Nutrition Articles

No More Boring Oatmeal!

20 Ways to Turn Ordinary Oats into Something Special

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Know Your Oats

There are four different kinds of oatmeal, which each undergoes different levels of processing:
Instant oatmeal is typically packaged in envelopes with sweeteners, flavorings and other additives. It takes almost no cook time, just the addition of hot water. This is the most processed oatmeal and tends to have more calories (due to added sugars) per serving than unprocessed oatmeal. It also tends to be lower in fiber.

Quick oats are processed to remove the outer bran for faster cooking. Less processed than instant oatmeal, these take minimal cook time (between 1 and 5 minutes).

Old-fashioned or "thick" oats are steamed and rolled flat. These oats take about 10-12 minutes to cook on the stovetop. They're higher in fiber and slightly less processed than quick oats.

Steel-cut or "Irish" oats are minimally processed and retain all the inherent fiber and vitamins of whole oats, but take longer (about 25 minutes) to cook. Unlike the flat oats or instant oats you're probably used to seeing, steel-cut oats are round in shape.

Whenever possible, stick to the old-fashioned or steel-cut oats for nutrition’s sake—and know that old-fashioned oats require little to no more cooking time than the quick variety. Quick, old-fashioned, and steel-cut oats all allow you to create your own flavor combinations and control what goes into your bowl.

If you're used to opening a packet to "make" your oatmeal, you'll need to learn the basics of cooking oats. But don't worry. It's easy!

Prep Basics for Oatmeal

Cooking oatmeal is simple: Cook oats in water at a ratio of 1:2 (1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats, 1 cup of water). Add a tiny pinch of salt (unless you’re on a low-sodium diet) to enhance oatmeal’s toasty flavor. Put everything in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes, or until the consistency suits you (less time for “soupier” oatmeal, more time for firmer). If you have an extra minute, then try this to enhance the flavor: Place 1/2 cup oats into a dry saucepan, and toast the oats over medium heat. Then add the water and salt.

Steel-cut oats take longer to cook, because they’re not rolled thin and they retain their intact hulls. But they have a wonderful nutty flavor and toothy texture that makes for an especially hearty breakfast. You can reduce cooking time by soaking the oats in water (in the refrigerator) overnight. Some people prefer using the microwave to prepare Irish oatmeal. As a time-saver, you can prepare a big batch on the weekend and refrigerate the oatmeal to use during the week. For more instructions on cooking steel-cut oats, click here.

No time to cook in the morning? Oatmeal is the perfect slow cooker food. And what better way to wake up than to the smell of cinnamon and brown sugar? Simply dump all the ingredients in the pot before bedtime, and you’ll wake to a hearty breakfast. Here’s a great recipe.
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About The Author

Bryn Mooth Bryn Mooth
Bryn Mooth is an independent copywriter and journalist focused on food, wellness and design; she's also a Master Gardener and enthusiastic green thumb. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

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