Cereal Killer

No doubt about it, breakfast cereal is a physique killer.

Ninety-nine percent of what's on store shelves is nothing but candy, the solid food equivalent of sugared soft drinks, nutritionally bankrupt love-handle fertilizer. If cereal were your roommate, he'd use the last of the toilet paper and not replace the roll. Yeah, that bad.

What's worse is that many of the "healthy" cereals on the market are even more fattening than the kid stuff! A prime example of this is granola. Oh sure, it's touted as outdoorsy, healthy, 100% natural hippy food, but take a look at the label of most mass-marketed granola: high calories, tons of sugar, and ill-advised oils.

One of the most popular "low fat" granola cereals out there today has double the calories of Coco Puffs! Now that's cuckoo. And don't even get me started on granola bars.

Of course, much like beautiful blondes with emotional issues, granola is mighty yummy (until it lets the air out of your tires and doesn't return your CDs). So I set out to apply my method of food preparation to granola.

When I cook, my goals are to:

• Reduce calories without reducing the volume of food. This means you can get satiated with fewer calories.

• Replace most sugary or starchy carbs with complex or high fiber carbs. Likewise, replace bad fats with good fats whenever possible.

• Increase the fiber and protein count if I can. Fiber and protein rate the highest on the Satiety Index, which basically means they get you full fast and keep you full longer.

So let's see what we can do with granola cereal.

Chris's Homemade Half-Calorie Granola

Ingredients:

6 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons Splenda
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/3 cup of sugar-free syrup
1/4 cup pure honey or sugar-free imitation honey
1/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots
Pam nonstick spray

Step #1: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Step #2: Prep dry ingredients. In a large bowl, toss the oatmeal with the almonds, pecans, Splenda, and salt.

Step #3: Prep wet ingredients. Add the syrup, honey, pineapple juice, and almond extract to your rolled oats mixture.

Step #4: Coat a flat pan or "jelly roll pan" with Pam and spread mixture evenly. (This might take a couple of pans.)

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Step #5: Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes so it all gets evenly toasted.

Step #6: After cooling, add cranberries and apricots.

Step #7: Store in zip-lock plastic baggies or sealed jar.

Yield: 10 half-cup servings for normal people, 5 servings for bulking bodybuilder types, 1 serving for Chad Waterbury

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Tips:

• We've removed most of the plain sugar here by using sugar substitute. But watch for extra sugar being slipped into your dried fruits. If you can't find plain ones, just place them into a strainer and rinse them off. Let dry before adding to granola.

• I like to use sugar-free syrup but prefer regular, natural honey to the artificial, sugar-free stuff. Reason is, most sugar-free syrups and honeys use sugar alcohols like maltitol or sorbitol. A little of these ingredients is fine, but too much and you'll... well, let's just hope you have big dog in the house to blame.

• Options: Try figs, apples, or whatever dehydrated fruits you prefer. Also, try playing with your nuts. You know, use walnuts instead of pecans or something. (What did you think I meant, perv?)

• Half-calorie granola is not only good as cold breakfast cereal, it can also be sprinkled over yogurt or added to protein shakes. Heck, I like it right out of the baggie for airplane food.

• If you choose to use it as cereal, knock out even more calories by using Calorie Countdown milk. Even better, make your own "milk" by mixing water with vanilla Low-Carb Metabolic Drive. Make it thin and ice cold (add one or two ice cubes to blender) and pour it right over your granola.

Good for breakfast, great for an on-the-go snack, and a pretty darn good post-workout meal, too. And you won't end up looking like a fat hippy. Try it!