So many options, so little time

Back to School Nutrition Part One: Oats for Breakfast

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Hannah Brilling

It's an old standby for a good reason

Did you know that oats are gluten-free, but only labeled as such when produced in a gluten-free [GF] facility? Unless you have a wheat allergy or Celiac disease (in which case you’ll need to look for a GF label) you can consider any oats (regular, quick, or steel cut) to be a wheat-free staple in your diet!

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Quick oats and instant oatmeal packets are the processed version of the whole grain, but still have many health benefits. Look for low-sugar varieties and choose rolled or steel-cut oats when possible. Making oats at home costs less than buying packets from the store and can be lower in sugar (see suggestions, below). Try making a batch on Sunday to have in the fridge all week.

Oats contain avenathramide, a unique antioxidant.

Oatmeal is also high in soluble fiber, which can help maintain normal LDL and cholesterol levels in addition to overall gut and digestive health. Like all whole grains, oats contain a multitude of micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, folate, and thiamin.


Although carbohydrates have gotten a bad rep recently, a healthy diet can contain 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and starchy foods- so there’s clearly a range. For those foods that we generally think of as “carbs”- bread, pasta, grains, etc.- at least half of what is consumed should be whole grain. The fiber and moderate levels of protein found in whole grains help to balance the carbohydrate load from starchy foods. A balanced meal results in better blood sugar c­­ontrol– better for the body, helps you feel fuller, longer, and can prevent a mid-morning crash.

To further balance the carbohydrates found in oatmeal, consider the following:

  • Cook with milk instead of water
  • Add quinoa to oats during cooking
  • Add raisins or craisins during or after cooking for natural sweetness + fiber
  • Mix in plain Greek yogurt after cooking for a tangy richness + protein
  • Use nuts and seeds as crunchy toppings with healthy fats + fiber
  • Mix in almond or peanut butter after cooking (healthy fats + fiber)

Oatmeal can be prepared using hot or cold methods. 3 versions are included, below! 

Traditional oatmeal- stovetop preparation

(recipe adapted from

1 cup rolled oats (Bin #30101 or #30100 Organic)

2 cups water, milk, or a combination of both

  • Combine oats and water in a pot over medium-low heat.
  • Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Once the oats begin to soften and the liquid thickens, you can add any flavorings you are using (salt, butter, honey, maple syrup, etc.). Simmer and stir until the oats reach your desired texture and consistency. Refrigerate for easy morning breakfasts, or top with goodies and serve immediately.


Steel-Cut Oats: Stovetop preparation

(recipe adapted from

1 cup steel-cut oats

3 cups water

  • Bring water to a boil in a saucepan, and stir in your oats.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook oats until soft, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If all the liquid has reduced before your oats are tender, stir in a bit more water or milk and continue to cook.

Overnight oats: No cooking required

½ cup rolled oats

½- 1 cup milk (depending on desired thickness and add-ins)

Optional add-ins: Fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, vanilla extract, cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, Greek yogurt

  • Add all ingredients to a container with a lid (preferably the one you’d like to eat this out of). Stir together, put on the lid, and let sit in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to eat, consider adding toppings: Chopped nuts and seeds, dried or fresh fruit.
  • This method does not work as well for a large batch, but is so quick that individual daily portions are do-able for most schedules. Invest in wide mouth ball jars if you do not have an appropriate container- they can be used endlessly!
  • Try this great combination: 2 tablespoons almond butter, 2 teaspoons chia seeds, 1/2 cup chopped banana, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.


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