How to make your oatmeal healthier

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Oatmeal has been a staple breakfast in my house for as long as I can remember! When I was a kid I ate the sweetened instant packets and now as an adult, I love steel-cut oats. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years for making healthier oatmeal.

make your healthier oatmeal

Soak the oats before you cook them

In order to properly digest and absorb nutrients from oatmeal, it needs to be soaked along with an acidic medium to help release the phytic acid it contains. Some say that this doesn’t matter when using rolled oats as they have already been processed under heat, others still find it important.

To soak oats place 1 cup of oats in 1 cup of warm water along with 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, kefir, or vinegar. Let sit (covered) overnight. Rinse the oats if you’d like (not necessary but I don’t care for the sour taste of kefir in my oatmeal) and then you can either place in a pan with another 2/3 to 3/4 cup water and cook for breakfast or toss them in the dehydrator for making granola bars. They don’t take more than a few hours in the dehydrator. They will be kind of ‘crumbly’ after drying, just break the oats apart with your fingers.

Here’s what mine look like after drying:

Adding protein to oatmeal

Oats have a lot of beneficial nutrients, but they are best paired with some protein! Adding protein to your carbohydrates can help slow the insulin response after your meal.

  • greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese (for either savory or sweet)
  • chopped nuts or chia/flax/hemp seeds
  • almond or peanut butter
  • go savory and add cheese and either beans or leftover chicken or turkey
  • bacon
  • eggs – either cook them in (like baked oatmeal) or eat on the side
  • use milk instead of water for cooking

Add a healthy fat

Fat is an important part of any diet. It keeps us satiated as well as gives our body the building blocks it needs for hormone production. Try adding a pat of butter, a spoonful of coconut oil, or stirring in some heavy cream or almond butter.

Add a quality sweetener

Nothing makes a hearty bowl of oatmeal go from healthy breakfast to dessert like a few spoonfuls of sugar! But that doesn’t mean you need to eat a bland bowl of oats either. Here are a few of my favorite ways to sweeten without making it dessert:

  • Use maple syrup instead of white sugar. Limit yourself to less than 2 teaspoons – it has such a lovely rich flavor!
  • Chop up some fruit, or use dried fruit to reduce the amount of sugar you use. Bananas, cooked apple, blueberries, cherries – all great choices!
  • Alternative sweeteners are also an option but stick to something a bit less processed like stevia or a stevia/erythritol blend

My favorite way to top a bowl of oatmeal right now:

  • splash of cream,
  • pat of butter,
  • about a teaspoon of maple syrup,
  • 1/4 chopped banana,
  • tablespoon of almond butter,
  • chopped walnuts,
  • and a teaspoon of mini chocolate chips

Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
Donielle believes women can learn how to heal their bodies & balance their hormones through natural methods. An advocate for natural health, she has a passion for nourishing/real food nutrition and natural living. Her personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and she started Natural Fertility and Wellness in 2008 in order to share all of the information she found helpful in her journey to heal from PCOS and overcome infertility.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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  • army-wife-42 says:

    Can it be any oats? Even the quick oats?

  • Donielle says:

    I believe as long as it’s not the instant kind they’d be ok. Although with the soaking it may make the texture different since the oats are thinner.

  • Homesteader in Training says:

    I was wondering how long you would dehydrate them for? I’m knew to this soaking thing and stumbled across your blog in the process of looking for stuff.
    Thank you.
    Kim

  • Donielle says:

    Kim – they don’t take long to dry back out. Maybe just 2-3 hours. I normally stir them around once or twice so they don’t stick together as much, but even if they do, they crumble apart easily too.

  • suzannah says:

    i tried this last week, and though it was tasty (and my toddler gobbled it too), i got really really sick. i am pregnant, but this was was worse than my normal nausea–i felt awful all day and threw up over and over. i ate the leftovers the next day, and again threw up. i haven’t tried it again (or been sick like that.)

    do you leave it out on the counter to soak, or do you refrigerate overnight? maybe it was a coincidence, but my body did not seem to appreciate it at all. (i used yogurt.)

  • Donielle says:

    suzannah – how horrible to be sick like that when pregnant! And yes, you let it sit out at room temp. If your toddler didn’t get sick it makes me think that maybe it was either something else or you’re body just said no. Maybe just wait to try it again when your over your nausea. Or have the baby! who wants to risk being sick ? bleh!

