In a recent survey, about half of Americans polled eat cereal (including oatmeal!) for breakfast. Oatmeal can be a wonderfully hearty breakfast that is jam-packed with nutrition and can be super satisfying. Oatmeal can also be packed with sugar, and keep you hungry throughout the day. How can that be? Well, there are three main types of oats and depending what you get and how you get them, their health score can really vary.
Instant oats are the type that can sometimes be tricky in terms of sifting out what’s better for you, as they are often loaded with sugar (and sodium) in addition to being stripped of some nutrients so they can cook more quickly. For example, one popular brand’s Maple and Brown Sugar flavor has 12 grams of sugar in one serving, equal to 1 tablespoon of sugar! This same product has 250 mg sodium, making it no longer a low sodium choice. Meanwhile, McCann’s Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar has only 3.5 grams of sugar in one packet. McCann’s also has a rolled oats option that has less than 1 gram of sugar in ½ cup dry (or 1 cup cooked) oats. You might think 1 gram of sugar sounds boring and flavorless, but there are tons of other ways to add flavor without sacrificing the healthiness of your meal; you can add cinnamon, unsweetened milk of your choosing (coconut, almond, cow’s milk), nuts, some sliced banana or ½ cup of berries. All of these options give your meal flavor without changing the dish from something that’s feeding your body to something that’s potentially harming it.
The other two types of oats, steel-cut and rolled oats, are both wonderfully nutritious. Steel-cut oats – also called Irish oats – are chopped pieces of the whole grain and look like thick pieces of rice; they take the longest to cook and are chewier than rolled oats. On the other hand, rolled – or old-fashioned – oats are a result of steaming and then flattening the grain before packaging; when cooked, these types of oats puff up a little bit. While both are definitely great choices, steel cut oats are digested a bit more slowly than rolled oats, making them have a lower glycemic index as compared to the rolled version; this means that steel cut oats don’t spike your blood sugar as high as rolled oats do. Nevertheless, they are both great options and better than instant oats if you have the choice; if you choose instant oats, look for those with less than 7 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
See below for my easy recipe for overnight oats, so that you can have a nutritious breakfast (or lunch, or dinner!) that makes you feel energized, while also feeding you some good B vitamins and soluble fiber (to reduce cholesterol and help better regulate blood sugar levels)!
Quick Point: A lot of people believe that when they’re following a gluten-free diet, they absolutely cannot have oats. This isn’t true- oats do not contain gluten but they’re often packaged in a facilities that also package gluten-containing products, so there is chance for cross-contamination. If you are following a gluten-free diet, just check the label and make sure your oats are labeled gluten-free. If so, enjoy!
½ dry rolled oats
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (I like the Califia Farms brand!)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1-2 tbsp peanut/almond butter
½ small sliced banana and/or few berries (optional)
1 tbsp chopped walnuts/slivered almonds (optional)
- Combine oats, almond milk, flaxseed and nut butter until fairly evenly distributed. Let sit overnight (or for at least 6 hours) in the refrigerator.
- Take out of the fridge; add fruit and nuts if you’d like (can serve cold or warmed)! Enjoy!