What better way to warm up during these cold weather months than with oatmeal. Oatmeal is a whole grain. Whole grains are important for a healthy body because they contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber helps us feel fuller longer, lowers cholesterol and also has anticancer properties.
There are a number of types of oats including:
- rolled oats
- quick cooking oats
- instant oats
- oat flour
- steel-cut oats
The nutritional value remains very similar between the different types of oats, but with one exception: fiber. Oats that take longer to cook generally contain more fiber – steel cut oats have 5 grams of fiber in ¼ cup, which is twice the amount that can be found in the same amount of rolled oats.
Instant flavored oatmeal may have more added sugar, a higher amount of sodium, and lower fiber than other varieties of oats. When purchasing flavored instant oatmeal, pay attention to the nutrition facts label. That’s the best way to know if there are ‘extra’ ingredients added to the product.
Consider making oats ahead of time and adding natural sources of sweetness such as fresh or frozen fruit or yogurt for a thicker consistency.
Ideas to boost nutrition and flavor with oatmeal include:
- Make oatmeal with calcium-rich milk instead of water.
- Toss in raisins or dried cranberries and chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans.
- Add fresh or frozen berries or other fruits like apples or bananas.
- Mix in ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon for sweetness, it adds flavor without calories. This will allow for no other sweeteners to be used or a smaller amount.
If a bowl of oatmeal isn’t your thing, you can add oats to baked products such as cookies, muffins, cobblers or breads for a nutrient boost. Oats can be used in place of breadcrumbs in recipes. They can be added to meatloaf or as a crust for chicken or fish or you can use it to make your own homemade granola.
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