When did oatmeal get such a bad rap?
Growing up, oatmeal was the breakfast of choice almost every morning. Nothing could beat Bozo the Clown and my green (or yellow) bowl of maple and brown sugar.
Oatmeal is slowly gaining ground again as being the breakfast of choice. Perhaps it’s because oatmeal is frugal. Maybe because it’s easy to prepare. Possibly because it’s so versatile and can be suited for just about any taste preferences. Or it could even be because it’s gluten free.
I’m going to go with “all of the above” and add my own reason – oatmeal is a superfood, jam-packed with a slew of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function, but most importantly, oatmeal is a powerhouse of soluble fiber.
Call me old fashioned (oatmeal joke), but just like flax, oatmeal is a staple in our pantry and meal preparation.
The beginning of each week reveals a new batch of somethin’ for breakfast (muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, etc.). The kids wake up and ask “What’s for breakfast?” and they have the choice of the “somthin’” or oatmeal. And that’s it. The options for breakfast end there.
Why only two choices? For one reason, it’s easier. At only four years old my Son has mastered negotiating. A loving inquiry of “what would you like breakfast” will turn into a long winded discussion ultimately leaving me with a feeling in my gut that I lost an epic battle, even if he chooses what was originally offered. On top of that, he’ll somehow convince me that watching VeggieTales or Dinosaur Train will make his breakfast taste better.
With the scrunch of her nose and a blink of the eye, my daughter can squeeze out a tear and turn you into putty. I’ll be out of milk and eggs and attempting to make chocolate French toast anyway, as she puts her tiny little arms around my neck and cuddles with my shirt.
Give more than two options and you’re toast. Which is why I offer oatmeal. =)
The nutritional benefits of oatmeal is pretty straight forward:
- Soluble Fiber (shortens time in intestinal tract to promote regularity, slows digestion to make you feel fuller longer, binds acids in the intestines to alleviate constipation, regulates blood sugar)
- Protein (same high quality as meat, milk and eggs)
- Vitamins and Minerals (Vitamin B, Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus – all help the immune system in addition to other body functions)
Oatmeal is one of the most affordable grains available ($9 for 10lbs at Costco), which is a great reason to add it to meals beyond breakfast.
- Substitute oat flour for regular flour (up to half without altering other ingredients)
- Add ¼ cup to your daily smoothie [taste-tested this morning =) ]
- Use oatmeal for crusts or crumble toppings in desserts.
- Make healthy granola for snacks or in place of cold cereal for a cool breakfast.
- Make maple oatmeal bread and treat your family to delicious nutrition any time of the day
- Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies – need I say more?!
What about those skeptics who say oatmeal tastes bland? Tell them to add something to it! Nutrition shouldn’t taste bad – there are too many options available to add to oatmeal for it ever to taste plain. Nuts and seeds can add a crunch; nut or dairy butters can add richness; fruits can add flavor and sweetness; different sweeteners can add various depths (think a hint of honey or the depth of molasses).
Stone fruit is bountiful this time of year – imagine pureeing peaches and freezing in jars now so that come this winter, you can make a bowl of oatmeal with milk and a large dollop of peach puree! Quaker has nothing on that peaches and cream!
If only the stores made it easy on us, right? Put plainly, there are too many different types of oatmeal on the shelves. It’s not my place to tell you which type is right and which type is wrong – I firmly believe that some nutrition is better than no nutrition. However, here are the five major types of oatmeal that are on supermarket shelves, listed with least processed at the top and most processed at the bottom.
- Steel Cut Oats. When oat groats are harvested, they are put into a large machine that spins really fast, causing the oat groat to separate from its husk. In the process, many oat groats are broken into small pieces. These small pieces of oat groats are steel cut oats.
- Old Fashioned Oats. The steel cut oats are sifted so that only larger oat groats remain. These are rolled in between large pins and flattened into rolled oats. The result is considered old fashioned oats.
- Rolled Oats. Old fashioned oats are steamed and lightly toasted to aid in the cooking process at home. These are called rolled oats.
- Quick Cooking Oats. These oats are the result of oat grains that were first cut into smaller pieces before being rolled, steamed and toasted. This process is again to aid in the cooking process at home.
- Instant Oatmeal. This is the Quaker maple and brown sugar I grew up with. The oats are pre-cooked at the factory and then dried, usually with flavoring and sweetener added before packaging.
If we’re trying to increase the nutrition and eat as much real food as possible, we need to be aiming for old fashioned oats, at minimum. Steel cut oats will have a higher level of nutrition because some of the bran (outer protective shell) will still be intact, but these are indeed more expensive. You will need to decide what level of nutrition is best worth your dollar.
In either case, preparing breakfast doesn’t have to take all morning and this is especially true with oatmeal. Soaked oatmeal can be ready in ten minutes. My tried and true method is to cook old fashioned oats in the microwave for one minute.
Pretty sneaky of those manufacturers to make us think that old fashioned oats take longer than quick cooking or instant, eh? Yet quick cooking and instant tend to cost more… yes, sneaky indeed!
My goal is to increase the nutrition of the food we already eat, without sacrificing taste. Oatmeal has earned its stripes from my taste testers and given all the nutrition benefits, it has also earned its place on the eye-level shelf in my pantry.