Oatmeal makes for a hearty breakfast staple, but on its own it's bland. While the type of oatmeal available varies and your favorite is a personal preference, some types of oatmeal are sugary breakfast cereals masquerading as healthy grains. By ensuring that you choose the right type of oatmeal, you start with a better base for a filling and healthy breakfast. Adding healthy toppings and flavors helps to make oatmeal more interesting without losing out on its healthy components.
Steel-cut oats are unrefined, so they are in the most natural form and take the longest to cook. Rolled oats are pressed to reduce the cooking time, while instant oats and oatmeal packets are further processed and often flavored.
Purchase oatmeal in the most natural form, with as little additives as possible. Consider the difference in caloric intake between types of oatmeal: 1/2 cup of rolled oats has 1 gram of sugar as opposed to 12 grams found in a prepared oatmeal packet.
Sweeten your oats yourself. A packet of maple-flavor oatmeal tastes indulgent because it has artificial flavors and sugar to give the signature taste. Instead, sweeten oatmeal using natural sources, such as agave nectar or honey.
Add dried fruits and nuts to top your oatmeal after it's been cooked. Chopped apricots, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts and banana chips all add taste and texture to your morning bowl. Raid your kitchen pantry and experiment with different combinations to find one you like the best.
Mix a bowl of autumn oatmeal by adding 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin with a dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The pumpkin pie flavors come together without all the fat and calories of a slice of pie. Or try an apple pie version by adding sliced apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake oatmeal into healthy squares for your own energy bars. By combining oats with whole wheat flour, favorite dried fruit and nuts, peanut or soy butter, honey and sweet and savory spices, your oatmeal becomes portable for sharing or eating on the go.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.