Magic Spoon: The keto-friendly cereal disguised as a kids' cereal, use code CEREALREAL ($34, originally $39; magicspoon.com)
Magic Spoon cereal, a sweet treat with bright childlike colors and branding, seems laboratory-designed to delight nostalgic cereal lovers — like me.
But the Froot Loop look of the cereal, which comes in flavors like fruity, frosted, cocoa, blueberry and birthday cake, is only half the story. While the nostalgia factor is high, these bowls of childhood sweetness are high in protein, have a low carb count, and contain zero sugar. The cereal is gluten- and grain-free and ketogenic-diet-friendly.
The keto diet seems to be a common theme among the cereal's 144K+ followers on Instagram, who leave rave reviews on virtually every post. In just 12 months, the brand has launched a popular product that taps into the zeitgeist of the keto diet — and is growing its business through an online delivery-only system that offers a subscription model, of course.
For the uninitiated: The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very-low-carbohydrate diet, and many might find it isn't easy to adhere to. "If it works for you, that's great. But I know that a lot of people have trouble with it and end up doing a little bit more harm than good when they try to attempt it," says nutritionist Kristen Ciccolini.
Back to Magic Spoon: "It tastes like Froot Loops. Not quite as sweet, but it definitely has that Froot Loop flavor," one YouTube reviewer said, looking super surprised. Intrigued yet? I certainly was.
So if it's sugar-free but supposed to taste like our childhood favorites, I wanted to know what exactly is in it. The ingredient list shows it's sweetened with stevia, monk fruit extract and allulose, a new-to-the-market sweetener. Although allulose is fairly new and there isn't much in-depth information on the sweetener, one study investigated its gastrointestinal tolerance and found that a 132-pound person could consume up to 54 grams (about 2 ounces) per day without any ill effects.
"They call it the 'natural sweetener blend,'" says Ciccolini. "[The components are] all very highly concentrated sweeteners, so you really don't need much of them to get the sweetness out of it."
"They're all low glycemic, and have no calories or impact on blood sugar levels," she explains. "Monk fruit has a little bit of vitamin C. Stevia doesn't affect your blood sugar levels, as well. And allulose — this is quite a newer one, so I don't know of it too much. I know it's starting to make its way into some foods. But they're all natural, they're all very concentrated."
Also known as D-psicose, allulose is technically a simple sugar and is made up of a single sugar molecule, just like better-known glucose and fructose (which are found in honey, fruit, etc.). But unlike those regular sugars, allulose has 90% fewer calories — it has just 0.4 calories per gram, compared with sugar's 4 calories per gram, according to the FDA, which allows the sweetener to be excluded from total and added sugar counts on ingredient lists, in part because "it produces negligible effects on blood glucose and insulin."
In the name of science — and tasty cereal — I clicked over to the Magic Spoon website and placed my order. You're given the option of a monthly subscription for $35.10 or a one-off case of four 7-ounce boxes for $39. (For comparison, the average grocery store cereal box is around 14 to 20 ounces.) I went with the one-off, and five days later my cereal showed up. The packaging gives major Lisa Frank vibes, and I popped open the cocoa flavor right away to take a look. The cereal is ring-shaped, and the brown color looked a little sprayed on. Not super appetizing. The fruity and frosty flavors looked a bit tastier, the fruity variant colored with those bright neons I remember from childhood (and college, let's be real).
The next morning I had my first bowl and chose the fruity and cocoa to start my experiment. One serving of the cereal clocks in at a little over 100 calories, but one serving is three-quarters of a cup, so I poured myself two servings — one of each flavor — and dug in. The flavors are very similar to what you'd expect in a sweet kiddie cereal, but the texture was slightly sandy — it reminded me of Dippin' Dots. As it soaked in the whole milk, the texture improved.
Here's what I liked the most about Magic Spoon: I stayed full. Satiety is not something I expect from a sweet-tasting cereal, and I was pleasantly surprised to not think about food until lunch. I felt like I'd had a couple of eggs with some cheese, and the cereal fueled my 4-mile morning walk.
The next night, I was hungry before bed, and I poured myself a cup of the frosty flavor for a little snack. I still don't love the texture, but for a sweet treat that's low in both calories and carbs, Magic Spoon works well, probably due to the whey and milk proteins that make up the cereal's base.
If you're looking for an alternative breakfast or sweet snack, and have no intention of consuming carbs or sugar any time soon, Magic Spoon could be just what you need. I'll be reaching for it whenever I don't have time to cook turkey bacon and eggs and need to keep moving until lunch. Of course, I haven't tried Cereal School yet, so...
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.