January is National Oatmeal Month, and on cold mornings, my go-to breakfast is a hot bowl of oatmeal. There are plenty of reasons to start the day with a balanced breakfast, including improved diet quality, lower BMI, and better performance in school for children.
Follow these tips to enjoy a better bowl of oats:
- Choose the best kind of oats for you. Unlike many grains, oats are unique in that the bran and germ are rarely removed during processing, so most varieties are a whole grain. During processing, oats are steamed and flattened to make old-fashioned rolled oats, quick oats, and instant oats. Old-fashioned oats, which are less processed, take longer to cook and have more texture, while quick and instant oats are much softer. Steel-cut oats are not steamed or flattened but rather the entire oat kernel is cut into smaller pieces to speed cooking, resulting in chewy oatmeal with a slightly nutty flavor. Steel-cut oats cook for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on your texture preference and time constraints, any of these oat varieties can be a nutritious choice.
- Add a serving of dairy. Pairing grains with milk provides a nutrition boost with nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and protein. Although plant-based milks are growing in popularity, milk’s nutrient package can’t be matched by these alternatives. I like to cook my oats with milk instead of water, or sometimes I stir a big spoonful of Greek yogurt into cooked oats for extra creaminess and protein. Make savory oats by adding shredded cheese, sautéed vegetables and an egg. If you’re lactose intolerant, consider lactose-free milk, hard cheeses– which are naturally lower in lactose– and yogurt, which may be better tolerated.
- Try make-ahead oat recipes. While it doesn’t take long to cook quick oats, sometimes I need a breakfast option that’s prepared in advance, like overnight oatmeal. Stir together uncooked oats, milk, yogurt, and optional mix-in’s, like fruit, nuts or seeds, and refrigerate overnight or up to three days. In the morning, simply enjoy. Baked oatmeal can also be made in advance, refrigerated, and reheated just before eating. Top with a scoop of yogurt or serve with a glass of milk.
Jessica Ivey is a Registered Dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthy for a happy and delicious life. She loves spending time in the kitchen creating original recipes to help busy families eat well and enjoy more meals together. Her practical approach has helped her teach consumers to eat healthy and deliciously in the real world. Jessica lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her food-loving husband, Nathan, and her dog, Joey.