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Fall in Love with Oatmeal!

November 4, 2013, 3:01 pm
The autumn months are upon us, accompanied by the appropriate weather and seasonal cues for fresh apple cider, sweaters, pumpkin spice everything, and - if you’re like most people - jump-starting your day with a hot bowl of oatmeal. Right now is the perfect time to share some easy and healthy ways to enjoy oatmeal!

In its basic form, oatmeal is a simple, versatile, inexpensive, and health-promoting food. Although you can find literally hundreds of ways to eat oatmeal, oatmeal recipes out there suffer from one or more of the following problems: extensive ingredient requirements, long preparation times, or the addition of loads of fat and sugar. The former two items present an obstacle because "ain’t nobody got time for that". The latter issue, while acceptable on special occasions, undermines the health benefits of oatmeal, which is packed with naturally-occurring (no need for "enrichment" or "fortification" here!) soluble fiber, B vitamins, fat, and protein.

Extensive research has linked consumption of fiber from oatmeal with reduced heart disease risk and it may keep you feeling fuller and more satisfied than ready-to-eat breakfast cereal.But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a bland, tasteless porridge that may dominate your notion of oatmeal if you haven’t fallen in love with it yet. Here are some simple, healthy, and delicious ways to get more oatmeal into your life with minimal hassle and maximum enjoyment:

Use Natural Flavors Flavor is so important because plain oatmeal, especially when hot, is truly bland. But hold the maple syrup and heaping spoonful(s) of brown sugar - instead flavor your oatmeal naturally without resorting to refined sweeteners.

Best option - lots of cinnamon (+ nutmeg, ginger, and cloves if you want a pumpkin pie profile) Good for your taste buds as well as the rest of your body and 0 calories.

Not enough flavor? Try adding a small handful of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, etc.)

Another great option - use ¼ cup of 100% apple juice (or cider) as part of the fluid used to cook the oatmeal. This infuses the oatmeal with apple fragrance and flavor.

Veg Out Brighten your oatmeal with an array of orange squash and starchy vegetables (butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes all fit the bill). Packed with vitamin A and more, this is a sneaky way to fit another serving of vegetables into your day. Not only that, when you combine this with cinnamon, it’s almost like eating pumpkin pie for breakfast. Canned pumpkin works but all winter squash and sweet potatoes are extremely easy to prepare in bulk and refrigerate or freeze for convenient use.

Power Breakfast Hump days happen and not always on Wednesday. If you’re facing "one of those days", oatmeal can help. It’s already hearty by itself but a few additions can add even more staying power. Nut butter is one of my favorites. Just stir in one or two tablespoons of nut butter into a bowl of hot oatmeal. Love PB&J? Use one spoonful of PB and one of fruit preserves. Alternatively, substitute milk for water when preparing the oatmeal (I generally do half milk/half water but go all the way with milk when I know I’ll need the extra protein and calories).

Some Like it Cold and Raw So do the Swiss - they call it muesli. Whatever you call it, oatmeal can be just as delicious raw as it is cooked and eliminating a processing step makes it even quicker and more convenient.

Note: Regular ("Old-fashioned") or quick rolled oats are referenced here - you can also use steel-cut oats raw for extra texture. Some great ways to enjoy raw oats:

Mix with plain yogurt, cinnamon, and a sliced banana or apple (if you are going to eat it right away) or frozen berries (makes a wonderful snack to be packed for later).

Combine raw oatmeal with milk, a small handful of raisins, cinnamon, and a big spoonful of chia seeds in a cereal bowl, refrigerate overnight, and stir a few times before eating in the morning. Caveat - if you don’t like the texture of soaked chia seeds, then this isn’t for you.

Mix raw oatmeal with a favorite ready-to-eat cereal - this works well if you’re craving granola (which is really just oatmeal in fancy clothes) but want to cut back on the fat and calories: if you substitute raw oatmeal for half the granola, you’ll hardly notice a difference in flavor.

Savor It In Scotland, where oatmeal has long been a staple food, oats saw action far beyond the breakfast table. For example, oatmeal is an essential ingredient in that famous Scottish dish known as haggis. You too can put oats to savory uses. Mix them (raw) with cooked lentils to add a bit of firmness and texture (especially if you overcook the lentils…). It can be added it to pilafs and stuffing. Oatmeal also can be used to thicken soups.

Baked Goods What is about to be suggested may seem hypocritical since long prep times, ingredient lists, and added fats/sugars have previously been bashed…but there is a recipe for baked oatmeal that is fantastic! Yes, it requires measuring and baking but it’s still absurdly simple - the end product can also be used to replace granola bars and other processed snack food that are best to avoid. Check out the Recipes tab later in the week for this delicious version of baked oatmeal!

That’s All for Now I hope you discovered something that can enhance the oatmeal in your life. Want to know even more about oatmeal? Or anything else related to nutrition and cooking? Ask The Sage!

- Nathan Myers, Registration Eligible + Research Assistant for:

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