Healthy Oatmeal toppings

Oatmeal is a food. It’s got that childhood nostalgia, cozy, comfy vibe. There are endless possibilities when making your oatmeal to add healthy oatmeal toppings which allows you to mix it up every day and try new flavors. You can customize it depending on what you have going on each day. It is the perfect pre-workout meal for both long and short workouts or for when you have the day off from training but still wants that solid and filling morning meal. (You can also grab my free workouts here).

Customize it…..but how you ask? Let’s take some time to really dive into oatmeal. Let me give you my tricks on types of oatmeal, ways to bulk it up and ways to make it the perfect well-rounded breakfast…..or really any meal of the day!

Oatmeal and the body

Oatmeal releases it’s carbohydrates slowly. This slow release allows you to keep your energy levels constant and keep hunger away. That can allow you to train harder for longer without the dreaded bonk if you have a solid workout planned. But it can also help keep your mind focused by giving you energy and keeping those distracting hunger pains away.

According to the USDA, a half a cup of dry oatmeal contains over 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and about 52 grams of carbohydrates. Plus over 8 grams of filling fiber.

This filling food also is full of nutrients. Oatmeal contains both magnesium and iron which many Americans are low in. Plus zinc, B1 and B5 vitamins. For those of you expecting little ones (and those who are not) a half cup of dry oatmeal contains 11% of your daily folate. It is a B vitamin that your body uses to make DNA and other genetic material. Taking before and during pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects. With all this nutrition oatmeal is considered a very nutrient dense food.

So what is oatmeal?

Oatmeal is made of hulled oat grains called groats which are the seeds inside the husk. The oat grains are dehusked then heated and cooled to stabilize the oats. That heating provides the nutty flavor of oatmeal. They are then milled to produce the different types of oatmeal you see in the stores such as steel cut, old fashioned oats, and quick oats.

You are probably asking yourself which type of oatmeal should I purchase? There are many different types of oatmeal out there. There are also oatmeals which contain a variety of grains and seeds already mixed in.

First off it is best to steer clear of those flavored oatmeal packets. Many of them contain artificial flavors and loads of added sugar. Later on we will explore ways to flavor your oatmeal but for now, keep in mind that plain oatmeal is the best way to start.

Steel cut oats are minimally processed and provide more fiber and density than other oatmeal. They also go by the names coarse oatmeal, Irish oatmeal and pinhead oats. This oatmeal has a very sturdy texture and is almost chewy. If you have the time this can be one of the best types of oatmeal since it’s so close to its natural state. One way around the long cooking time would be to make a large batch to eat throughout the week. Steel cut oats can be made in the slow cooker or instant pot as well.

Don’t have the time or enjoy the texture of steel cut oats? The next best would be rolled oats or old fashioned oats. These oats are made by steaming whole oats and then flattening them. They cook faster than steel cut oats. Old fashioned oats are best made in a large batch since they can take a little while to cook. They also can be made in the slow cooker or instant pot.

The fastest cooking oats are also the most processed and those are quick oats also called instant oats. They are pre-cooked then dried and rolled to be slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook the fastest but do not retain as much texture and can get mushy if overcooked.

I suggest the best oatmeal purchase would be as least processed as possible that works with your schedule. All three types of oatmeal are all made from whole oat groats so you will be getting the same nutrients. The main differences are the texture and how quickly your body processes the oatmeal. If you eat oatmeal that started off already processed your body will not need to work as hard to break it down and will digest it much faster. You may not get the same filling effect from instant oats that you would from steel cut or old fashioned oats.

How to cook oatmeal

You can make your oatmeal with water, cow milk or any plant-based milk. Making your oatmeal with milk can add a nice creaminess. However, keep in mind that cow’s milk will add some protein however many plant-based milk (besides soy and fortified plant-based milk) do not have the protein so you may need to add some additional protein another way.

Bulk up that bowl

Now that you have your oatmeal base figured out let’s talk about ways to bulk up your bowl of oatmeal. You can really increase the volume of your oatmeal to make a very satisfying meal. These days there are loads of recipes out there to bulk up your bowl! This can be especially helpful if you are looking to lower your carbohydrate intake for the day but still want to feel satisfied.

The easiest way to increase the volume of your oatmeal is to add more liquid and cook it longer. This may take some experimentation on how much liquid to add and how much time you have to make your oatmeal. Or do this hour before or the night before to really add some volume to your oatmeal.

There are different things you can add to your oatmeal to change the macronutrient content to fit your needs while also adding some volume.

Add micronutrients and volume

One of the most recent ways I have seen growing in popularity is adding riced cauliflower! Not only do you increase your volume but also get a serving of vegetables. This one can take some experimentation. Try starting by adding a fourth cup or less and build from there. If you enjoy the taste of cauliflower you may be able to add a lot more and still find it palatable.

