Start Your Day (And Year) With Oatmeal

With winter finally arriving, you can warm up your chilly mornings with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. And if you’re thinking about ways to tweak your diet, oatmeal is a great start. Not only does it provide a feeling of fullness that keeps you from overeating, it is also heart-healthy. Soluble fiber in the oatmeal helps to lower cholesterol (especially the bad LDL cholesterol), and prevent or help control high blood pressure. When paired with vitamin C, the cardiovascular benefits of oatmeal are enhanced, so eat some citrus, strawberries or kiwi with your oatmeal.

The soluble fiber also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, so you don’t have the mid-morning slumps, which can occur if you eat too many carbs and sugar in the morning.  By eating oatmeal, you can also take in important nutrients, like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants. The magnesium, for example, helps regulate your insulin and glucose levels, which may prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. And the antioxidants protect against heart disease and cancer.

There are different types of oatmeal available in the grocery store. Some of the most popular types include steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oatmeal. Steel-cut oats, also called Scotch oats or Irish oats, are natural, unrefined oats that are cut into pieces by steel blades. They take longer to cook than rolled oats and have a nutty, more robust flavor. Rolled oats are steamed and then rolled flat. This process stabilizes the healthy oils in the oats, so they stay fresh longer and cook faster. Rolled oats are found in old-fashioned and quick-cooking oatmeal. Instant oatmeal is more processed because the oats have been rolled out thinner and steamed longer so they take less time to cook. Instant oatmeal usually has added salt, sugar and flavors, so read the labels carefully. Store your oatmeal in a cool, dry place in a covered container and use it within one year.

Oatmeal is most commonly eaten as a hot cereal, but it’s still delicious eaten cold. Prepare and store overnight oats in small jars to grab for a quick breakfast or snack on the go. (Photo by Alisa Anton)

You can put your own twist on this healthy cereal by adding your favorite fruits, like bananas, raisins, strawberries, frozen blueberries, or peaches. You can also add some healthy protein by topping it with chopped nuts or drizzling on some peanut butter. If you have any cans of pumpkin left from the holidays, make a pumpkin pie oatmeal.

Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast either. Oatmeal protein bars make great snacks for adults and kids. You can also add oats to cookies, muffins, breads, and desserts, and use them to replace breadcrumbs in meatloaf. Oats are a versatile whole grain that can be a healthy addition to your diet in a variety of ways.


Oatmeal Pancakes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
Cooking spray

  1. Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.
  2. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Combine buttermilk, butter, and egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
  4. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat.
  5. Coat pan with cooking spray.
  6. Spoon about 2-1/2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto griddle.
  7. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles; cook until bottoms are lightly browned.


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