You always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
I agree. Oatmeal is pretty great.
Let’s take a look at why oatmeal is healthy, why it keeps you full, and what are some ideas to personalize it to your own taste!
Bread. I used to start each morning off with toast. Or toaster strudels. Or cereal. Or waffles.
Then, about 4 years ago I started eating oatmeal for breakfast. Every. Single. Day. I haven’t turned back since. There’s something about it that it is so filling and satisfying.
I used to get get hungry within an hour or two of breakfast and start snacking away on whatever I could get my hands on- usually something unhealthy, and no matter how many waffles or how much cereal I ate, I could not get past that 2 hour mark without this empty feeling in my stomach and the need to eat.
Oatmeal was different, and it felt good to be able to avoid hunger pangs before noon! Now let’s look at why. Why is it different? Why does it keep you fuller for longer? There has to be a reason beyond “it’s just healthy”. So let’s see.
According to The Harvard Health Publications of the Harvard Medical School, one can look at the glycemic index (GI) of a food to predict how it will affect blood sugar and insulin levels. The estimated glycemic index for oatmeal on average* is 55 (as compared to 100 for glucose).
According to The University of Sydney’s Glycemic Index, foods with a low glycemic index (55 or below) are digested more slowly and take longer to be absorbed and metabolized. Thus, there is a lower rise in insulin levels and glucose levels. [Note that oatmeal on average has a glycemic index of 55 ;)]
So what does this all mean? This means that if you eat lower glycemic index foods then you will be able to stay full for longer! If you compare oatmeal to say Corn Flakes which has a glycemic index of 93, then you can see how it makes sense that oatmeal is now my breakfast of choice! It’s healthy, satisfying, and it fuels my body for the day ahead!
*Remember there are several different types of oatmeal that you can buy! Instant oatmeal would have the highest glycemic index (93 according to The Harvard Health Publications), and steel-cut oats would have the lowest glycemic index (the “healthiest”). This makes sense because instant oatmeal is the most processed (and actually pre-cooked!) and steel-cut oats are the least processed! Rolled oats are in between the two and are a good choice especially if steel-cut oats are not convenient to purchase or are on the more expensive side.
Now, last but probably most important: TASTE.
I used to hate oatmeal. I really did. Tried it once or twice but did not like the taste or the texture. Then, I decided to start switching up what I added to it and playing around with different recipes and flavors.
I personally like my oatmeal on the dry-side, and that is a big factor of why I originally was not a big fan of it- my mom had always prepared it to be really fluffy and creamy. Not to say that fluffy and creamy is bad- I know a lot of people that prefer it that way!- but just not my personal preference. But that’s an easy fix.
Fluffy vs Dry: Add more or less water to make it fluffier or more dry. Or cook for longer if you added too much water and would like it to be on the dry side.
Creamy: Add some milk if you want it to be creamy.
Peanut Butter: My go-to. Seriously. Sometimes I only add in a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, and that’s all. It is rich in flavor and has protein and healthy fats. You get all your macronutrients in one go: carbs, health fats, and protein!
I also really like to top things off with peanut butter (like in the picture!) because it gives extra flavor, nutrients, and it looks pretty- and honestly I’m such a sucker for pretty foods!!
Sweetener: Maple syrup. Honey. Agave syrup. Stevia. Sugar. Any of these are really good- especially if you are someone with a sweet tooth and love sweet breakfast foods! Oatmeal + just maple syrup (or honey, agave, etc) is so good and honestly so simple.
Fruit: Really any fruit is good here!! Bananas are one of my go-to’s because you can slice them on top or mush them up and mix it with your oatmeal as a sweetener! (My roommate and I started making what we call “oatmeal mush” sophomore year of college where we mashed up bananas, heat up the mixture, added in oats, and then topped with whatever else. But more on this in another post maybe.) But seriously the possibilities are endless! Just think: apple chunks, dates, dried fruit (like raisins, craisins, etc), and whatever else your heart so desires!
Nuts: Peanuts. Almonds. Cashews. Macadamia nuts. Really anything. Adds a nice extra crunch to your oatmeal plus some protein and fiber!
Seeds: Flaxseed and chia seeds are pictured in my oatmeal above! You don’t really taste them while eating, but they add so many good nutrients! Flaxseed has Omega-3 (among other things), and chia seeds are known for being a very good energy booster (they were considered a miracle food and a staple food for the Mayans and Aztecs!)
Dairy: This one might sound weird, but TRUST ME. Stir in some yogurt (I usually use plain yogurt!) with your oatmeal after it’s cooked, and it makes it super creamy! I usually put in peanut butter with the yogurt too and some raisins or something- I swear it sounds gross but everyone I’ve shown it to has loved it so it can’t just be me!
If you make overnight oats (where you just let the raw oats sit in milk, water, yogurt, etc in the fridge overnight and you can eat it straight in the morning), then I would say yogurt is a staple- and I often used flavored yogurt here for extra flavoring!
But also cottage cheese. This one is good if you put it in your oatmeal BEFORE you cook it. Again sounds so gross. But just try it once. Add some sweetener. Add some toppings. It’s good.
Egg: Again. Might sound weird. But this is what you need to make those “oatmeal cakes” or “mug cakes” or whatever that you’ve probably heard of or seen before! It sticks it all together, and if you add sweetener and some other things you can get pretty darn close to an actual cake (especially if you use a trusty blender or food processor to make oat flour from your oatmeal!) And then you just cook it (don’t wanna eat raw egg!) and enjoy!
Misc: Coconut flakes. Chocolate chips. Graham crackers. Marshmallows. (S’mores anyone?) SPRINKLES. Candy bits. ANYTHING. It’s your creation. It’s your masterpiece.
This is definitely NOT an all-inclusive list. Experiment and try new things! Go crazy with it! Every morning is a new opportunity to discover a new classic! ENJOY!!
*Recipe from the photo at the top:
COCONUT OATMEAL :
2 mashed bananas
1 cup oatmeal
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Directions: Mix everything together and cook on stovetop for 10 minutes (or microwave for 3-4 minutes). Topped with peanuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut flakes, and all natural peanut butter! Mix and enjoy!