On a similar note, canned pumpkin is another great addition to your oatmeal bowl. Pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse without adding a lot of calories. Half a cup of pumpkin contains only 40 calories but about 3.5 grams of filling fiber. Not to mention a whopping 380% of your daily vitamin A requirements which help keep your eyes healthy!

Healthy Fats

Another way to thicken up your oatmeal plus add some nutrition are chia seeds and ground flax seeds. Both of these seeds will thicken up your oatmeal nicely if you give them a chance to sit and soak. They absorb the liquid and give you oatmeal a very nice texture. Both of these seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats.

Protein additions

Want to add some filling protein to your oatmeal? There are many ways you can do this depending on your nutrition goals and taste preferences.

One way to add some protein is with eggs. You can add some beaten whole eggs or egg whites. I suggest adding the eggs or egg whites after you have cooked your oatmeal. Stir in the eggs and then throw the oatmeal back into the microwave or on the stove for a few more minutes. This will cook the eggs and give your oatmeal a very thick texture.

You can also add in a protein supplement to your oatmeal. A favorite of mine is Vital Protein (you can read my blog post on collagen here). Again I suggest you cook your oatmeal first then add the protein powder. Depending on what flavor is your favorite you can add chocolate or vanilla or anything you have on hand. Or even unflavored if that is your thing.

Add in protein

Still looking for more protein? Add in some powdered peanut butter. You get around 6 grams of filling protein per serving and only 4 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat. If you have not tried powdered peanut butter yet I suggest you go out there and get some. It is peanuts that have been roasted then pressed to remove the oil. Then it is ground into a fine powder. You can get the flavor of peanut butter without all the fat.

Finally, you can always add in some creamy yogurt after your oatmeal has cooked. Yogurt not only contains lots of filling protein but also probiotics to help keep your digestive system running smoothly. However, be aware of the sweetened flavored yogurts out there. Many contain lots of added sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. Look for a more natural flavored yogurt or better yet a plain high protein one. You can add your own flavors later.

Bonus carbs

Searching for some additional carbs? How about mixing in a mashed up banana. This will give your oatmeal a very creamy texture and add lots of healthy nutrition. Bananas are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), easy to digest and full of potassium.

So those are some ways you can add volume and protein without a lot of extra calories. Now how about flavor. I could go on and on about the different toppings you can put on your oatmeal. The key to topping your oatmeal is to be aware of the calorie dense options that should be used sparingly and the options that you can be a bit more liberal with.

Fruits are a great way to add lots of flavor and micronutrients. They pack a big punch without derailing your nutrition goals. You can use either frozen or fresh. It has even been shown that frozen fruit retains more of its precious nutrition. However, either one is a great option. If you opt for dried fruit just be aware that dried fruit is a lot more macronutrient dense so you may want to be aware of the quantity depending on your goals.

Flavor it up with spice

You can also add in spices or extracts to your oatmeal to give it some flavor kick. Cinnamon gives your oatmeal an almost sweet flavor without any added sugar. One of my favorites is pumpkin pie spice. It is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. Extracts such as vanilla or almond can add a nice flavor punch just make sure not to add too much because they can be very overpowering.

Then, of course, there are some very delicious but very macronutrient dense toppings out there. These are great in moderation and can add a nice touch to your oatmeal. If you are looking for a little crunch granola, nuts, seeds or toasted coconut flakes can be a tasty option. Want a healthy chocolate crunch? Add some cocoa nibs to your bowl. Nut butters mix nicely into oatmeal again just make sure you watch the portions.

Looking for some sweetness you can add honey, agave nectar, real maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar. Even a bit of fruit jam can add the perfect amount of sweetness.

Build it like a pyramid

To sum it up I like to look at building my oatmeal like a pyramid. Start at the bottom with the highest volume ingredient and then slowly moving up and decreasing your quantity. So think of your oatmeal and whatever volume add-ins you want as your base. Then you have the mid layer of fresh fruit or added protein. Finally topping your bowl off with some more macronutrient dense toppings that add some crunch and texture.

I am sure you have been thinking of hot oatmeal this entire post. Well, you can also enjoy oatmeal cold. Check out my post on overnight oatmeal here! This is a great way to have your oatmeal ready to go in the morning. Go ahead and add some flavor and toppings to this oatmeal the same way you would hot!

As a bonus for those of you who are gluten-free, feel free to indulge in a bowl. However, make sure to purchase certified gluten-free oatmeal because many oatmeals could contain gluten due to cross-contamination.

The nice thing about building a bowl of oatmeal like this you can customize it to meet your nutrient goals. You can fill in some gaps where you see fit and go lighter on other macronutrients depending on what you need.

I hope this has given you a new take on oatmeal and all the flavor combinations. Go have some fun with your bowl and enjoy a filling, healthy and delicious meal!

Looking for some workouts to fit into your day?  Grab my free workouts here!

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

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