T’is the season for all things oatmeal. Overnight oats, quinoa porridge, Coach’s oats and of course, pumpkin pie oats. And while it is fun to do flavours and varieties of oats, and it’s a great way to mix up a staple, filling breakfast, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re adding to the oats to make sure you aren’t filling up on sugar and unhealthy ingredients.
Here are 5 tips to help you build the best, healthiest bowl of oats:
- Skip the added sweetener – The tendency is to add maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, or any other number of sweeteners to oats. In fact though, this severely negates the health benefit of them, causing some of the nutrients to be lost due to the metabolizing of the sugar. Instead of adding sugar, opt to sweeten the oats naturally with fruit, or use coconut milk or almond milk, which lends a bit of a sweeter and creamier texture to the oats.
- Balance the bowl – To maximize the health benefits of the oats, and their staying power in terms of how much they fill you up, try to add a source of healthy fat and protein to your bowl. The combination of complex carbohydrates, fat and protein cause a slower release of energy into the blood stream and help you feel fuller longer. This is great for when you’re trying to lose weight, or for just making sure you have a breakfast that keeps you going all morning long!
- Opt for fresh fruit instead of dried – You probably wouldn’t think twice about throwing a handful of raisins on top of your porridge or mixing in three or four apricots. But if you added the same amount fresh, a handful of grapes, or 3-4 whole apricots, would probably seem like a lot! Dried fruit tricks us unto thinking we’re not eating as much because of its size, but in reality, it is a very concentrated form of sugar, and it is easy to pack in a lot of calories with just a small quantity of food. Opt for fresh fruit and consume it in small servings as a healthy addition to your oats.
- Mix it up – Don’t get stuck in an oatmeal rut, where you may the same kind every day, using the same ingredients, and cooked the same way. Try using quinoa flakes instead of oats, make overnight oats instead of cooking it the morning of, and add in different superfoods like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, flax and matcha powder. Better yet, get creative and play around with the flavours! You could have pumpkin pie today, chocolate caramel peanut butter tomorrow and cinnamon bun the next day. The possibilities are endless and different flavours will help you mix up your ingredients and keep your breakfast exciting!
- Don’t use instant oats – If you have oatmeal because you like a quick breakfast and feel like instant oats are the way to go, try to give yourself 5-10 extra minutes in the morning and opt for large flake oats instead. That’s the only difference in cooking time, but there is a huge difference in health benefits. Essentially quick oats are simply further processed than large flake, making them less nutritionally beneficial than large flake oats. If you think you don’t have the time in the morning for the extra bit of cooking, soak your oats overnight and make overnight oats and then all you have to do is heat them up in the morning!