Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Oats

Oatmeal is one of my favorite cold-weather breakfast foods.  It’s thick, warm, and comforting, not to mention filling.  When done right, oatmeal is one of the healthiest breakfast options around, as it’s a good source of fiber (especially the soluble kind that helps lower cholesterol), protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc.  Oatmeal as it is most commonly eaten – out of a packet often containing ingredients other than oats – cannot really be considered a health food, as the flavored instant oatmeal packets many of us know and love are high in sugar and aren’t as filling as oatmeal in its natural form.  The reason instant oatmeal cooks so fast is that the oats are cut thin, which makes them not only heat up faster, but get digested faster as well.  For those of us looking for a breakfast that will keep our blood sugar levels stable and our stomachs full until lunchtime, heavily sweetened and processed instant oatmeal is not the way to go.  For a better breakfast, choose old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats that come in a canister, not a single-serving packet.  Since the only ingredient in old-fashioned oats is, well, oats, you can be assured that you’re getting a wholesome, natural food. 

Even though old-fashioned oats are not advertised as quick-cooking, they can be prepared in the microwave in 3-4 minutes (or on the stovetop in about 5 minutes), which is still pretty fast in my book.  You can also prepare a big batch of oats ahead of time in the slow cooker or on the stovetop so that you can have quick leftovers all week. 

If you prefer your oatmeal on the sweeter side, add 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar or maple syrup to it after cooking.  Make your oats even more filling by adding a teaspoon of nuts or nut butter, or some cut-up fruit.  If you prefer your breakfast to be on the savory side, try the recipe below for a new spin on oatmeal.

Green Oats

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½  small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 cups water
½  bunch kale, thick stems removed, leaves chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese 

Instructions
1.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2.  Add onion and garlic; cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.  Stir in oats and cook until coated.
4.  Add kale a few handfuls at a time, stirring and adding more as the leaves wilt.
5.  Stir in water; bring to a boil.
6.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until oats are soft, stirring occasionally.
7.  Remove from heat and let sit 2-3 minutes.
8.  Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.  Serves 3-4.

 Recipe adapted from Whole Foods

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