle at 11:52 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I see what you're saying, because I'm like that too. It's the comfort and the routine as much as the taste (the taste of childhood! and easier times). I too have gone from sweet cereals, to less sweet and crunchier ones like the Kashi family with skim milk (because I just plain like how watery it is, really) - then to muesli and granola with plain yogurt and fruit instead of milk. The smaller and denser foods mean I eat less, but still feel "full".

It's as much about changing the pattern and habits and urges, right? So, when you feel the craving coming on, brush your teeth. You've interrupted the pattern, and it's something to feel good about at the appropriate times of day. If you still want the food in a bit because you're hungry, it won't taste quite as good. And get rid of your big bowls. We collect vintage diner china, and have nappies and cereal bowls for such things. Usuall a cereal bowl size is smaller than soup bowl size, and it helps to manage portions to use the proper bowl.
posted by peagood at 11:52 AM on April 9, 2012

just jumping in about almonds. if you love them, but do not feel comfortable with the crunch, try some almond butter! a little bit of almond butter spread on warm whole grain toast with honey or agave is super yum! for a bigger breafast, add some banana slices, too. or apple slices. granny smith apples add a fun tart kick to the sweet honey. what i have found with sugars is that you crave them when you eat them. if you can make it for a week or two without the cold cereal, other foods will seem sweeter - honey, agave, fruit, you name it.
posted by anya32 at 11:55 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you bribe yourself with something else that's great but that you're not hooked on? So, you don't get to have cereal for breakfast -- but you do get all the bacon you want, or all the scrambled eggs, or all the honey yoghurt with strawberries, or all the ham sandwiches, or all the ribeye steaks, or all the sauteed baby kale, or all the phud thai, or...
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:57 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love microwaved banana-oatmeal cakes. Mush up a banana in a bowl, mush into it half a cup of dry oatmeal, add cinnamon/ginger to taste if you like, microwave for 2-4 minutes depending how mushy/crispy you like it. This is my default breakfast (sometimes I save half for the next day if I'm feeling disciplined, but I'm a tiny lady).

It's a sweet, breakfasty breakfast that's a bit healthier than sugary cereals- not massively low-cal, but the energy from the bananas and oatmeal is released slowly instead of in a burst followed by a sugar crash, and you get plenty of potassium and fiber.
posted by pickingupsticks at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would suggest reading The Power of Habit. I just finished it and have already changed some unhealthy habits.
posted by orsonet at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2012

Slim fast packet + skim milk + high fiber cereal like kashi crunch
posted by MangyCarface at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2012

I like steel-cut oats with a handful of raisins. If I really crave some cold cereal, I go for generic wheaties or raisin bran.
posted by DarkForest at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2012

I lived on breakfast cereal for breakfast for 25+ years. My friends said I'd never quit (especially friends who had previously seen my cereal cabinets).

Things I tried:
- transitioning to healthier cereals (the only one I really liked was Quaker Oatmeal Squares)
- making oatmeal (it never filled me up like breakfast cereal)

Thing that worked:
- fruit smoothies

I make a gigantic 1 liter smoothie every day with frozen berries, 1/2 of a banana, frozen mangoes, and sometimes a tangerine. I add a scoop of vanilla-flavored protein powder and a scoop of Trader Joes berry-flavored greens powder. Then I blend it with a cup of almond milk and enough water to make it drinkable through a straw.

I've had this basically every morning for the last 6 months, and it is delicious. I killed my first blender, though. But I seriously have given up breakfast cereal, and I lost 15 pounds by accident.
posted by Maarika at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Could you switch out your dairy for vanilla almond milk? Adding sweetness that way may help you tolerate less sweet-tasting whole-grain cereals. You'll miss out on the protein, but this should add some other healthful vitamins and help cut back on calories. (Consider vanilla soy milk, too!)
posted by juliplease at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only cereal I ever ate were the crappy sugary ones. Frosted Flakes were bad for you? Who knew?

Anyway, I got myself one of those giant plastic cereal containers, and began to experiment with whatever healthier breakfast cereals were on sale. I start with a box of Cheerios, and then gradually throw in half a box of whatever healthy cereal I grabbed. Every few weeks, a new healthy cereal was added to the mix to the point where now I have no idea what my cereal is made up of - it probably has at least 6 different cereals in it. Keeps me from being bored.

