Oatmeal is a popular breakfast option for many Americans. And studies show that oats actually have a lot of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
According to Healthline, oats are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They are naturally gluten-free, contain more protein and healthy fats than most grains, and are great sources of carbs and fiber.
However, there are lots of ways to make oatmeal, and some are healthier than others. We did some research on how to make oatmeal the right way, to avoid gaining extra pounds and maximize the health benefits.
Use rolled oats instead of quick oats
According to WebMD, “Great oatmeal starts with plain rolled oats, or steel-cut oats, cooked in a little water or milk, and topped with wholesome ingredients.”
The reason to opt for rolled oats in the morning is to keep you full longer. They take a little longer to cook but offer more fiber and protein than quick oats do. They also take longer for your body to digest, which will help to curb cravings throughout the morning.
Don’t be afraid to add ingredients
Oatmeal by itself is healthy and nutrient-dense. However, that doesn’t mean it has all of the nutrients you need to stay full and satisfied throughout your morning.
Oatmeal is low calorie and most of those calories come from carbohydrates. You will want to add wholesome ingredients that are rich in healthy fats, protein and fiber. This could be nut butter, fruit, yogurt, chia seeds, and more. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it.
Whatever you do, avoid pre-packaged oatmeal
Yes, it saves you time to buy the individual, flavored instant oatmeal packets from the store, but these don’t have nearly the same amount of nutritional value as making it yourself does. In fact, the cons may outweigh the pros here.
Many pre-packaged oatmeal options are full of added sugars (as much as eight teaspoons per serving) and artificial ingredients, including dyes in some cases. They also rarely offer any additional nutritional benefits, unless you add your own ingredients in.
If you find you run short on time in the mornings, try opting for overnight oats in the fridge so you can grab and go when you’re heading out the door. This is a much better alternative to the instant packets and will save you money in the long run!
Avoid adding too much sugar
Brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and even just plain table sugar are popular ways to add sweetness to your morning oats. However, those added sugars could cause you to crash later in the day.
Try opting for something that will sustain you longer like applesauce, fresh fruit, cinnamon, or even mashed sweet potato.
Fruit will also increase the fiber in your breakfast, which can be good for digestion. Just avoid dried fruit if you can. Dried fruit often has extra sugar and less fiber than fresh fruit does.
Opt for a plant-based milk
Oats are often cooked in milk to make them extra creamy. However, dairy milk might not be the best choice for you first thing in the morning. In fact, most humans can’t even digest it.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. This percentage is even higher among people of East Asian descent.
That being said, even if you can digest dairy milk, you should still consider a plant-based option for your morning oats if you want to avoid the added calories, fat, and sugar. You’ll also have a lower chance of experiencing bloating and inflammation this way.