  • I see you figured out the button in the sidebar! Looks great! I need to remember to grab it when I’m doing blog stuff – I need to figure out soaked granola/bars right now, thank you for this. I guess soak/dehydrate isn’t exactly rocket science!

  • Two more questions – not everyone I see rinses the grain before cooking for oatmeal, and I don’t because I’m too lazy. Any particular reason why?

    How do you get your “warm” water? I’ve been using room temp the past year, and now I’m noticing that it’s supposed to be more like 110 degrees or something. I wonder how much difference that makes?

    And a note: the salt inhibits the soaking process, according to the Nourishing Gourmet’s posts on soaking grains. I always add any salt to recipes after soaking.

    Lots to wade through on this issue!
    🙂 Katie

    • donielle says:

      @Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship, So should I just hire you to proof read my site. 🙂 I don’t put the salt in when soaking either, that was just from a friend and I realized later that wasn’t the ‘correct’ way to do it. 🙂 So…..yup, salt *after* soaking. I’ve started going through my old posts since a lot of what I wrote was back when I was in my first year of changing our diet. So many things come up and so many slight changes need to be made now to my posts!

      As per the rinsing. It doesn’t matter. I rinse because I don’t like the sour after taste I get sometimes. In my opinion, it’s just preference. I figure the cooking does away with any of the nutritional benefits of the yogurt/kefir/whey anyways.

      I just get my warm water from the tap, never put an actual temp on it. I just use water that feels warm to the touch. While I have seen some reports saying it needs to be 110, my question has always been “how is that going to work in my house?”. Even on the hottest of days, my kitchen doesn’t get that hot! And I’m not about to spend the extra $ and keep it heated somehow. Si I just let it sit at room temp.

  • Carmen says:

    I do not have a dehydrator, could this be done in an oven? If so, what temp and for how long would you recommend? Thank you.

    • donielle says:

      @Carmen, Just use the lowest temp you have and open the door every once in awhile, or bring it up to temp, turn it off, and turn the oven light on. Turn the oatmeal every hour, you’ll notice when it’s dry. Usually takes a few hours.

      • Carmen says:

        @donielle,

        I tried this and am not too sure about the final consistency. What will it be like? Mine didn’t crumble apart very well so I pulsed it in a food processor (I read somewhere to do that). Now it reminds me of grape nuts.

        • donielle says:

          @Carmen, I’ll update my post with a picture of my dehydrated oats. I usually just crumble mine apart with my fingers, and they aren’t ‘flat’ anymore. They’re more crumbled looking and almost clumped together.

  • Annie says:

    I have wondering how to keep my oats from falling through the holes in the dehydrator. I got a few months back for making soaked nuts, but even they fall when I rotate the trays. Any thoughts?

    Annie

    • donielle says:

      @Annie, Mine came with screens for a few of the trays that help with this. But Mare from Sound Bites from a Deaf Mama uses wax paper in hers. She just cuts an X in the middle for the hole in her dehydrator.

  • Maria says:

    What is Kefir? I have read about soaking oatmeal and grains, but not really sure about what to do or buy. Can I buy Kefir at the grocery store? If so, where? What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?

    • donielle says:

      @Maria, Kefir is basically cultured milk, like yogurt but thinner. It’s made with a different culture and contains different strains of bacteria. you might be able to find it at local stores though often they only sell flavored kinds. Otherwise you can easily use yogurt to soak oatmeal – they both do the same thing! 🙂

  • Heather says:

    I cook steel cut oats in the crock pot and wonder how much soaking would affect the cooking time? Does it affect the cooking time on the stovetop much?

    • donielle says:

      @Heather, On the stove it cuts my cooking time in half for regular rolled oats. I’ve heard of people doing steel cut oats in the crockpot – first they put them in to soak in the morning, and then turn it on low and let it cook all night.

  • Katie says:

    After it’s soaked and dried… could it then be used in baked oatmeal? Or would the texture be wrong or would it defeat the purpose of soaking?

  • Amy Schultz says:

    🙂 I am excited to soak oats. We love oatmeal! We used to eat TONS of cereal!! My husband could eat a box in two-three days, lol. Yet, he’s so tiny. :P! This is SO much better than all that sugary cereal we would consume! Love you blog..it’s been so ENCOURAGING!
    Best part…husband’s doing it with me. 🙂

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