I use 2% low fat milk, cut up fresh fruit for a little bit of sweetness, and throw in some crunchy granola for more fiber.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK, this is not going to be tasty to the average person, so most likely (oh, about 100%, ha!) you'll reject this, but just to give you some ideas... this is what I eat as my first food of the day - what I call "the mix". It's only purpose, is to be as healthy as possible, relying on nutritional research:

Take a big bowl/cup, and throw in:

1) 1 tbsp of psyllium husk powder

2) 1tbsp of ground flax seed (buy the flaxseed and store it in your freezer; using a coffee grinder, grind one week's worth of flax seed and also store in the freezer)

3) 1tbsp of brewers (nutritional) yeast

4) 1tbsp of oat bran - I get the TJ's one (note: this is just the bran, not oats)

5) protein powder - 60 grams worth of protein content (whey concentrate, or vegetable protein like pea protein or hemp protein)

6) Mix the powders with a spoon, 30 seconds or so until blended

7) Add two cups of water - mix until the powder fully dissolves

8) Add 1 tbsp of non-fat yoghurt with live culture (I buy TJ's)

Not the tastiest thing - though I don't mind at all - but definitely super healthy. Every ingredient included based on science-backed studies. I've been doing this for some 12 years so far.
posted by VikingSword at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I often do plain yogurt with fruit and granola for breakfast. I also like a bowl of oatmeal with a little brown sugar or honey in it. Still sweet, but already much better than boxed cereal.
posted by Gilbert at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2012

If you really want to "wean" yourself off the sugary cereals, you could switch from whatever you're on now to Honey Nut Cheerios, and then to a mix of Honey Nut and regular (non-sugary) Cheerios, and decrease the Honey Nut until you're all the way down to just plain Cheerios, which are actually not bad for you. Or try the same approach with frosted mini wheat cereal and gradually transition to just the wheat pillow thingies without the frosting. Congratulations on all the great changes you've already made!
posted by TrixieRamble at 1:04 PM on April 9, 2012

Oh, and check out almond butter on toast for that almond goodness without the crunch!
posted by TrixieRamble at 1:04 PM on April 9, 2012

The Multigrain Cheerios taste much better than straight up bland Cheerios, IMO. Maybe try those? I am addicted to them myself, and have them probably 80% of the time for breakfast. I've lost a lot of weight in the last 9 months, for what it's worth.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for eggs. Mmmmm. Eggs.
posted by OsoMeaty at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2012

I'd go with steel-cut oats. They contain a lot of fiber, so they expand a lot and make you very full, but you're eating about half as much as normal oatmeal (or cold cereal). I usually make mine with water, cinnamon, and raisins, but I use different fruits. My SO puts a tablespoon of peanut butter in his.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:35 PM on April 9, 2012

Milk toast? I used to be reliant on a (sugarless) buttered toast floating in a bit of hot milk topped with a pile of sauteed onion (never having slept well, and having read some nonsense {?} about the soporific value of onions and liking them a lot anyway), sometimes with a little cheese on top. Milk toast with jam sounds like it would be a nice thing for somebody whose breakfast tastes run to the sweet, and it wouldn't be too hard to make it pretty non-junky with a decent bread/jam.
posted by kmennie at 5:49 PM on April 9, 2012

Switch to Wheat Chex or one of the super high fiber cereals. (But not something with chicory root, unless you know you aren't susceptible to the hilarious and uncomfortable gas it can create in some people.) I find that because it is so heavy and substantial, it fills me up better. And after your taste buds adjust, it actually does have a satisfying sweetness.

And I'll go the other direction on the milk advice: use whole milk, but less of it. It is more delicious that way.
posted by gjc at 6:10 PM on April 9, 2012

Corn Bran is like Cap'n Crunch for adults. It does have some added sugar, but has a lot of fiber and whole grains.
posted by benbenson at 7:20 PM on April 9, 2012

Another vote for smothie as breakfast. It dramatically improved my life. You can start here.
posted by Think [Instrumental] at 1:08 AM on April 10, 2012

You can think about all of the sugar in your cold cereal fix, and what it's doing to you, after reading this thread. I kind of knew some of this stuff, but after reading it this morning, it's disturbing enough that I already used less in my coffee, and will begin cutting back everywhere else immediately. *shakes fist at Easter Bunny*
posted by peagood at 5:37 AM on April 10, 2012

Could you mix your cereal so it's 3/4 sugary cereal and 1/4 All-Bran sawdust bits? That will add fibre and make it more useful from a nutritional perspective, yet it'll still taste fun. You could also consider replacing the milk with unsweetened almond or rice milk, which have no cattle hormones.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:25 PM on April 16, 2012

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