Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal

By Darren Stehle

healthy breakfast oatmeal

Thick-cut oats with peanut butter, filberts, strawberries, bananas, yogurt and cinnamon.

Not sure what to eat for breakfast? How about some stick-to-the-ribs oatmeal?

The healthiest oatmeal you can eat is made from steel-cut oats. They need the least amount of processing and closest to the original grain. They are cut from the oat groats, which look like long-grain rice, and are harvested from the oat plant.

A bowl of healthy oatmeal will help you feel satisfied in the morning. Whole oats digest slowly, meaning you won’t experience a drop in blood sugar. Oats are high in fibre, they help lower the so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol, they’re higher in protein than other grains, and they other many other health benefits.

Types of Oatmeal

Rolled oats are sold as thick or regular. The whole oat groat is first steamed and then flattened by rolling. Quick oats are cut into pieces and then rolled into flakes. Finally, instant oats are pre-cooked. Rolled oats make for a healthy breakfast and are also used in cooking or baking. Instant oats are often packaged with added sugar and other ingredients that you may want to avoid.

thick rolled and steel cut oats

Thick-cut and steel-cut oats: the only type of oats I cook with.

Oats are naturally gluten-free if they have not been contaminated by other grains that contain gluten. Cross-contamination may happen if the oats are grown in the same field as wheat, or if they processed in a facility that also processes grains containing gluten. If you chose to avoid eating gluten, there are a few gluten-free oat products available. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free steel-cut oats is a trusted brand.

What Oatmeal should I avoid?

My suggestion is to avoid instant oatmeal products. The oat grain has undergone the most amount of processing to cook faster. Most often instant oatmeal is packaged with sugar and other additives. The more you process a whole food, the greater the loss of nutrients. Also, just because the label says “steel-cut” next to “quick”, doesn’t means it’s healthy. There should only be one ingredient on the package, i.e. oats.

For example, let’s look at Quaker Instant Oatmeal – Maple & Brown Sugar (Source). The package makes the following claims:quaker instant oats

‘Helps reduce cholesterol.’ Yes fibre is good for you, but the added 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar will negatively affect your insulin levels and your cholesterol.

‘Made from 100% whole grain Quaker Oats.’ Language use in marketing is powerful. While it may have been “made from 100% whole grain,” what is the nutritional value after all the processing?

‘Good source of calcium, iron and 8 other essential vitamins and minerals.’ The operative word is ‘source’: for some reason they have added these vitamins and mineral to the oats. Why? I would suggest taking quality vitamin instead of eating a “fortified processed food.”

These are the ingredients:

WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, SUGAR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, GUAR GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, NIACINAMIDE*, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, FOLIC ACID*.

Instant Quaker oats in bowlSugar is the second ingredient. As a rule, ingredients are listed from highest to lowest amount. According to the nutritional information, one package contains 160 calories, 32 grams of total carbohydrates, and 12 grams of sugar (almost 2 ½ teaspoons). The picture that shows a yummy bowl of oatmeal on the Quaker site is about 3-4 packages worth of instant oatmeal! Do the math and you have one sugar-spiking breakfast cereal – an absolute disaster if you’re trying to lose body fat.

Do you want to eat guar gum, artificial flavour and caramel colour in your oatmeal?

Breakfast Nutrition

It’s helpful to understand what the nutrition information tells you on prepared food packaging. If you only ate the instant quaker oats for breakfast you would be missing healthy fats and consuming too little protein. The instant oats contain oats and sugar, which will spike your insulin and tell your body to store that energy (the calories) as fat!

For optimal health you want your meals to have a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates that come first from vegetables, next fruits and lastly, grains. Daily macronutrient needs varies by individual. Total caloric intake per day can range from 25-40% carbohydrate, 30-35% protein, and 15-40% fat.

We all have different body types  (ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph) and genetic markers (including heritage). These factors can dictate one’s carbohydrate tolerance and the amount and type of physical activity we need for good health. It’s impossible to provide the perfect macronutrient breakdown for breakfast. However, if you use the ratios above, you can see that the sugary breakfast cereal isn’t good for anyone.

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup dry, large-flake, preferably organic oats
  • 1 small banana
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1-1½ cups filtered water
  • 1-2 tbsp. organic all-natural peanut or almond butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk organic yogurt (preferably Saugeen Country Organic Yogurt)

healthy breakfast oatmeal with fruit and nuts

Stove top Method

  1. For stove top use 1 ½ cups of water due to evaporation.
  2. Put oats, banana, water and cinnamon in a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir well and immediately turn off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 5-minutes (or more) until the water is absorbed.
  3. Pour into a serving bowl, stir in the peanut butter until combined, and add the yogurt.

Microwave Method

  1. Cooking time will depend on the power output of your microwave. Put the oatmeal, cinnamon, banana and water into a serving bowl.
  2. Microwave for 3-5 minutes on medium-high. If it needs to cook longer, stir and then cook for a couple of minutes more.
  3. Remove from microwave and stir in the peanut butter. Let cool for a minute and to continue cooking.
  4. Add the yogurt and enjoy.

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Macronutrient Breakdown

This healthy breakfast oatmeal is about 360 calories. It has 14 grams of fat (the yogurt), 50 grams carbohydrates, and almost 14 grams of protein. For a more detailed breakdown and graph, click on this link from FitDay.com.

While this may be twice as many calories compared to the Quaker Instant Oatmeal it’s a much healthier breakfast. The nutrient breakdown is more balanced thanks in part to the added fat and protein.

Substitutions

  • Use steel-cut oats instead of rolled. Note that the cooking time will increase. If you like to prepare the night before, measure out ⅓ cup of steel-cut oats and 1 cup of filtered water. Let that sit in a bowl in your fridge overnight. The grain will absorb some of the water and cook more quickly in the morning;
  • Use a handful (8-12) of nuts instead of the nut butter. Examples: almonds, walnuts, pecans or filberts;
  • Use a different fruit, but add it after the oatmeal has cooked;
  • If you need more protein, add plain or vanilla protein powder.* If you’re eating another protein with your oatmeal, like meat or eggs, you won’t need the protein powder.

*Note – When adding protein powder, pour in a little at a time and stir well. Add more warm water if needed. Adding protein powder too quickly will cause lumps.

Learn more about the various types of oats and the health benefits of oats.

Eat Well To Be Well!

Darren